With rapid-fire jokes and deadpan delivery, Darren Walsh and Milton Jones are giants in the pun game. Quite literally, in Walsh’s case.
You are, I suggest to Darren Walsh when we meet, huge in the world of punny comedy…
“Only huge in height” he replies modestly. “I am officially a giant, which is nice, but this girl keeps following me around. I think she’s beanstalking me.”
Oh dear, I sympathise – that sounds Grimm.
Milton Jones, on the other hand, is the opposite. “I am only an intellectual giant,” he says. “For instance, I regularly lecture on primary sources of food (what I call the Beans Talk).”
I wonder aloud if either of them feels that carrying the legacy of the great punsters of yesteryear – Oscar Wilde, Dorothy Parker, Groucho Marx – gets too heavy a burden, which is why they lighten up their acts with silly drawings and a comedy appearance … a sort of heir today and Goon tomorrow approach.
“Sounds like a Tolstoy to me,” says Darren. “Some wonder if I should bother with all the cartoons in my act, but I have no Rugrats. I drew the baby Jesus in a manger once, even though I wasn’t supposed to (there’s a boy cot). The audience hated it, but it was a blast for me.”
“They are great wordsmiths,” nods Milton. “I am more of a wordjones. My heroes were actually people who made silly pictures out of words. Like Bob Monkhouse – or Bob Monastery, as I used to call him more correctly.” “Of course, not everyone likes punny humour,” I say. Milton’s face darkens. “If people don’t like playing with words and punctuation, you have to put a huge question mark beside them,” he mutters.
“Your chosen form of comedy must be the most labour-intensive of all,” I suggest, changing the subject, “except perhaps the guys who do poetry … although that is really just a question of mind over metre.”
“All my jokes have been through labour intensive care,” nods Milton thoughtfully. “Most haven’t made it, but a few have been saved by an induced comma. What we do is poetry in a way. Some say our work is para Keats.” Darren nods in agreement. “But poets get all the groupies,” he says. “They must be riddled…”
“Did either of you ever consider another, less demanding profession?” I ask.
“I used to work in a supermarket,” replies Milton, “it was my job to hand out little samples of things for people to taste. However, I was asked to leave after the little cups of bleach incident.” There is a pause. “And years ago I used to supply Filofaxes to the Mafia. You might say I was involved in very organised crime.”
“I was once promoted to manager of a soft drinks factory,” offers Darren. “I schwepped my way to the top.”
Hoping for something juicier, I ask about the guys’ luck with the ladies. “I went out with a gym instructor,” says Darren. “Didn’t work out.”
The interview is turning into a marathon and I feel like flaking out. My inner voice is wispa-ing not to fudge the issue any more, so I get back on topic.
“They do say that good puns are like a steak – a rare medium well done” I say.
“Well, that’s not the main reason puns are frequently compared to steak,” demurrs Darren “but it’s the cattle list,” he looks up guiltily. “Milton mustard done this one…”
“I dream of a world without plagiarism” says Milton sadly. “Now you may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one…”