Sunday, 24 January 2010

So long, and thanks for all the fish

Douglas Adams

Once I saw the comedian Rich Hall doing standup. Funny and talented he is, for some reason that evening he died on stage - lost the thread of his material, and stood there in silence, hanging his head. Tumbleweed blew through the silent room. There was no heckling, everyone felt deeply sorry for him. "Tell us something funny!" "Tell us a joke!" came encouraging voices from the audience.

Ahem. Am feeling a bit like Rich Hall. I'll endeavour to amuse. And if it doesn't, there's always the delete button.

Found Douglas Adam at a perfect time, when I was a smartarse clever-clogs 13 year old who had just discovered sarcasm and irony. We quoted and requoted endlessly, to the point that as we got older we became a bit ashamed of them, because of their geeky reputation.

But here's the thing - there's a lot of philosophy and great insight tucked away inside these jokey sci-fi narratives. I often find myself, even now I'm a grownup, remembering something first perceived in this book. Like the Total Perspective Vortex, which tortures people by showing them how infinitesimately small and alone they are in the universe. And the phenomenon of SEP, or "Somebody Else's Problem" - a forcefield which surrounds an event and renders it invisible because it is seen as, well, someone else's problem. Or when I was working in some shit job, thinking to myself "Here I am, brain the size of a planet..."

Throwing in a copy of The Restaurant at the End of the Universe too.


  1. I can't imagine Rich Hall dying on stage. How bizarre and in a sense how comforting.

  2. The hall wasn't so rich that evening then.

    Tell us the one about the Mice using the Earth as a giant computer or Slarty Bartfarst designing the Norwegian Coast.

  3. Yup it was surprising, he was already well known then. We all have off days.

    Boom boom Rog!

    What an imagination, hey?

  4. Ah, Douglas Adams. He left us much too early. I once heard him speak at a technology conference. An experience, I am pleased to say, that was quite the opposite of your Rich Hall encounter.

  5. I would have loved to have heard him talk Ian. He was interested in everything and way ahead, in a lot of ways.