According to a poll, the funniest one-liner at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe was a joke about a vacuum cleaner: ‘I’ve decided to sell my hoover… well, it was just collecting dust’.
Tim Vine, the man responsible for this curious bit of word play, said he was surprised to have won the coveted award. Presumably he hadn’t seen the rest of the top ten jokes, which ranged from cliché (‘I wanted to do a show about feminism. But my husband wouldn’t let me’) to stereotyping (‘Scotland had oil, but it’s running out thanks to all that deep frying’) and risky (‘Always leave them wanting more, my uncle used to say to me. Which is why he lost his job in disaster relief’).
A rum lot, I thought, but then I was somewhere between defrosting a chicken and deleting my emails when I read them. Maybe if I’d heard each gag performed as part of a set in sunny Edinburgh I’d have been chortling with the rest of them. It would take an audience who are already warmed up to enjoy jokes like these – or so I thought.
It turns out a panel of critics drew up a shortlist from several thousands of jokes they had heard at various Edinburgh shows, and put them to a public vote anonymously. Two thousand people, I am told, voted in an online poll directed by TV channel Dave, self-professed ‘home of witty banter’. Two thousand people saw these jokes written down, wholly devoid of context and performance, and still found them worth voting for? One feels they would have been better off attending a sermon.
Some of the jokes on the alternative list, the ‘Top of the Flops’, had more style. This one at least made me smile: ‘I had a friend called Iain. Two ‘i’s…. to go with the face’.
Bewildered, I look at the ‘funniest’ jokes again, and ponder their themes: hoover, badger, toilet paper, husband, deep-frying, marriage. No FOMO sufferers, these voters, browsing websites like Dave from their armchairs, watching their vacuums gathering dust. The list, in fact, is brilliant. I may just be the only one incapable of finding comedy in domestic banality.
The 10 ‘funniest’ jokes from the Edinburgh Fringe 2014:
- 1. ‘I’ve decided to sell my Hoover… well, it was just collecting dust’ – Tim Vine
- 2. ‘I’ve written a joke about a fat badger, but I couldn’t fit it into my set’ – Masai Graham
- 3. ‘Always leave them wanting more, my uncle used to say to me. Which is why he lost his job in disaster relief’ – Mark Watson
- 4. ‘I was given some Sudoku toilet paper. It didn’t work. You could only fill it in with number ones and number twos’ – Bec Hill
- 5. ‘I wanted to do a show about feminism. But my husband wouldn’t let me’ – Ria Lina
- 6. ‘Money can’t buy you happiness? Well, check this out, I bought myself a happy meal’ – Paul F Taylor
- 7. ‘Scotland had oil, but it’s running out thanks to all that deep frying’ – Scott Capurro
- =8. ‘I forgot my inflatable Michael Gove, which is a shame ’cause halfway through he disappears up his own arsehole’ – Kevin Day
- =8. ‘I’ve been married for 10 years, I haven’t made a decision for seven’ – Jason Cook
- 10. ‘This show is about perception and perspective. But it depends how you look at it’ – Felicity Ward