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A Man of Few Words - by Swan Morrison

The Clinic

‘Did Dr Scott explain why he referred you to this clinic?’

‘He said I had CSHD.’

‘CSHD?’

‘I know it stands for ‘Chronic Sense of Humour Deficit’. If it wasn’t for recorded laughter on TV, I’d never know what was funny.’

‘Previous treatment?’

‘I tried self-help once.’

‘How?’

‘I watched the Monty Python Parrot Sketch eight hundred times.... Why are you laughing?’

‘Er....Sorry.....Here at the humour clinic we practice laughing regularly.’

‘I though you were laughing at me....lots do. I try looking at myself in mirrors for hours, but I don’t get the joke.....Is that hysterical laughter part of your practice too?’

‘Er....yes.’

‘You people are really dedicated. How does the treatment work?’

‘It’s essentially behavioural. These syringes contain a chemical that acts on the brain in much the same way as nitrous oxide - what used to be called ‘laughing gas’. We expose you to humourous stimuli under the effects of the drug until there is an association between the stimuli and the activation of the brain’s humour centres.’

‘What humour do you use?’

‘Initially, I’d recommend you for the ‘Everyday Humour’ programme.’

‘Is that people slipping on banana skins or walking into lamp posts?’

‘Definitely not. The Department of Health very closely regulates the humourous stimuli used. They mustn’t include misfortune or anything likely to distress. Module one of the programme contains innocent humourous comments by small children, asides by presenters of early evening news programmes and the ‘Life’s Like That’ column from the Readers Digest. Module two covers jokes.’

‘I’ve always wanted to laugh at the one about the Irishman, the West Indian and the nun....’

‘We won’t be using that, I’m afraid. The regulations require all jokes take full account of cultural and ethnic sensibilities, not portray stereotypes, and characters may not be identified by age, gender, race, religion, ethnic origin or sexual orientation. Jokes also, of course, must meet EU standards on line length, syllables in the punch line etc.’

‘Tell me one.’

‘Well, there’s the one about the person who comments that he or she has just gone to the bank. A second person asks if he or she had withdrawn money, to which the first replies not, because it had been a river bank.’

‘Do people laugh at that?’

‘It sometimes takes several months and quite high doses of the drug - even for those without CSHD. You won’t get treatment outside Eastern Europe using unregulated humour, though. That ended in this country when Dr Sahid of Harley Street was struck off for using ‘Four-and-twenty virgins came down from Inverness’.’

‘When could I start treatment?’

‘On the NHS....about five years.’

‘But.....my doctor said if I wasn't treated now, by Christmas I might be....................................boring!’

‘Private treatment is available for 50,000. You’ll get the best care, however. I and all my therapists are fully qualified comedians.’

‘Is that why you’re wearing that red nose and pantomime boobs?’

‘Yes.’

‘I’ll have to sell my house, but I have no choice.’