Part of the Humourology series
Season 1, Episode 15
Dillie Keane – Laughter is the lubricant of life
Songstress Dillie Keane of Fascinating Aida fame joins Paul Boross to discuss how a sense of humour shifts the psyche and sets up success.
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On this week’s episode of the Humourology Podcast, Paul Boross is joined by the award-winning songwriter and performer Dillie Keane. Keane shares the secrets of forty years of Fascinating Aida’s laugh-out-loud lacerating lyrics and how finding your funny bone can help you fulfil your life wherever you work.
“If you make your surroundings and your workspace more pleasant, people will work better.”
How can you strive to put a song in your hearts and a smile on your face? Join us this week on the Humourology Podcast to hear Dillie doggedly dodging the drama for the droll.
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The Humourology Podcast with Dillie Keane
– [Paul] The following podcast contains quite a bit of explicit and slightly fruity language. If you’re listening to this somewhere where you have young children, you might want to pop in your headphones. Now, on with the show.
– If you can’t laugh at yourself, then you’re never going to see the flaws. It’s the flaws that are funny. The good things aren’t funny, particularly good bits the great bits you need to cherish, look after. But the flaws are what makes you a human being.
– Welcome to the “Humourology Podcast” with me Paul Boross my glittering line-up of guests from the worlds of business, sport and entertainment, who are going to share their wisdom and their use of humour. Humourology is the study of how humour can dramatically improve your business success and your life. Humourology puts the fun into business fundamentals, increases the value of your laughing stock and puts up punch line back into your bottom line. Please remember to like, subscribe, and leave a review wherever you get your podcasts. My guest on this edition of the Humourology Podcast is a multi-award winning songwriter, performer, humourist, and quite frankly, national treasure. For over 40 years, she’s been delighting audiences around the world with her mellifluous musical melodies coupled with laugh-out-loud lacerating lyrics. She’s a founder member of the fabulously funny Fascinating Aida. And they regularly pack theatres around the globe and also rack up 10s of millions of YouTube views. Her tremendous talent is to create the classic comedy combination of wild, wicked and wonderful songs, that somehow manage to make even the meekest of maiden aunts laugh at the riskiest of risqué ribaldry. Dillie Keane, welcome to the “Humourology Podcast”.
– Thank you very much, indeed.
– Well I said all that because I mean it and we’ve worked together in the past and you’ve been making me laugh for many, many years. Was the young Dillie Keane fascinated by comedy and music.
– Yes I was. And I think it comes through the family from my grandmother. Apparently she could do a… She had an extraordinary party trick. She would tuck her violin underneath her chin and say, “Right, who’s this?” And she would play some little figure of music and people would go, “It’s the bank manager.” So she could do that with music. And I’ve always been with music that suits funny lyrics, but I also get the love of words from my father. As a child who was very sick, for long, long periods of time I was in hospital in and out and I was stuck in my bedroom at home at the top of the twice a tall house not allowed to get out of bed ’cause you weren’t encouraged to get out of bed when you were sick in those days, it’s a long time ago. And so my mother put the family, as we used to call it, gramophone and they had a very large collection of Gilbert and Sullivan. And I just played through the Gilbert and Sullivan repertoire and mum got me the libretti. And so I studied them, and I had a dictionary and I used to look up what the words meant. So I knew what trepanning was when I was about 10.
– Well, which is an important word for comedy basically.
– Well, it was for Gilbert. I’ve never used it yet.
– There’s an NHS song waiting to happen that we’re going back to trepanning . So tell me more about that obsession in childhood. I mean, it sounds like it was through necessity, because you needed something to keep yourself or your spirits up during those years. Why was it so obsessive really I suppose?
– I’m not sure that it was obsessive. I mean, I don’t look back at myself and think “Jeepers! I was an obsessive child.” I just think it was there. And it was one of the ways that the day’s whiled by. And because I was very musical, I could play the stuff and the tunes are infectiously charming and the rhyming and the structure of Gilbert’s language is impeccable. And so it just, it beguiled me rather than obsessed me and I still return to it. When I’m a bit down in the dumps I listen to Gilbert and Sullivan.
– Oh really so it’s still the through line through your life is Gilbert.
– Absolutely it is the ultimate through line or when I’m incredibly busy, and I need real a huge amount of energy. For instance, when my partner was 70, we decided to have a party and I asked him what the budget was. And I said, well, that means I’m doing the catering then. And so I had a week to prepare food for a 100 people and I listened non-stop to Gilbert and Sullivan and I just whizzed myself through it.
– So, well, it’s sounds fantastic.
– Tonic, it’s my tonic.
– Oh, then that’s nice, a tonic for the troops. What, apart from Gilbert and Sullivan, what makes you laugh?
– Well, surprise, surprise makes me laugh. So if a lyric comes along, that’s surprising. It usually makes me laugh. The unexpected makes me laugh. I like wit, I like clever humour, but I also, I am a sucker for Dumb and Dumber. So I love falling over and things like that. It’s very hard to explain to somebody what makes you laugh because it can be so many different things. And it can also, when people would attempt to make you laugh or something’s sort of supposed to be funny on television you sit there going, “oh my goodness, why do people find this funny?” I never found “Cannon and Ball” funny. I never found “Little and Large” funny, but I still cry with mirth at Morecambe and Wise.
– So it’s just a personal taste thing.
– And is there anything that in the modern realm that you suddenly go, okay, that’s really funny or is everything sort of–
– Well put it this way, If “Gavin & Stacey” have a Christmas special, do not disturb Dillie Keane. just with my face already like this smiling it in my cheeks a little tight with excitement because it’s “Gavin & Stacey.” I absolutely love Outnumbered, I think is as witty as can be. I love watching “Flo and Joan”. I think that they’re.., I’m thrilled with what they’re doing.
– Well, that’s interesting because that’s musical comedy as well.
– Yes very much so, I like to fancy in my imaginings of a sort of absurd grandeur that I’m passing the flame on that they’re taking on the torch. But they’re very good, they’re very clever I admire them hugely and I was thrilled with what their doing.
– Well we both got a background in musical comedy. Why do you think music and comedy works so well and cuts through so well? What makes it different?
– Well, you can listen to a funny song again and again and you can’t listen to a joke again and again. Music, it gives it endurance. And the other thing about it is that people will often get it wrong and they come back to the show and they go, “oh, that’s why it was funny.” For instance, we have a song, how rude can I be on this Paul?
– Absolutely, anything you like on this.
– We have a song, a Christmas song which is about five years old. It’s gone a bit bonkers on the internet. And people say to me, “I do love your song don’t be a for Christmas.” And I say, “it’s try not to be a , it’s Christmas.” One is an order that can’t possibly be fulfilled and the other is a plea and that’s much funnier. Because the assumption is that whoever you’re talking to is without any shadow of doubt going to be a . But could you, and is a generally all year, but just try not to be, it’s Christmas, try, try, please. And it’s much funny so when people come back and hear the correct lyrics they still go away singing, “oh I love that song don’t be a for Christmas” they get it wrong because they haven’t got musical brains but it’s much funnier in reality. And so I think if you get humour and song right, it stands the test of time, much better than the joke.
– Absolutely I couldn’t agree more. And by the way all our listeners we’re coming up to Christmas and whatever time of year look up that song, it is hilarious and also it’s very precise as you say and I love that whole idea that it’s so precise. I love the Jerry Seinfeld quote, which is “Comedy is the closest thing to justice. “If you’re funny, you survive. “If you’re not, you don’t.” Do you think that’s true?
– I don’t know what context he means it in. It sounds terribly deep, but I have no idea. I know some people who aren’t funny at all and they survived fine.
– Oh, no I think he’s talking about in terms of performance, actually it’s the ultimate Roman–
– I’m looking at Boris Johnson who is funny and is capable of being very, very amusing and is in many ways sort of surviving and yet not surviving.
– Yeah, I think that Jerry Seinfeld’s talking about that whole sort of Roman amphitheatre thing about you survive, or you don’t survive, based on… And it’s very clear you either make them laugh or you don’t.
– If you’re doing Pinter or if you’re doing, I think Chekhov is always better performed by people with an innate funny bone here or there. And Pinter too, in many ways but there are an awful lot of performances that don’t require you to be funny. And there are very good very unfunny performers who have great depth.
– Tell me a funny story about something that’s happened to you in your illustrious life.
– Actually, I have been massively blessed with a sort of fairly straightforward career. I mean, the funniest thing that’s ever happened it was one of those moments you can’t really explain it. I was on stage and I had put on a tiny bit of weight and my rather skin-tight dress suddenly went and split down the side. And it was Fascinating Aida and Marilyn Cutts was in the group then. She came over to the piano. Luckily it had split upstage as opposed to downstage where the audience would have seen.I was seated at the piano It was my left seam. And I said to Marilyn, I went, “Marilyn, my dress has split.” And she went, “yes”, my dress has split, she went, “yes”. and walked off stage. I had to get up, and luckily I had a jacket which I had taken off. And I lifted up the jacket and explained what had happened to the audience. I said, “I’m terribly sorry ladies and gentlemen, I have to sidle off stage now because my dress has split”. It’s not that funny, but there we are. It was funny at the time, you had to be there.
– Actually, that’s one of the things that as a performer and somebody who’s performed at the highest level for so many years, isn’t it about owning that thing and telling the audience what’s happened rather than sidling away.
– You do that in cabaret I mean obviously there are songs where you don’t want it to happen ’cause we have a fairly kind of strong tradition now of dipping into seriousness at least once during the show, when you don’t want the microphones to crackle, or you don’t want someone to shout, “get them off!” from the audience or anything not that they have for a while. That’s the great thing about your being older.
– Well I’m sure that they’re loving the serious side because I actually I’ve listened to a lot of your songs and the bathos of some of the songs is beautiful. And I was just listening to “Song for Tom” the other day. And I advise listeners to actually catch that because it’s one of the most… it is funny but it’s in a such a sweet, loving, touching way that it really transports… Is this something ’cause humour and truth are very, very closely aligned. Is this something that you have come more to in later years or is it always been there?
– No, “Song for Tom” was quite an old song. “Song for Tom” is about 25 years old. I don’t know what the first, really, really good true song I wrote a song, years and years and years and years ago called “Saturday Night”, which is actually still a lovely song about sitting on your own when everybody else seems to be out partying on a Saturday night and thinking, oh, what do I do next? And it’s got a couple of really good, funny lines in it. Yeah, no it’s always been there, that sort of, as you say there’s sort of somewhere between pathos and bathos, the absurdity of the human condition fascinates me and “Song for Tom” is a lovely song because it’s about the inability to allow yourself to fall in love, to let yourself of be vulnerable. And I think that’s worth exploring in song.
– No and I think you explore it so well. I’m trying to remember the name of the song it’s about dating a married man.
– Oh, “Much More Married”.
– “Much More Married” which is another one of my favourites.
– Do you remember Dan Crawford, who ran the Kings Head theatre?
– Oh yes.
– I remember when I sang that first, it’s a very old song that I sang at the Piccadilly Theatre when it would have been in the number 1987. Dan came up to me and said, “very, very good song. The best satirical song I have ever heard.”
– Which from Dan was very very pleasing because I loved him.
– Well, thrilling because he really knew his stuff and he’d seen most everything.
– It was a bit of an exaggeration but I’ve cherished the memory.
– No, I don’t think it is an exaggeration. I think that for you, does humour and truth have to touch to make the song really work?
– No, it depends what song you’re writing. Now, for the listening millions “Much More Married” is a song that actually happened because of something that happened in my life. I started dating a man who… And I was in my early forties. So sort of it’s that you don’t know who, you meet somebody and you fancy them, you don’t really know much about their background and you wonder why they’re on their own. Well, every time I met him, he was just, there was just something slightly more compromised about his situation. The first time I met him, he was on the verge of finalising divorce. The second time I met him, he was on the verge of instructing his divorce lawyer. Third time I met him, he was separated. And the fourth time I met him, he was actually living in the same house as his wife, but separated, living in a different wing, what was it, Buckingham palace?! And so I stopped seeing him. I just stopped answering the phone ’cause that’s what, I can’t be bothered with this because I wouldn’t want, much as he was fun and everything I wouldn’t want some woman to do that to me. Quite clearly, he was a lying toe rag. Anyway, about six months later, the phone went and it was him, and I answered and, “oh, hello” And he said, “hello, I’ve been trying to get ahold of you. I’ve left lots of messages, but I haven’t heard from you.” And I said, “yes, oh right, I probably didn’t get them maybe” and I’ve always found an imaginary secretary is great. And I said, “I think my secretary must have left me a note or maybe forgot.” I have no secretary, don’t be silly. Anyway so he eventually said, “would you like to come for dinner?” And I went, “no, I don’t think so, thank you, but no.” He said, “well, how about lunch?” I said, “no, no, I don’t think so either.” And he said, “why?” I said, “’cause every time I met you you were a little bit more married than you said.” In my head I went… that’s a song! And anyway, the conversation finished and he said, “Oh, I didn’t think you cared about that sort of thing.” And I said, “I don’t”, and that was the end of the phone call. And it was very pleasing ’cause we very very rarely get closure on anything in life. And that was closure, yes. So that’s where that song comes from. Obviously, when you listen to the lyrics of the song, the imaginary relationship in the song, it goes a lot further than I did with the man, the Irish man whose name I’ve now forgotten. And, the me in the song is obviously much more involved. And it ends up with finding out that the wife was actually pregnant, but it comes from that point of absolute truth. Yes, that’s what happened to me. And I’ve just written a song about the sort of situation for me during COVID, which again was one of those moments, you go ping! I’ve just said a title of a song. I was in a shop. This man was taking quite a long time. It was very small shop. And I was just, so, I was waiting for him we were in masks too. Anyway he turned around and said, I’m so sorry, I’m taking so long. I said, it’s all right, don’t worry, I’ve got nothing to do. And all day to do it in… blues.
– Yeah, ping again!
– However, you then write a song. Like for instance, there was all that, there was quite a craze a few years ago of very famous Hollywood A-listers having surrogate babies. And we wrote a song called An orangutan’s having my baby. Well, that’s clearly not possible, but it comes from a kind of grain of truth that people recognised. And then there’s a song, another song for instance, “Mother Dear Mother” is a song about, taking your mother to Switzerland, to Dignitas. And that doesn’t come from any truth at all, it comes because Dignitas is there, There’s an element of, people recognise that horrible possibility but that doesn’t come from any kind of truth in my life or anyone’s I know.
– No, but you take sort of ideas as well, which are in the collective consciousness as well. You said earlier on that, you’ve heard some people who were definitely not funny, and because I was going to ask, is everyone funny? But what I’m going to ask now is can comedy be taught in any sphere or realm?
– You think it’s–
– It’s just like musicianship, it just you’ve got it or… It’s like a gift for gardening or an ability to ride a horse. We have, attributes as human beings which are different from person to person. And some people are funny and some people are very funny. Some people are not funny at all.
– But these traits can be developed, can’t they? If you have a core of funny, you can develop that because you’ve been doing it all your life and hopefully I’ve been doing it as well. You develop that core, but ’cause I’m with you, that the core is there that you either hear the beats or you don’t.
– Yeah, I don’t think I’m funnier now than I was 40 years ago. I can understand it now, I can analyse it now but I’m not funnier. I haven’t improved.
– Is there , you don’t think–
– I’ve got is a sort of an assurance on stage. I think probably that I didn’t have them, but I gurn less maybe. I’ll gurn less in pursuit of a laugh. I’ll let laughs go. And that’s experience. And I know moments when not to get a laugh and I think that’s experience as well, but no I’m not funnier. I walked on stage university and everyone said you have funny bones and I didn’t understand what that was, but I knew I was funny because I’d been funny at school. I was very, very funny, as Rainbow the janitor. In The happiest days of your life, I gave a superb performance of a grizzled beard. Yes, I bought the house down. I am funny. I was always funny
– And so that inherent, hearing the funny and knowing instinctively, is you think that. So, I mean, this is a podcast, which is for everyone but also for people in business. When I train people I’m, always, they go, I’ve got to start with a joke. And if they’re inherently not funny my job is to make them not do the joke.
– – Absolutely.
– So what would your advice be, is, understand yourself enough so you know who you are?
– Yes, I think so. I’m just thinking there, when somebody who was inherently, one of the unfunniest people, but made one of the great jokes of all time, which was “The lady is not for turning, you turn if your want to” and it was the other way round, wasn’t it? “You turn if you want to, the lady is not for turning”. Great moment, and she delivered it spot on and she could be devastatingly funny although she hadn’t a single funny bone in her body, but because she was very clever with her words. And I’ll never forget that last time she did PMQ. I rushed him to watch it because it was all so exciting. We were getting rid of her at last. And somebody said, would she be interested in being the Governor of something about the Bank of England and Dennis Skinner, who was very funny, said, “she’ll be the governor”. And she said, “I wouldn’t mind, I wouldn’t mind”. And she had such delight in her eyes. It was terribly funny. I thought, oh, all right, we’ll miss you a bit. There were moments that she could understand. So yes, of course, even supremely serious unfunny people can see moments for humour.
– So it’s about understanding your limitations and working within them is it?
– Yes, and trusting your joke writers.
– Ah, so trusting somebody to go, if you say this in exactly this order with this beat in between, it will work.
– “The lady is not returning”, it was written for her. She really doubted it and it’s one of her most memorable moments.
– Well, you see, the interesting thing when we’re talking about Margaret Thatcher the interesting thing for me I thought she had an instinct of knowing what she didn’t have and working on it. Because if you remember, she worked with the RADA coach to lower, wasn’t she go down two or three semitones in the pitch of the voice. And so therefore I think that she will have gone to somebody and said, I need to be funny, I need a joke how do I make it work?
– Without doubt, yes. And I think that was part of I think, they do try to train you in public life. If you go into public life, don’t they? They have teams of people who are already there, to train you in deportment and how to put a speech across, how to read from a text and how to make jokes as well. She was, I think a clever woman, obviously she was a very clever woman, but she was willing to learn and willing to school herself.
– Which I think feeds into you can, with a modicum of a funny bone or a tiny little bit of a funny bone, you can actually build on that to an extent, if you’re smart.
– Paul, are you saying people can be funny around a dinner table or they can be funny in their speeches or in holding a meeting because what you do is help people to communicate with humour in business. I still think, that come the moment, where they’re at a dinner party, there can still be unutterable bores.
– I know, I think, but that’s not my job to get them through the dinner party.
– It’s a joke you can tell us at a dinner party.
– Yeah, that’s right. Well, actually, I’ll just get them to put one of your songs on the gramophone and stand back and bask in the glow. What would the world be like without humour?
– Intolerable. Intolerable.
– You think that it would just be a terrible place?
– Yes, it will be appalling. I’ll just give you a little example, which has happened lately. One of my greatest friends has just died. David Johnson, legend of Edinburgh, legendary producer legendary bon vivant, giant personality. And he was of course well known in Edinburgh. And the funniest thing that somebody said to me yesterday was, because he was taking a while to die and we’re all communicating in these terrible solitary vigils. And, John, his business partner said to a great friend he said, it’s like, Edinburgh, it’s just like Edinburgh David always said, He said, “if I’m still here in Edinburgh on Monday, shoot me!” And there he’s be on Monday, in Edinburgh, holding court and going out to dinner. And that made us all cry laughing even though it’s in terribly sad circumstances. You’ve got to be able to leaven life, it’s yeast of life.
– Yeah, no, I agree. I made, when my father died, we went to Hungary for his Memorial service. My father was Hungarian refugee and we went back and I walked into a very sad room where my brother who lives in Hungary and his wife and the children were. And I instinctively did something that was, it could be conceived in bad taste because he died before his 90th birthday. And we were going to have a big party. And I went, Typical. Bastard, stopped us from having a party and and there was shock in the room and the shock led to laughter, which broke the atmosphere and we do need that.
– Without doubt.
– Yeah. I don’t know if you remember John Cleese’s memorial speech for Graham Chapman. I thought that was a great example of it whereby—
– No, but I did hear his speech for Barry Took which was very funny, his Memorial speech for Barry, because I sang at Barry Took’s memorial.
– Oh right. It is about lightening the atmosphere at that it’s something that everybody says but it’s ‘what they would have wanted’ and you’d want people to miss you but you’d also want people to remember you in a fond way and laugh with you as well, which I think is important. Do you find yourself funny?
– No, not at all?
– No not in the slightest bit funny. No, no, I take myself far too seriously and I’m quite a boring person.
– Well, I don’t think so. I think our listeners will think completely the opposite.
– I bore myself rigid.
– You bore yourself rigid?
– But then is that, ’cause you’re giving everything on stage and you’re putting everything into the work.
– I don’t know really, no, I don’t find myself funny, no I find myself absurd.
– I find the human condition absolutely absurd. I’m very disappointed in myself.
– Really, is that your driver? What is that, what drives you forward all the time?
– ooh, I don’t know what my driver is. No, I think, I don’t know what my driver is and I’ve never sought to find out really because I think I’m not sure that finding out is helpful. I mean, I suppose I had quite an unhappy childhood I think that’s my driver.
– And, but I mean the drive for performance for perfection in songs, for getting a laugh, I mean, what exactly—
– I know that’s just the great pleasure of the work.
– Okay, so that’s a driver–
– I love tinkering with it for a long time and tinkering with the rhymes and saying, and of course my co-writer Adele Anderson is as nitpicky as me which drives us both completely round the bend. And she’ll say, “I think it should be ‘of’, not ‘by’ there we’ve recorded “by’, we have to go back. So we do, we’re fussy people, but that’s no bad thing to be fussy in your work.
– No, but I’m intrigued that you don’t actually find yourself funny. There’s no level you understand you are funny.
– Okay, when I’m writing a song, I know I can come up with funny stuff and then but it’s the stuff that I find funny, not me, I find funny.
– Oh, but then you are a large part of making it funny.
– Oh yes. I mean, when we wrote the “”Dogging Song”” I don’t think we ever laughed so much in our lives. And just the kind of huge kind of gut painful laugh of of findings… of Adele saying Adele wrote, I would say, two-thirds of that song whenever, it’s always ascribed to me, but it’s not, it’s Adele’s two thirds I just kept kind of pushing her. And what I’m very good as a very good driver, I can say, no, that’s not right but there’s something in that. So I’m a good editor and I’m credited with far too much of the material, but I’m a much better editor than any of the people I’ve written with, that’s my skill is seeing the overall picture of what we’re trying to write. So the “Dogging Song”, I would say Adele wrote between two thirds and three quarters of it. However, then I will come up with the killer line. She said, by now something we were thrilled to bits. And I said, “I love to feel a coppers truncheon in-between my tits”, and she just… then we just laughed about 20 minutes.
– That’s worth the entrance fee alone to be honest with you, that line. And for our listeners who haven’t heard the “Dogging Song” become one of tens of millions who log onto YouTube and see it because it is one of the classic funny songs of all time. And I say that as somebody who has been sort of in the comedy song business for many, many years and it’s hard to beat.
– There are moments when I never want to sing it again – it’s like a ball and chain because I’ve written so much better stuff more complex or more interesting, I think …nah, it just a piece of doggerel, but it’s not assailable it’s an unassailably funny song and people wrote to me and say, now that COVID struck doggie is one of the few things we can do in the open air, how about an extra verse? I wrote that I always write back saying no, do not tamper with perfection, it’s perfect. I can be quite arrogant about things I think it’s a perfect song, perfect piece of shit. but it’s perfect.
– No, no, but it is perfection. It is that you don’t want to mess with it really.
– It’s the funniest song I’ve ever come across. I’m still finding it funny.
– Yeah, I couldn’t agree more.
– I think it helps that it’s being sung by a woman of 60 plus?
– Well, yes, but–
– I know I’ve got to sort of posh voice and I’ve never tried to change that. Although it was fairly fashionable when I was young and it makes it okay.
– It does, it gets funnier with time of course. And actually I think that, you have the the classic talent of being able to write with Adele, write these songs but also very few people can bring that laugh home which is that stage craft, which I think is… because a lot of the laughs are coming from what you described as gurning earlier on which I don’t think, I think it was laughing it in or you’re doing the ‘nodding it in’ thing. And I think that… Well I was trained as an actress so it’s the same every time I’m terribly precise about everything.
– Yeah, but very few actors can do comedy successfully I always find, I always find that there is that line where, “tragedy is easy and comedy is difficult”, how do you feel about that?
– It depends. I’ve done plays in which I’ve been very bad. I played the nurse in “Romeo and Juliet”. I was fucking terrible. I’m not sure I think Shakespeare is really difficult for me to do, I just don’t cleave to the language at all. You need a lightness of touch and you need the right actors. You need the right actors for tragedy and you need the right actors for drama, something in between, which can be funny, but not necessarily hilarious.
– Is it important to be able to laugh at yourself?
– Yes. Yes, that’s why I say I don’t find myself funny I find myself absurd.
– So, I mean, in general ’cause people are going to take away things from this why is it so important to be able to laugh at yourself?
– Makes you human, humane as well. If you can’t laugh at yourself then you’re never going to see the flaws. It’s the flaws that are funny. The good bits aren’t funny, particular the good bits are great, bits you need to cherish look after. But the flaws are what makes you a humane and makes you a human being. And if we only ever laugh at other people then that’s rather cruel, isn’t it?
– Yes, and I think, well, being able to laugh at yourself humanises you in the eyes of other people you become sort of, you don’t become somebody on a pedestal you become somebody at their level.
– Yes, I see one thing where you’re getting at when you asked, do I find myself funny there are two ways to answer that. Am I amused by myself? Do I find myself sort of witty? No, I’m not Noel Coward, I don’t drop witticisms I’m not amusing like that. I can be good fun to be with, I know that but I can also be a dead bore to be with. But what I do find is I do find myself absurd to the point of amusement. I’m amused by my absurdities, which is slightly different.
– Do you think people laugh enough in their workplace? Now we worked in show business for years where there is a lot of laughter, but most people work in offices and sort of shops and places. Do you think it should be mandated more that there should be more chances to laugh?
– Yes, I do. I think laughter is a great lubricant. And I worked for many years – because I didn’t enter showbiz till I was 26 – and I worked in an advertising agency and various lawyers’ offices and things like that in secretarial capacity. And I worked in bars and things, of course, bars you can have a joke with people, but in an office it is very dull. And I remember fleeing these headquarters of William Hill because this guy kept coming in and going. “Well, roll on Friday, roll on Friday, eh?!”. And he’d said it all Monday and by Tuesday morning I’d had enough and I just walked out, I couldn’t face it. Because if you’re there all week saying roll on Friday, that’s misery. Whereas, if you could look forward to working if you can have a laugh with people, get down to your work. I remember I was working in a company that made blinds and I had such a good laugh with the women in the offices there because I was typing the invoices, and I’m a very fast typer. And I would do three-quarters of an hour, really hard of just ferocious typing. And then I’d go, right, I’m taking quarter of an hour off because I’d start getting things wrong. And I crack jokes and things like that. We’d have a bit of a laugh around the office and things like that. And then they would be hugely amused because I would go right. I’m going to set an invoice every 70 seconds. If there would be it would’ve been in knots at this sort of obsessive… But I was partly doing it because it was a very dull job and it made light` in the office and it was fun.
– Yeah, well, part of the whole Humourology movement as I like to call it now is about getting more laughter into the workplace because I do think that it actually helps the bottom line. If people are happier they’re going to be more productive don’t you think?
– Absolutely. Nobody ever typed more invoices than me but I did actually take quarter of an hour every hour off to go, huh! And as a result, my productivity, it was much better than Elaine’s who I was replacing.
– Well, okay, now let’s put your advertising hat back on and your business case hat. If you had to make a business case for humour what would you include? Why is it going to be that much better for business?
– If you make your surroundings and your workspace pleasant people will work better simple as that.
– as simple as that. And your return on investment is the fact that there is more productivity, essentially.
– Yes, and actually it makes it cheerier for the customer. I’m aware that as I get older I could be turned into one of those women who says, “oh” nice day out, oh, isn’t it. Oh, what a shame about the weather “oh”, et cetera. But I always test, if I go through the till I’ll try and have a tiny bit of conversation with who is on the till so that there is a little human exchange. And because I’m now at the sort of unembarrassable of an age of 68 I don’t mind about doing that. I mean, I wouldn’t have done it when I was 30 but I think actually you should do it every age you should try to communicate. Whenever I go into the bank and I used to get money out, they’d say, how do you want it? You still do it, you say, I want to change it all into euros. They said, how do you want it? I say, always say… doubled. So, I mean, I didn’t find it funny anymore when I just say doubled. They look up and they go, “oh, sorry, I can’t do that”. And you just think, oh God, it must be dismal working here. ‘Cause actually it’s a gentle joke, it’s not going to… Nobody’s going to take me up on it. Nobody’s going to try and steal it. But it’s an effort to sort of make a moment of humour between me and the teller. Then sometimes the teller goes, oh, I wish I could.
– Yes, well, but what you’re doing is you’re bringing a little bit of light into their world, aren’t you?
– Well, how would you like it? Could you put it on the 3:30? at Cartmel please
– Also, delivering it with a straight face makes it so much funnier as well, doesn’t it?
– Well, I dunno if it does it I definitely very, very rarely make people laugh, but it’s really it’s partly just sort of to lighten my day.
– Well, but that’s what it does, doesn’t it? It’s a symbiotic processes if you bring something into somebody else’s day as a psychologist, what we say is if you want anybody to go into any state you have to go into that state first. And so therefore, by being light and everything you take that person into that world with you. Have you ever taken a joke too far across the line?
– Yeah, we’ve got lines wrong in song. Yeah, and we’ve had to… let’s change that tonight.
– So have you ever gotten yourself out of trouble by using humour?
– No, because you see what I was a very funny lively, scatty, teenager and I’d found it didn’t work with my teachers.
– That’s good. In business, is it survival of the fittest or survival of the funniest fittest?
– Really, you think that it’s as clear as that?
– Yeah, yes, I do. Unfortunately, I do subscribe to the idea that a lot of the most successful business people are somewhat emotionally detached. Not all of them by any means but you think of someone like Philip Green the emotional detachment that says, I can give all this money to my wife and ‘oh dear now the business has gone and oh dear, how many thousand jobs? One of our chief Brexiteers, very charming eloquent man but can be one of the chief Brexiteers and take vast subsidies from the EU for his vast farms and move quite a bit of his operation to Singapore. How does somebody not see that that’s massively unfunny and massively detached from being a good human?
– You think that actually a level and I’m not describing these two people as psychopaths but level of psychopathy actually works better in business than the level of humour.
– Because it’s allowed.
– Because we don’t have the kind of legal framework that stops it from happening. I don’t how you frame it, but name me a well-known hilarious… I mean, Alan Sugar has a very good sense of humour, I think. I think you find him very dry and very droll. And I know he’s an absolute tough businessman. My partner came across him quite a lot in the in the city. He says, he’s a very tough businessman but he’s quite clearly got a wonderful sense of humour he says, it can work. I’m slightly nervous about the idea that you put fittest against funniest because I don’t think it’s either or I don’t think you need to be funny and I don’t think you’d necessarily need to be fit. You just need to be there at the right moment sometimes.
– Dillie we’ve come to the part of the show the end part of the show which is called quickfire questions which one day we’ll have a jingle for, I promise you but maybe you could write one. So quickfire questions. Who’s the funniest person that you’ve met then?
– John Diamond.
– Really, the author and journalist, John Diamond, yeah.
– Yes, I almost lost my lunch laughing at John Diamond just wonderfully funny.
– What book makes you laugh?
– “Diary of a Nobody” by George Grossmith and Weedon Grossmith equal to the “Wimbledon Poisoner” by Nigel Williams.
– Oh, okay, two for the price of one. What film makes you laugh?
– Groundhog Day?
– What film makes you laugh?
– Groundhog Day?
– What film, no . See, we couldn’t resist it, could we?
– Okay, slightly, what word makes you laugh?
– Oh, lovely word, lovely one.
– And sometimes, as an alternative, discombuberate.
– I was really discombuberated. I love the American use of language.
– Oh yeah, the way they mangle it.
– In a good way.
– No old fashioned words like discombuberate.
– Okay, I will be looking that up. This, slightly serious because I know because your eco blog that this is very dear to your heart, but what’s not funny?
– Yeah, and by the way, everybody should read Dillie’s blogs Shit you don’t need, because then you’ll see and you’ve been saying it for a long time and it’s all coming true, unfortunately. Would you rather be considered clever or funny?
– Well, I would argue that you have to be clever to be funny. So would you agree with that?
– Well, I know some people who aren’t hugely bright who are just wonderfully funny.
– Oh, so that’s okay.
– Yeah. They’re just funny in a different way.
– So describe the ways they’re funny then.
– Well, I don’t think Cannon and Ball were terribly terribly clever, but they were funny you know… not for me.
– And it didn’t make me laugh particularly or Jimmy Cricket, I don’t think of him as having he’s not Dara Ó Briain, but he’s just, he’s adorably funny.
– Okay. Well, I would sort of argue that actually that they probably are very bright to do those characters and get that–
– Oh, they have a, they have a bright I mean, Dara Ó Briain is clever.
– Yeah, that’s true. Sandi Toksvig
– is clever, Stephen Fry, clever. They’ve got brains the size of Europe. There’s a different breed out there now, from what there was when we were growing up.
– Well, final question, Desert Island gags. You’ve got one gag that you can take to a Desert Island with you. What is it?
– It’s a joke. Do I have to tell it?
– Mrs. McTavish and Mrs. Taylor arrived at tea and they’re having tea in Jenners which is a very, very respectable department store in Edinburgh, and I’m sure you remember. Mrs. McTavish says, “The scones were delicious.” Weren’t they? Och they were, Mrs. McTavish? Mrs. Taylor, Mrs. Taylor, the scones were lovely. Lovely fresh cream and jam. Uuh, shall we be wee devils and have a cake? Uuh! You’ve very naughty but why not it’s a Thursday after all. So Betty, Betty would you bring over the cake trolley, please? So Betty brings over the cake trolly. And she says, oh, the cakes look lovely, they do. Betty, are they fresh cream? or are they crème patisière? Oh, they are fresh cream mam, fresh cream. Well, tell me Betty, is that a cake or a meringue? No, you’re no rang, it’s a cake.
– Oh, well, that’s one for all our Scottish listeners around the world. That’s brilliant. You’ve been a wonderful guest and a wonderful inspiration. Keep writing those beautiful and hilarious songs. Dillie Keane, thank you so much for being our guest today.
– Thank you very much for asking me.
– [Paul] The “Humourology Podcast” was hosted by Paul Boross and produced by Simon Banks, music by Steve Haworth, creative direction by Les Hughes and additional research by Helen Sykes. Please remember to subscribe like and leave a review. Wherever you get your podcasts. This has been a Big Sky production.