The send-off for a veteran British diplomat brought the house down at Bangkok's Foreign Correspndents' Club. Richard Ehrlich reports from the farewell party for
British Ambassador David Fall:
BANGKOK, Thailand -- The British Ambassador to Thailand and Laos, David Fall, ended his career as a diplomat by giving a wildly hilarious, shockingly blunt, comedy performance of taboo jokes about Scotsmen using condoms, trigger-happy Americans, and sexual double entendres involving British, Turkish and French officials.
Nearly 200 people, including diplomats, businessmen, journalists and others enthusiastically cheered and applauded every punch line Mr. Fall delivered during his 40-minute speech at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand.
His appearance on Tuesday (July 24) night was titled, "Released into the community: His Excellency David Fall, on the verge of parole, reflects on 36 years as a British diplomat."
Pacing his lines like a professional stand-up comedian, and frequently stressing accents to emphasize foreign voices, Mr. Fall began by warning:
"Stereotypes can be very misleading. I've known German ambassadors with a sense of humor. Well-organized Italians. Australians with no chips on their shoulders whatsoever. Americans who are sensitive to local feelings: 'Take 'em out! Nuke them!' And French ambassadors who speak English without spitting every second word."
Mr. Fall, who retires in August, said he regretted how British diplomats now had to be politically correct, unlike decades ago when a British ambassador could speak and act with greater freedom.
"One of the many things we are not supposed to do these days is say anything which might be dubbed as racial stereotyping."
Tweaking that protocol, he then told an elaborate joke about a Scotsman who buys a condom while complaining it was "really expensive." During the next several weeks, the Scotsman repeatedly returns to the shop, demanding the condom be fixed, because holes are appearing from overuse.
The shopkeeper tells him to buy a new condom, but the Scotsman refuses because of the price.
The punch line? After one month, the suddenly generous Scotsman tells the stunned shopkeeper, "the regiment has decided to buy" a new condom.
"I tell you that purely as an illustration, because we're not allowed to tell that silly joke anymore," Mr. Fall said amid hysterical laughter. "It's also in extremely bad taste."
The ambassador said London's Foreign Office contains archives of witty dispatches written by British diplomats in the mid-20th century. "Actually, I do recommend a trawl through the Foreign Office's pre-computerization archives. There are some real gems in there," Mr. Fall said.
"For those of you with a sensitive disposition, you may wish to go to the toilet now," the envoy then advised his audience. "I would like to read to you now, from an official Foreign Office document. It is a letter dated 6 April 1943, from Sir Archibald Clerk Kerr, Her Majesties ambassador in Moscow, to Lord Pembroke, the Foreign Office, London."
Exaggerating a pompous British accent, Mr. Fall read: "'My Dear Reggie, In these dark days man tends to look for little shafts of light that spill from Heaven. My days are probably darker than yours, and I need, my God I do, all the light I can get. But I am a decent fellow, and I do not want to be mean and selfish about what little brightness is shed upon me from time to time.
"'So I propose to share with you a tiny flash that has illuminated my somber life, and tell you that God has given me a new Turkish colleague, whose card tells me that he is called Mustapha Kunt. "We all feel like that, Reggie, now and then, especially when spring is upon us, but few of us would dare to put it on our cards. It takes a Turk to do that.'"
Amid whoops, chortling and cheers, Mr. Fall said, "If anybody needs to explain that to somebody, well, good luck."
Asked by a mischievous audience for more anecdotes, Mr. Fall told a story about France's former leader Charles de Gaulle, while stretching the general's French-accented English.
"Charles de Gaulle and his wife were at a banquet in London, sitting at opposite ends of this long table, and the conversation was going on. And somebody asked Madam de Gaulle what she thought was the greatest thing in life.
"Madam de Gaulle replied: 'I think the greatest thing in life is a penis.'
"At that very moment, all the talking had stopped and everybody turned and looked at her. To his credit, General de Gaulle, at the other end of the table, backed up and said, 'No no, ma chere, I think what you mean to say is: happiness.'"
After the chuckles died down, Mr. Fall described his future plans by saying: "I'm not intending to work for anybody that I don't want to work for anymore. Thirty-six years as a bureaucrat is absolutely enough, as far as I'm concerned.
"You just want to be yourself," the gray-haired envoy said, predicting a leisurely life of writing, painting, cartooning, gardening, walking the length of the United Kingdom, raising dogs and chickens, and doing international charity work.
Hailing from an Anglo-Welsh family of tenant farmers and coal miners, Mr. Fall's Diplomat Service career included three tours of Thailand, totaling 12 years, plus stints in South Africa, Australia, Vietnam and London, accompanied by his wife Gwendolyn and their three sons.