IT IS a trade which requires time and effort to construct the perfect pun with which to leave audiences rolling in the aisles.
But when the fruit of one jokesmith’s labour is plucked by one of their contemporaries, it is no laughing matter.
I’m not precious about it, but it is my gagPete Cunningham
An unexpected punchline has been added to one of the standout jokes at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe after it emerged the comedian who delivered it may not have been its author.
Darren Walsh, a 39-year-old enjoying warm reviews for his set at the Pleasance, scooped the prize for funniest joke of the festival earlier this week.
In a vote conducted by the satellite television comedy channel, Dave, the Peterborough comic received a major publicity boost thanks to his one-liner: “I just deleted all the German names off my phone. It’s Hans free.”
However, it has since emerged another comic has claimed ownership of the gag, which he shared with Walsh a few months ago. Pete Cunningham, whose Fringe show was at the Voodoo Rooms, said he has been using the joke as part of a longer routine for nine years.
The 52-year-old from Bromley, who performs as the character Frank Sanazi – an absurd marriage of Adolf Hitler and Frank Sinatra – mentioned the joke during a Twitter exchange with Walsh back in April.
Although he was taken aback on learning about the award, he said he held no grudge against Walsh, acknowledging that “all the jokes” shortlisted for the prize had been “stolen”.
“I’m not precious about it, but it is my gag,” he said. “I’m surprised such a poor gag won it and I was surprised it was mine. The joke is I have a phone in my pocket and I say, ‘Make sure your phones are turned off’, and I say my Jewish agent, Harvey Goldberg, always tells me to take German names off my phone as this ‘makes it Hans free’.”
Cunningham described Walsh as a “lovely guy” and said they had been in touch in recent days to talk about the quip in question.
“You have derivations of jokes, and whether he’s used mine subconsciously or whether he came up with it, he uses a lot of puns and I know him quite well and I said, ‘I was using that when you were in nappies’,” he explained.
But he added: “Good luck to him, he’s won the award. At the end of the day, all the jokes [on the awards list] are stolen, but there are other ones I’m going to keep close to my chest in case they are nicked.”
But there appears little chance of the TV channel behind the award changing its mind over the winner. A spokeswoman for Dave said “We’re entirely confident the 2015 award has gone to the rightful recipient.”