The Third Leader: Laughing matter

The nation hasn't witnessed a comedy crisis on this scale since Bob Monkhouse's joke book was stolen. According to a shocking new survey, the typical Briton is able to remember a grand total of two jokes. Worse, 40 per cent of us are prone to retelling the same vignettes over and over again like a saloon bar bore. So much for our fabled sense of humour. What reason do we have to feel superior to our continental neighbours now? Will we ever recover from this blow?

We would offer the consolation that an ability to remember punch lines is hardly the highest standard of wit. And isn't the secret of the British sense of humour an appetite for self-deprecation and mockery rather than a talent for pre-rehearsed shtick? Funnily enough, a famous Australian lady summed it up best: "Never be afraid to laugh at yourself. After all, you could be missing out on the joke of the century." Thank you, Dame Edna.