Monday, February 20, 2006

No accounting for comedy

Having been in my new job for a few weeks, my boss suggested I do a short presentation at our group quarterly meeting. The subject matter was to be myself (an introduction), internal audit and "a couple of funny stories from your previous roles". "Let them see the real Luis" he said later.

I don't think his reference to the "real Luis" was intended as an opportunity for anything too philosophical. "Who am I ?" may have got a bemused response from 70 accounts staff.
Instead I settled for a couple of "jokey" stories from my last job including the question from my historically-challenged former boss when we were given a tour of Frankfurt one evening. Heinrich, a forceful balding German showed us some ruins fenced off in the city centre. Tours of ruins might be considered a risky area in British/German relations. But dear old lady-boss charged ahead foot in mouth, brain in neutral. "Are these Roman?" she asked in her screechy northern accent. "No" boomed Heinrich. "These were left by the American and British bombers". This story was easy humour and got a laugh. I didn't mention to the accounts gathering that she topped off the evening by claiming to be unaware of the existence of Goethe when we were shown Gothestrasse. "You know Goethe (?)" asked Heinrich more in statement than question. Lady boss looked confused for a moment. "No, what's that ?" she said blissfully ignorant to the end. Heinrich smiled to himself certain of German superiority. Not for the first time Lady boss did not lead me to feelings of national or any particular pride.

Anyway I said something "sensible" about the role of internal audit and the couple of stories that barely broke any of the assembled audience out of their comas (i was fifth out of nine in presentors.).

Proceedings were kicked off by my new boss who told us how well "the firm" was doing financially. His own attempt at comedy was to go for the bawdy. He'd recently visited our Asian offices. "I met up with Howard (financial big wig) in Shanghai" he digressed. "We only managed to get propositioned once". There was a weariness to the statement, scratching for humour in a dull meeting rather than accept it was dull. The only real humour was unscripted. Barry, a 30-a day Essex-smoker in his 50's who I work with bellowed "And ?" from the back of the room laughing at his own joke with a wheezy laugh that can only be obtained with 40 years of tobacco smoke.

There was no more and the meeting continued with dull efficiency, the comic attempts barely noticed. Comedy in accountancy is comic only in that it fails and it is probably a lost cause. There's no accounting for that........

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