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No Laughing Matter

Children's entertainer Bob "Mr Soapy" Wigglesworth - was taken into custody in East Orchard yesterday on charges of "entertaining children; making children laugh without a properly completed risk assessment form and telling silly jokes without parental permission". Arrested shortly after appearing at a birthday party in Frome Vauchurch, a shaken Mr Wigglesworth said only that, at 84 years old, he feared his career might be over.

A younger Mr Soapy in happier times when "making a kid laugh wasn't a crime and cheering up some poor sad little bugger up wan't a hanging offence".

Whilst some parents were fully supportive of Mr Wigglesworth's act "we were present throughout and thought him appropriate, amusing and well worth the money", local authority Entertainment Czar - Roberta Kiljoy-Sulk - said she and her colleagues were taking the matter seriously. "Keeping children entertained and - more seriously - amused is no laughing matter", she said, after being told of Mr Wigglesworth's detainment. "It must be closely monitored and policed. Just because Mr Wigglesworth has been entertaining children without incident or complaint for more than 70 years doesn't mean that he isn't potentially dangerous or that he has acquired the skills necessary to ply his trade without inflicting psychological damage which might take a lifetime to emerge. I believe that as part of his act Mr Wigglesworth tries to inflate a balloon only for it to deflate and blow air into his face. Imagine a child trying that at home, or worse, realising 40 years on that seeing that happen has adversely coloured their entire life journey? In this day and age, children should feel entirely safe and only be amused according to strict guidelines - guidelines someone of Mr Wigglesworth's experience and age might find otiose or unnecessary. As the mother of a child myself, I am very clear where the line has to be drawn between earnestness and amusement and it isn't obvious to me that society always gets this right. I mean if just anyone was allowed to indulge in the harmless amusement of a child where would we be? In a happier and safer place, I dare say and that can't be right". Asked if the council was considering the introduction of Laughter-free Safe Spaces for the most vulnerable-to-amusement children, she said that they hadn't so far, but now that she had thought of it it was "a distinct possibility".

Experts say these "delighted" children have no idea of the psychological damage enjoying themselves might be doing or the threat it imposes to their later development as "normal, sad, pessimistic and possibly even suicidal adults". "Laughter early in a child's life can seriously reduce their chances of becoming psychotic in adulthood so we have to ask ourselves - harmless as we might think Mr Wigglesworth and his ilk might be - just what kind of a society do we want to live in.

In the meantime, Mr Wigglesworth is considering auctioning his costumes and impedimenta but fears there will be no purchasers. "Entertaining children was always a hard business", he said. "Now it's just bloody impossible".

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