10 Downing Street, COBRA briefing room
The declaration of war hadn’t come as a surprise, even though the world was still recovering from the annual dust-up in Canada as nation faced nation in the *Juste pour rire* event. You had to be so careful when speaking with the press. Anything that could be misunderstood as funny might be taken as provocation. In retrospect, it had been a mistake making a woman with a naturally sarcastic tone of voice Foreign Secretary.
The PM sighed and reviewed his options. They’d approached Cleese, who’d spoken to them about sex and travel in shockingly brief terms. Izzard was ready to defect to France and the Security Service had placed him under house arrest. The PM flipped through some briefing documents. He stopped.
“Are we sure Dara O’Breien is Irish?”
“It’s what his passport says, Prime Minister” answered the Defence Minister. He was pale and exhausted, having spent three weeks attending open mic nights in every major city and town in the UK looking for fresh talent.
“Damn. Oh, and Ed Byrne too I notice. I take it we can still use Frankie Boyle?”
“Is it really time for the nuclear option?” asked the Defence Minister.
“Well, then, what about Michael McIntyre?”
Everyone fell silent.
“Prime Minister, we want to win” said the Home Secretary.
Porton Down. The UK’s top secret comedy testing facility.
The Red phone rang. It wasn’t actually red, but there was a label on it that said “Red phone”. Dr. Banofski answered it and listened for a few minutes. He set the phone aside and called a Heads of Department meeting.
“We’re up against the Yanks” said Banofski “and as you know, they’ve been on excellent form recently. There are rumours they’ve convinced Bill Murray to come out of retirement, but even so their stockpile of first class talent is huge. Downing Street wants us to come up with an effective counter to the Bill Murray scenario. What have we got?”
One by one the department heads came up empty. Despite the work done by the assorted writing and performance teams, the UK had nothing that might break America. Finally, Banofski turned to his last option. At the far end of the conference room a team of scientists who had once been engaged to study joke construction but who had been long since consigned to a basement lab and ignored.
“Well?” said Banofski. The team looked at one another.
“Well…” said the team lead “there is one project. But you’re not going to like it. It’s possibly a bit unfunny.”
“I don’t care how unfunny it is” snapped Banofski “detail it with all speed.”
“It’s classified as NORWEGIAN BLUE” said the team lead, and the room fell silent.
10 Downing Street, COBRA Briefing room.
The Prime Minister listened as a team from the Ministry of Defence detailed NORWEGIAN BLUE.
“Fucking hell” he said, eventually. Then he stepped outside for a cigarette. He came back, sat down, sipped some water and thought for a moment.
“Fucking hell” he said again, and went for a walk. The Defence Ministry team looked at one another and there was an outbreak of shrugging.
“Let’s prep for a no,” said the Minister “Call Armando Iannucci and Chris Morris. Someone make sure the BBC will release Capaldi just in case.”
The Prime Minister came back. He sat, he played with a pen. He looked up at his advisers.
“Will it work?”
“We think so, Prime Minister.”
“Will anyone laugh?”
“That’s the beauty of it,” said the Defence Minister “it won’t matter if they do.”
The Prime Minister signed the order.
“God help us” he said.
Wembley Arena, site of the American Invasion.
Half the audience was American, half British. In a curious move, the Americans had been given seats on the floor of the arena and the Brits had been relegated to the sides and the back. With no fanfare whatsoever, a spotlight picked up a figure ambling onto the stage from one of the wings. The audience roared a welcome as the figure of Bill Murray made his way to the two microphone stands in the middle of the stage. He leaned on one stand, waved to the crowd and seemed oddly surprised by the standing ovation he received.
Eventually, things calmed down. The PA clicked and hummed. A voice boomed out.
There was a thunderous explosion from the side of the stage, all compressed air and polystyrene debris. Out of this fake maelstrom leapt a man in a military red coat and tight, white trousers. He faced the audience, spread his arms and yelled “It’s me! HURRAH!”. He was immediately answered with another HURRAH! from the Brits in the audience.
In the crowd, two American comedy observers stared at each other.
“Am I seeing things, Brad?”
“I don’t think so, Ernesto. That looks a lot like Rik Mayall.”
“That’s what I thought,” said Ernesto “and the problem with that is, he’s dead.”
For his part, Bill Murray seemed completely unmoved.
“I brought a flag” said Murray, setting a small Stars and Stripes down on the stage. The tiny flag in the huge arena and Murray’s complete lack of affectation caused a tide of laughter to sweep around the arena. Rik Mayall swaggered towards the mic stand nodding. He reached for the mic, seemed to think better of it and felled Bill Murray with a sudden, shocking right cross. While his opponent lay on the floor, Mayall produced a pistol and shot him three times in the chest. The ensuing silence was broken by the clicks and rattles of every British audience member cocking a gun.
International Criminal Court, The Hague
“The New Yorker thought it was a witty deconstruction of the conflict resolution paradigm” said the Prime Minister. No one smiled.
“A man died” said the Attorney General of the United States.
“Fair’s fair” said the PM “we *had* just brought one of ours back from the dead.”
“You clearly don’t understand the seriousness of the situation” snapped the American. The Prime Minister stood and addressed the court in general.
“Oh, I do” he said “The United States is the most heavily comedified nation on earth. The reach of American broadcast media is global. There is not a country on Earth where American comedy shows don’t play. There are tribes of Amazon Indians who sing the Seinfeld incidental music when they perform their rituals. It is almost impossible to fight against American Cultural Imperialism if you speak the same language. Accordingly, and to prevent our nation becoming America’s whipping boy to a greater extent than it already is, we have taken the following steps.
“Firstly, we’ve changed Britain’s official language. Much as it pains me to say it, we’re embarking on a massive program of re-education and teaching the population Cornish. While that takes effect, and for the next three generations, we are arming the population with guns and will respond with lethal force to anyone who attempts military action against our nation. This includes the use of sarcasm and one line throwaway remarks, so the world stands warned.”
There was silence. Finally, the American Ambassador stood.
“Sir,” he said “what about Bill Murray? You restored Rik Mayall to life. Can you not to the same for our fallen hero?”
The PM considered this.
“No” he said “thought about it, not going to do it. That would simply be re-arming a dangerous nation with its most effective weapon. I’m sorry, Mr. Ambassador, but Mr. Murray is an ex-comic. He has ceased to be.”