20 August 2014

What does "funny bones" mean?

What does the phrase "funny bones" mean? All is revealed in Freddie Davies's autobiography of that name but perhaps the simplest and clearest definition is provided by Jerry Lewis in the film which shares that title: a funny bones comedian is funny; a non-funny bones comedian tells funny.

It's part of a speech in which Lewis's character has to tell his son the painful truth that he doesn't have whatever that magical quality is:

In other words, "funny bones" refers to physical comedy, dating from a time before the advent of amplification when audiences could be rowdy so comedians could not simply stand there and tell jokes: in order to succeed every part of them had to be funny, so they were often grotesques or eccentric dancers.

Funny Bones (the book) has several chapters on the making, and eventual fate, of Peter Chelsom's film, including the inside story about that speech of Jerry Lewis's. At Freddie's book launch in Yorkshire (fittingly in the back room of a pub, where Freddie first began his career) he showed a clip of the great mime George Carl, who played his brother and comedy partner in the film, and whom Freddie regards as a true funny bones act.

Find out more about George Carl, Jerry Lewis, Peter Chelsom and much more besides in Funny Bones: My Life in Comedy by Freddie Davies with Anthony Teague. Buy from amazon (paperback) or direct from Scratching Shed Publishing (paperback or limited edition hardback)