But the reason it provoked this P.S. is that, in the original lecture I gave in the USA, I also told a joke connected with Russia. The idea was to show the universal nature of comedy. It was told to me by a friend who taught Russian. He was trying to explain ‘British humour’ to a Russian assistant at his school and he told her the following joke:
A man has been to a business meeting in London and, afterwards, is invited by a one of his hosts to play a round of golf at his club before catching his plane. The host lends him some clubs, they have a good round, but it’s hot and, afterwards, he just has time for a quick shower. The trouble is, he only has a small golf towel. (They’re about 18 inches square.) Nonetheless, he rushes into the showers, washes himself and, just as he’s getting ready to leave, he hears women’s voices. In his hurry, he’s obviously made a mistake and come into the wrong shower room. But he can’t wait for them to go, he has a plane to catch. So he has to go out past them. But he only has the small towel, big enough to cover his private parts or his face, but not both. The possible embarrassment causes him to choose the second option. So he holds the towel to his face and rushes out past the three shocked women.
When he’s disappeared, the first woman says ‘How disgusting, but at least it wasn’t my husband.’
The second one agrees. ‘You’re right, it wasn’t your husband.’
And the third one says ‘He wasn’t even a member of the club’.
The reason I used this joke was that the Russian assistant then told my friend ‘Yes, I’ve heard that one, except that in Russia the punchline is “He doesn’t even live in the village”’.
I should add that, among the learned questions I was asked by audience members after the lecture, one was ‘Where did you hear that joke?’ It was put to me by a woman who I could imagine as one of the three in the shower room. So perhaps it wasn’t a joke, but a true story.