In Search of Fun, Fame and Fortune

As a kid I had endless hours of fun with my cousins and sisters. With sometimes five of us squashing into one of the old style telephone boxes, somehow managing to close the door behind us we would start dialing numbers chosen at random from the telephone directory.

The typical conversation being:

“Hello, can I speak to Mrs. Walls Please”? said in a rushed squeaky voice!

The person at the other end would usually reply “sorry, wrong number”.

And thus we would respond in a breathless giggle “well, can I speak to Mr Walls then”.

This might go on indefinitely and to include Great Uncle Walls, hopefully long enough for the recipient of our humor to say, “THERE ARE NO WALLS IN THIS HOUSE”.

And this was our queue for the punch line of: “Well, how does your roof stay up then”.


This style of humor was often followed, once we had got over our fits of giggles, by one of us standing underneath the all imposing clock tower in Rhosneigr town center and asking passerby’s for the time. Or back into the telephone box to ask if some poor housewife’s washing machine was running. Hopefully for a positive reply so that we could respond with “you better go and catch it then”.

My mother used to tell me of what she used to get up to with friends: the tying of door knockers together, pulling the string and watching many doors open at the same time and some confused residents wandering what was going on. Or the tying of a bit of string across the road so that the local bobby would find his helmet suddenly knocked from his head!

Such gentle humor in retrospect and compared to what we are issued up on television these days! Producers have taken practical jokes to a new extreme with each program trying to outdo the next in daring and shock and none more so than the Japanese who took it up a notch and past what any civilized person would call ‘funny’. The program that I remember was shown on British television maybe fifteen years ago and was based upon practical jokes and endurance tests for a series of what I would call mad people!

Scenario: A newly wed couple, having exchanged vows repair to the open air reception. It seemed to be rather a grand affair with hundreds of people, marquees and even an archery range nearby for guests use! Anyway, after a few speeches and toasts the bride having had a few drinks was persuaded to take a shot at hitting a target. Picking up the bow and fitting an arrow took some teaching but after a few attempts an arrow was fired in the general direction of the target. When the arrow would have hit the target (if it had been going anywhere near) the husband, who had been hiding in waiting staggered out from behind it. Covered in tomato ketchup over his white shirt and with an arrow suitably affixed to his chest he fell to the ground, thrashed around for scenic effect and with a final scream finished his acting debut in the death position.

The wife meanwhile having seen the effect of her shooting was in hysterics, thumping the ground and had a knife been handy she would have ended her own life there and then! Staggering blindly to her supposedly dead husband she held his limp body in her arms. Weeping untold sadness and apology she looked down through the mist only to find him winking at her!

I am certain that the couple did not repair to a bed of roses that evening, nor would they have a merry chuckle about the day’s events over a cup of hot cocoa that night! But the main aim of the show and the practical joke was not about the wife’s feelings, but about providing an audience with some good humor. And judging by the laughter of the guests, the husband’s satisfaction over the success of his practical joke and the audience’s laughter it was a total and resounding winner.

I imagine though that the wife was either seeking annulment that very same night or was to spend time in the local jail accused of murdering her husband with a meat cleaver. Naturally she would not get her sentence reduced through ‘justifiable cause’ – the convicting judge stating that she obviously had no sense of humor and would therefore serve the full term without parole.

But that was ten or fifteen years ago and from Japan, a country that considers endurance tests unworthy unless more than half the contestants nearly die or end up in hospital with some serious disorders. Back home in the UK, with the more morally justifiable humor things were following another path, people no longer wanted ‘fun’ or revenge on the next door neighbor they wanted fame. Before long every man jack and his border collie wanted to appear on TV, to have their ugly mugs shown to the world however embarrassing it might be to themselves and their family, friends and neighbors.

Young guys and girls lined up by the thousands to sing songs off-key and totally sadly, hopeful models tried to get through to a contract with some high profile magazine which preferred girls to be anorexic rather than ones who might have just come from breakfast at MacDonald’s and the one-man bands who thought the London Symphony orchestra was the next step would not have sounded out of place amongst a steel fabrication yard at full swing.

These young hopefuls with their five minutes of fame on national television embarrassed themselves to the laughter and giggles of millions of viewers. Pet owners, gardeners and cooks, poor people and rich all made a spectacle of themselves and willingly so, just for five minutes of fame! Strangely enough this search for glamour and fame even spread to the already rich and famous. Actors and politicians, famous cooks and authors, wealthy tycoons and nutty scientists suddenly felt left out as viewers tuned in to average person and sort of forgot that there was already a large vat full of famous people! So sadly, the already famous people jumped on the bandwagon and started to appear on gimmicky fame and fortune shows – six weeks living on a deserted island (with a full cast, helicopter support, satellite communication and nights back home in LA), cooks trying their hand at singing a Christmas Carols (resembled a nail being drawn harshly across the blackboard) and groups of already famous people bickering stupidly as they pretended to live together for six weeks!

Hope all those seeking five minutes of fame got what they were looking for….!!!!!

Throughout all of this decade long turn from fun seekers to fame hopefuls the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 and TV stations all over the world loved it. Here they had prime-time programs with minimal content, easily stocked with poor actors who would pay to appear and no end of viewers to tune in. So with thousands of hopeful daily the world was given endless showings of anything from large models having cat fights to ex-cons attempting to lift mini-coopers with their bottom lips!

All a bit sad really!

The question that should now be asked is: “do any viewers of these shows actually take them seriously and ache to be part of it one day or are they all laughing their heads off at the poor ‘now famous’ people on stage”? The answer to this ultimate question may lie in the asking of another question: “do these same people think that the sport of wrestling is a well-staged and choreographed event, purposely acted out for television viewing or do they think that it is a sport entered into with the full vigor and enthusiasm of say boxing”?

But whatever, life is currently taking a turn for the worse! Fame has grown slightly boring, viewers have realized that “too many cooks spoil the broth” or that nobody can really remember those famous wonders of yesterday for longer than five minutes, except those that had really terrible voices or whose mug resembled that of an escaped convict! Nowadays new prime time shows are emerging, those that involve either fun and fortune or fame and fortune! Shows with contestants, shows offering fame and all with a large cash donation to the winning candidate’s purse at the end of it all! So, the already famous are being pushed aside once again and hopefuls of all shapes and sizes and ages enter willingly into endurance tests, assault courses and into embarrassing displays of inability in varying forms, but at least the dangled carrot more than made up for viewer’s laughter.

What maybe the ultimate in sadness are the shows that emerge from the United States. The one that I pick out, shown endlessly during prime time viewing hours on the satellite channel of AXN, is called Fear Factor. This program is described by AXN on their website as:

“It's no holds barred on Fear Factor as the hit reality series returns with the promise of more gut-wrenching dares, more death-defying feats and more creative stunts as ordinary people face their most primal fears in another explosive season ……….…………… It's three fears to face, three stunts to complete and three steps away to a cash prize of up to US$50,000 in every episode of Fear Factor. Meet ordinary people in the most extraordinary situations, where their physical and psychological limits will be tested, all in the hope that they will be the final one left standing at the end of each challenge”.

Sound good? Here is a program that combines the dangled cash prize and the fame for the contestants. The fun part is when one can no longer take the program seriously. I have watched this program many times or flicked through upon realizing that AXN once again has nothing to offer viewers during the evenings. This program is like Baywatch, watched seriously by males and females the world over because of the promenaded bodies that flaunt tit and bum in a very unnatural way! There was no flabby lifeguard on Baywatch, no slow-witted flat-chested female sashaying across the beach to save a life! Fear Factor follows closely in this regard, all the female contestants seem to have breasts that struggle to be contained within their skimpy clothing and the males are all muscle-bound and short of a decent conversation. These are not ordinary people, what is served up here is a stage show that provides the three elements of requirement for today, fun, fame and fortune!

What will it be next?

About the Author

Author and Webmaster of Seamania. As a Chief Engineer in the Merchant Navy he has sailed the world for fifteen years. Now living in Taiwan he writes about cultures across the globe and life as he sees it.

Ieuan Dolby