Tales from the Water Cooler: The joke that made me feel old

Tales from the Water Cooler

Click to follow
The Independent Online

There are lots of childish jokes in Channel 4's new university sitcom Fresh Meat, and I chuckled at them all: pen-cocks, poos and glory holes.

Yet it feels like a rare youth-based dramedy, in that adults don't have to channel their inner teen to enjoy it. (Parents loved Skins, but largely as a research tool to help them understand their children.) It's set during Freshers' Week, the first opportunity many of us have to decide who we'll be as grown-ups. Instead of being forced into friendships by circumstance, like The Inbetweeners, we're finally allowed to pick our allies. Fresh Meat's characters are starting to learn about mature relationships; some of us are still learning. I graduated less than a decade ago, and am neither teen nor parent. But I'd convinced myself that I was still, broadly speaking, of same generation as an undergrad. Until the Harry Potter joke, that is.

"We're very Hufflepuff here," Kingsley the in-betweener told JP, the monstrous posho. "Wouldn't you be happier in Slytherin?" All at once, I could see the clear divide between the children of Hogwarts, and those who can recall the last great REM album – and that I was trapped on the far side of it.

Harry Potter existed when I was a fresher. Just. But back then it was merely another popular childrens' book, and discussing it with a fellow student (let alone my English tutors) would have been eccentric, to say the least. For today's 18-year-olds, Potter is as permanent as Dickens, or Star Wars. So anyway, it was a good joke – but it was one of the few that didn't make me laugh. Laugh? I nearly cried.