Like all good newspapers, the Courier hasn’t been afraid to make a joke from time to time. Not all of these have stood the test of time, or maybe that’s just me.
One of the Courier‘s first, and biggest, forays into the world of comedy came in 1952, with a King’s Scrouier supplement added to the Christmas issue – or rather, the Scrouier staff decided to bring out a special Courier supplement. “It will be obvious that Courier is not intended to be taken too seriously,” the editorial inside the Scrourier explained, “but is, rather a light-hearted mirror of its more intellectual prototype.”
A lot of thought clearly went into King’s Scrouier. Peter Johnson was later given the credit for the supplement, which added an extra four pages to an eight-page paper – a sizeable investment. Part of it’s good old fashioned parody, with the perennial calls for disaffiliation from the NUS and tedious student meetings mocked and ridiculed. Alongside this there’s more surreal pieces, such as an account of a flying saucer in the Bun Room.
But King’s Scourier is also quite dark. Personally I’m not sure what’s funny about a student being decapitated, but maybe that was a personal joke that made sense at the time. Likewise the news that the Medical School had burned down doesn’t have any apparent punchline. There were dark jokes in the adverts, too: “Why not shave by SHAVO? You don’t need blades, brush, soap. Just blood.” and “You can get robbed at Manky’s Bank.”
The true festive spirit.
King’s Scrouier was not the paper’s first attempt at humour, however. Two years earlier the paper included a (fictional) review of a (fictional) book titled The Aesthetics of Manhole Covers. Quite what the intention of this was is beyond me, but it seems to be taking a swipe at something.
This surrealist humour came six months before the first episode of The Goon Show.
A greater focus on arts and then news saw such comedy appear less frequently in the paper from the mid-50s onwards. Sadly, one article that seems frankly ridiculous now was apparently taken entirely seriously back in 1963. The tale of the “Men’s Bar invasion” is anything but parody, but instead demonstrates the misogyny and prejudice that was commonplace in the 60s.
Indeed, the Courier has always reflected the attitudes of the time, some of which seem shocking today, such as this rape joke (page 2), which, astonishingly, was apparently acceptable in 1972.
Changing attitudes is no excuse for some of the other “jokes” in the Courier. In 1976 a photo of the Union building was accompanied by the caption, “The Union extension was to be longer but there wasn’t the money.” LOL.
Another joke that – unless it’s just me – has been lost to obscurity (assuming it was once funny) is the Courier pantomime of 1983. Presumably if you knew the people involved it made sense. Presumably.
Things got a bit much for the Courier staff in 1988, who pleaded with sports teams to “keep personal jokes out of the reports”.
“Quote of the week” features came and went over the years, often featuring quips from the sabbatical officers, while the personal ads column was a haven for private jokes and gentle bullying.
Even the editorial list was not immune to humour: in 1969, to mark the end of Steve Levinson’s tenure as editor, the surnames of all the other editors were changed to Levinson, while their job descriptions had a slight adjustment. In 1995 all the editors were called Mark, after a letter to the paper suggested that men named Mark were particularly talented in bed.
Cartoons appeared on and off from the late 80s, while in the mid 90s the letters page was transformed into a joke-filled agony aunt column. From 2003 to 2004 a satirical pull-out called The Thong was added, using contemporary news stories at its inspiration.
Humour has always come and gone from the Courier, and since the paper’s adoption of a broadsheet tone in 2008 the comedy has been more subtle and less frequent. But, looking at the Scrourier, that’s probably just as well.
Maybe I’m being too harsh on these comedic efforts because I don’t get the jokes, maybe they haven’t aged well, or maybe they just weren’t funny in the first place. Either way, humour has played a part in the Courier‘s history, and whether they’re funny or not the jokes add a charm – and an element of confusion – to the paper.