Musing on Three Men on the Bummel


I am rewatching Seinfeld once again. I go back to Seinfeld and 30 Rock again and again because as a humour fan and an aspiring humour writer these shows are pure pleasure to watch, study and learn. Jerry Seinfeld and Tina Fey show us again and again you can make people laugh without demeaning another individual. Their humour is comparable to the great humourist of nineteenth century Jerome K Jerome (JKJ). Coincidentally Jerry’s full name is Jerome.

In the humour genre P G Wodehouse is the most famous writer but for me JKJ will be always most talented writer in the genre because he can make me laugh without presence of fat pig, chef robbing, controlling valet and blackmailing aunt.

Jerome K Jerome writes exactly the kind of humour I aspire to write, pure observational with a little dose of self deprecation. There must be very few English speaking person left who have not read his classic “Three Men in A Boat”. Apart from that he has written many more books. I am particularly fan of his non-fiction works. His capacity at satire is mind blowing.

After decades of reading “Three Man in a Boat” I read the sequel “Three Men on the Bummel” quite recently.

I had always wondered why the sequel of such a famous ancestor is not famous at all. Reading the book answered my query.

The three friends who went on a boat trip are now older and two are settled with kids. They plan a trip to Germany this time and there were tandem and bicycle involved.

The thing about observational humour is to click universally it should be relatable universally or would fall flat. “Three Men in a Boat” has universally relatable situation like packing, getting up early, hypochondria, tent fixing etc. But “Three Men on the Bummel” is too Germany centric. Unless one is from Germany or frequently travels to Germany they can’t get most of the jokes. So there was no chance of yours truly the couch potato, to get the jokes. And to make the matter worse the last chapter is a serious narration about positive things about German people. The non-humourness of last chapter will put off most of the readers. JKJ must have added as an apology for making fun of German people.

Although there’s no apology for being mildly offensive to women and Africans. There is stereotyping of Africans as “petty criminal Niggar” and women as shallow and nagging. As I have written in details in my blog Guilty Pleasures and Political Correctness these are more because of the era he was born in.

A tiny problem or whim about his style is he has this tendency of jumping one anecdote to entirely another time, topic and space within the same chapter which may make the readers confused sometimes.

I would be lying if I say I did not enjoy reading the book. There were quite a few relatable observations.

We told our subscribers how to make fortune by keeping rabbits, giving facts and figures. The thing that must have surprised them was that we ourselves did not give up journalism and start rabbit farming.

There are many great lines which prove again and againwhy JKJ is still a legend.

There was no suggestion that you could make anything savoury out of a cat, even when you had cured it of its fits.

……a party of elderly geese criticize you from the door; you gather from their whispers, added to their shocked expression, that they are talking scandal about you.

It is great for a lazy relaxing read with few chuckles here and there and some searches on Germany in Google.

P.S. In case you are wondering then Bummel means a short trip.

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