THE art of good comedy is timing.
But there will be nothing but frowns all round if Celtic can't deliver the punchline when they take to the stage to face Helsinki tomorrow night.
Neil Lennon is deadly serious as he reflects on what could be a defining opening line in the Hoops' season.
On the first day of August, much earlier than the Parkhead boss deems practical, his club kick off their 2012-13 campaign.
On the result of tomorrow's Champions League first-leg qualifier, so much depends.
A setback at this early stage would be a massive blow, not only to morale, but to plans currently on hold to strengthen the side.
Which is why hitting the ground running has never been more important, and taking a positive result to the second leg in Finland a week tomorrow could set the tone for the entire season.
Lennon has left his players in no doubt they must ignore the fact they are just beginning their competitive action while Helsinki are midway through their season.
The advantage the Finns hold in terms of match sharpness must be nullified by Celtic's superior quality.
However, history – some of it very recent and very painful – shows that these early rounds of the qualifying process can bring some of their biggest challenges Celtic will meet all year.
Which is why the manager – entering his third Euro campaign in charge – has set basic goals.
Lennon explained: "We want to have European football until at least December, whether that be Champions League or Europa League.
"Obviously, the main aim is to get into the group stage of the Champions League, and I believe we have the players capable of doing that.
"I just wish these qualifying games were maybe three or four weeks down the line.
"But they are not, so we have worked very hard to get more football into our players in terms of the pre-season compared to last year.
"The signs were good on Saturday that we are getting there, but it will be a totally different game tomorrow."
What pleased Lennon most about the performance against Inter Milan – themselves facing a tricky early start to their season when they face Hajduk Split in the Europa Cup third qualifying round on Thursday – was the fact his side have regained their power and creativity, if not their shooting boots.
"Saturday was very good," reflected Lennon.
"In terms of overall performance, that is as good as we have played since we came back from the close season.
"We created more chances in the game against Inter Milan than we did in any of the previous games in Germany and Holland or against Norwich, and that was very pleasing.
"To do that against opposition as good as Inter are, showed that we are progressing.
"While I was pleased with that, and the performance in general, we would like to be converting a few more chances.
"But at this stage of the year, I am pleased with the condition of the players and I'm pleased with the football I saw on Saturday."
Lennon concedes, however, that it will not be until the whistle is blown tomorrow night that he will know for certain how effective his pre-season planning has been.
"It's only when this game gets going that I will know for sure where we are," he said.
"They are going to come up against a well-motivated Helsinki team who are hungry and match-fit.
"Helsinki have a bit of confidence about them as well, after the way they got through against Reykjavik in the last round."
Not that the Finns have a exclusivity clause on confidence. Lennon trusts the players he has brought together over the course of the last two years and who brought the SPL title and the thunder back to Parkhead in May.
Nevertheless, there was a moment's hesitation when he was asked if this is the best squad he has taken into a European campaign.
"That's a good question," he replied, his normal quick-fire response put on hold while he considered previous years.
"I think, because they have been together for this length of time and are that bit more experienced now, it could be.
"The confidence they took from winning the championship last season will also have done them a power of good.
"There are a few of them who have still to get up to speed, players who have not played as much football as I would have liked by this stage.
"But I think we can compensate for that with the rest of the lads."
What appears to be in their favour is the fact the manager is not having to try to bed in new arrivals at the same time as negotiate safe passage into the lucrative group stages of Europe.
"We certainly haven't had the turnover we've had in previous years, though there are a few players who have gone out the door," said Lennon with a wry smile, no doubt wishing they had been met by a few more coming in.
"We've trimmed the squad by five or six, and hopefully, that will make it a little bit more together.
"I think we realise there is not going to be a helluva lot of business done between now and the end of August."
Lennon initially said he wanted to get his transfer business done early, but events – including uncertainty over income due to material changes to the game in Scotland – conspired to make this impossible.
Asked if he quickly had to come to terms with the fact he would have to plot his way through these qualifiers without being able to further strengthen his squad, Lennon replied: "Yes.
"Basically, we decided we are where we are.
"Let's go with what we have got. And if anything comes in, it's a bonus."
Despite this frustration, Celtic have still spent more in this window than every other club in Scotland put together, and all of that £2million outlay went on bringing keeper Fraser Forster back on a permanent deal.
That alone is enough to make Lennon feel secure and he said: "He was a priority, and we feel we have got a good one in Fraser.
"He is going to be very important in these two qualifying games against Helsinki. Hopefully, he is not going to be too busy.
"But there is no doubt that, particularly in the away game next week, we are going to be under pressure and Fraser is going to have to be big.
"He has done that in the past in places like Udine, and has had a pretty good pre-season."