Category Archives: Comedy

583. British Comedy: The Dirty Fork / Restaurant Sketch (Monty Python)

Analysing the English in a sketch by Monty Python’s Flying Circus, and considering British communication style relating to apologising, making complaints and minimising language.

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Introduction

Luke rambles about folding seats on public transport, the spring equinox, saying goodbye to winter and the recent posh or not posh episodes.

Here’s another British comedy episode.

We’re going to listen to a comedy sketch by Monty Python.

This time we’re looking at British manners, politeness, communication style and just some madcap comedy too.

Similar episodes in the past have been things like my episode about British communication style (What Brits Say vs What They Mean), What is this British comedy? How to learn English with comedy TV series, and the episodes I’ve done about Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

We’re going to listen to a clip from Monty Python’s Flying Circus, and also consider the cultural values behind the sketch, and how that relates to things like making complaints, saying sorry and making requests.

So, cultural stuff and also linguistic stuff too.

Buy the DVD Box Set for Monty Python

Check out the Monty Python YouTube channel where a lot of their content is available free

Intro to the sketch

There’s quite a well-known series of postcards called the How to be British Collection. You might have seen them. They contain little cartoons illustrating life in England from the point of view of learners of English. There are some classic sketches in that collection.

The “How to be British collection” #8 – Being Polite (c) IGP Cards – Buy the books on Amazon here.

One of them is called “Lesson 16 – How to complain”.

It shows a couple in a restaurant, in England we imagine. They don’t look happy with the food. The man says “This meat is as tough as old boots” and the woman says “It tastes off. And these vegetables are cold.” (some nice vocab in there already)

In the next frame the man says “this wine is awful – I asked for dry and they’ve given us sweet.” and she says “and look, there’s a worm in my side salad…”

Ah, a typical English restaurant.

Then the waiter comes over and says “How is your meal? Is everything all right?”

Now, what would you say in that situation? How would you respond? Would you complain? How would you do it?

Well, in the sketch, after the waiter says “Is everything all right?” the man says “Oh yes. It’s all lovely!” and the woman says “Excellent, thank you!”

8

www.lgpcards.com/index.html

Hmm…

The point here is that British or English people avoid saying the bad thing, making the complaint, because they’re too polite and don’t like to cause a problem, so they say it’s all fine.

Is this a stereotype of English communication style? Partly. As we’ve seen before.

What would I say?

I would say that the food was no good, especially the part about the worm. Obviously those extreme details are added for comic effect, like a worm in the salad. But if my food was just not up to scratch, would I complain? I probably wouldn’t complain if it was something minor, but a big thing would be an issue, but what’s definitely true is that I don’t like getting into a situation of conflict or confrontation and so I would probably be very reasonable about my complaint. My wife is more direct about these things. She’s French. We often notice a big difference in the way we deal with things like this. She’s much more direct about making a complaint and getting what she feels she is entitled to. For some reason it’s more difficult for me. I don’t like getting into those confrontations. Is this just me, or is this British people in general? I think it’s a bit of both. I’m perhaps not the confrontational kind, but also Brits are like that too, more than other nations, as far as I can tell.

Of course there are plenty of British people who complain vociferously if there’s a problem, a lot of Brits (certainly English people) will avoid an awkward situation if they feel that nothing can be done about it.

Why do people want to avoid confrontation? What’s the worst that could happen?

Let’s find out in this sketch.

The Dirty Fork Sketch

Listen to the sketch – just try to understand what’s going on. It’ll help if you watch the video because there are a couple of visual elements, but if you don’t watch it – just try to work out the details. Essentially, you’ll hear a couple in a French restaurant. They have a problem, and then they are visited at the table by various members of the restaurant staff including the waiter, the head waiter, the manager and finally the chef from the kitchen.

Let’s listen to it and see if you can work out what’s going on. Then I’ll break it down for you so you understand it just like a native speaker.

Bonus: Watch out for the punchline at the end.

Summary
A man and woman are in a fancy restaurant. The French waiter is very keen to make their stay satisfying. The man asks for another fork because his is a little bit dirty. The reaction of the waiter is extreme. he apologises profusely. He fetches the head waiter who comes to apologise. He makes over the top apologies. The restaurant manager comes out and his apology is serious and dramatic. Finally the chef comes out. He’s a huge angry man with a meat cleaver. He’s furious with the customers because they made a complaint which has caused so much sorrow to the staff of the restaurant. He shouts revenge as he tries to kill them.

The punchline?
“Lucky I didn’t tell them about the dirty knife!”

The main point is
I think this sketch is making fun of people who keep quiet about little complaints or use language to minimise problems, because they’re scared about making a fuss. This seems to be what they imagine could happen if they point out a problem. This is the worst nightmare of every British person who awkwardly makes a complaint. They’re terrified of making a fuss or causing a scene.

Minimising language

It’s not “I’ve got a dirty fork”, it’s “I’ve got a bit of a dirty fork”.

It’s ridiculous really – either you’ve got a fork or not. You can’t have a bit of a fork. Your fork can be a bit dirty, but it’s a bit silly to say “I’ve got a bit of a dirty fork”. However, this kind of minimising language is very common when people want to make something sound less serious than it is.

E.g. 1 “We’ve got a bit of a dirty table. Could you give it a bit of a wipe for us please?”

E.g. 2 Imagine someone announcing to someone that there’s been an accident, but they’re trying to minimise the seriousness of it because for some reason they’re embarrassed about it or they want to reduce the shock.

“Can I have a bit of a chat with you. Just a bit of a chat. It’s no big deal, it’ll just take a second.

It’s just that we might have had a little bit of a problem downstairs. There’s just sort of been a little bit of an explosion in the kitchen. Just tiny little bang really – more of a pop really, just a tiny little pop – you’d hardly notice it really. I heard it though and thought “Did I imagine that? Did someone just pop a balloon, or fart or something?” and then I picked myself off the ground and had a look downstairs and, yeah, the restaurant is a bit err, it’s a bit scratched and there’s a slight hole in the wall, and in the ceiling and a few puffs of smoke. At first I thought – “oh is that the chef having a cigarette out the back? I thought he’d given up!” But no it wasn’t him – I guess he won’t be smoking again in a hurry! Can you speak to him? Well, he’s a bit tied up at the moment, no he can’t come to the phone he’s… just resting. I think he fainted or just fell over after the thing, the thing that happened in the kitchen, and his head might have fallen off slightly and he might have lost a couple of other limbs in the confusion but anyway, no need to worry too much, it’s basically under control more or less, I just thought you might , want to pop down to the kitchen to have a look and maybe call an ambulance. Yeah, I would but I’ve lost my legs and I’m feeling a bit sleepy so I’m going to have a bit of a lie down, but I thought you might like to know… OK?

So, it’s always “A slight problem” or “A bit of a problem”.

Go through the paragraph again and highlight the minimising language.

Back to the comedy sketch…

This sketch is making fun of our culture I think – the way we are afraid of causing a fuss. Also it makes fun of the over-the-top way that fancy restaurants might apologise for small problems. They’re so keen to welcome and satisfy their customers. The sketch also gets completely carried away, especially when John Cleese’s “Mungo” comes out.

To an extent it’s a little bit pointless analysing Monty Python’s comedy because they make fun of absolutely everything, but I feel that they’re definitely poking fun at stuffy, polite culture.

Why do people minimise negative things? They want it to sound less serious. They don’t want to make someone feel they’re complaining. They want to show that it’s no problem – but why would it be a problem?

If you had a dirty fork you’d just say – “Excuse me, can I have another fork please? This one’s a bit dirty” the waiter is not going to be mortified. He’ll just get you another fork. This sketch represent’s the customer’s worst fear – that there will be a problem or a fuss.

“We don’t want to cause a fuss! Don’t make a scene!”


Now let’s go through the sketch again and understand it in detail.

RESTAURANT SKETCH: COMPLETE SCRIPT

Lady It’s nice here, isn’t it?
Man Oh, (It’s a) very good restaurant, three stars you know.
Lady Really?
Man Mmm…
Waiter Good evening, sir! Good evening, madam! And may I say what a pleasure it is to see you here again, sir!
Man Oh thank you. Well there you are dear. Have a look there, anything you like. The boeuf en croute is fantastic.
Waiter Oh if I may suggest, sir … the pheasant à la reine, the sauce is one of the chef’s most famous creations.
Man Em… that sounds good. Anyway just have a look… take your time. Oh, er by the way – I’ve got a bit of a dirty fork, could you … er.. get me another one?
Waiter I beg your pardon.
Man Oh it’s nothing … er, I’ve got a fork, (it’s) a little bit dirty. Could you get me another one? Thank you.
Waiter Oh … sir, I do apologize.
Man Oh, no need to apologize, it doesn’t worry me.
Waiter Oh no, no, no, I do apologize. I will fetch the head waiter immediatement. (immediately – in French)
Man Oh, there’s no need to do that!
Waiter Oh, no no… I’m sure the head waiter, he will want to apologize to you himself. I will fetch him at once.
Lady Well, you certainly get good service here.
Man They really look after you… yes.
Head Waiter Excuse me monsieur and madame. (examines the fork) It’s filthy, Gaston … find out who washed this up, and give them their cards immediately.
Man Oh, no, no.
Head Waiter Better still, we can’t afford to take any chances, sack the entire washing-up staff.
Man No, look I don’t want to make any trouble.
Head Waiter Oh, no please, no trouble. It’s quite right that you should point these kind of things out. Gaston, tell the manager what has happened immediately! (The Waiter runs off)
Man Oh, no I don’t want to cause any fuss.
Head Waiter Please, it’s no fuss. I quite simply wish to ensure that nothing interferes with your complete enjoyment of the meal.
Man Oh I’m sure it won’t, it was only a dirty fork.
Head Waiter I know. And I’m sorry, bitterly sorry, but I know that… no apology I can make can alter the fact that in our restaurant you have been given a dirty, filthy, smelly piece of cutlery
Man It wasn’t smelly.
Head Waiter It was smelly, and obscene and disgusting and I hate it, I hate it ,.. nasty, grubby, dirty, mangy, scrubby little fork. Oh … oh . . . oh . . . (runs off in a passion as the manager comes to the table)
Manager Good evening, sir, good evening, madam. I am the manager. I’ve only just heard . .. may I sit down?
Man Yes, of course.
Manager I want to apologize, humbly, deeply, and sincerely about the fork.
Man Oh please, it’s only a tiny bit… I couldn’t see it.
Manager Ah you’re good kind fine people, for saying that, but I can see it.., to me it’s like a mountain, a vast bowl of pus.
Man It’s not as bad as that.
Manager It gets me here. I can’t give you any excuses for it – there are no excuses. I’ve been meaning to spend more time in the restaurant recently, but I haven’t been too well… (emotionally) things aren’t going very well back there. The poor cook’s son has been put away again, and poor old Mrs Dalrymple who does the washing up can hardly move her poor fingers, and then there’s Gilberto’s war wound – but they’re good people, and they’re kind people, and together we were beginning to get over this dark patchthere was light at the end of the tunnel . .. now this . .. now this…
Man Can I get you some water?
Manager (in tears) It’s the end of the road!!
The cook comes in; he is very big and has a meat cleaver.
Cook (shouting) You bastards! You vicious, heartless bastards! Look what you’ve done to him! He’s worked his fingers to the bone to make this place what it is, and you come in with your petty feeble quibbling and you grind him into the dirt, this fine, honourable man, whose boots you are not worthy to kiss. Oh… it makes me mad… mad! (slams cleaver into the table)
The head waiter comes in and tries to restrain him.
Head Waiter Easy, Mungo, easy… Mungo… (clutches his head in agony) the war wound!… the wound… the wound
Manager This is the end! The end! Aaargh!! (stabs himself with the fork)
Cook They’ve destroyed him! He’s dead!! They killed him!!! (goes completely mad)
Head Waiter (trying to restrain him) No Mungo… never kill a customer. (in pain) Oh . .. the wound! The wound! (he and the cook fight furiously and fall over the table)
CAPTION: ‘AND NOW THE PUNCH-LINE
Man Lucky we didn’t say anything about the dirty knife.
Boos of disgust from off-screen.

580. Ramble / Listener Comments / Robots / Vampires / Two Taps in the Bathroom

A rambling episode with responses to listener comments, LEPster meetups, English Robot 3000 & 5000, vampires leaving comments on my website and the continuing mystery of two taps in the bathroom.

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Episode Transcript & Notes

Hello welcome to episode 580 of my podcast. My name is Luke, this is my podcast for learners of English and in this episode I’m going to have a bit of a ramble, respond to a few listener comments, give a bit of general news, and all that kind of thing!

It’s a been a little while since the last proper rambling episode. That was 558 I believe. Here we are now with episode 580. I’m just sitting here in my flat on a Friday afternoon, hoping to get an episode out before the weekend. Looking forward to the weekend? Yeah? Got any plans? Maybe you’re listening to this after the weekend, in which case – how was it? Any good memories? Can’t remember? Can’t even remember the weekend, eh? I suppose that means it was a good one then.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the recent episodes. The conversations with guests – focusing on fellow English teachers from podcastland – Zdenek Lukas, Jennifer from English Across the Pond and then Ben Worthington from IELTS Podcast. Also there was my long chat with James which has proven very popular. Lots of people love that episode, even though James himself seemed convinced nobody would see the value in it, and then of course the episodes dissecting comedy – the Bill Burr plane story and Paul Chowdhry’s hilarious routine. Plenty of people have asked for more of that sort of thing, and there will be more. I’ve always done that on the podcast – listened to extracts of people speaking (often comedy) and then broken them down word by word for you. Check the archive for all the British Comedy episodes.

How are you?

I expect you are in one of a number of situations as you listen to this.

Maybe…

  • Walking down the street, in which case – please watch your step as you go. Don’t get distracted and accidentally fall into a hole.
  • On a bus – in which case, why not give a smile to the other passengers, just to lighten the mood on the bus there. In fact you could get up and announce to everyone – “Hello everyone on the bus I hope you have a really great day today!” and see what kind of reaction you get.
  • On a train – in which case, why not take a little walk down the train to see if they have one of those train cafes where you can get a coffee and maybe a chocolate muffin or something, because when you’re travelling on a train the chocolate doesn’t count. Also, walking down the train is quite fun. You can kind of wobble along, grabbing the tops of the seats to steady you and maybe flirt for a moment somehow with some of the other passengers, right? That’s one of the cool things about being on a train. Sometimes there are other passengers who might give you a little look, like “well, you’re on this train, I’m on this train, clearly God intended us to be together and I suppose there isn’t much more for us to do just make sweet sweet love to each other, when we’ve reached our destinations and agreed upon a suitable place and time of course… but all of that is out of the window when you’re single, on a train, heading for the coffee car and perhaps making eye contact with another sexy passenger… And then absolutely nothing happens, you just carry on your journey. Do you do that? Fall in love with another passenger, without actually having any social contact with them whatsoever. Anyway, if you’re on a train, and you make a connection with another traveller, who let’s say is also listening to something – try asking if they’re listening to LEP. It would certainly give you both the perfect starting point to build the rest of your lives upon! Ha ha, imagine that. Actually, I’m pretty sure that at least one couple out there is together now because of this podcast. Let’s make sure it continues to happen! Let’s make the world a better place people!
  • Driving in your car – in which case, please drive carefully while listening to this podcast. When you’re not listening to this, do what you want.
  • On a plane somewhere – in which case, just remember that you are much more likely to be killed or even just injured on the ground than in the air, because, well, that’s usually where the plane crashes isn’t it. So, anyway, while you’re in the air, you’re safe. :)
  • On one of those electric scooter things – in which case, are you sure you look cool?
  • Doing the housework – in which case, you missed a bit, just there. (annoying)
  • Eating something – in which case, please properly chew your food before swallowing. Some experts say you need to chew about 40 times per mouthful. Yep. Also, please eat with your mouth closed.
  • Using the lavatory or generally freshening yourself up in the bathroom – please wash your hands
  • At work, listening to this when you should be doing something else – in which case, please keep a straight face at all times. If you ever burst out laughing for any reason, try to cover it up by pretending to have a random coughing fit.
  • Just standing in the street wondering what to do – in which case, take your time, there’s no rush, unless there is a rush, but if there isn’t a rush then take your time, don’t hurry. No need to hurry. Just listen to this song for some inspiration (Take it easy by Prince Buster)
  • In bed, ready to fall into a deep deep slumber – feel free to just close your eyes and let yourself drift away into a lovely, restful sleep.

Podcast Stats

Antonio
In the past you used to communicate some statistics about your podcast, like the countries list, and I would like to know the list of the countries in the Premium area. Not the number of people paying it because this is business stuff.
Podcast stats
Top countries for LEP
Top countries for LEPP
Bottom countries too please!


Episode 600 / 10th Birthday of LEP

I have no idea how to celebrate or mark these occasions.
I kind of did a celebration for episode 500, so there’s no need to do anything special really.
I might just carry on podcasting like normal.
But let me know if you think there’s something I should do for episode 600.
The thing is, I’m a bit wary of asking for things from my audience, because these days that quickly becomes extremely difficult to manage, with too many recordings to handle, keep track of, make sure are at the correct volume level and all it takes is for a certain number of people, even a tiny portion of the overall audience, to send me something and it’s far too long. Managing listener messages is all a bit too much for me these days. I don’t have the time in my schedule any more.

I’ll think about it, but it might just be a normal podcast with no major fanfare, but if you have any grand ideas to mark this occasion, which doesn’t involve massive amounts of work or preparation, let me know.

I can’t really believe it’s been 10 years since I started doing this and now the podcast is on Spotify I’m getting new people listening to episode 1 all the time.

Also I’ve been putting the episodes up on YouTube recently – no video, just the audio, but the thing is that you get automatically generated subtitles.

Recently I did a premium episode all about how to improve your English to the level of a native speaker, which is a question I get asked all the time.

Obviously, one of the most important things is to practise, practise, practise.

How?


LEPster MeetUps

One way is to take part in conversation clubs. LEPsters around the world are meeting up fairly regularly to do this. They’re called LEP MeetUps or LEPsters conversation clubs.

LEPsters Clubs
Read out all the info on this page teacherluke.co.uk/contact-2/lepster-meetups/
And some comments for new meetups.

Go to CONTACT and then LEP MEETUPS for all the details and to contact people who have left messages.

LEPsters Club in Chile
Message: Hi, Luke! I’m writing to you to report on my LEPsters meetup I had on Saturday 19th in a cafe in Antofagasta, Chile. I have a Facebook page ( www.facebook.com/lepstersantof ), so if you could set it on your website it’d be amazing! But maybe I need some more meetings to reach that honour, haha! I’d like to send you a picture, but there’s no way in this form, and I wouldn’t like to put it on the forum. But if you see the Facebook page you’ll see the pic (I’m the guy doing the ‘peace’ sign). Anyway, the meetup was amazing! There were 6 people (maybe it’s not enough, but for a 1st one I think it’s fine), motivated and eager to share and speak the language. They mentioned to me that there are no spaces to gather and speak English, so they were really happy to have me there creating this opportunity for them to communicate and meet people with the same goal. I started with some ice-breaker questions to get to know each other, then I continued with topic-based questions to engage their interest and speak about fun things. I’m thinking about games for the next meetups, so that we create a bond as a group and maybe make new friends. Well, that’s my long report (but I wasn’t ‘rambling’ haha!) about the meeting I held. Really looking forward to your opinion, even if it’s brief (I know you’re always busy).

Rodrigo (‘Roddie’ as I was nicknamed when I was in England by some students :D)

Eisa Ibrahim
Hi LEPsters, is there anybody here from Sudan???
Dear Luke I have been listening to Luke English podcast for
two years now, it is really brilliant, but unfortunately I have never met anybody
here who listens to the podcast!!
I am Eisa /i:sə/

Peter • 8 hours ago
Anyone from Krakow ? :) Maybe here are also people that want to improve language together ? :)

Murat Atalykov • a month ago
Hello LEPsters!
I’m from Almaty, Kazakhstan. If there is any Lepster in Almaty, please contact me via instagram @systemad

Olga B. • 3 months ago
Hello to all the lepsters of the world!
I wonder if there are any lepsters in Kazan who would like to meet up)
Just in case I created this community vk.com/lepmeetupkzn
So, if you are interested, I’d be glad to hear from you

Mario Ara Medina • 3 months ago
Hello, anyone from Costa Rica or an online group?

Virginie Bonneau • 4 months ago
hello Is there anyone interested in organizing a meetup in France, in the north?
or a skype group? I couldn’t manage to find one so far…

Ferdavs Majitov • 6 months ago
is there anyone who is listening to Luke in Uzbekistan
Feel free to contact me . My instagramm @fer4fan

Kim • 6 months ago
Hello Lepsters!
I’m Hee from Korea.
If there is any Lepster in Korea, please contact me via my Instagram @breathtakinglyremarkable
I just want to communicate with you Lepsters. It’s often lonely to listen to LEP and have no one to talk to about it. :(
I wish all of you nothing but the best!!!

Rustle • 8 months ago
Hello Lepsters! Are there any LEPsters in MALTA? ;-)

ypapax • 10 months ago
Hey, LEP ninjas from Tver, Russia, let’s join the facebook group for meetups in Tver www.facebook.com/gr

Roger Remy • a year ago
Are there any LEPsters in Switzerland???

Jan Holub • a year ago
Dreams come true! Hello lepsters! Is there anyone in Belarus willing to organise a meetup?

Julien • a year ago
Hello lepsters! Are there people interested in organizing a lepster meetup in France?
(this got 33 upvotes – French LEPsters why you no write comment?)


Alex Love’s Comedy Show in New Zealand

Attention LEPsters in New Zealand! I think I have some down there.

Alex Love’s “How to win a pub quiz” is coming to New Zealand.

All the details www.fringe.co.nz/show/31634


English Robot 3000

I recently got a few comments about English Robot 3000, asking where he is, so I thought I’d get him out of storage and have a bit of a chat, see how he is.

If you’re fairly new to the podcast, you might not know English Robot 3000. Long term listeners will probably remember him.

He has been in storage, switched off, gathering dust since at least 2014 I think. I can’t actually remember the last time I talked to him.

He’s a robot that speaks English. There are a few English Robots in the series. 3000, 4000 and 5000 too.


Vampires in the Comment Section?

2nd time I’ve had a message from a vampire on my website. Obvs spam.

Mark – last week
V**************@gmail.com***.***.***.112
Are you tired of being human, having talented brain turning to a vampire in a good posture in ten minutes, Do you want to have power and influence over others, To be charming and desirable, To have wealth, health, without delaying in a good human posture and becoming an immortal? If yes, these your chance. It’s a world of vampire where life get easier,We have made so many persons vampires and have turned them rich, You will assured long life and prosperity, You shall be made to be very sensitive to mental alertness, Stronger and also very fast, You will not be restricted to walking at night only even at the very middle of broad day light you will be made to walk, This is an opportunity to have the human vampire virus to perform in a good posture. If you are interested contact us on Vampirelords78787@gmail.com


Two taps in the bathroom

Any long-term listeners will know that I’ve always been slightly obsessed with a certain aspect of British life that foreign visitors often tell me about – the fact we have two taps in the bathroom.
Some of you will know what I mean.
In the UK it is common to find on sinks and bathtubs in the bathroom, two taps – one for hot and one for cold, rather than one single mixer tap.

This confounds a lot of foreign students who don’t know how to wash their hands. It’s basically lava from hell coming from one tap, and glacial ice water from the other. WTF Britain?

Well I recently got a pretty good answer to that.
Years ago I wrote a blog article for the London School of English. Just recently the article picked up a comment from a plumber in the UK.
A plumber is someone who works with pipes and water systems in your house.

So anyway, here’s my blog post and the answer
www.londonschool.com/blog/two-taps-in-the-bathroom/


That’s it! Thanks for listening :)

Luke

576. Talking about Comedy, Books, Films & Music with James

My brother James is back on the podcast for a 90min+ mega-ramble about things like: taking sick days from work, snowboarding, doing stand-up for the first time, the new film about Laurel & Hardy, Steve Coogan / Alan Partridge, The Beastie Boys and making mix tapes on cassette tapes in the 1990s. Intro transcript available.

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Introduction Transcript

Hello listeners. In this episode I’m talking again to my brother James, who has appeared on this podcast quite a lot over the years, usually talking about things like books, films, music and other bits of pop culture, and in fact that’s what we’re talking about in this episode too.

The conversation is about 90 minutes long so if this was the 1990s we could have recorded almost the entire thing on a C90 cassette tape and then just posted it to you. Do you remember those days? When we all used cassette tapes for our music and you had to rewind them, and stick labels on them and sometimes the tape would get all chewed up inside your walkman? Ah good times.

Anyway, this is a 90min+ mega-ramble with James that covers quite a lot of different things, but I think that’s what you’ve come to expect from this podcast over the years, isn’t it?

You are mainly listening to this for your English of course, in the knowledge that listening to natural conversations like this is generally a healthy thing for your language learning.

Your English is more likely to benefit from this if you know generally what we’re talking about throughout the episode, even if you don’t get every single word. So, to help you follow the whole thing, let me now give you a quick overview of what you’re going to hear in this conversation.

First James tells us about how he’s been feeling a bit unwell recently after he got something in his eye while skateboarding, and we kick off the episode by explaining a few nice bits of language for talking about that.

Then he describes a recent trip he did to the French Alps where he did some snowboarding.

After that we talk about his experiences of doing stand-up comedy for the first time (he recently started doing it), and we talk about what he’s learned from that particular challenge, including some details about coming up with funny ideas and dealing with the nervous tension that you get from speaking in front of people. We also talk about the recent gig that I did with Paul Taylor at the comedy store in London. James was in the audience at that show.

There are lots of tangents, moments when we’re just making each other laugh and also references to some things that you might not know about. For example there are some references to comedy TV shows, including a tangent about the BBC science fiction comedy show Red Dwarf (actually the second time that show has randomly been mentioned on the podcast recently) and also we mention Alan Partridge, who I did some episodes about in October.

We mention the new film about Laurel & Hardy (the old comedy double act from the black and white film era). That film is called Stan & Ollie and it stars Steve Coogan in one of the roles. James saw the film recently, so he shares some of his thoughts on that and we then make fun of some TV voice overs and advertising that you see on television these days.

Following that we talk about a couple of books James has read recently, including the Alan Partridge book Nomad and then we talk about The Beastie Boys book, which was published at the end of last year.

I’m not sure if you know about The Beastie Boys. Some of you definitely will, but others might not. They were a very famous band in their heyday – three guys from New York called Adam Yauch (or MCA), Adam Horovitz (Ad Rock) and Michael Diamond (Mike D) that made rap, punk and jazzy instrumental music in the 80s, 90s, and 2000s. Sadly the band stopped making music after Adam Yauch died in 2012. That’s the Beastie Boys.

I’m pretty sure the Beastie Boys were famous in many countries around the world. They released their memoir last year – The Beastie Boys book, which James got as a present for Christmas. I also listened to the audiobook version. It’s a collection of stories about the band written by the two surviving members.

So, we talk about The Beastie Boys, what they meant to us when we were younger (because we are both big fans) and we then talk about the pros and cons of listening to music on cassette tapes in the 1990s.

So there you go, that’s the “road map” for the episode.

This is a long episode, so don’t forget to hit that pause button and come back later if you’ve got stuff to do. If you haven’t got stuff to do, then you can just brew up a nice pot of tea, put your feet up and listen on.

Alright, now you’ve got your brew in your hand and maybe a pack of chocolate digestive biscuits open on the table in front of you, let’s get started properly.


Ending Transcript

So there you are. Thanks again to James for coming back on the podcast.

Leave your comments on the website in response to any of the things that came up in the conversation. Generally, we’d love to know what you’re thinking, unless you’re thinking something really disgusting – in which case, please keep that to yourself.

We talked a bit about books there.

For me I tend to use audiobooks these days. I just can’t seem to find the time to actually do much normal reading, so using audiobooks is a good solution for me.

I use Audible for my audiobooks, and I just wanted to remind you that they sponsor this podcast and in fact they have an offer that you could take advantage of – a free audiobook of your choice. Audible have a free app which you can get on your phone. You buy the audiobooks on Audible’s website or on Amazon and then download them onto your app so you can listen anywhere. It’s a really cool way to consume books while doing other things, and often the books are read out by interesting people, like talented actors and voice-over artists.

About that offer from Audible.

They’re offering you a 30 day free trial that includes a free audiobook of your choice.

If you like you can just sign up for the free trial, get a free audiobook, listen to it and then cancel your subscription and you don’t pay anything. Audible are totally cool with that. Or you could keep the subscription and get more books, including one book each month as part of your package.

You could listen to the Alan Partridge audiobooks which are read out by Steve Coogan himself and are genuinely hilarious, or if you’re a Beastie Boys fan, check out the Beastie Boys audiobook, which is amazing in my opinion. To get the offer and for all the details go to www.teacherluke.co.uk/audiobook

Click here for the Audible special offer

Also, consider signing up for LEP Premium at www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium to get the benefit of my teaching skills as I focus on teaching you vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation. New premium episodes come out every month, and I expect to do a premium episode focusing on language that came up in this conversation with James in fact. So you can use my premium episodes to maximise your English learning with my podcast. www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium

Click here for LEP Premium

But for now – that’s it. Congrats on making it to the end another super-long episode in 2019.

Do live long and prosper, and please remember to be excellent to each other.

Speak to you again on the podcast soon. But for now, goodbye.


Links, Videos and Other Bits & Pieces

The Classic Breaks Megamix

Here’s the classic breaks megamix I did with my PlayStation and a minidisk recorder back in 2001. My “MCing” will either make you laugh out loud, or just annoy you. I’m not sure! But I am sure that the music mix in the background is 100% pure solid gold.

For more of my music mixes – click here

Stan and Ollie Trailer (James’ review: It was fine.)

Some dude unboxes the Beastie Boys book

575. British Comedy: Paul Chowdhry

Understand a stand-up comedy routine by Paul Chowdhry, a British comedian of Indian descent. We’ll break down his comedy bit by bit, understand each line and learn some English in the process.


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Episode Introduction

Hello, how are you? (Luke rambles a bit…)

In a recent episode of this podcast, you heard me talking to Amber and Paul about experiences of doing comedy and both Paul and I mentioned a British comedian called Paul Chowdhry. I have mentioned him on the podcast several times before, and I’ve been meaning to do a whole episode about him for a while now. So here we are.

In this one we’re going to listen to the audio of some of Paul Chowdhry’s stand up. Let’s see if you can understand it, and if we can learn some English from it and also some things about English life and culture too.

Who is Paul Chowdhry?

He’s a British comedian, from London. He was born in the UK and is of Indian origin.

In terms of ethnic groups in England, white people of English origin are by far the majority ethnic group, but the next largest group is Indian.

I’ve chosen to talk about Paul Chowdhry in this episode because he’s a really funny comedian, and I talked about him with Amber & Paul on the podcast recently. He’s one of my favourite comedians.

Because Paul is of Indian origin, ethnicity, identity and accents are often topics in his comedy. I think really this is just because he’s always playing with social conventions about what we find acceptable or not acceptable, about the subtle tensions that exist between ethnic groups. Without getting too serious, he makes fun of everyone, including white English guys called Dave, his Indian parents or Indians who are fresh off the boat and living in England, Chinese waiters, African taxi drivers and all sorts. I like him because of the accents and impressions he does, because of how quick and brief in his delivery he is.

He’s just funny and that’s it. Certainly, England’s ethnic diversity is a theme that always comes up in his comedy and perhaps informs the audience’s reactions to him.

So, it might be necessary to give you some info regarding ethnic groups in Britain. Here are some stats, and this is from the UK’s most recent census, the 2011 census. The census is the country’s largest national survey and is very reliable and impartial as a source of information, so these figures are generally accurate.

What do you think? If you could imagine a pie chart with different segments for the different ethnicities in the UK, what would it look like? What do you think are the ethnic groups and their percentages?

Here are the figures, which by the way are controversial, not because of the numbers but because of the way the different groups are classified. For example, the categories “white” and “black” are not really ethnicities, are they? Anyway, here’s some information from the 2011 census.

I think this meant people registered as British citizens, and could include people born in the country or people who moved there and became citizens.

UK Population by Ethnicity

Source: UK Census/Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethnic_groups_in_the_United_Kingdom

Ethnic group Population (2011) Percentage of total population[17]
White or White British (including White Irish): 55,010,359 87.1
Asian or Asian British: Total 4,373,339 6.9
Asian or Asian British: Indian 1,451,862 2.3
Asian or Asian British: Pakistani 1,174,983 1.9
Asian or Asian British: Bangladeshi 451,529 0.7
Asian or Asian British: Chinese 433,150 0.7
Asian or Asian British: Other Asian 861,815 1.4
Black or Black British: Total 1,904,684 3.0
Mixed or Multiple: Total 1,250,229 2.0
Other Ethnic Group: Total 580,374 0.9
Gypsy/Traveller/Irish Traveller: 63,193 0.1
Total 63,182,178 100

By the way, most of the non-white ethnic groups are concentrated in the cities, particularly London, which is by far the most racially or ethnically diverse place in the UK.

London has had a diverse population for centuries, but most of the Indian and Caribbean families moved there in the immediate postwar period.

People like Paul Chowdhry, who are basically around my age would have grown up in the UK, but with Indian parents.

Anyway, back to Paul Chowdhry.

It’s quite interesting that Paul Chowdhry’s audiences are often quite diverse. He appeals to everyone – white people, Asians, Afro-Caribbeans and so on. In his audience he often picks out the groups of people of different origins and it’s funny the way he makes fun of them one after the other.

No need to go further into all that stuff. It’s just a bit of context. It doesn’t all have to be about ethnicity. Like I said, I mainly wanted to do this episode because I just find him to be really funny.

So, let’s just listen to some of Paul’s material and see if you can understand it and if we can learn some English from it.

This is the audio from a YouTube video of Paul Chowdhry’s appearance on a TV show called Live at the Apollo. This is the BBC’s big stand up comedy show, which is filmed at The Hammersmith Apollo, which is just 10 minutes down the road from where I used to live in London. It’s a huge venue and they have big comedy shows there and they also do music concerts. All the great bands that you love, all the great British rock bands from the last few decades. They’ve all done shows at the Hammersmith Apollo. It’s a very famous venue. The Who, Elton John, Queen, Black Sabbath, David Bowie’s last concert as Ziggy Stardust was there – just all of the great bands. and also all the big comedians that we have.

Anyway, this is the audio from Paul Chowdhry, Live at the Apollo.

This routine is full of slang, rude language, accents and jokes about ethnic identity. That’s what you can expect.

I’m not sure what you’re going to think of think of this, as ever, because this could easily be considered offensive (because he’s making fun of different ethnic groups to an extent), but my instinct tells me this is just funny and so I’m just going to go with it. But certainly a lot of the laughs come from the fact that this kind of thing, the sorts of things he’s saying are borderline unacceptable, but in some way he gets away with it because it’s coming from an Indian guy. Although the things he’s saying might be considered unacceptable or politically incorrect if they came out of the mouth of a white guy. For some reason because it’s coming from an Indian guy that kind of makes it ok. If it was a white guy up there making fun of ethnic minorities, that would be considered extremely old fashioned and in very bad taste, but Paul has got the pass, the card, because he is Indian, so he can do it.

He can even get away with doing impressions of Africans and Chinese people, which I would definitely not get away with in front of an English audience.

Anyway, enough from me. Let’s get into it.

Let’s go.


Paul Chowdhry Live a the Apollo (2012)

An example of bad dubbing in a kung fu movie

Express yourself – write your thoughts in the comment section below!

572. Worst Stand-up Gig Experiences (with Amber & Paul)

Amber, Paul and Luke tell some stories of their worst ever stand-up comedy gigs. Expect some anecdotes about embarrassing and humiliating experiences on stage, and “dying on your arse”. Intro & outtro transcripts available + bonus audio in the LEP app. 

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Introduction Transcript

In this episode you’re going to hear a conversation with Amber & Paul – both regular guests on this show as you will know if you are a long-term listener.

I thought I could do this episode with no introduction, just jumping straight into the conversation, but I’ve decided that I do need to say just a few things before we start. I think it will help to put our conversation in context, which should help you understand it all and generally keep up with our fast talking. I know, I can’t help doing these rambling intros, but what are you gonna do? There ain’t nuttin’ you can do.

This conversation is quite fast

When I get together with Amber and Paul, we talk quite quickly and we talk about things that you might not know about, like things that we’ve seen and done together. That might make it hard for you to keep up and understand everything. So, a bit of context from me, now, might help. This is going to make this episode longer, but that’s ok isn’t it?

Amber, Paul and I are all stand-up comedians and in fact that is how we know each other. We all originally met while doing stand-up in English in Paris. Stand-up, you should know by now, is a form of comedy entertainment in which one comedian stands on stage with a microphone and tells jokes and stories to make the audience laugh.

Amber and I do stand-up on a kind of part-time basis while also doing other work but Paul is a full-time comedian, and is actually quite famous these days, particularly in the French-speaking world. He has made some TV programmes for French television and YouTube and also he has a one man stand up comedy show which has been very successful, playing to large theatres of people. Sometimes Paul invites other comedians to open his shows, which means doing 5-10 minutes of stand up in front of Paul’s audience, in order to warm them up before Paul takes the stage. So, you’ll hear us talking about when Amber and I opened for Paul in a big theatre recently.

And then we go on to talk about other stories and experiences of doing stand-up comedy over the years.

I don’t know if you’ve ever seen stand-up comedy live in a club or theatre, or if you’ve watched a lot of stand-up on TV. It might not be a big thing in your country. But a great stand-up show is possibly the best kind of comedy entertainment because when it goes well, you laugh so much. You laugh until your face hurts. That’s how good it can be. That rarely happens with films in the cinema. When was the last time you went to the cinema and laughed all the way through, like, every 15 seconds you’re laughing? Well, a good stand up show will be like that.

A bad stand up show on the other hand, can be extremely uncomfortable and embarrassing.

Good and Bad Stand-up Comedy Shows

But what makes a show good, or bad?

The thing is, as a comedian, after performing on stage even just a few times, you realise that it’s not just you, your jokes, your performance that make a show good. There are other factors involved that are terribly important for making sure a show is successful and that the audience have a good time. I mean, you can do pretty much the same thing – the same jokes, the same stories at one show and get lots of laughs, but then do it at another show in front of a different audience in a different room, with different conditions and it can get no laughs.

Certain things are vital, basically to make sure that the show goes as well as possible.

Obviously, you need a good performer with good material. But also, the audience need to be able to see and hear the comedians on stage, there shouldn’t be many other distractions in the room. The audience should be in the dark a little bit so they don’t feel too self-conscious. The audience should be sitting together, fairly close to each other and fairly close to the performers. They should be comfortable but not too comfortable and it helps to bring the comedians on and off the stage quite quickly, in order to keep the energy up. It also makes a difference how you introduce the comedians on the stage and have them exit the stage, in order to manage the expectations and the reactions of the audience and generally to make the audience feel like the performers know what they’re doing and make sure the audience remember the comedians at their funniest moments (e.g. to end on a laugh not a dead moment).

In fact, there are loads of little factors which you should get right in order to run a successful comedy show. It’s show business, basically.

But the thing about stand up is that if the show doesn’t go very well, then for the comedian it’s especially painful, because you’re basically up there completely on your own and you’re completely exposed. It’s not like in music when you can basically hide behind your song or your instrument and you probably have other musicians on stage with you. As a stand up if things don’t go well, you know about it instantly because nobody laughs and it’s like you’re dying up there.

On the other side of the coin, when it goes really well and the audience laugh a lot, it’s an incredible feeling for everyone, particularly the comedian. But any stand-up who has done even just a few gigs will have stories of both good and bad experiences. It’s particularly common for comedians to share with each other their stories of the bad experiences and the times when they “died on their arse” which is how comedians call having a bad gig. A gig, means a show or concert. Stand ups love to tell each other about difficult gigs they’ve experienced. It makes us feel better, and stories of failure are usually pretty funny, right?

I’m saying all this, because basically, in this conversation you are going to hear Amber, Paul and me talking about some good gigs we’ve had recently and then some stories of truly awful experiences of dying on stage, not literally dying because, well, if we had actually died on stage then we wouldn’t have been able to record this, because we would be dead. Maybe we could have come back as ghosts, or something, but ghosts can’t talk normally, because they’re ghosts and they’re made of clouds or whatever. Ghooooosssts teeeend to speeeeeeaaak like thiiiiiiis, that’s how ghosts speak. That’s is no good for podcasting or any form of communication really, except for scaring people out of an old house.

That’s the only time when ghosts speak, isn’t it? When some people enter their old house and they want to scare them away. Leeeeave this plaaaaaace. Etc. or maybe they want to steal their souls and they say “jooooooooin usssss!”

So no, hahahaha just being silly. The point is, you’re going to hear stories of us having bad gigs and as we say, “dying on our arses” but not literally, don’t worry.

I think that’s it for context. I hope you can keep up with this and that you enjoy another conversation with Amber and Paul.


Outtro Transcript

So, that was Amber, Paul and me, recorded in my flat just the other day. I hope you enjoyed listening to some of our stories of doing comedy there.

A couple of comments at the end here.

You’ll notice there wasn’t much from Amber in this episode. Paul and I did most of the talking I think. Perhaps we didn’t really let her get a word in, although I think she was happy, but still – sorry to the ‘Amberfans’ who missed out on some of her input and, yes, her lovely voice. I’ll make sure we get more Amber input next time they’re on the podcast, which should be fairly soon because Paul is now less busy than he was before and is more available for podcasting duties, not that it’s a duty.

There is Bonus Audio in the App

You will find nearly 20 minutes of bonus audio for this episode in the LEP app. Just tap the gift icon to access that. You’ll hear more of our conversation which wasn’t included in this episode because I didn’t want it to be too long. In that bonus audio we talk about more comedy-related topics, including what it’s like to receive negative comments on YouTube and also how Paul has been accused of stealing a joke from Louis CK, which is not true, he didn’t.

Joke theft is actually a very serious business among comedians. It’s one of the big no-nos and if you’re found guilty of joke theft, it can be very bad for your reputation and your career.

The thing is, it can be quite hard to work out if someone has actually stolen someone else’s joke, or whether the two people just came up with the same bit independently, which is possible – depending on the joke.

But Paul has been falsely accused of taking material from Louis CK, but he didn’t – they both just happen to have come up with the same joke.

Basically, this is a joke about how French people measure body temperature by sticking a thermometer up the bum. It seems most other countries just put it in the mouth or maybe under the arm, but the French – up the bum. This is an observation that Paul has been talking about on stage for several years, and Louis CK recently started talking about it too in his stand up (because these days he is with a French woman and has spent time in France). Some of Louis’ stand up shows have been leaked on YouTube, including that bit about thermometers. Also, Paul recently published a clip from his stand up show which included his thermometer joke. So some people have seen the videos and then mistakenly thought that Paul stole the joke from Louis. The fact is, they just both came up with exactly the same observation, independently of each other.

Paul’s been doing that material for several years at least and he has recordings to prove it.

Anyway, if you want to hear about the whole thermometer – bum – Louis CK – joke theft accusation scandal, then check out the bonus audio because we talk about that a bit, and a few other things too. That’s only in the LEP app, which you can get from the app store completely free.

In the app you can also get the full episode archive, plus loads of app-only episodes and content, plus the option to subscribe to LEP Premium content.

Register for LEP Premium to get episodes in which I teach you vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation with PDF worksheets – all available in the app or online.

www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium – LEP Premium

Join the mailing list on my website to get a link for the episode pages of new episodes when they are published.

Thank you again to Amber and Paul for being on the podcast.

Thank you to you for listening. I hope you enjoyed our stories of embarrassment and humiliation in this episode.

As ever, leave your comments on the website. Check the page for this episode where you will see some transcriptions and some videos, including footage of Paul dying on his arse at the French Football Awards and the vlog he made about it.

Keep in touch. Send me an email with your thoughts.

I’ve got more episodes about comedy coming up, specifically ones in which we listen to some clips and then understand them in detail.

You can look forward to that.

Have a wonderful day, morning, night, evening and please remember to be excellent to each other.

Speak to you again soon, but for now – goodbye!!!

Videos

Paul dies on his arse at the French Football Awards. It’s in French, but you can still see him ‘bomb’ quite badly – hardly anyone laughs at his comments and some people aren’t even listening to him (time code 48m29s)

Paul’s Vlog about the Football Awards, including video footage of the event and his reactions

571. Bill Burr’s Hilarious Plane Story – Enjoy Comedy/Storytelling in English

Understand a funny anecdote by comedian Bill Burr. In this episode we’re going to do some intensive listening practice using the true story of a bizarre encounter with a man on a plane.  Look out for language for travelling by plane, some American English and A LOT of swearing, particularly the F word.

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Introduction Transcript

In this episode you’re going to do some fairly intensive listening practice, using a funny story.

This is just a story which I find really enjoyable, and I keep going back to listen to it and I just want to share it with you.

Do you have things like that? Like, YouTube videos that you keep going back to again and again because they make you laugh for whatever reason? For me, this is one of those things.

Hopefully you’ll find it as enjoyable as I do

Maybe you won’t, you know, because you just might not get it for whatever reason. It might not be your cup of tea and of course you just might not understand it like I do because of your level of English, but we’ll see about that, and that’s my aim in this episode – to try and help you to understand this like I do, which hopefully will result in you just finding it funny like I do.

I’ve been here so many times before – sharing comedy with learners of English. I’ve done this plenty of times as an English teacher, thinking “This is hilarious, I’m going to use it with my students, it’ll be brilliant!” And then I play it to my students and it’s just tumbleweeds in the classroom…

*Luke goes off on a tangent about tumbleweeds in western movies*

…and nobody gets it and I think “I will never do this again. Just pages from English Grammar in Use next time”, even though the students probably did enjoy it, but they weren’t able to laugh out loud because it was difficult to understand. But in the past, that kind of experience has made me feel quite bad, as an English teacher.

To be honest, these days that doesn’t happen to me as often as it used to. I think I’ve finally learned that comedy will only work in the language classroom if you devote loads of time to helping the students understand it – understand the specific vocabulary used, the context and the pronunciation and delivery (often it’s just that it’s hard to catch specifically what’s been said and if you miss one little bit you won’t get the joke).

(As we know) Comedy is extremely hard to enjoy in a second language

…and this is because it’s all about understanding things instantly and being able to pick up on very subtle changes in tone – not just the words being used, but the nuances of the comedian’s attitude and shared experiences that you’re supposed to know about.

So, as we know, it can be hard to understand comedy, but I’m still committed to helping learners enjoy it, because I enjoy it so much and I just think you’re missing out if you don’t get it.

It’s like one of those 3D posters or something, but obviously, much better than that. (Remember those 3D posters? If you couldn’t see the 3D image, they just looked utterly terrible.)

I’ve learned how to do comedy in the classroom (I mean as listening exercises) these days and I tend to lower my expectations a bit and I don’t get so disheartened if my students aren’t rolling on the floor laughing when I show them something. So, it’s alright.

So, you’re going to hear a story which I find funny. I’m going to try to help you to enjoy it too, but if you don’t. That’s totally fine and it doesn’t matter that much anyway because the main thing is that you’ll be learning English and if you have a bit of a chuckle in the process, that’s just a bonus isn’t it?

What is this Luke? What is this thing you’d like to share with us?

This is the audio from a YouTube video. It’s a true story told by a stand up comedian on his podcast. We’re going to listen to the whole story and I’m going to break it down and explain it bit by bit.

The comedian’s name is Bill Burr. Have you heard of him? He’s definitely one of the top English speaking stand-ups in the world. He is hilarious, in my opinion, and also in the opinion of many many other people.

He does stand-up shows on stage in very large arenas these days. He has Netflix stand-up specials and he also does other things like some writing and some acting. He was in a few episodes of Breaking Bad, for example. He also has a podcast called The Monday Morning Podcast. It’s called that because it’s published every Monday morning. I think there are episodes on Thursdays too, even though it’s still called the Monday Morning Podcast.

We’re going to listen to an extract from an old episode of Bill Burr’s Monday Morning Podcast here. So, a bit of OPP in this episode today – and if you don’t know, OPP stands for other people’s podcasts.

Some intel on Bill Burr

Bill Burr grew up on the East Coast of the USA, in Boston I think, and I think he has some Irish roots. In any case, he’s from Massachusetts, so he has that kind of East coast accent, not fully Boston, or New York but in that area, as you’ll hear.

In terms of his style, this is from his Wikipedia page (two quotes):

Rolling Stone magazine called Burr “the undisputed heavyweight champ of rage-fueled humor”.

Bill often rants about subjects and tells stories with a certain level of anger, or is it just irate energy? I don’t find him that aggressive or angry actually, beyond the fact that he has a pretty loud and intense voice and he swears a LOT, particularly using the F word (or the F bomb as it is known) and various other typical American English swear words which for some reason make me crack up every time.

Burr often portrays himself as “that loud guy in the bar” with “uninformed logic”.

That’s exactly the sort of guy that he is. A slightly dumb and pissed off guy with a loud mouth and the gift of the gab (although I don’t think he’s dumb – you’ve got to be very clever to be able to tell stories in such a funny way). He sometimes has views which I don’t really agree with, but he’s got such a way with words and a kind of flow to his storytelling, particularly when he gets angry, that it really makes me laugh. He is a naturally talented comedian.

In this story Bill is just describing something that happened to him on a plane. There’s no political subtext or any of that kind of thing. It’s just Bill telling a true story about a weird guy he encountered on a plane.

If you don’t know Bill Burr and you’re a fan of stand up comedy, you might want to check him out. You could listen to the Monday Morning Podcast to hear Bill just chatting about his life and telling stories, and you could see some of his comedy specials on Netflix.

Bill Burr’s Monday Morning Podcast

Bill’s plane story

Comedians from the states have to do a lot of travelling and so they all seem to have stories of flying and being on planes. This is also something that most Americans can relate to since the country is so big that flying is a regular occurrence, particularly if you travel from coast to coast. Bill is no exception. He’s a top comic who plays to sold out arenas across the country, so he regularly flies to different cities to do his shows. He also came to the UK and sold out some big shows there not long ago. He’s a big deal now but he still manages to tell these relatable stories.

I should warn you that this episode will contain A LOT of swearing (rude words)

Bill talks to you like you’re his buddy and you’re both sitting down having a drink in a bar or something, and therefore there is a lot of swearing as you would expect in that kind of situation. I’m not suggesting you should talk like this, and swear like this. But I think it’s not a bad idea to be able to understand it and to hear some typical swearing from someone like Bill.

He’s a sort of blue-collar guy, a regular guy from the East coast of the USA and this is how a lot of people like him really speak when they’re with their friends. But, just a warning – this episode is full of the F bomb – and by that I mean the word *fuck* in all its glory, used frequently and I should say very effectively by a true master of the art of swearing – Bill Burr.

So, what about this story? I’ll let you discover it as you listen, but essentially it’s about having an encounter with a really weird guy on a plane.

I don’t know what it is about flying, but it seems to bring out some weird behaviour in people. Sometimes it makes people behave very badly, or weirdly. Perhaps the cramped space in the plane causes this, or the close proximity to other people, the alcohol that people drink, all the security protocols or simply the stress of flying. All of those things can make people act really weirdly on planes. I’m sure most of us have been in situations when there’s a weirdo or a nutter on the plane and you observe some strange behaviour, maybe some arguing or trouble between passengers. If you’re particularly unlucky you might end up sitting next to someone strange, who kind of makes your flight really difficult. It could just be someone who insists on talking to you for the whole flight, or someone who won’t stop moving around, or worse – someone who gets aggressive with you or the cabin crew. This is a story about a situation like that.

So, let’s listen to the story and I’ll explain things that I think are necessary as we go along. I will stop the recording from time to time and explain things, repeat bits if necessary. If you’d like to listen to the whole story uninterrupted, you can find the video of this story on YouTube – it’s called Bill Burr Hilarious Plane Story, and it’s also embedded on the page for this episode.

So this is all American English. Normally it’s British English on this podcast of course, but it’s interesting to explore some American English too and I can perhaps make some comparisons along the way and talk about the differences between how he speaks and how I speak, for example.

I’ll play the story in parts. All you have to do is understand what happened in each part. I’ll pause after a couple of minutes and then sum up the part we listened to. This will probably take the whole episode as the YouTube video I’m using here is about 18 minutes long.

This was recorded by Bill in his home for his podcast. It’s not him on stage. It’s just him and a microphone in his living room or something.

By the way, it might be hard for you to understand what he’s saying at the beginning because you’re not familiar with his voice, but you’ll get used to it, and when we get into the story I think you’ll be fully locked in. I hope so anyway. But again, don’t worry, I will explain things as we go.

Check the page for this episode on the website where you’ll see the YouTube video for this if you want to listen to the whole story again, uninterrupted. Also, you’ll some bits transcribed and also some vocabulary notes.

So let’s go.

Some Notes & Vocab (unfinished at the moment – I might add more later)

Part 1

Play the first part. From 00:20 until 4:10 when Bill tells the guy his name.

Task: Just try to follow exactly what’s happening. Bill meets a guy on the plane. Who is he? What does he want? What’s Bill’s reaction?

  • I go to the airport and I’m taking the red-eye
  • A red-eye (or red-eye flight) refers to a long, single flight across the USA which happens at night but doesn’t give you time for a full night’s sleep.
  • I’m on a good plane, why would I want to get off it and switch and roll the dice, and get on another one.
  • When I’m driving to SF I don’t pull over in, fucking, Burbank and get in another car, “we get it Bill!”
  • I use my miles, bump myself up like a fancy person, you know, maybe I invented the Cheesecake Factory, people are thinking… and then they see how I’m dressed and they go “oh no, he didn’t invent the Cheesecake Factory”.
  • Bill goes to set his back down in front of me and the “nice fella” says “why don’t you set it in the middle, there’s room” and I think “alright this guy’s a solid dude, or whatever”

Part 2

3:52 (skip back a bit) – Bill tells the guy his name – until 7:22 when Bill says “Fuck this guy, I want to see where this is going!”

Part 3

7:22 to 12.25

Summary: The plane stopped for a while as the crew are finding out what is going on. The guy is asked “Are you going to be ok to fly with him?” and he feels like he’s in control and says “Yeah, don’t worry, it’s ok”. Then he’s getting in Bill’s ear going “You know what? I hope you try something, I fuckin hope you try something when we’re up there” and Bill is just laughing at the guy like “Fuck you you jerkoff!”

Part 4

12:25 – 14:11 “Why are you going to Indianapolis Bill???” 😂😂😂

14:11 – End

…that’s it so far. I might add more notes later if I get the chance!

How about you? Are you afraid to fly? 😉

570. Learning & Teaching English with Zdenek Lukas (Part 2)

Part 2 of my chat with Zdenek from the Czech Republic. In this one we talk about becoming an English teacher, taking the infamous DELTA teaching course, Zdenek’s podcast and board game, and some long-lost (and embarrassing) comedy YouTube videos I made in the pre-podcast days.

[DOWNLOAD]

Introduction Transcript

This is part two of this double episode featuring Zdenek Lukas from the Czech Republic.

Zdenek is an English teacher, a podcaster and a board game enthusiast. In this conversation we’re learning about Zdenek’s story. In part 1, which you’ve all listened to, we heard about how Zdenek learned English to a high level by working as a labourer and electrical fitter on a building site in East London. In this episode we continue the story by talking about these things:

  • Coming back to the Czech Republic and becoming an English teacher
  • The challenge of doing the DELTA (the notoriously difficult Cambridge Diploma in English Language Teaching to Adults, which is considered in the industry as the highest practical English language teaching qualification out there)
  • My story of failing one of my teaching observations when I did the DELTA in 2006 (Don’t worry folks, I took the teaching observation again and passed it by the way, my record and my reputation remain intact)
  • Teaching English when it’s not your first language – the preconceptions, challenges and possible advantages of that
  • Zdenek’s podcast – his inspiration, his reasons for doing it, what he does in his episodes and how the podcast fits in with his teaching and his life in general.
  • There is also a slightly embarrassing story from me about some lost comedy videos I made in the years before I started Luke’s English Podcast.
  • And finally we have Zdenek’s interest in board games, both as a teaching tool in the ELT classroom but also in English speaking gaming communities online using the Steam platform. Zdenek has in fact created his own board game which he hopes to get properly published in physical form in the future.

Enjoy!


Ending

So that was Zdenek from the Czech Republic.

If you would like to play Zdenek’s game online you need to download the Steam platform and then buy TableTop Simulator. Then, in the Workshop area you will find Zdenek’s game which is called Kingdoms of Deceit.

If you’d like more information about this, leave a comment on the page for this episode on my website. I expect Zdenek will be able to help you there.

Playing online games like Kingdoms of Deceit can be a great idea for your English and for your social life in general as Zdenek said. This sort of thing is a great solution to that problem of not being able to get social time in English. So, check it out, it could result in you making some friends online, having fun playing some virtual board games and improving your English in the process.

As I said, get Steam, then TableTop Similator and find Kingdoms of Deceit there. I’m pretty sure that’s how you’ll find it. If you have questions, just leave a comment on the episode page and I expect Zdenek will be able to respond.

Also, check out Zdenek’s English Podcast which you can find on iTunes and most other podcast platforms. He also has a Facebook group which you could join in order to keep in touch with him and his listeners.

You heard me mention those ridiculous videos I made with my brother, before I started LEP, the ones filmed in some woodland at the bottom of my parents’ garden, in which I’m a survivalist who gets everything wrong.

I did, unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), delete and lose almost all of those videos, but I have realised that there is one that still exists and is still on YouTube. It’s just a few minutes long and you can see it if you like, by checking the page for this episode. I watched it again and it did crack me up a bit to be honest. Maybe those videos were funnier than I remembered.

In the video you’ll see me pretending to be a survival expert and doing various comical pratfalls (a pratfall is when you fall over, for comical purposes – I did a lot of pratfalls in this video, falling into hedges and actually injuring myself quite badly – I had scratches all over my arms which I had to cover up with long sleeves for a few weeks while teaching. I’m wearing an old safari suit from the 70s that my Dad had in the back of his wardrobe, which looks ridiculous and is too tight. Perhaps the funniest bits are when you can hear my brother trying not to laugh behind the camera. This is the least embarrassing video, which is why I didn’t delete it. Probably the most embarrassing thing about the video is my haircut, to be honest.

Unfortunately the footage of me jumping into a pond, being attacked by imaginary spiders and smearing myself in mud is lost forever. Unfortunately? Actually, it’s probably for the best…

Anyway, check out the video on the page for this episode if you like. It’s called How (not) to Light a Fire.

Alright then, that is it for this episode.

Thanks again to Zdenek for being on the podcast.

All that remains to be done is for me to remind you to check out my premium service at teacherluke.co.uk/premium for regular episodes in which I focus on teaching you vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation.

Join the mailing list on my website to get an email in your inbox whenever I publish content on the website.

Also, follow me on Twitter, which is where I’m most active on social media. My Twitter handle is @EnglishPodcast

Have a great morning, afternoon, evening or night and I will speak to you again in another episode soon!

Bye

Links

Zdenek’s English Podcast

Zdenek’s English Podcast Facebook page

Kingdoms of Deceit – Zdenek’s game on Steam

567. Alternative Christmas Stories & Poems / Beatles / Happy New Year from LEP!

This is the last episode of LEP before the end of 2018.

It’s Christmas and New Years Eve is approaching, so it’s time for the traditional Christmas episode of LEP! In this one I’m going to read some Christmas stories and a couple of poems which are a bit different to the normal stuff you get at this time of year. Also, keep listening for a funny appearance by The Beatles.

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Episode Transcript & Notes

Luke, I know that it’s Christmas and it’s a time of giving, but why are you uploading so many episodes at the moment? We can’t keep up!

The Christmas holiday is about to start and I’ll be quiet for a few weeks, so I’m giving you quite a lot of stuff now for you to listen to while I’m away.

That includes this episode in which I would like to wish you a very merry Christmas (if you celebrate it) and a Happy New Year too, then ramble to you a little bit and then tell you one or two Christmas-themed stories, read a couple of Christmassy poems and there will be an appearance by The Beatles as well, as you’ll hear later on.

First of all, a bit of a ramble (not too long).

I’ve uploaded a lot recently. New free podcast episodes, new phrasal verb episodes and new premium episodes. It’s quite a lot of stuff, which might be difficult to keep up with, but as I’ve said, I won’t be uploading for a few weeks so it should be enough time for everyone to catch up.

Just yesterday I uploaded another series (3 parts) of premium episodes for December, and that is all about language from the Alan Partridge episodes I did in October. They were popular episodes and they were full of really nice language – I mean, descriptive vocabulary and noun phrases I used to talk about Alan, and also various other expressions, phrases and bits of grammar that came up in the clips that we listened to. So I devoted a couple of Premium episodes to that and also the usual memory tests and pronunciation drills. PDF worksheets are available for all the premium episodes.

There are also new phrasal verb episodes in the premium package now too, and more arriving on a regular basis.

If you want to become a premium LEPster, go right ahead, be my guest. You’ll get access to all of the premium content in the ever-growing library, and all the stuff that will be published in the future too. www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium to get started. Also, you’ll be supporting the podcast with a small monthly contribution – about the price of a coffee or beer every month.

I tell you what, I am super duper chuffed to finally be making premium episodes and having this project alongside the normal episodes of the podcast. I hope those of you out there who are premium Lepsters are getting into the work I’ve been doing. Thank you for your support for the podcast too. You’re making it possible for me to spend more time on this, and that’s going to help me to improve and develop what I’m doing.

It’s been a pretty good year for LEP with lots of episodes about different things. I hope you’ve enjoyed them all and found them useful for your English. The year started with the birth of our daughter, and I talked about it in episode 502 – that’s about 65 episodes ago, can you believe it? I’ve done 65 episodes of the podcast this year, plus all the premium ones. Quite a productive year. Episode 502 – that’s when you first heard my wife’s voice on the podcast.

Sometimes during the year I think you heard the voice of my daughter in episodes, when I was recording stuff while she was in the flat with me. That may happen more and more as she grows up.

She’s not really speaking yet, although she is walking. She is making more and more complex noises though, not exactly speaking but making sounds with different bits of intonation and stuff – things that sound like questions, things that sound like “yaay” etc. She’s started doing this thing where she lifts objects to her ear and kind of goes “hello?” as if she’s speaking on the telephone. No idea where she got that from because we usually use headphones when we’re on the phone at home.

She also understands various things that my wife and I say to her, in both languages. She’s very fond of pointing at things too and kind of going “huh??”, like “What’s that??” As she speaks more, I’m sure I’ll record her sometimes so you can hear her learning to speak over the next few years. I’m looking forward to doing that.

A shout out to my students at the British Council

I teach 4 groups of students at the British Council at the moment, across different levels. They’re all adult learners of English and we’ve had some great classes over the last year. Hello, if you’re listening. I want to share a video that some of them were involved in.

So, at the BC in Paris we offer a social programme called English Extra, which involves things like social events, drinks, talks by teachers and guests (I did one about British humour if you remember) and also weekend trips to London. The idea is that it gives our students more opportunities to socialise in English and get more talking time in English, basically. Also, it’s just a lot of fun and we have some really outgoing, funny and social people in our adult classes at the moment, including in my classes, which is great because it means we have a lot of fun while also learning English. So, some of them went to London recently and as part of the trip they made a little video for YouTube. It’s called How Much do Londoners Know about France? The students went around, interviewing British people in the street, asking them various questions about France. The results are pretty embarrassing, I must say!

The average Londoner doesn’t seem to know that much about their nearest continental neighbours! To be honest, I wonder if the same would be true about the French, in fact I think it would be. Anyway, the video is pretty funny and I want to share what my students did, so check it out – you’ll see the full video on the page for this episode. I also shared it on social media today.

My students at the British Council made this video in London

Do you celebrate Christmas? Do you have any plans?

What are you doing for Christmas? Is it something you celebrate in your country? Do you have any plans?

This year we’re going to spend some time with my wife’s family in France on the 24th and 25th – Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, doing Christmas the French way, which involves Champagne (of course – although I’m off the booze at the moment – might have to make an exception for Christmas) and then on Boxing Day (which is now also our daughter’s birthday, the poor girl! It’s no fun to have your birthday at Christmas) we’re going to the UK to spend about a week with my parents in their house, which will be great. My Mum and Dad are looking forward to seeing us, but mainly they want to see their granddaughter. It’s cool, she seems to get a boost when she sees them. It’s funny, she loves music and will dance and clap her hands when you play music to her. I am currently educating her in the ways of The Beatles, by playing Beatle music to her every day. It might backfire and she’ll end up sick of it, I don’t know. Hopefully she’ll grow to like their music like I do and my parents do too.

So I’ll be on holiday from the moment that I publish this episode until some time in early 2019. I’m not sure when the podcast will be back exactly. But you’ve got plenty of content to keep you busy in the meantime, right? All the recent episodes and the premium content. By the way, in those premium episodes it’s not just all serious and boring language work. I like to have a laugh there too, it’s just there’s more of a focus on teaching you language and helping you to practise your pronunciation.

Right, so that’s enough rambling.

‘Alternative’ Christmas Stories / Poems / Jokes + The Beatles

I was scouring the internet for good stuff relating to Christmas – stories, mainly. I wanted to read a good Christmas story or a couple of short stories or something. I haven’t found much! Most of the stuff I found is quite cheesy and crap to be honest so it’s been a bit difficult to find the right things.

So, this year, after searching and thinking, I’ve come up with one funny little story, some slightly odd poems, a funny Christmas tradition and The Beatles…

As I said, most of the stories with a Christmas theme that I found online were quite cheesy and cliched, and that’s a bit dull. But I did find several stories which are a bit different or maybe you could say alternative. By that I mean they take a different look at Christmas time.

These stories and poems are quite weird and a bit dark too in some places, but I’ve decided that’s ok because I’d rather have some weirdness and funniness than the usual Christmas stuff about sleigh bells, reindeers and all those other cliched tropes of Christmas – not that there’s anything wrong with that, I do love the cosiness of Christmas when you’re indoors with your family (as long as you’re not trying to kill each other), eating nice food (prepared by someone else possibly, probably your Mum or my Mum in this case – thanks Mum) and generally having a lovely and jolly time. There’s nothing wrong with that of course – that’s what Chrimbo is all about. But I’m sure you’re getting plenty of that stuff everywhere else, in shops, bars, on TV, on the radio, online etc. I don’t know where you are, but certainly in the UK you start to get inundated with the usual Christmas stuff from as early as November these days, and it starts to become a bit annoying after a while.

For example – Christmas songs…

“Well the weather outside is.. blah blah.. and the blah is blahdy blah blah, let it snow let it snow let it snow!”

“Rudolph the red nosed reindeer, had a very shiny nose…”

“Driving home for Christmas…” etc

Nothing wrong with that stuff really, but it is everywhere, all the time.

So instead of that kind of stuff, here are some alternative takes on Christmas time. Some funny(ish) stuff, some weird stuff, some slightly disgusting stuff, some slightly dark stuff and then The Beatles as well, as you’ll hear later.

Let’s start with a funny little story I found on a website called www.funny-jokes.com

The Missing Five Pound Note

Chippenham George worked for the Post Office and his job was to process all the mail that had illegible addresses. One day just before Christmas, a letter landed on his desk simply addressed in shaky handwriting: ‘To God’. With no other clue on the envelope, George opened the letter and read:

Dear God,

I am a 93 year old widow living on the State pension. Yesterday someone stole my purse. It had £100 in it, which was all the money I had in the world and no pension due until after Christmas. Next week is Christmas and I had invited two of my friends over for Christmas lunch. Without that money, I have nothing to buy food with. I have no family to turn to, and you are my only hope. God; can you please help me?

Chippenham George was really touched, and being kind hearted, he put a copy of the letter up on the staff notice board at the main sorting office where he worked. The letter touched the other postmen and they all dug into their pockets and had a whip round. Between them they raised £95. Using an officially franked Post Office envelope, they sent the cash on to the old lady, and for the rest of the day, all the workers felt a warm glow thinking of the nice thing they had done.

Christmas came and went. A few days later, another letter simply addressed to ‘God’ landed in the Sorting Office. Many of the postmen gathered around while George opened the letter. It read,

Dear God, 

How can I ever thank you enough for what you did for me? Because of your generosity, I was able to provide a lovely luncheon for my friends. We had a very nice day, and I told my friends of your wonderful gift – in fact we still haven’t got over it and even Father John, our parish priest, is beside himself with joy. By the way, there was £5 missing. I think it must have been those thieving fellows at the Post Office.

George could not help musing on Oscar Wilde’s quote: ‘A good deed never goes unpunished’

And now, three poems by modern authors. Poems like these are good. They’re written in plain English and they have a rhythm and rhyme to them. It’s a good idea to practise saying them yourselves. See if you can get the rhythm right.

An alternative Christmas Poem from Roald Dahl

Mother Christmas
“Where art thou, Mother Christmas?
I only wish I knew
Why Father should get all the praise
And no one mentions you.

I’ll bet you buy the presents
And wrap them large and small
While all the time that rotten swine
Pretends he’s done it all.

So Hail To Mother Christmas
Who shoulders all the work!
And down with Father Christmas,
That unmitigated jerk!”
[c. RDNL]

Explain some of the vocab.

Alternative Santa: A Christmas Poem

Roger McGough by the way is from Liverpool and was part of a poetry group there in the sixties called The Scaffold. Another member of The Scaffold? Mike McCartney – Paul’s brother. We used to read Roger McGough’s poems when we were children. He used to write a lot of funny little poems for kids, but some of his work is actually really good for adults. It’s not too fancy or pretentious, it is written in plain English and for me it does exactly what poetry should do, makes you feel something inside. I also like his brief style. Less is more.

By Roger McGough

‘I’m fed up looking like Father Christmas,’
Muttered Father Christmas one year
‘I need a new outfit, I must move with the times
So for a start, it’s goodbye reindeer’

He googled Alternative Santas
And was amazed at the stuff that appeared
He got rid of the holly-red costume
Had a haircut, and shaved off his beard

Spent his days in front of a computer
In a cave hollowed out of the ice
Wearing a tee shirt emblazoned Merry Xmas
And jeans (Amazon, Armani, half price)

Couldn’t wait to straddle his snow-ped
(The bargain he’d bought on eBay)
A rocket-powered silver toboggan [sledge, sled or sleigh]
His supersonic sleigh

Then one morning he thought, ‘Oh why bother
Delivering presents by hand
When it could all be done online
Busy parents will understand

We are lucky to live in a digital age
Where the aim is access and speed
SantaNet I’ll call the system
‘Santafaction guaranteed’

And that was years and years ago
Times that children barely know
Midnight mass and mistletoe
Christmas carols and candle glow

Sleigh bells ringing across the snow
And Santa singing Yo ho ho
For that was years and years ago
And that was years and years ago.

This poem appeared in the Telegraph on December 7th, 2013

Hmmm, but what does it mean?

This next one starts out quite sweet, but it gets a bit dark. I think it’s a brilliant poem though, even if it is quite sad.

The Trouble with Snowmen by Roger McGough

‘The trouble with snowmen,’
Said my father one year
‘They are no sooner made
than they just disappear.

I’ll build you a snowman
And I’ll build it to last
Add sand and cement
And then have it cast.

And so every winter,’
He went on to explain
‘You shall have a snowman
Be it sunshine or rain.’

And that snowman still stands
Though my father is gone
Out there in the garden
Like an unmarked gravestone.

Staring up at the house
Gross and misshapen
As if waiting for something
Bad to happen.

For as the years pass
And I grow older
When summers seem short
And winters colder.

The snowmen I envy
As I watch children play
Are the ones that are made
And then fade away.

Roger McGough

Something a bit disgusting, or is it? An odd Christmas tradition from Catalonia. The Caganer.

Catalonia is a region in Northwestern Spain. Barcelona is the most famous city there. Some of you may be there right now. Lovely part of the world.

Apparently they have a slightly odd tradition there. The Caganer. It’s a little figuring of a man pooing on the floor. Yuk, disgusting! You might think, but actually it’s a long-standing tradition in the region and is a symbol of good luck and also renewal for the coming new year.

This is an article from nowIknow.com (I brilliant email list with fascinating and funny little stories every day)

The Tradition of Christmas Poo in Catalonia

Christmas Poo

Do you have any slightly odd or funny Christmas traditions or new year traditions?

A Beatles Christmas Record 1964 (one that my Mum had in her record collection)

Why are we going to listen to this? It’s interesting, funny, charming and silly and maybe you’ve never heard The Beatles speaking before.

Every year The Beatles recorded a Christmas message for their fans. The message was distributed to members of the fan club on floppy 7 inch ‘vinyl’ (but not vinyl, it was plastic or something) records. My Mum was a member of the fan club in the 60s and she got these records in the post, I think. She still had them as James and I were growing up, and we used to listen to them as children too. I think James is now the owner of these records. I sincerely hope that he’s looking after them because they will be worth quite a lot of money one day. I’ve seen them on eBay for over £300.

As well as being great song-writers, The Beatles were naturally very funny. They were quick-witted, silly and surreal. Part of that is because of they were from Liverpool, and Scousers naturally are very witty people, but partly because John, Paul, George and Ringo were talented and funny in their own right. They did not take themselves seriously at all, which is one of the reasons they were so charming.

You can see this in their films, but their humour came out best when they were just being spontaneous in interviews and in situations like this where they’re in the studio reading out some comments that were written by someone else, maybe a member of staff from the record company. They are supposed to be reading out the messages but they can’t help fooling around, and the results are pretty funny. Their sense of humour is still fresh I think, even though this was over 50 years ago.

Here are some things you should look out for as you listen to this clip.

First they seem to run towards the microphone and then run away again at the end.

The text they are supposed to be reading was written by someone else, and was written by hand, so they have some trouble reading it and make a few mistakes sometimes. There are also a few little ad-libs here and there. John keeps saying it says here, to show that he’s reading someone else’s words.

Paul: (thanking the fans) Don’t know where we’d be without you

John: (instantly) in the army perhaps

Paul: I hope you’ve enjoyed listening to the records as much as we’ve enjoyed melting them! I mean, making them.

Paul: That’s all, except to wish you a Happy Christmas and a very new year. (A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year)

John: (coughing loudly) Thanks all for buying my book and there’s another one out pretty soon, it says here. (clearly reading from a text). It’ll be the usual rubbish but it won’t cost much. You see, that’s the bargain we’re going to strike up. I write them in my spare time, it says here.

Paul: Did you write this yourself?

John: No, it’s somebody’s bad handwroter. (you expect him to say handwriting). Thanks a lot and a happy Christmas and a merry goo year. (goo is like slime or mud or something…)

George: I’d like to thank you for going to see the film. ‘SPECT (I expect) a lot of you saw it more than once. We had a quiet time making it. (George misreads the text and corrects himself) Actually we didn’t ! We had a great time making it. The next one should be completely different (he goes into a strong Liverpool accent) This time it’s going to be in colour. (John: Green)

When Ringo speaks, it’s just funny. I can’t explain why. I think it’s the way he delivers these pre-written lines in a slightly awkward and sweet manner. It’s just Ringo being Ringo. While he’s speaking someone drops something in the background and he says casually “Who’s droppin’ that?” They were natural and never cheesy or contrived, and that was very different at that time. They were very real, in a very formal world of show business.

Ringo: Those airport receptions knocked us out, man, great! (to knock someone out = to amaze/surprise someone)

At the end they break into a rendition of “Oh can you wash your father’s shirt, oh can you wash it clean?” which is probably some old song that people used to sing.

They run away again at the end.

Another Beatles Christmas record – 1965

This is the one from 1965, a year later.

More things to listen out for

Check out the nice crackling vinyl sound.

Paul: Got to thank everyone for all the presents this year

John: especially the chewed up pieces of chewing gum (I think they did receive this kind of thing), and the playing cards made out of knickers (not sure about that – they probably did receive home-made playing cards and stuff, and perhaps some knickers too!)

John: (in a weird creepy voice) On behalf of George and I, I’d just like to thank you for… (inaudible)

Paul: Well Ringo, what have we done this year?

Ringo: Well, I see you haven’t shaved again.

John starts singing a made-up song in a strong Scottish accent, with lyrics which are hard to understand because sometimes Scottish people speak in a dialect that English people don’t understand. John used to make up nonsense poetry and songs on the spot. He had a surreal sense of humour.

The band then go into a version of Auld Lang Syne which is a traditional Scots-language poem written by George Burns, the famous Scottish poet. It’s a song which is sung in Scotland and many parts of the English speaking world in order to celebrate new year’s eve. The boys here do a silly version of it. They continue to make up silly nonsense as they carry on recording the Christmas record. It’s as if the record company people, or whoever ran the fan club had just given up on writing messages for them, and have just let them record any old nonsense into the microphone, which is great for us!

John improvises a song which sounds like an Elvis record and Ringo shouts “Copyright John!” meaning that he can’t sing that because it’s protected by copyright. Paul then puts on a heavy working-class Liverpool accent and says “What are we gonna do that’s out of copyright?” and John replies (in the same accent) “How about we’ll gather lilacs in an old brown shoe?” I have no idea what he’s talking about. Maybe this is just an old reference that I don’t get, or it’s just John talking nonsense again, but I do like the way they go into these different accents all the time.

Apparently they were always like this, including when recording their albums in the studio. In fact it was their sense of humour that got them a recording contract with George Martin at EMI.

He was more impressed by their general humour than their music (in the beginning), although they proved themselves in the music department later, of course.

The boys do silly accents of old people and weather reporters on the radio. They do a Bob Dylan impression at one point.

John begins singing a made-up Christmas song and the lyrics end up becoming weird noises, then the others join in.

John was often the leader when it came to being ridiculous and absurd, but they were all so close and so quick that they could all keep up with it too.

John: (in a strong Liverpool accent) This is Johnny rhythm saying good night to youse all and god bless youse.

Paul: (in the same accent) All right well, ehhh, that’s got it done then. What are we gonna do now?

George: (Scouse accent) Has he turned it off? (listen for the way he says “turned” – “teeeeeerned it off” – that’s the Liverpool accent, the Scouse accent – exaggerated)

Paul or Ringo: Have you turned it off, la? (‘LA’ is a Scouse word meaning “Lad” or “mate”)

And that’s the end of their Christmas record for 1965.

I think we’ll leave it on that note then, eh?

All right then. Merry Chrimbo and have a very new year all right?

Speak to you in 2019. All the best!

Luke

 

Additional

Previous Christmas Episodes (Just in case you’re looking for more stuff to listen to during the break!)

A couple of years ago I read A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. It’s still available in the archive, if you want a nice Christmas story, sort of a bed time story (episode 320).

In fact there are a few Christmas episodes in the archive, if you’re feeling festive. You might have heard them already, but maybe you haven’t, or maybe it’s time to revisit them if you’re looking for more podcast action during the Christmas break.

From memory I remember one with my brother which I recorded in London, called “Christmas, it’s all about Family” (episode 78) and we aimed to chat about Christmas but ended up rambling about lots of other things, which was good fun.

The first time I spoke to Paul Taylor on the podcast was about 5 years ago, in December 2013 and we talked about Christmas traditions and his plans for the holidays (episodes 158 & 159).

I spoke to my mate Raphael Miller once at Christmas time and we did a fairly long episode called The A to Z of Christmas, which pretty much tells you everything you need to know about British Christmas culture (episode 160).

I spoke to Amber in 2016 and we chatted all about Christmas traditions again, with lots of funny anecdotes about things like my Dad’s competitions and games which he organises every year, and her son’s behaviour at Christmas time (406 A CHRISTMAS MEGARAMBLE with AMBER).

Last year was a bit of a blur because we were expecting the arrival of the baby, but I had a bit of a Christmas ramble in episode 501 I think, with some listener correspondence (including an email from Jesus) and I sang a Paul McCartney song I think (episode 501).

There are also a few episodes recorded with my family at Christmas time, which is sort of a tradition. These episodes: 79, 322 & 413. Not sure if I’ll get the chance to do that this year, we will see.

560. Sarah Donnelly Returns – Writing jokes, public speaking, doing comedy in another language

Talking to comedian Sarah Donnelly about how she writes her jokes, advice on public speaking and how to avoid nerves and negative feelings, performing stand-up comedy in another language, and more. Sarah is a comedian and language teacher from the US,  now living in France.

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Introduction

Today I am talking to friend of the podcast, Sarah Donnelly.

It’s not the first time Sarah has been on this podcast, but it’s been quite a long time since she was in an episode on her own, I mean – as the only guest, not just alone. She wasn’t completely on her own in front of a microphone in an empty room, like “Umm, Luke? Hello? Is anyone here?” I was there too of course. I mean, without any other guests.

Mostly Sarah has been in episodes of this podcast with other people you see. Earlier this year I talked to her and Amber about their comedy show about becoming a Mum in France (episode 515), and before that she was in a couple of episodes with Amber & Paul (episodes 460 & 461) and she was in one with Sebastian Marx in which we discussed the 2016 Presidential Elections in the USA (388 & 389).

Sarah’s first appearance on the podcast was all the way back in 2013 (episodes 155 & 157).

You’ll hear us talk about that episode a little bit, and how Sarah felt about it.

Sarah is from the United States of America (I’m sure you’ve heard of it, it’s quite a famous country). She originally comes from North Carolina but also has lived and worked in Washington DC, which is where she first started performing stand up comedy.

Then in 2012 she moved to France – roughly at the same time as I did, after she met a French guy. Her story is not dissimilar to mine in fact, except for the differences.

Sarah is a primarily a comedian – she’s a stand-up and also a comedy writer. She performs on stage very regularly – as a solo stand up performer and also with Amber Minogue in their show Becoming Maman – which by the way happens every Thursday evening at 20:15 at Théâtre BO Saint Martin 75003 Paris. If you’re in town, check it out!

Sarah also works as an English teacher at university in Paris.

Our conversation covers quite a lot of things but mainly we talk about:

  • How Sarah writes jokes and comes up with material for her stand up comedy performances
  • Some tips for successful public speaking including how to deal with feelings of nervousness that you might have before you do a speech or performance, and any feelings of shame that you might experience if you feel like you didn’t do as well as you wanted – all the usual difficult feelings we experience when doing public speaking. Sarah’s been doing stand up comedy very regularly for years now, and also she has plenty of experience of talking to large groups of students as a teacher, so she knows a lot about speaking to audiences and has some good advice and experience to share.
  • Sarah is also a language learner – French in this case, and we talk about her experiences of performing comedy in French.

There are also the usual tangents and silly stories and things, but I think this conversation should be useful and relevant for anyone doing public speaking, or speaking publicly in another language, and it’s also just nice and fun to spend some time with Sarah. She brought some pumpkin pie for my wife and me, which was nice of her. Pumpkin pie is a bit of a tradition in the states at this time of year and it was delicious.

So then, without any further ado. Let’s get started.


Ending

So, don’t listen to the shame wizard! Don’t listen to those feelings of shame or embarrassment that we do feel from time to time. Try to ignore those voices. Switch it off if possible.

When you’re speaking English, or thinking about your English, the shame wizard might creep up on you and whisper negative thoughts in your ear, making you feel ashamed of yourself. But don’t listen to him. Tell him to get lost.

When you’ve got a presentation to do, the shame wizard might whisper in your ear that everyone thinks you’re rubbish and you have no right to do what you’re doing. Don’t listen to him, he’s LYING!

Good advice from Sarah there.

In the moments before your presentation, stretch out your arms, stand up, take up some space with your body – but don’t punch someone in the face accidentally of course.

Vocabulary

Language to describe stand up comedy, writing comedy and writing jokes

Parts of a stand up performance

A set = the whole performance from start to finish. E.g. “I did a 15 minute set last night” or “Did you see Sarah? She did a 30 minute set and it was hilarious.”

A bit = one part of a comedian’s set. It could be a story or just a series of jokes based on a particular premise. For example, “She did a whole bit about puberty, and it was funny because it was soooo true”

A joke = one single statement that is intended to make you laugh. It could be a line or a few lines. “Did Sarah do her chalk joke last night? Oh, man, I love that joke.” “Yeah she did, but I don’t think the audience knew what chalk was… But they laughed anyway!”

Parts of a joke

A joke can be broken down into parts.

The premise = the basic idea of a joke, the foundation of it. Like just the idea that it’s pretty weird that we used to use chalk all the time to write on blackboards, but now, younger people don’t even know what chalk is and essentially we used to write on rocks with other rocks, that was our technology, and it was a bit weird” (that’s a bit nebulous, I mean vague, but it’s a starting point – that’s a premise, just the general idea of a joke)

The set up = parts of a joke that set up the situation and put all the elements in place

The punchline = the funny line that, hopefully, makes people laugh.

The wording of a joke = the specific way the joke is worded – the specific construction of a joke. The wording of a joke can be very important in making it funny or not. Often if you believe the premise of the joke is funny, but audiences aren’t laughing at it, you just need to reconsider the wording of that joke. Once you’ve got the wording right, the joke might be more successful.

Other vocabulary for comedy

Material = all the jokes, bits and sets that a comedian has in his or her repertoire. “She’s got so much material, she could do several Netflix specials now.”
Tried and tested material = the material you’ve done lots of times. You know it well and you’re confident it should get laughs pretty much every time.

To improvise = to make things up on the spot without preparation

An open mic = the sort of comedy show you do when you first start out as a comedian. An open mic means anyone can perform. Often these “open mics” are good places to try out new material, but often the whole arrangement is not exactly “professional level show business”. It could be just in the back room of a bar with people coming and going and a generally sketchy atmosphere.


What about that whole Louis CK thing?

Didn’t Sarah open one of his shows in Paris recently?

Recently on the podcast I talked a bit about how disgraced comedian Louis CK had made a surprise visit to one of our comedy shows in Paris (Sebastian Marx’s show The New York Comedy Night to be exact) and Sarah was invited to be one of the other comedians on the show. It was quite a tricky decision for her. You’ll see that in the end we don’t talk about that in this episode, mainly because we ran out of time. But if you’d like to hear Sarah expressing her thoughts on that situation, then you can check out an episode of another podcast called The Europeans, which is a podcast about Europe and European life. Sarah was interviewed on that show and she talked about the whole situation very clearly. So, have a look. The name of the podcast is The Europeans, and she was in the episode from 20 November 2018. Her interview starts at about 23 minutes into the episode. There’s a link on the website as usual.

Listen to Sarah’s appearance on The Europeans podcast, talking about performing with Louis CK

Sarah’s appearance is at about 23:00


Videos & media mentioned in the conversation

The TED talk about body language


Big Mouth on Netflix

(Subtitles should be available for this trailer on YouTube)


More Vocabulary

Some more words that came up in the episode

a Nebula [noun] – a cloud of gas and dust in space

Nebulous [adjective] (this is the word I was looking for) – formless and vaguely defined

Puberty [noun] – the period during which adolescents reach sexual maturity and become capable of reproduction.
“the onset of puberty”

Shame [noun] = a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behaviour.

Self-esteem  [noun] = confidence in one’s own worth or abilities; self-respect.


Previous episodes with Sarah

515. Becoming “Maman” with Amber & Sarah – Bringing Up Children The French Way

460 Catching Up With Amber & Paul #6 (feat. Sarah Donnelly)

461. 25 Deceptively Difficult Questions (with Amber, Paul & Sarah)

388. US Presidential Election 2016 – Trump vs Clinton (with Sarah & Sebastian) Part 1

389. US Presidential Election 2016 – Trump vs Clinton (with Sarah & Sebastian) Part 2

155. A Cup of Coffee with… Sarah Donnelly (Part 1)

157. A Cup of Coffee with… Sarah Donnelly (Part 2)

556. With Jessica Beck from Honestly English

Talking to English teacher Jessica Beck about her new website, “Honestly English” and some typical topics she talks about and teaches, including the #MeToo movement and our favourite female superheroes and comedians. Videos and links below.

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Introduction Transcript

Today on the podcast I have another interview for you to listen to as part of your learning English routine. This time I am talking to Jessica Beck, who you might know from the IELTS Energy Podcast.

I have spoken to Jessica before on this podcast, back in episode 297 when we talked about using humour in the speaking part of the IELTS test.

297. Using Humour in the IELTS Speaking Test (With Jessica from All Ears English)

IELTS Energy is an appropriate title for that podcast because Jessica has loads of energy as you will hear. When we recorded this conversation it was 7AM for her (because of the time difference) which is pretty early for podcasting but she was already wide awake and ready to go. Maybe it’s that American can-do attitude, or the coffee she’s been drinking, I don’t know, but her energy is infectious. It’s one of the hallmarks of the IELTS Energy Podcast in fact, and the All Ears English podcast, which she is also associated with.

Just in case you don’t know, Jessica Beck is an English teacher who lives in Portland, which is in Oregon, which is in the north-west of the USA, which is in North America, which is in America, which is on earth. So you’re going to be listening to a combination of Jessica’s American English and my British English in this conversation.

So, Jessica does IELTS Energy, but she’s on my podcast today because she has just launched a new website and YouTube channel called Honestly English, and I thought we could talk a bit about that and some of the topics she’s been teaching recently in her videos. honestlyenglish.com/

So “Honestly English” – this is her own channel, her own project and therefore is a space where she can teach English in her own way and cover topics that mean a lot to her personally and since Jessica is a huge pop culture nerd her videos and blog posts all contain loads of references to movies and comic books and things like that. She is also very passionate about feminism and raising the status of women in society today.

So these are the things we’re talking about in this episode: The MeToo movement, some language relating to that, then women in pop culture and some superhero characters from the Marvel cinematic universe (specifically Captain Marvel, who will be arriving in cinemas early next year in the Captain Marvel movie and then in Avengers 4 I think) and we also talk about some female comedians from the UK and the USA that we’d like to recommend.

#MeToo

I mentioned the MeToo movement there. I think this is a global phenomenon but you might call it something else in your country. In France it was called #BalanceTonPorc which directly translates as “Balance your pork” or “balance your pig” which doesn’t really mean anything does it – the proper translation of that would be something like “denounce your pig” or “name and shame your abuser”. That’s how #MeToo is known in France, and it may have another name in your country.

Wikipedia defines #MeToo like this:
The Me Too movement (or #MeToo movement), with many local and international alternatives, is a movement against sexual harassment and sexual assault. #MeToo spread virally in October 2017 as a hashtag used on social media in an attempt to demonstrate the widespread prevalence of sexual assault and harassment, especially in the workplace. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Me_Too_movement 

So MeToo is all about encouraging women to come forward and share their experiences of harassment of various kinds. Speaking personally, I knew that women often have to put up with dangerous and just plain weird behaviour from creepy guys – like being approached in the street, feeling unsafe in certain places or just putting up with dodgy comments and behaviour at work. I knew that, but the MeToo movement did open my eyes to how much of this kind of thing Women have to put up with every day. I think about my daughter and the kind of society she’s going to grow up in and I want her to grow up in a culture in which she feels safe, she feels she can talk about things that happen to her, in which she won’t have to just accept certain behaviour from men, and I want her to have cool characters and comedians on TV and in films that she can relate too, just like I did during my childhood.

I know this is actually a bit of a touchy subject. There’s a lot of pushing and pulling going on in terms of people arguing about the place of men and women in society and both men and women feeling targeted, victimsed or demonised and things like that. I’ve seen so many arguments in online comment sections. I find all of that stuff quite exhausting to be honest.

I see arguments on YouTube and people getting really angry on both sides about something like a perceived feminist agenda in Star Wars or Doctor Who, for example and then I see other people getting really angry about those people getting angry about feminism in Star Wars or Doctor Who and I’m just sitting here trying not to get angry about people getting angry about other people getting angry about some people getting angry about feminism in Star Wars or Doctor Who or movies and culture in general and I just think oh can we just have a normal conversation? I don’t know.

In any case, let’s find out from Jessica about her new website, let’s learn some of the words and phrases she can tell us about the MeToo movement and also let’s talk about Marvel movies and some great comedians that you might like to check out.

There are links and videos on the page for this episode as usual if you want examples of the comedians we are talking about, and links for Jessica’s website and stuff. So check those out.

Alright then, so this is Jessica Beck, energetic at 7 o’clock in the morning. American English and British English combined in one conversation, and here we go…


Honestly English

Nerdy English lessons focusing on vocabulary and pop culture!

www.HonestlyEnglish.com

Slang, idioms, natural phrases, the origins and context of that vocabulary.

For example, “Nailed it” (see video below)

The Language of the #MeToo Movement

A recent post on Honestly English about the #MeToo Movement

honestlyenglish.com/honest-blog/2018/9/16/what-metoo-means-to-me-and-slang-for-dirty-dudes?rq=me%20too

Language to describe “dirty dudes”
A perv
A pervert
A creep
A creepy guy
A monster
Being menacing
Also:
To harass someone / harassment

Favourite Female Comedians

Mentioned by Jessica

Kathleen Madigan (stand up comedian)

Kristen Wiig

Bridesmaids (film)
Annie (Kristen Wiig) vs the “perfect” best friend

Melissa McCarthy (comedian / actress)

St Vincent (film)

Mentioned by Luke

Maria Bamford
Maria captures the experience of being a woman dealing with mental health issues, by recreating the voices and attitudes of other people in her life, particularly her mother and sister who she imitates. They sound patronising and subtly judgemental and of course there are jokes in there but they are so cleverly weaved into her routine. She does brilliant voices and shifts her attitude quite radically. Her normal voice sounds very vulnerable, and the other voices are so much more confident and strident.

OK, she’s strange but that’s the point.

Maria Bamford Netflix show – Lady Dynamite

Maria Bamford interview on WTF with Marc Maron

French & Saunders
On TV all through my childhood. Came out of the anarchic post-punk era in UK comedy. Two English women who were just funny in the way they bickered with each other and also took the piss out of Hollywood movies and celebrities. They’re national treasures.

French & Saunders making fun of Mama Mia

Victoria Wood
Another national treasure who was on telly all the time. She was like a housewife who was also a comedian. Not like Rosanne Barr, but a normal middle class English woman – a bit like the mum of one of your friends, but she did stand up, sketches and did comedy songs on the piano. She was one of the first stand ups I ever saw, along with various other UK comedians at the time. Her comedy was quite local in flavour, meaning she made reference to things like accents and local identity. Died in 2016 along with loads of other celebs. Bowie, Ali, Prince etc

Sarah Pascoe
A stand up who describes the kind of life that most women (of my generation) experience in the UK, while making it very funny. She talks about all the things that women go through relating to relationships and work. She’s very relatable and it’s like observational comedy about relationships and life (but it’s not shit observational comedy).

Sarah Pascoe in Edinburgh

Podcasts recomended by Jessica

  • Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me (NPR)
  • Paula Poundstone
  • Spontanianation
  • Tawny Newsome

YouTube “Honestly English” – videos every Thursday

www.youtube.com/channel/UCBqOicwVfb__YxbsL-5R3tA

Website www.honestlyenglish.com

Facebook Honestly English www.facebook.com/HonestlyEnglish/