Series J, Episode 15
- Alan Davies,
- Rob Brydon,
- Tim Vine,
- Julia Zemiro
Due to air: Friday 11th January 2013 at 10pm, BBC Two
XL Due to air: Saturday 12th January 2013 at 9pm, BBC Two
Ask an ElfAsk An Elf
Stephen's CardsLongest-Running GagThe Traoré and Koné clans in Mali have been joking about which of them loves eating beans (traditionally a meal associated with poverty) since the gag was started by a 13th-century king named Soundjata Keita. This is an example of Sanankuya or 'Joking Relationship' in which members of tribal families, who have engaged in serious conflict in the past, are required to make jokes about each other.
The idea is that it gives the families an outlet for hostility, and forms part of an agreement that prohibits the spilling of the other’s blood. The important thing is that they are not only required to engage in these insulting exchanges, but they are equally obligated not to take offence.
Similar relationships are thought to be the origin of 'The Dozens', a game common in African-American communities in which participants insult each other in turn until one gives up or violence erupts. This is where 'Yo Mama' jokes gained popularity, though they are, of course, much older than that, as seen in this exchange from Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus:
Demetrius: 'Villain, what hast thou done?'
Aaron: 'That which thou canst not undo.'
Chiron: 'Thou hast undone our mother.'
Aaron: 'Villain, I have done thy mother.'
Historical JestersIn 16th-century France, the Anagrammateur Royale (or 'a true mayoral manager', as we call him) was a type of jester who found flattering anagrams of dignitaries' names. If Alan had visited, for instance, he might have introduced a 'naïve salad' or 'a ladies van'. Or even an 'anal adviser' if you include his middle initial 'R' for Roger.
The Japanese jesting art of Maeku-zuke literally means 'responding to the front line' and is often called 'Verse Capping' in English. The basic rules are that one poet would read a 5-7-5 syllabled haiku, after which another would add two more lines of seven syllables each, ideally making a full witty or satirical poem.
Maeku-zuke contests often involved the award of prize money. In fact, they became so profitable and popular between 1716 and 1735 that the government stepped in to put a stop to them.
JerboasThe long-eared jerboa is a cartoon-like rodent that lives in the Gobi Desert. Its ears are proportionately the largest of any mammal and equivalent to a human adult having ears over three feet long. They are likely to be an adaptation to allow the animal to cool its blood more easily in the hot Gobi summer.
Jerboas also have extremely long tails that help them to balance as they hop around like kangaroos. Just like 'roos they sometimes use the tails to prop themselves up as they sit. Jerboas have little hairs on their feet which act like snow shoes, stopping them from sinking into the sand. If threatened they can jump up to three metres.
The word 'Jerboa' comes from the Arabic jarbu meaning 'flesh of the loins'. They tend to not drink water, getting their moisture from food, indeed some jerboas in labs have lived for three years on nothing but seeds.