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Peter Baynham: ‘In my wedding photos I look like a failed Jacobean fop’

·5 min read

The funniest standup I’ve ever seen …

Back when I used to do terrifying, doomed open spots at the London Comedy Store’s late show, bombing every time, Noel James would spend an hour in the back room, painting the entire top half of his body blue. Then he’d come out at 2am in front of this room of horrible shouting drunks and say: “I’m a blue comedian.” Sometimes it would bring the house down, others not, but his sheer commitment to the joke made me die with laughter every time.

The funniest sketch I’ve ever seen ...

The Two Ronnies’ Four candles. The writing, performances, anticipation for every line and the way they just take their time are incredible. Amazing to watch something from 45 years ago and still feel the audience going crazy for it. At both Ronnies’ memorial services, there were four lit candles instead of the usual two. Beautiful.

The funniest book I’ve ever read ...

Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood.

The funniest TV show I’ve ever seen ...

Arrested Development.

The funniest film I’ve ever seen …

What We Do in the Shadows. Not only do I laugh more every time I watch it, I care about all the characters and their relationships. I mean, who cries at the murder of an evil, 8,000-year old vampire?

The funniest person I know ...

Jez Simmonds. His reactions to my attempts at humour – disappointed confusion bordering on disgust, but then running much further with the joke, just destroys me. We were once watching an old PG Tips “chimps” ad. Jez said “Did you know Charles Manson once auditioned for the Monkees?”. I thought he meant the chimps in the advert, not the band. His appalled reaction to me genuinely believing that Manson would want to be in a PG Tips ad, followed by the ad agency’s response: “Mr Manson, you’re one of the most evil men in history. Plus you’re not even a monkey,” had me dangerously convulsed.

The funniest heckle I’ve ever had …

At Malcolm Hardee’s Tunnel Palladium, the hecklers were legendary. They’d shout “Burn the witch” and “Your cab’s arrived”. When I “played” there, I didn’t even get to say my first line. Years after I quit, I’d wake up in the night sweating, thinking I was back there.

The funniest item of clothing I’ve ever owned …

When I was working on chemical tankers in the merchant navy, the officers would make me put on a massive, air-filled, protective suit with gloves and boots sewn into it. It was made for a giant; I’m small and would basically float around inside the suit like a confused foetus, trying to pick up spanners and operate a walkie-talkie.

The funniest meal I’ve ever eaten ...

When I was a teenager eating Sunday lunch with my family in Cardiff, my younger brother Karl once made me laugh so much I ended up with mashed potato and gravy coming out through my nostrils.

The funniest hairstyle I’ve had …

Unfortunately, the one on my wedding day. I was busy in the run-up to the big day and forgot to get it cut. I can’t pull off big hair like Russell Brand or Robert Plant – I look like a failed Jacobean fop. I’ll take to the grave how ridiculous I look in our wedding photos. Sorry, Sarah.

The funniest dream I’ve ever had ...

I once dreamed I was being terrorised by a giant howling devil. Each time it was about to kill me it would get distracted by tall, teetering towers of burger boxes that it would angrily knock over, giving me precious time to escape. I don’t know why, but I woke up crying with laughter.

The funniest thing that shouldn’t be funny …

As an altar boy, I was doing a funeral. A guy came in, pointed at the coffin, shouted: “Who’s in there?” and tried to prise it open with a crowbar. It was my first experience of being doubled up with forbidden laughter. The mourners’ horror just made it worse.

The funniest number ...

The number 50. When people do the corny old joke: “When I was young, I used to wet the bed, soil my sheets and wake up crying … ”“How old were you?”, the answer is always “27”– which just isn’t funny. It’s a barefaced lie that odd numbers are funnier. Round numbers, like 30, 40, 50 aren’t trying to be funny – they don’t have to. It’s why in I’m Alan Partridge we had Alan say, “Lynne, 50.”

The funniest word ...


The funniest joke I’ve ever heard …

When I was a kid, when I’d hear conventional jokes I’d be annoyed by the punchlines, which seek to explain the often pleasingly insane set up. I just wanted to hear that a horse had entered a licensed premises and tried to purchase beer – and then be done with it. That said, I do like this old joke: A man sees a sign reading “Talking dog for sale, £10.” The owner introduces him to the dog; not only can it talk, it tells incredible tales of having been hired by the government as an international spy, able to use its being seemingly just a dog to discreetly listen into enemy leaders’ conversations and steal secrets. “But eventually I left the spying profession, settled down, got married, had puppies and retired.” The visitor says to the man selling the dog, “This animal is amazing! Why is it only £10?” “Because he’s a liar. He’s never been out of the back garden.”

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