Even banana skins can be fruitful when it comes to ideas - Ian McMillan

Never waste an idea, I say.

Never waste an idea says Ian McMillan.

If something occurs to you, write it down; if you overhear a snatch of conversation or see something vividly interesting or perhaps even mildly interesting make a note of it because, believe me, there will be days when no ideas come and the ideas well is dry and the inspiration pit has shut down.

To illustrate that let me tell you about the banana skin I saw on my evening stroll the other day; I was reminded of the phrase ‘‘an accident waiting to happen’’ and I scribbled that down in the notebook I always carry.

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The next day the banana skin was still there, a little faded, a little older, but still very much an accident waiting to happen so I decided to do a not-very-scientific banana test and tread on it. I didn’t slip over but there was a satisfying slither.

Then I started thinking about the whole concept of slipping on a banana skin and the ideas and the questions started flowing and I could hardly write them down quick enough.

Why and how did the idea of slipping on a banana skin become a comedy trope? How far back does it go?

I also thought about my short-lived foray into making banana-skin chutney following a recipe I’d found online; to be honest the chutney wasn’t a great culinary triumph and the taste was nothing like bananas or, to be frank, chutney. It was a bit like savoury Artex. However, it would probably have been good for slipping on.

Then, by coincidence and because I like reading independent magazines, I bought an American publication called Feeeels (with four e’s) which is about language and art and culture and had an article in it about the history of the ‘‘slipping on a banana skin’’ joke which apparently became hugely popular in American vaudeville at the start of the 20th century.

My most intriguing banana skin discovery was Sliding Billy Watson, a vaudeville star whose entire act apparently consisted of slipping on banana skins.

When I did a bit more research I found that in fact he is, as they say, shrouded in banana skin mystery partly because there was another vaudeville performer treading (rather than sliding on) the boards who was also called Billy Watson. Just plain old Billy Watson. It would be terrible as a promoter if you booked the wrong one.

So from seeing a banana skin on my evening stroll I’ve started to think about a story about the two Billy Watsons meeting after a show in a bar somewhere in small town America.

What would they talk about, and who would be the first to slip on a banana skin? Ideas, eh? Who knows where they come from? And who cares, as long as you can get them in the keepnet!