“You’re pissed,” Andrew said. Then he pointed at himself. “Hypocrite warning!”

Andrew was taking the piss out of David Brent, a character invented to mock boring, boorish, insecure men. He was copying a pastiche of the unthinking, blind way men talk meaninglessnessly about drinking. But was he mocking the joke, endorsing the pastiche? Or was he endorsing the joke? Were we laughing at the joke or the pastiche? Were we endorsing witty observational humour, or thuggish stupidity? Or was it a pastiche of the pastiche? Was he demonstrating the cheapness of it, the snobbishness of it? Defending the right of men to boast mindlessly about booze? Richard’s mind reeled. There were too many levels, too many ironies, to process. Only one thing was certain.

Richard needed a drink.

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