Well, I thought it was funny

A couple of weeks ago I was sitting in a bar with some colleagues having a drink after work, when one of them – I forget the exact context – compared the noise of something to “A skeleton falling down a flight of metal stairs.” Not unreasonably, I asked him: “Under what possible circumstances might you have come to know what a skeleton falling down a flight of metal stairs sounds like?” “Ah,” he said, “because I used to own two of those Sound Effects records.” He then proceeded to approximate several intriguingly-titled sound effects such as “Mob rioting”, “Man washing up”, “Wet footsteps”, “Miscellaneous Screams 1-17” and of course the skeleton falling down the metal stairs (which incidentally nearly got him thrown out of the bar). Anyway we had a laugh and the topic was forgotten. Then on Sunday I was sitting in the bath – the place where many of my greatest ideas come to me – and for my own amusement started improvising a list of some of the more unlikely sound effects you might “hear” on a Sound Effects record, thus:

1. Crowd of people wearing dayglo underwear, chatting

2. Fake fur coat tumbling down escalator

3. Telephone not ringing in a lonely person’s apartment

4. Van Gogh canvas being eaten by killer whale (one of a series of impressionist works being fed to ocean beasts)

5. Occasional table being painted (gloss)

6. Occasional table being painted (matt)

7. Occasional table being painted (watercolour)

8. Tony Blair being hit by gooseberry thrown during press conference

9. Mime artist faking orgasm in charity shop

10. Stenographer mis-spelling antidisestablishmentarianism

11. Bedroom door opening, being shut, opening again, being shut again, opening again and then being beaten to matchwood by long-suffering owner

12. Sheet of yellow A4 paper being dropped in the London underground (Mornington Crescent station)

13. Sheet of yellow A4 paper being dropped in the London underground (Knightsbridge station)

14. Skirt being looked up

15. Thai restaurant being bought by cigar-smoking businessman

16. Harold Pinter’s stunned silence at being awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature

17. 91-year-old judge breaking wind discreetly during high court libel hearing

18. Cat being put among pigeons

19. A person when they were nothing but a twinkle in their old man’s eye

20. Bowl of porridge

I then had the brilliant idea that estimable humour webzine McSweeney’s might like this list for their very funny Lists feature, in which clever people contribute amusing lists of things – among recent ones are “Subjects of ‘light bulb’ jokes that will probably lead to boring punch lines”, “Fruit drink flavours that never took off” and “Ways in which the disinterred corpse of silent-film actor Lon Chaney would be a better vice-president than Dick Cheney”. I checked the McSweeney’s site today and found that four new lists have been published in the past week – but than mine is not among them. Okay, so maybe my “Twenty Rarely-Used Sound Effects” lacks the topicality of the Lon Chaney/Dick Cheney one and is somewhat longer than “Leonard Cohen’s Seven Immutable Laws of Business”, but that’s no excuse for giving me the cold shoulder. I even sent my list from a different email address than my usual Thoughtcat one so they wouldn’t think I was cynically contributing a piece just to promote my own site. I mean, honestly.

One thought on “Well, I thought it was funny

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