They didn't lose a son. They gained a stand-up comedian

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Today, a tale for our times . . .

AT THE age of 15, Steve found that it was his uncomfortable duty to tell his parents the truth, ie, that they were adopted.

'What]' they exclaimed. 'We are not your real parents? Then who on earth . . . ?'

'It is best that you do not know,' said Steve, 'You would only want to meet them. And that would be confusing for all concerned.'

'But how do you know that we are not your real parents?' said his mother and father, who had been under the impression that they were his direct forebears, though they were open-minded enough to consider any other theory.

'Through genetic research,' said Steve. 'And psychology. I have examined your heredity, and your behavioural patterns, and I have come to the conclusion that there is almost nothing in common between us. For instance, I have a deep love and understanding of computer games. You show no sign of this. You like outdoor sports. I do not. You eat meat. I am a vegetarian. And so on, and so on. The odds against us being related are astronomical. We really don't have anything in common at all.'

'What would you like us to do about it?' said his parents humbly.

'Well, now that you have learnt the hard truth about being adopted,' said Steve, 'I think it may be best if you leave home.'

'But we like it here,' said his parents. 'Could we not stay together till you want to set up on your own? Then we would leave. Or maybe you would leave . . .'

'Let's compromise,' said Steve, whose most burning desire was to get them out of the house so that he could throw a party for his friends that evening. 'Why don't you leave here for one night and come back tomorrow?'

'That's more reasonable,' said his father. 'One thing, though. If we are adopted, who are your real parents?'

'My real parents,' said Steve, 'cannot reveal their true identity just yet. They are both members of Mr Major's cabinet, and if it came out that they had once had a child together it would almost certainly be the end of their careers. They would have to resign and that might bring Mr Major's government down, and that would almost certainly put them in John Major's bad books. However, they have promised me that after the next election they will come out into the open and admit to being my real parents.'

'Hmm,' said his father.

'Steve, is there something you want to tell us?' said his mother, who hadn't entirely followed everything so far, but felt that something was afoot. 'Is there something you know that we don't know?'

Now, there were, in fact, about 10,000 things that Steve knew that his parents didn't know. That is the whole point of education - to learn a great deal of information that your parents don't have access to. Steve was strongly tempted now to say: 'Yes, mother, I know that Albany is the state capital of New York State and that the potato came from Peru - these are just two things that I know and you don't,' but then he thought that these might not get the laughs he thought they deserved.

'Steve, you have often told us you want to be a stand-up comedian when you grow up,' said 'Dad'.

'That's right,' said Steve. 'Or even sooner.'

'Well, I would like to point out one thing to you,' said 'Dad'. 'And that is that when stand-up comedians start out, their material is based largely on their experience of teenage life, and life at home, and school, and figures of hate like teachers and parents. If you got rid of us, you will be jettisoning some of your best material.

'But,' cried Steve, 'I am currently working on a new routine called 'The Day I Told My Parents They were Adopted'] I need to go through this experience] I need to find out what happens next]'

'I'll tell you what happens next,' said 'Dad'. 'Your father says to you that you are not yet too old to be sent to your bedroom and left there till you're ready to apologise and promise that you won't go around saying your parents are adopted.'

And that is exactly what happened next. But it was not the way Steve chose to end his routine called 'The Day I Told My Parents They Were Adopted'. Which goes to show that Steve had just learnt one important lesson: the purpose of art, by and large, is to improve on life as well as to reflect it.