Observational comedy is only successful with a high degree of accuracy and some cunning. To observe something that resonates – but crucially is something that people haven’t already realised for themselves. This is why good observations are often described as acute or even oblique.
I call them nuggets because they are valuable and not easy to find.
An example might be…
When do you know when an onion is actually peeled?
When is it time to wash a towel?
These two ‘nuggets’ happen to be mine – other comedians are available and I don’t doubt, are much funnier. But over the years, noticing such oddities/absurdities/imponderables… call them what you will, have served me very well thank you very much.
And now in a much longer form I have created a novel from one such observation…
How is it that people seem to leave inordinately expensive items on trains, buses, park benches and other unlikely places?
This is the kernel at the heart of my new novel, Made in England.
And if this gets you thinking, then I might be on to something. We shall see this Sunday when it is finally published.
This is something of a risk on my part because unlike my ‘comedy gold’ mentioned above, this observation has never been tested out. I have never said it on stage and enjoyed the gratification of an affirmative laugh.
But it’s a thought that has been in my head for many years and I stand by it. I am convinced it’s a thing. Periodically, I am aware of something priceless, like a violin or a work of art, or something important like state secrets/nuclear codes being left behind on a train… and I always ponder how this might have occured…
And I always feel cheated because explanations are never provided.
We never get the back story.
Take a violin, usually a Stradivarius (the only violin we have all heard of) that is left on a bus by one very careless owner.
Which begs (to me at least) a welter of questions, like…
Who owns such a thing?
Who has so much money and how have they made it? What is their profession that pays so well and is it something that I could be doing?
And from here, other questions spring to mind…
What is someone so rich doing on a train with the ordinary people?
Surely, these are people with travel options. A chauffeur or at least, an Uber?
But accepting that very rich person is on a train with their priceless musical instrument – how did they leave it behind?
How tired can a person be?
Alighting a train, we all do that check-list thing. Keys, phone, wallet, Stradivarius…
Or maybe they weren’t tired at all. Maybe, they’re just so rich, it was a deliberate leave. Too heavy?
These questions need answering and they strike me as a good start to a story.
Made in England is not a novel to change the world. Orwell, Salinger, Rowling and Thackeray can all rest easy. Nor will it trouble any judging panels. It is just a quirky tale on the vagaries of modernity written by someone with a keen eye for the comic absurd. A story to make readers smile (at least) and certainly feel good about themselves which is something in scant supply with our bleak 24 hour news feeds in our fractious and identitarian times.
Made in England is published (worldwide!) on Sunday 3rd July 2022.