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Authors: Charlie Pickering

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Impractical Jokes

BOOK: Impractical Jokes
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Impractical Jokes

CHARLIE

PICKERING

Impractical Jokes

First published in 2010

Copyright © Charlie Pickering 2010

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publisher. The Australian
Copyright Act 1968
(the Act) allows a maximum of one chapter or 10 per cent of this book, whichever is the greater, to be photocopied by any educational institution for its educational purposes provided that the educational institution (or body that administers it) has given a remuneration notice to Copyright Agency Limited (CAL) under the Act.

Allen & Unwin
83 Alexander Street
Crows Nest NSW 2065
Australia
Phone:       (61 2) 8425 0100
Fax:           (61 2) 9906 2218
Email:        [email protected]
Web:         
www.allenandunwin.com

Cataloguing-in-Publication details are available
from the National Library of Australia
www.librariesaustralia.nla.gov.au

ISBN 978 1 74175 726 2

Set in 12.25/18.25 pt Chaparral Pro by Bookhouse, Sydney
Printed in Australia by McPherson's Printing Group

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Contents

Prologue

1
THE GENERALS

Part 1: Ronald Leonard Pickering

2
THE GENERALS

Part 2: Richard Opie

3
A Shot Heard Around the Restaurant

4
Behind Enemy Lines

5
Codename: Poodle

6
Flinders

7
Misinformation, Disinformation and Goddamned Lies

8
Trouble in the Pacific Theatre

9
A Tale of Two Toilets

10
The Winter Campaign of 1991

11
Must Have Good Sense of Humour

12
A Full-sized Gavin Wanganeen

13
Operation Lovely Rita—Part 1

14
Operation Lovely Rita—Part 2

Epilogue

Acknowledgements

For my family

Prologue

I
used to think I was raised by television. Like so many of my generation, language, attitudes and a world view came from infinite re-runs of
Family Ties
,
Alf
and, to a lesser extent,
Punky Brewster
. Later, as we grew up,
The Simpsons
set that in stone. Our dads all became Homer Simpson, lovable buffoons whose flaws were made acceptable through familiarity. Through my twenties this continued to be how I saw my father, until in 2007 I sat down to write a show for the Melbourne Comedy Festival and decided to tell the story that had entertained friends the night before at the pub.

This is my family's favourite story. Every Christmas, after a few bottles of wine, we end up telling it again. Even though we all lived through it; even though we all know how it goes; even though we've told it to each other more times than we can count, it never stops being funny. If anything, it just gets funnier.

That's because this story
is
my family. The chain of events that began with my dad being pushed into a pool and proceeded, on a few occasions, to almost cost us our lives, sounds borderline insane. But to me, it's what makes a Pickering a Pickering. Growing up, these adventures taught me that no matter what happens, a good laugh is the most important thing in the world. Indeed, all Pickerings are comedians; I was just the first one to turn pro.

Until I started telling this story to people outside my family, I'd always thought that my father and I were very different people. Sure, we both like Steve McQueen, '66 Mustang convertibles and beef, but that's really just the unspoken bond of all men. Like
menschkeit
, but less spiritual and complicated. And even though my father likes Carey Grant and so do I, we're still very different. He's semi-formal, I'm smart casual. You see? Different. Like cheese and an altogether different variety of cheese.

I have often read about fathers' desires for their sons to follow in their footsteps. Generations of accountants, builders, senators and oil men handing down a living from father to son; hoping, in some way, for an immortality born of replication. While I understand all that kind of malarkey, it isn't analogous with my experience. If anything, my father made it perfectly clear that if I were to become a pharmacist like him he would have been very disappointed. This isn't because he didn't respect his own profession—far from it. He was a remarkably good pharmacist, a self-taught businessman who believed the only way of doing a job was doing it properly. Over a period of many, many years he made people's lives better and I know that is a thing he is proud of. It was just that more often than not the best part of his working day was the glass of wine he had when he got home from work and he didn't really want that for me.

But without realising it at the time, my dad gave me my career. He was the one that played a video of
The
Party
to me on an almost weekly basis from about the age of eight. He is the one who gave me a
Derek and Clive
record with the warning that I would never be the same again. And he was the one who taught me that unless you were living the joke, then you were really missing out on something.

I remember the day I told my parents that I had quit my job at a law firm to become a comedian. My mother went silent. After a three-minute pause that seemed like an hour she began washing dishes in the kitchen sink, occasionally pausing to look out the window into the garden and sigh. Ever-practical, my dad just wanted to know how the hell I was going to make a living. I think he quickly realised the unavoidable truth that I wasn't the only one who was going to be making sacrifices to achieve my dream.

In fact, I really wasn't going to be the one making sacrifices at all. I moved back home, leant on them heavily for emotional and financial support, and pretty much reverted to being the oversleeping night owl I'd been throughout university; chain smoking in the back garden and claiming I couldn't possibly do housework because I was wrestling with big ideas that just had to get out. To their enormous credit they accepted that this was just what I'd decided to do. Pretty soon they started finding funny articles in the newspaper that they thought I should talk about on stage; they came to every show I ever did at the Melbourne Comedy Festival and gradually made my dreams theirs.

The first time I performed this story live, my dad was in the audience. At the end of the show, he and his best mate, Richard, stood to take a bow and received a standing ovation. They soaked it up like an applause-hungry vaudevillian double act, but to say that my dad had the biggest smile he's ever had would be a lie. He had the same smile I had seen on him every time we played a joke on someone. And it was the same smile he wore whenever anyone played a good joke on him.

By the time I had told this story on stage in Melbourne every night for a month, then around the country and the world at other festivals, I realised that everything I thought about my childhood had been wrong. I was not raised by TV, or Homer Simpson for that matter; I was raised by my family without even knowing it.

1

THE GENERALS

Part 1: Ronald Leonard Pickering

L
et me tell you about my dad.

He could be described as a pharmacist, a dog lover or the only person I know of to be blessed by Mother Teresa against his will. But he is best described as the man who loves a joke more than anyone else in the world. It's his defining characteristic. How he came to be the
best
practical joker in the world was decades in the making.

Dad grew up in Footscray in the western suburbs of Melbourne. These days Footscray is undergoing something of a resurgence, with rising property values, declining crime rates and a burgeoning restaurant scene worthy of its multicultural community. But the post-war Footscray of my dad's black and white memories was a very different place. For nearly a hundred years this town on the banks of Salt Water River was the epicentre of Melbourne's brick-baking, meat-canning, fat-boiling and candle-making industries. It was the kind of suburb that terms like ‘working class' and ‘industrial' were invented for. And in amongst it all lived my dad, Ron, his mother, Wilma, and his grandma, Grandma.

Tired of his roving eye, Wilma had left her husband when Dad was about four. She worked hard to support the two of them but, as is often the case, that wasn't always enough. With no father figure to show him how, Dad did what he could to help. He slept in a lean-to to make his bedroom available for boarders, he did odd jobs around the neighbourhood and made his own fun. The winters were cold, money was tight and times were not particularly forgiving. This combination could easily make a person mean. In my dad's case it made him resourceful.

Sodality Sunday was the monthly roll call at Dad's local Catholic parish of St Monica's. For three Sundays a month it was possible for the less pious members of the congregation to simply
say
they'd been to mass, when actually they'd been playing hooky; no doubt drinking, smoking and committing other sins they would probably have known not to do had they been attending mass more often. But on Sodality Sunday you had to front up and get your name ticked off the register. This involved all the parishioners queuing up at the door of the church and on their way into mass, one by one, filing past an altar boy with a clipboard. For years Dad watched this procession until one Sunday, at the age of ten, the penny dropped and he realised three things. First, it was always the same altar boy, second, that clipboard held enormous power, and third, he wanted that job.

You see, when Dad was about five he once overheard one of his mother's boarders say rather loudly over a longneck, ‘Wherever you find gambling, you'll find Catholics!' For years it hadn't made any sense to Dad. Surely wherever you found gambling, you found a lot of other denominations as well. And surely what you found most of was gamblers. Perhaps because he had trouble understanding it, the phrase had stuck with him. By the age of ten he was a man of the world and had a far better idea of its people. And though not all gamblers were Catholic, and vice versa, he could see for himself that for some of the more truant of the flock, Sodality Sunday was the only Sunday they
weren't
gambling.

BOOK: Impractical Jokes
5.43Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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