So you think you're Myles? The winner
The Irish Times received almost 500 entries to last months ‘So You Think You’re Myles?’ comic writing competition. Here is a second selection of the final shortlist and the winner, as chosen by our judges
By Pat McDonagh
WINNER:A cliche walked into a set-up. “Well, introduce yourself,” said the set-up. “What sort of cliche are you, and how do you think I can help you?”
“Well,” said the cliche, “like most cliches, I really don’t need an introduction. You’ve probably heard of me . . . I’m a man who walks into a psychiatrist’s office . . . ?”
“Of course I’ve heard of you,” said the set-up, “in my position I often encounter cliches like you. And you . . . you’re hoping that I can introduce you to a punch-line?”
The set-up snorted derisively. “That’s not the way it works I’m afraid. Look, we’ll talk, but there is no guarantee that a punch-line is going to knock, as opposed to knock-knock, on that door. You should know, I have my standards,” he said in a supercilious tone. “I never answer the knock-knocks. Who told you it was that simple, anyway?”
“The chicken that crossed the road,” replied the cliche.
“Whatever happened to him?”
“You don’t really want to know,” suggested the cliche, “and nobody else does either.”
“So, to continue, you’re a cliche who walked into a psychiatrist’s office . . . and the problem is?”
“I know,” said the cliche, somewhat impatiently, “I’ve got as far as that. I’ve even got as far as me telling the psychiatrist what my problem is. And I plead that he has to help me, that I keep thinking I’m a famous psychiatrist. I’ve even got the psychiatrist asking me how long this has been going on.”
“Hmmm,” interrupted the set-up, “very cliched.”
“I know,” said the cliche, slightly embarrassed, “but after that . . . nothing! I need a punch-line!” he added, with no small degree of exasperation. “Truly, we cliches are the comedy gods’ most forsaken!”
“Oh, pull yourself together,” said the set-up, ”the situation is not without hope.”
Suddenly, there was a knock, as opposed to a knock-knock, on the door.
“And you are?” shouted the set-up.
“A punch-line,” came the reply. “You?”
“We’re, eh . . . I’m a man who walks into a psychiatrist’s office, the psychiatrist asks me what the problem is, and I tell him that he has to help me, that I keep thinking I’m a world-famous psychiatrist. And the psychiatrist asks me how long this has been going on.”
“Allow me to introduce myself,” declared the punch-line, as he entered the room triumphantly.
In the distance, a drum roll sounded; the punch-line continued: “It all started when I was Jung!”
By Alison Hackett
Typos permeate all forms of the printed word, but in most cases just bring on a wry smile or snort of amusement. On a Friday night out after a bad week at the office, who wouldn’t enjoy ordering the “oven baked fillet of hate”?
However, it was on holiday recently while perusing the menus that I decided the typo had been surpassed by whacky translations. “fish exposed in the window” sounded tempting, if unethical, but there was worse to come.
Yes, I know Silvio Berlusconi is out of favour these days, and it is well known that he has a fancy pad in Sardinia for his bunga-bunga parties, but for the Sicilians to be including delicacies such as “tomatoes with fried Sardinians” on their menus seemed a bit much; and although Berlusconi’s slippery behaviour has earned him, in Italy, the nickname of Spaghetti alle Vongole, were they having yet another crack at him by offering us “spaghetti with voracious clams”?
Amusing as these translation bloopers are, they are short-lived, as menus will regularly be reprinted and corrections made. On the other hand one can only admire those people who forfeit all proof-reading and editing rights when they choose to inject permanent ink words under their skin in a tattoo.
“Your as welcome as the flowers in May” and “Trust Noone” have been known to appear on legs and backs, and even though it is unlikely that Victoria Beckham is well versed in Sanskrit, the fact her name is misspelled in that language on her husband’s arm must irk; but it is to striker John Carew that we award the Olympic gold. His tattoo was planned to be “My Life My Rules” and he decided to create it in French with the request for “Ma Vie, Mes Régles”, along with a nice wing design stretching out alongside. After the deed was done, he can’t have been too happy when a professor of French in Oslo pointed out that the acute accent on the “e” should actually have been a grave accent if the word “rules” was intended. My guess is that Carew is blaming the tattooist for the typo. It would be too painful to admit that it had been done exactly as he had instructed, because he now has the French words meaning “My Life, My Menstrual Cycle” permanently fixed on his neck.
Traces of Arnold Zenith
By Donnchadh O’Conaill
The case of Arnold Zenith – novelist, poet, aphorist, dietician – is most peculiar. For a start, it is not entirely certain whether there is such a case, as no one is sure whether he ever existed. Nevertheless, a substantial critical biography has recently been published (The Life? And Works? of Arnold Zenith, by RL Masterson).
Zenith was apparently born Arnold Maximus Kerfuffle, in Berne, in 1895. His father worked as a seamstress, successfully pursuing this deception until the day he retired, when three of his colleagues died of consternation. Young Kerfuffle was exposed to literature at an early age, being accidentally dropped in a vat of raw villanelles aged four. He suffered no lasting ill-effects, apart from a tendency to repeat key lines at opportune moments. Educated by the Jesuits, he could even in later life recite Aquinas to 30,000 decimal places.
Zenith (he is believed to have changed his name on a whim, most probably his own) worked as a botanist for most of his life. While a man of his introspective nature might have been expected to find the solitary tending of exotic flora to his liking, the evidence suggests the work drove him to despair. “The pain, the melancholia suffusing every moment I spend in this grotesque charade of existence, depresses me greatly!” reads a typical entry in his Notebooks, a collection of yet to be published observations, recollections, fragments of prose and tram timetables.
The world of the Notebooks is persistently bleak but shot through with moments of greater despair. Death lurks at every corner, and sits behind the narrator whenever he visits the theatre, laughing at all the wrong places. Lawn tennis is the only release, and even that is usually spoiled by inclement weather. Zenith’s misogyny has been described as “impressively thorough”. Notoriously, he once declared he could give pawn and first move to any woman and still beat her at baccarat.
Zenith’s unpublished works include several incomplete versions of a novel, entitled only Drafts 1-5, 7-41; several postcards from resorts on the Mediterranean coast; and a number of reviews of imaginary books. Much of his later life was taken up by his attempt to construct a grandiose theological system within which the absence of God from the universe would serve as the ultimate proof that He had once rented the flat upstairs.
Zenith is believed to have died some time between 1922 and the present day. Details are sketchy; death from natural causes cannot be ruled out. Possible locations for his demise include Hamburg, London and his mezzanine. Twelve grams of seasoning and a 78rpm recording of Schubert’s Lieder may have been found on his person.
To this day, a portrait of the great writer hangs over what was supposedly his regular table at a café in Berne. As no authentic pictures of him have survived, and no-one quite remembers what he looked like, the face remains blank. In death, as in his possible life, Arnold Zenith remains, or might remain, an enigma.
The Great Insomniac
By Gerry Moran
I haven’t slept in seven years. I’ve been to seven doctors with my complaint and they haven’t slept since.
Seven years is a long time to go without sleep. At first I followed the flock and counted sheep: Merino, Romney, Polworth, Suffolk, Colbred, Cheviot, Montadale, Mouflon. Believe me I had no idea there were so many species of sheep in the world. I counted in English. I counted in Irish. I counted in French. But to no avail. Neither myself nor the sheep slept.
A friend of mine hinted that my insomnia might be “diet related”. “A change of menu might not go astray,” he suggested. “After all, a change is as good as a rest,” he chuckled, in a distinct vegetarian accent.
So, I changed my diet. I ate natural fruit, natural veg, natural yoghurt and – naturally – nothing happened. The food slept soundly all night while I lay in bed feeling more healthy, more wholesome and more wide awake than ever. Naturally.
Then I tried the drink: Guinness, Smithwicks, Heineken, Carlsberg, Coors, Budweiser, Bulmers, Bass. Believe me I had no idea there were so many species of alcohol in the supermarket. Unfortunately I didn’t take to the booze. Instead it took to my two brothers and three sisters, who are now roaring alcoholics and very sound sleepers.
Sleeping pills disagree with me. I forget the exact nature of the disagreement but we have long stopped sleeping together and our relationship now is purely platonic.
Mentioning relationships, insomnia has cost me the love of my life. She said she dreamed about me every night. When I told her that I couldn’t dream about her, she took umbrage, took my Credit Union umbrella (a freebie) and left. Now I can’t even have nightmares about the heart-rending, tear-doused episode.
Permanently seeking a cure, I recently visited an acupuncturist. He stuck numerous needles and pins in numerous parts of my anatomy and succeeded in triggering numerous nervous twitches in numerous parts of my tail end. An appropriate cue, one would think, for me to end my tale. But no.
As a last resort I turned to prayer. I shouldn’t have bothered for God, I realise, is in a worse state than myself. Having never slept a wink in His entire existence, He surely is: The Great Insomniac.
By Robert McDermott
My given one.
Presently in the black chair.
Reason for celebrity?
That’s a good question.
Chosen specialist subject?
Is that not a bit easy?
Ah sure it’s just a bit of craic, isn’t it?
I’m asking the questions.
So you are.
Who are you again?
I could ask you the same thing.
Okay, you have two minutes on eejits starting now . . . Name three types of eejit.
Big, feckin’ and complete.
Correct. In what state would one most likely find an eejit?
In a dreadful state.
Correct. If philosophers are known for being deep, what are eejits known for?
Correct. Having had his nose broken in a brawl, what adjective might be applied to an eejit?
Correct. What is the collective noun for eejit?
Correct. Name three sub categories of eejit.
Gobdaw, twit and gom.
Correct. What would an eejit be most likely to make of something?
Correct. To where might one direct an eejit upon encountering him in the street?
To cop on.
Correct. In what . . .
I’ve started so I’ll finish. In what direction are eejits likely to travel?
Correct. You had no passes. You did very well, go back there now and I’ll ask you some general knowledge in a few minutes.
Are they hard questions?
No, very easy.
By Aidan Fitzmaurice
Now that it’s all over, I feel I owe you an explanation.
I’ve been unhappy for quite some time now. But even through the most difficult periods, my priority has always been to make you happy. I couldn’t bring myself to break up with you, for I did not want to hurt you.
I know I have been acting strangely over the past few months. I began developing some unusual habits. I was doing things that confused you to the point where you had me committed and declared insane.
I write to you now to tell you – and please don’t get too mad – that I was doing all of those things on purpose. I knew if I kept acting so strangely, eventually you would have to have me committed, which would spare you the pain of my inevitable break-up. I would rather see you extremely irritated than mildly upset, and I mean that with all my heart.
The following is a list of things I was doing on purpose to convince you I was insane: wearing a swimming cap to bed; replacing the lock on the back door with Velcro; filling the freezer with tinned fruit; covering the television screen with masking tape every night to save energy; having our key cut 96 times and handing out all the copies in McCabe’s pharmacy; putting all the CDs into the DVD cases and the DVDs into the CD cases; covering the walls with Rolf Harris posters; hard-boiling eggs and putting them back in the carton; buying a Louis Vuitton suitcase for the potatoes; claiming to have completely forgotten about Sundays; replacing the clock with a digital watch; blacking out every preposition in your Cecilia Ahern novels; the pet snail; the pet snail’s funeral; having your pin code tattooed on my forehead; insisting that you start calling me “Fancy Vegas”; buying 14 bags of junior cat food for your massive dog.
Although I was only pretending, the doctors feel that, by executing such a plan to perfection, I proved myself insane. In fact, they said the mere thought of such a plan is grounds for insanity. So it looks like I’ll be stuck here for a while. At least I know I’m perfectly fine. And at least I didn’t hurt you.
I hope you will come and visit,