I took a little time off yesterday from sifting through the many hundreds of your comments about the launch issue of i on Saturday (for which, thank you very much) to attend a small lunch given in honour of our chief sports writer, James Lawton.
It was to celebrate Jim being named Sports Journalist of the Year in the recent British Press Awards, and I was lucky to sit between the guest of honour and Hugh McIlvanney, one of the great figures of our business. To corrupt a well-known saying, I went to an argument and a lunch broke out. There was much disputation on subjects as diverse as Jacques Tati, socialism and whether Carlo Ancelotti is up to the job as Chelsea manager.
We then turned to the subject of comedy. Jim said that he really couldn’t understand the appeal of the massively popular stand-up Stewart Lee, and this reminded Hugh of Lee Evans, who was his particular bete noir. But nothing, he said, could compete for unfunniness with that double act of yesteryear, Mike and Bernie Winters.
Hugh told the story of how,when appearing at the Glasgow Empire, Mike took the stage and began a long, tedious preamble in advance of his famously clumsy brother appearing. As part of this set-up, the audience caught a glimpse of Bernie in the wings. “Oh no,” shouted a voice from the stalls. “There’s two of them!”
Yet Mr & Mr Winters were, for many years, hugely popular. I tell this story for diversion, and as a simple illustration that we can’t all find the same thing funny, any more than we can all find the same person attractive, or indeed any more than we can all like, or dislike, the same thing in a newspaper. As I pored over your letters about Saturday’s i, this became abundantly clear. I shall return to that subject tomorrow. In the meantime, keep smiling!