Tom Wrigglesworth - Yorkshire wit is so sharp, you might not even feel it when it cuts you
PUBLISHED: 00:00 14 April 2016
Whenever I am interviewed in my capacity as a comedian it never seems long before a question along the lines of ‘are people from Yorkshire funnier than their southern counterparts?’ This has probably been debated since the Big Bang, or at least since the Church established the province of Canterbury and the province of York. Either way it’s no doubt still hotly contested in student union bars throughout the land, and when I’ve been asked to field it, I’ve dodged the question and mumbled something about how we’re all the same.
I’ve spent the last ten years living in London and frequently traversing the M1 to introduce my Danish girlfriend to a hierarchy of family and friends. On the way home she would often confess to some sort of conversational faux par revolving around her not realising that the other person had been pulling her leg. ‘I simply can’t tell if they’re joking’, would be her refrain, and it would take the whole of the Watford Gap for me to explain that ‘that’s just how they carry on’.
During the first few months of moving back to the North, I was living in both Hathersage and London, which meant furnishing a bare flat from scratch. Obviously this meant several trips to Ikea, but in a bid to save money and sanity, I joined a local internet group that dealt with wanted or offered furniture or services. Also, carting my girlfriend up to Sheffield made me think I’d done enough for Scandinavian imports to Yorkshire.
After filling the new flat with pre-loved tat, I never got round to unsubscribing from this digital poster-on-a-lamppost service, and still delight in the news of a found cat or a re-homed chest freezer. Then recently, my inbox received a plea for help from a man who had lost his shoes. He was taking his brown leather brogues for repair and placed them on the roof of his car while he dealt with a child’s seat. Distracted by a phone call, he proceeded on his journey after forgetting about the shoes. ‘If anyone finds a pair of brown leather brogues, strewn somewhere between Tinkers Corner and Dronfield leisure centre then please let me know immediately’, the request went on to say.
Three days later, a reply came in and I expected to read about a positive sighting. ‘Regarding the brown leather brogues that fell off the roof of your car, can I ask, what size are they?’
Forty five minutes later, when I’d finally stopped laughing about how many shoes must’ve been found littering the streets of Sheffield, a further reply was added to the thread. ‘I was wondering about the size as this will affect the shoes’ weight. A heavier shoe would have stayed on the roof a bit longer, if so the search should be focused towards the latter part of your journey.’
I must admit that at first I thought the replies were serious. I was laughing because I believed that this person was so committed to helping, so determined to see a positive outcome that they were willing to consider shoe size, weight and the physics of inertia. Only later did it dawn on me that they might have actually been teasing, and that while I’d been laughing at someone’s hopeless optimism or unhelpful meddling, I’d really just missed the joke.
To this day, the shoes remain unfound, and I never worked out whether the replies were serious or not. But, I finally understood how my girlfriend felt on those drives back to London, and to me at least, this is the difference between Yorkshire and ‘Other’. I’m already looking forward to the next time an interviewer asks me the inevitable question comparing Yorkshire folks humour to those less fortunate, because my answer has changed. I now think that not only are Yorkshire people funnier, but they have honed a wit so sharp, you might not even feel it when it cuts you. You might not be able to tell if they’re joking.