Tales from the water cooler: How can you joke with a headline like that?

Sometimes a story's comic spark burns out before the first line

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This section in the corner of your i is supposed to be my chuckle-icious take on whichever news story has had us all clustering with our work colleagues, debating; swapping perspectives and, if you’re anything like us, skin-care tips.

And I’m fine with that arrangement. By Saturday, most of us will know the big story off by heart, so it’s my job to look at it from another, more comic, angle. Like a circus mechanic under a tiny yellow clown car.

Having inspected a few stories, I choose the week’s top one and make light of it to bring a smile to the faces of the peoples of the world. I’m such a giver.

But this week everything fell apart. There are some stories which plainly must be avoided. Gazing with my usual fast-dwindling interest at the BBC News website, I saw the headline: “Dame Margot Fonteyn and the Panama Sanitary Towel Coup”. In the Pulitzer Prize-winning words of Dave Barry of the Miami Herald, I swear I am not making this up.

Here’s the thing: how can I put a fun twist on a story with a headline like that? At least “Philip Schofield Held over Confectionery Plot” triggers curiosity in the reader. Was it Jelly Tots? Milky Bars?

As regards Fonteyn, whether or not our venerable, undeniably dead balletic dame was even involved in a Central American revolution driven by the demands of feminine hygiene products is irrelevant. The woman could stand on her tip-toes for 17 hours! You think that’s easy?  Her politics should remain her own business.

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