Frank Muir

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Paddy McEvoy, Author and Teacher

January 18th, 2015

Sir, While clearing out some old papers recently, I came across a letter from Frank Muir, the humorist. Why a letter from FM? Well I lived in England throughout the 70s and 80s, working as a teacher. It was at the height of the PIRA campaign and the anti-Irish backlash was in full swing. I wearied of hearing a daily diatribe of anti-Irish, Paddy jokes, some funny, some not. The last straw came one evening when Frank Muir, a humorist I admired included a blatantly anti-Irish joke on his Radio 4 show.

I wrote to him explaining my frustration at this unrelenting downpour of insulting 'humour' - which wasn't poking fun at any one particular Irish personality, contemporary or historical, but at the very presumed essence of Irishness itself, at its backwardness, unsophistication, treachery, stupidity, thickness - (remember the one about the thick Irish sausages? - hilarious!), how Catholic, how reactionary.... we are. Frank sent me a long reply, two closely typed pages. He didn't ask me where my sense of humour had gone, no, he outlined his philosophy of humour. He saw humour as a safety valve, and made the point that it is far more preferable to have a joke told about you than have a brick thrown through your window or worse. He saw jokes and satire as the very least of a host of evils.

I was thinking about this in relation to the uptightness of some (most?) Muslims to anyone poking fun at their religion, particularly at their prophet, (there, I've probably done it myself for not according him a capital letter). One thing is certain - they are not going to silence those who poke fun, or mount more serious attacks on religion and its prophets - all (bad?) religion, disease be upon it. So, those stuck in a theocratic past had better lighten up, for we are all doomed if history turns out to be on their side.

Who knows, had republicans in Northern Ireland embarked on careers as stand-ups rather than as shoot-downs, ridiculing the Paisleys of the world, we might all be further on, and with fewer painful memories?

Je suis Charlie!

Paddy McEvoy
64 Ardmore Road
Holywood Co Down
BT18 0PJ
048 9059 6584

frank muir