In the schoolyard, your mum jokes are the social currency, the way of asserting dominance. The schoolyard has a natural divide: the bullies, the boys who grow too tall too fast, the thickset and the brawny, the little scrappy kids who can't be trusted to have hair any longer than a #2 all over and who start fires, who walk with their fists balled up in their pockets; and the nerds, the sallow kids who can't punch, the kids who like films or videogames a little too much, laugh a little too loudly. That's your common-or-garden schoolyard divide. The haves and the have-nots. The fist and the glove. The schoolyard transcends wealth, class. It boils everyone down to whether they are good at football or not. Whether they have had detention.
But your mum jokes? Your mum jokes can cross all that: untangle the hierarchy, reorder it. Your mum's so fat… she jumped in the air and got stuck. Your mum's so stupid… she types 'Facebook' into Google to get to Facebook. Your mum's so obese… that she's a legitimate diabetes threat, she is an enormous drain on the NHS, fire engines have been called to your house to raise her with machinery from the sofa. Delivered with the right aplomb, a good your mum joke can raise your social standing: chippy boys with backpacks bigger than their torsos and open cans of Irn Bru reel away from a good your mum joke like they've just watched a pay-per-view knockout, like they've seen a copy of FHM so saucy they have to look away. A good your mum joke can make boys lift their heads to the sky and say "damn". Plumes of steam into the black-blue evening. A mum joke so good it stops you getting your head kicked it. A mum joke so good people talk about it for years, for decades. A your mum joke so good that your own mum becomes untouchable, bulletproof to your mum jokes, because nobody dares take a shot at the king. Your mum joke so good people respect your mum.
Here is the poshest your mum joke ever told, from Prime Minister's Questions, today:
This does not follow the traditional your mum joke format. For example: it is not about Jeremy Corbyn's mum. At no point does David Cameron say the words "your mum". It's actually a your mum joke twice removed: a your mum joke from an entirely new angle. "Ask my mother?" Cameron says, to a Labour backbench heckle. "Oh, I think I know what my mother would say." Cameron warming up now, flexing, coming in at an angle, working the body. Cameron comes at PMQs almost lackadaisical, casual, a high twitch-speed cool, that statesman-like hand gesture enveloping everything in the room. "I know what my mother would say: I think she'd look across the despatch box and she'd say: 'Put on a proper suit, do up your tie, and sing the National Anthem'." And everyone goes: yooooooooooo.
I mean the crowd goes wild. Cameron has a knack, you'll notice, of leaning elbow first on the despatch box: he's at a completely different angle to anyone else, he's punching southpaw while they're still boxing orthodox. He's contorting his body into shapes and swerves they haven't even thought of: he's Tyson in his raw-rage prime, he's Ali working the ropes. Cameron grabs a folder and spins 80 degrees out of there before anyone's even had time to process his your mum joke. Corbyn's dead: RIP. He has been wrecked in a way he is never getting up from. Corbyn's midair towards the canvas, but his eyes are closed and his muscles are gone. And Cameron just spins and sits, and the place erupts. People are on their feet. This is the flashbulbs moment. And he just sits and sips it in.
It takes Corbyn about a thousand hours to come up with a retort, but there's really no point: he's been KO'd, here, his eyes are punched closed and his gloves are over the ropes and he's got a towel red with blood draped wet around his neck. A couple of hours later his team put a Facebook post up about how "I think you deserve real answers": it all smacks of going to the headteacher's office and being told 'you just need to ignore him, Jeremy, or he's going to keep doing it', as if nobility is a defence against fists. Corbyn lost this one. He wants to save the NHS and he got bodied by a your mum joke. The playground can be cruel. Real life can be crueller. There is only one constant, one truth, and that is this: your mum is really fat.
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