In one of the philosophical moods that engulf me from time to time, it was my good fortune to stumble on a truism – I woke my wife, it was three a.m. “There is something funny about Humour!” I said. She was not amused. She failed to see the joke, she said, in being woken at that time of the night to be informed that humour was funny.

“That’s just the point,” I said, “It isn’t, at least not always”.

“You’re not kidding!” she said and turned over. I let it ride for the time being. Those of you who have tried discussing philosophy with a woman will realise that it was useless so explain that philosophical thoughts will out, even at –the most inappropriate moments. I might even have got in my bath like that Greek fellow. Nevertheless, the thought warmed me. I turned over.

In the morning I arose determined to pursue the elusive quality of humour, and to find exactly what made it tick. Over breakfast, I considered my plan of campaign. The best thing to do, I thought, is to engineer a humorous incident and see if people laugh. I broached the subject to my wife, who, apart from yawning pointedly while frying my egg, had been forbiddingly silent on the subject of humour. To my surprise, she was enthusiastic about the idea. “You could fall off a ladder,” she suggested. “That’s always good for a laugh”. I didn’t think that was funny, I told her so.

“Not in itself, perhaps”, she giggled, “But on your way down you’re supposed to say “Ah, well, I’d forgotten the paintbrush anyway!”

By now she was convulsed with mirth, and I could see that this was no place for serious discussions. I left in a huff: when I came back for my hat she nearly had hysterics.

I wandered round the streets for a while brooding on the perversity of women, and found myself on Broadway, not the New York one, of course, Edmonton N.9 to be exact, but Broadway nevertheless, and as luck would have it there were a couple of Irishmen right in front of me. I knew they were Irish men, they had red necks. I followed close on their heels in order to capture the gems of unconscious humour I felt sure would drop from their lips. They turned and viewed me with suspicion. Nonplussed at this turn of events, I said the first thing that came into my head.

“Are your names Pat and Mike??

“What’s it to you?” said the largest Irishman. He was six foot two.

I laughed inanely and pointed to the street sign.

“Sure, and no one can take the Mike out of me!” he said, and hit me on the jaw. I staggered back and sat in a horse- trough. There were hoots of mirth from passers-by and, to cap it all, we were arrested for brawling. Their names as taken by the constable I am sorry to say were Terence Henry Mulligan and Aloysius Clarence O’Tool.

I returned home to change my trousers. As I walked up the path I could see my wife and her mother looking eagerly out of the window. I raised my hat and fell flat on my face, tripped by a string tied between two bushes.

“Who did that?” I roared.

“I did” answered my Mother-in-law.

“It’s a MOTHER-IN-LAW joke,” said my wife.

“In reverse” added the old lady benignly, “We knew you’d see it”.

‘If you think that’s funny” – I began. I was interrupted by a loud clattering from behind me.

“The trouble with you,” said the milkman’s horse, resting his chin negligently on the gate-post, “is that you have no sense of humour”. I was not amused. I was past caring. Humour doesn’t seem funny any more