Saturday, 8 December 2012

Bad joke, good joke

Practical jokes are dangerous, they can backfire very easily, they can damage a person's confidence to the point where, as we have seen in the last two days, suicide results.

They can also be very funny; they can be quite a good way of making light of situation or of deflating someone who is, perhaps. overly pompous or self important but the shadow of causing real harm is always there and they should be used with caution. And, what is more, blogging has many similarities.

Despite the fact that the "joke" that appears to have led to the death of Jacintha Saldinha was carried out in a thoughtless, dull and silly manner, I do not think that a witch hunt for the two Australian radio presenters is very helpful; I presume that they are mortified at what has happened and their predicament will act as a warning to all.

This one crass act should not destroy all future practical jokes.

I recall, many years ago, as a young man, I worked in an open plan office for a  national organisation. There were about twenty young men and women working with me and it was a rarified atmosphere where good humour ruled and self importance was squashed at every opportunity.
One of the group, a young Scot whom I shall call Hamish, was very careful with his money.

He saved and scrimped until he had enough money to put down a deposit on a VW Beetle; new, sparkling and the pride of his life.

Some of us decided that Hamish had an unnatural fondness for the car that bordered on a fixation and we devised a joke that would bring him back down to earth.

We pooled resources (not very much in those days) and purchased three gallon cans of petrol and, on the day that the VW was premiered we secretly topped up its tank.

Every few days after that we would covertly do the same again.

Hamish was delighted with his purchase and for the first ten days or so he told all and sundry just how economical it was: "The petrol gauge just doesn't seem to go down" he said. Time after time.

After two weeks he was ecstatic over his purchase claiming it was the best buy anyone could have made.

In week three he commenced writing letters to Volkswagon and various motoring magazines extolling the virtues of the Beetle.

On the Monday of week four the penny dropped and he came into the office uttering Scottish profanities against us Sassenachs.

But all enjoyed the joke, no one came to any harm, in fact, Hamish really benefited from the whole episode and, most importantly, he tempered his preoccupation of polishing and cleaning his car.

As the wise Signor Mundabor has stated in his post on the suicide affair, there must have been some background, some build up of problems other than the  badly thought out prank. Sadly, Jacintha (apparently) took her life because the joke provided the final straw; life became unbearable and so, the end.
Please pray for her eternal soul; suicide is an ugly thing.

But don't let that put an end to practical jokes.....or to cutting but charitable blogging.


  1. There are calls within the media here in Australia for the care of the two presenters who did this joke. It seems however that they were ruled by their egos until the news of this poor lady's suicide came through. Their program has now been suspended. But it is the organisation that they work for SOUTHERN CROSS AUSTEREO- that frequently has it's DJs' do prank callls and this particular station 2-DAYFM has already fallen foul of the medial authority so it is presumed that there will be another hearing as a result of this

  2. No, I think they were very much in the wrong and should be punished.
    They breached privacy, and while it was her fault and the hospital's for allowing the breach, if they had used their brains it wouldn't have happened. Also, they are only sorry now that's she's dead. Another point: did they not consider how it would go over in a country already having a witch-hunt in the domestic media?
    The people defending their right to a joke are crazy; no one is trying to eliminate humor. But for goodness' sake, use common sense and ethical/moral judgment before making a we can't anticipate everything but it seems a little too obvious that the greater the magnitude of the target, the greater the magnitude of the consequences.
    By the way, she and her relatives are Catholic. Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis. Requiescat in pace.

    1. I also think that your purposes for humor are the correct ones...comedy reminds us of our folly. But, this was meant to cause massive loads of trouble. Unfortunately that's one of two aspects to modern humor (the other being as crude as possible).

  3. I am all for jokes but a moment's reflection should surely put paid to the idea that a hospital and the people working in it should be fit subjects for anyone's entertainment. Being a silly ass and ringing Buckingham Palace or the Houses of Parliament might be one thing but people who work in hospitals are dealing with real matters of life and death. What kind of fool imagines that they have the time to talk to overpaid idiots on the other side of the world?


  4. Matthew, much as I despise the trick and those who carried it out I believe that the depth and enormity of the consequences will act as a suitable and fitting punishment. They will carry that burden for the rest of their lives. If we pursue them (as the media will) there is a very real threat of further tragedy, one of them may be contemplating suicide themselves. Hopefully, this awful joke will serve as a reminder that any such future activity needs to have a base in Christian charity; a kinder sort of joke, if you will. Patricius, I'm in agreement, my previous comments apply. Richard


  5. Thanks Gervase, I have good memories of joining the Melbourne 40 Days for Life group in April this year. Richard

  6. I hate practical jokes.They are based in hostility.