Thursday, 8 April 2010

The joke wasn't on you this year

No doubt many of you looking at the Bath Chronicle of April 1 would have been on the hunt for that classic old newspaper trick - the April Fool joke.

Perhaps you're thinking our story in that week's paper about an owl found sitting on a doorstep in the hope of finding its owners was such a story? Or perhaps you were suspicious about our yarn about a proposed exhibition on how your choice of shoes can reveal your personality? Or, perhaps, you were convinced that our April Fool joke this year was that we have given publicity to a man who has written a book about . . . how to get publicity.

Well, you would be wrong in all cases and it is because fact can often be stranger than fiction that we didn't actually do an official April Fool's Day joke at all this year.

I'm sure over the years there have been many great ones in newspapers on this particular day but the truth is they can also fall spectacularly flat – or worse.

I remember many years ago as a sports reporter in Tamworth writing an April Fool joke about a Tamworth FC player – by the name of Willie Gilmour – whom I 'hilariously' claimed was being scouted by many big clubs.

Willie, bless him, wasn't exactly the greatest player to ever grace a pitch and I assumed most of the fans of the team I was writing about would guess this was something of a wind up. However, when one of Willie's relatives rang up in a flurry of excitement to ask for more information as she didn't know about this 'story', I felt pretty bad and realised my joke hadn't exactly hit the mark.

There was, however, a much worse one in a local newspaper that is still often brought out at training courses to let us all have a collective wince.

It was a paper based in the north which had devoted its entire front page on one April 1 to a story about how the local council had gone bust and all services such as daycare, education and bin collection had been suspended with immediate notice.

Apart from being spectacularly unfunny, the problem with this is that too many people believed it and the newspaper (an even more so the entirely innocent council) were bombarded with calls from tearful people worried about the implications of this disaster.

Suffice to say, the real joke was on the editor who was allowed to spend more time with his family soon after . . .

No, if you want real comic fun this then can I point you in the direction of the Bath Comedy Festival which began its second year of hilarity on April 1?

The festival has been put together by the energetic and enthusiastic Alex Timms who has once again produced a fantastic and varied programme which will see all manner of comic turns in venues throughout Bath and indeed on the streets of the city.

We wish Alex and his comic entertainers every success and we hope that their jokes are funnier than councils going bust...

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