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How to meck 'em loff – a comedy masterclass from Black Country funnyman Doug

Doug Parker walks up to the microphone. A couple of dozen people are sat around a crowded table, listening attentively to every word he says.

Mark Andrews larks around with Jack and Carol Pritchard
Mark Andrews larks around with Jack and Carol Pritchard

"I broke down in Tipton," he says, pausing briefly for effect.

"Dunno why, I was just a bit upset."

The room briefly erupts with laughter, before settling down.

"I looked under the bonnet, and this bloke just started jacking my car up," he continues.

"I said 'what are you doing?' He said 'If you're having the battery, I'm having the tyres'."

We're at Wall Heath community centre on the outskirts of Dudley, and assembled in the room are a group of people from all walks of life, learning from the master at how to be funny.

There's Bob 'The Suck Mon' Boden, who reckons years of selling sweets on the markets of the Black Country will have given him plenty of opportunity to polish his patter.

Wendy Stokes, Billy Spakemon and Debbie Attwood discuss comedy technique

Storyteller Marlene Watson, poet Dave Bartley and Brian 'Billy Spakemon' Dakin are well-known on the Black Country entertainment circuit for their unique brands of humour, while brother-and-sister Jack and Carol Pritchard play the ukulele in care homes as popular duet The Recycled Teenagers.

At the other end of the spectrum, 29-year-old Grace Jenkins, from Lichfield, has turned up with fiance John just for the fun of it.

The one thing we all have in common is that we're about to have a go at being funny in a new pilot film called The Black Country Telling Jokes. The short film, which will be released on YouTube and marketed as a pilot to television companies, will be made up of ordinary folk from the Black Country doing what Black Country folk do best – mecking payple loff.

Doug Parker shares his tips with the group

The man behind the project is Roger Edwards, a former comedy scriptwriter with decades in the business, having worked with Jim Bowen and Les Dennis among many others.

"It was an idea I had with my wife Jan while we were walking the dogs," he says to a few suggestive sniggers.

"We were just talking about funny people from the area, and the Black Country lending itself to comedy because the accent has a musicality to it."

His wife, former actress turned public relations officer Jan Jennings, reveals that comedy is in her blood: her great uncle was Arnold Ridley, who played Private Godfrey in Dad's Army, and her father was at school with Ken Dodd.

Marlene Watson and Billy Spakemon have fun while Grace Jenkins looks on

But leading the masterclass is Black Country funnyman Doug.

"There are three things you need," he says.

"The first thing is, it's got to feel funny to the person who is telling it. You have got to enjoy the joke.

"And you have got to do it with confidence. If you don't believe in it, the audience are not going to."

And the third thing is to develop a style that is unique to the performer.

"Everyone has got their own style, everybody has got their own way of telling a joke," says Doug, who worked as a warm-up man for Michael Parkinson.

"There's room for so much comedy, front and middle is what you enjoy, and then you have find a way of breaking down the barriers so that the audience enjoy it too."

Comedian Doug Parker teaching Mark Andrews how to be funny

After a bit of discussion, the cameras are ready to roll, and the would-be comedians are invited to stand at the microphone in front of a screen which has been set up to look like a brick wall, decked out with Black Country flags.

Carol, 70, from Netherton, begins with a joke about a man who takes an overdose of laxatives, before continuing with an anecdote about going to her GP with constipation:

"He says 'are you regular?', I says yes, it's half past six every morning that I goo.

"He says 'what's the problem then?', I said 'I don't get up until half past nine'."

Brother Jack, 75, tells a joke involving a softly spoken Quasimodo, Cleopatra and Goliath looking into a magic mirror.

Peter Dale chips in with a tale about a diminutive butcher from Gornal, who he challenges to a wager.

"I said I bet you £15 you can't reach all these pieces of meat, and he accepted my bet," he says.

"I then said, 'let's make this really interesting, make it £100 instead'.

"He thought about it for a bit, and said 'I can't take that bet. The steaks are too high for me'."

Debbie Attwood fires off a few quick one-liners: "Two fish in a tank, one says to the other, 'do you know how to drive this thing?'"

Roger Edwards, former comedy scriptwriter who organised The Black Country Tells Jokes project

And then it's my turn.

Despite having spent 30 years as a member of Wolverhampton Speaker's Club, and the odd appearance on radio and TV, it takes a bit of cajoling from Roger to get me behind the mic.

This is one of those rare occasions when my pronounced Black Country accent, which I have never managed to shake off, actually works in my favour.

While my Midland brogue has long been a millstone when I want to appear serious or authoritative, it seems strangely liberating when playing the clown.

I begin my turn with an updated version of a children's nursery rhyme, followed by reminiscences about customers buying condoms from the barbershop, and finished with and old Aynuk and Ayli gag.

It seems to go down reasonably well, and I return to my seat feeling pretty good about myself, although I'm also wishing I had been more expressive and not been tied to the microphone so much. It's something which I suppose comes with practice.

Full-time film extra and former Pontin's blue coat Lee Goode, 51, from Wordsley – "I once played a homeless person in Corrie, they let me wear my own clothes" – proves to be a natural entertainer.

"Twenty-one years ago, I ran out of the room shouting 'it's a boy, it's a boy'. I've never been to Thailand since," he says to warm up the audience. "My ex-wife said to me, 'Lee, you are the most well-endowed man I have ever been with'. I said 'you're pulling my leg'."

Billy Spakemon, Marlene Watson, Roger Edwards and Doug Parker at the Black Country Tells Jokes project

Ann Allsop, 80, from Kingswinford throws in the one-liner: "An archaeologist is the best husband a woman can have – the older you get, the more interested he is."

But the real work is to come. Once all us would-be comedians have finished for the day, it will fall to videographer Stacey Hinton to edit all the footage, hopefully turning us diamonds in the rough into a polished gem.

Have we produced enough material? Roger seems to think so.

"I thought we had some wonderful stuff," he says.

"I think everybody came up with something we could use. The trick will now be to edit it into a series of quickfire sections, one after the other."

What is certain is that everybody seems to have had a good day.

And Doug Parker, who began his comedy career at the Tettenhall's Rock Hotel in the early 1980s, reckons that once people are bitten by the comedy bug, it is hard to give it up.

"Once you have got your first loff, it's bitten you, you get a taste for it.

"There's nothing better than the feeling when you have stood in front of an audience and made them loff and loff."

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