Do You Want the Good News or the Bad News?

A columnist updates readers on his life with secondary progressive MS

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by John Connor |

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Ah, one of the classic setups for a Christmas cracker joke.

Others include, “Why did the chicken cross the road?” and “How many ____ does it take to change a lightbulb?”

While these gags are popular in Britain, I’m not sure if they exist in the rest of the English-speaking world. I’m reasonably confident that they’ve percolated down to New Zealand and Australia, though not to the extent of cricket, which is played across much of the Commonwealth.

It’s very weird trying to write to a global audience. Hullo out there. This is London writing.

I used these comedy tropes as a structural shorthand for fast gag writing. In my standup team show, “The Edge,” only one of our games survived our entire 30-year run: the joke competition. Just before the interval, each comic was assigned a story, suggested by an audience member, from that week’s news. The comic then had 15 minutes to cobble together a short routine and deliver it directly after the interval. Unsurprisingly, we all pitched in.

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As producer, I’d immediately run through those three joke structures in my head, and indeed innumerable others, as a sort of shorthand. Fifteen minutes is tough. Sometimes one of those three even worked!

The audience really loved coming up with a subject that seemed impossible. Sometimes you could nail it with just one punchline. Hopefully, the one I remember most joyously makes it through the editing process as my punchline for this column.

Here’s my good and bad news report from this week. First, the good bit.

Recently, I penned a column about my mission to start losing weight, after the shocking discovery that I’d hit 20 stone, or 280 pounds.

It was only the second time I’d been weighed in five years. Three years earlier, I’d been admitted to the hospital for a cellulitis infection and was then, gulp, a whopping 18 stone (252 pounds).

Before the wheelchair, I’d maintained a slightly rounded dad bod of about 15.5 stone (217 pounds) for decades. But being in that wheelchair had precluded most weighing options — until recently.

I now get weighed regularly at my multiple sclerosis (MS) therapy center. I realized they had a roll-on, roll-off scale for us wheelie lot. They simply have to measure the weight of my chair without me in it. Since one of my exercises involves a long stand in a special machine, I’m out of my chair every time I venture there.

So yes, I did immediately try to do something about my weight. I’ve now shed exactly 1 stone (14 pounds) in three months. And not by starving myself, either, but by having a regular breakfast in the morning — not a loaf of toast!

The bad MS news is a report from MS News Today‘s Patricia Valerio: “Infections Nearly 4 Times as Likely for Patients With Progressive MS.”

Woo-hoo. As I now have secondary progressive MS and — woo-hoo, woo-hoo — loads of comorbidities, this news is a major problemo for me. And triple threat (I can’t write “woo-hoo” three times, but ooh, I want to), I have a severely compromised immune system.

So that cheered me right up. Woo-hoo. Woo-hoo. Woo-hoo. Ah, solace.

Now for my good news, bad news, get-out-of-that-one routine.

The London Marathon had taken place two days before the comedy show in question. Unfortunately, the big news that year was that a married couple was running, and the husband had died.

As ever, the audience took great delight in suggesting that one. It was by far their favorite. How were we to possibly get a laugh from that?

We took even greater delight in assigning it to one of the most acerbic comics we had on the team over our 30-year run, Jo Brand, who went on to become a major comedy star in the U.K. (It’s not often that my mind worked that clearly.)

Jo was introduced by the compère with the setup of the awful story.

Jo said, “When the wife finished the race, she was asked by one of the judges if she wanted the good news or the bad news.

“Wife: ‘Oh, I’ll have the good news, please.’

“Judge: ‘Well, you’ve beaten your husband!'”

Woof went the audience.

No surprise that Jo won the game and got the biggest laugh of the night.

I skipped (them’s the days) home.

Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.


Wendy Hovey avatar

Wendy Hovey

Hey John,
How many therapists does it take to change a lightbulb?
It only takes one, but the lightbulb really has to want to change.

John Connor avatar

John Connor

Male patient, 'Doctor, Doctor I feel like a door. What can I do about it?'

Doc 'Well, try twisting your knob?'


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