Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Ashley Sterne Whipped Topics

Ashley Sterne collaborated with A.A. Thomson in writing the book Listener's License about the early days of radio.  The two also worked together on many comic radio revues.  Years later, Thomson mentioned Ashley Stern in his book Anatomy of Laughter (1966).  Here are two excerpts:

"The only considerable wit personally known to me was my friend and collaborator, the late Ashley Sterne, who began his autobiography with the words: 'I was born within a stone's throw of the Crystal Palace, the ideal place for throwing stones.'  He wrote a handy little book on first aid entitled: What to Do Till the Coroner Comes, and I remember one evening as we were walking along Portland Place on our way to a BBC party, a quavering old scarecrow asked us to spare him a trifle.

'What's the use of a trifle on a night like this?' growled Ashley.  'Here, take this and get yourself a thumping big Christmas pudding.'"


"Ashley was a regular contributor to a charivaria column called 'Whipped Topics' in the long defunct weekly London Opinion.  The column was bright as such columns go, but to Ashley's irritation he found that what he considered to be his best jokes were regularly reproduced in various parts of the national press and invariably attributed to Bernard Shaw.  After suffering this exasperating treatment for a long time in silence, he sent the great man a note of humourous remonstrance.  By return came a postcard in reply:

Dear Mr Sterne,

It is your own fault.  You should have a first class publicity agent like

                                                                                                         Yours truly,
                                                                                                                             George Bernard Shaw"

I found one complete column of "Whipped Topics" from London Opinion, republished in The  Straits Times (July 29,1912).  This is from the time when Ashley Sterne was contributing.  Many of the following quips seem (at least to me) to exhibit his typical style of comic wordplay.

The Labour Leader's prayer: Give us this day our daily strikes.

Mr. Arnold Bennett says that London is the most sentimental city in Europe.  That is, the most sentimental for its sighs.

An adder measuring 36 inches was killed with a scythe by some haymakers in the Isle of Wight.  The adder perished by simple division.

"Homeless.  The story of a woman's Fall. 4,000 feet." – Cinema film advertisement.  There should be with this a dull, sickening thud.

Now that full explanations of the Insurance Act are being given, we only need full explanations of the full explanations and then we can get to work.

While a man was cheering Mr. Lloyd George at Swansea, his purse was stolen.  Great indignation is expressed at this encroachment on the Chancellor's prerogative.

Mr. Carnegie's advice to the students of Aberdeen University was "to remain teetotallers until you have become millionaires."  Most people would elect to remain millionaires until they have become teetotallers.

A scientist is said to have discovered that the real cause of labour unrest is work.

"The poultice," said an eminent medical man the other day, "is as dead as Queen Anne."  Yet once upon a time it was a great draw.

Hats by "Steak, London" are among the articles sold by Parisian dealers in fictitious trade marks.  Hats "by mistake" are frequent in London barber's shops.

A French physician has discovered a new cure for asthma and hay fever.  It is a serum developed from the duck.  He should have concealed this fact; it is so suggestive of quackery.

The Recorder said the other day that the expulsion order against criminal aliens was a farce.  Even funnier that the farce itself is the time that it has taken the authorities to find it out. 

It is always less trouble to believe a lie than to prove it isn't true.

Actresses are not necessarily angels because they spend most of their life in wings.

There is more rejoicing in a hotel over one honeymoon couple than over fifty families with children.

Misfortune is the kind of fortune that never misses.

Man always regards flattery as truth, and truth as abuse, said a woman lecturer the other day.

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