“You’re allowed to go right up to him, yeah. You just can’t touch him!” So says one yeshiva student, holding a camera pointed to another, about a guard stationed outside one of London’s royal buildings.
The young man pictured moseys—yes, moseys—toward the soldier, then stand next to him. The difference between the two is obvious, palpable, already comic: a yeshiva bochur in black and white with jaunty payos and a big black yarmulka, pictured next to a becloaked, behelmeted guard, the strap under his chin both infantilizing him and preparing him for battle.
While posing for the camera, the young man starts to weave an entire narrative about his relationship with the soldier, docu-drama style. “We went to school together,” he says, gesturing towards the soldier. “He went his own way.”
At first, the guard seems in charge of himself, quite capable of fulfilling his duty to not laugh. The yeshiva student speaks of their days at school together, choosing the guard’s school as the context for their shared past, where they studied martial arts. He starts out with a questioning kind of tone, as though he isn’t sure whether the soldier is the person he is describing, but as the narrative progresses he grows more confident.
“He was never talkative,” the yeshiva student says, and starts to describe the guard as a youth. At this point, it is clear that the guard is listening, and moreover, struggling to maintain his composure. As the student launches deeper into his fiction, things get worse for the guard, until the final epic breakdown. The student interrupts his own narrative as he alights on the perfect weapon: “His mother always picked him up from school. You know, he was that type of guy, until he was twenty, his mother always picked him up from school.” At this point, the guard breaks. And I mean, breaks. He doesn’t just smile, or grin, but breaks into a full-on giggle, halted as quickly as possible by a shake of his head and a blush. The students dance away, ebullient.
What’s amazing is that the thing that finally breaks the guard is a shared experience which totally dissolves the distance between them: they both can relate to making fun of the guy whose mother picks him up from school, “until he was twenty.” While it is possible to find two people more different than these two, they are different enough that their shared experience—and the humor that derives from it—is touching, as well as hilarious.