Category Archives: Entertainment

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? 😉

566. The Collins Words of the Year (Part 6) 2018 with Amber Minogue

The final part of this series about trending words and issues in 2018, this time with friend of the podcast Amber Minogue. Join us as we talk about jogging, picking up litter, bird watching, VAR & football, veganism, ethnic diversity in Hollywood and more. Notes available.

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Episode Introduction

Here is the 6th and final part of this series about The Collins Words of the Year and in this one I’m still talking to my friend Amber (a friend of the podcast – one of the POD-PALS as you know) about this list of words chosen by the Collins Dictionary team for 2018.

These are words that were used a lot this year, probably because they reflect various issues which are big at the moment and which lots of people are talking about in the media, online and in normal life. Interestingly, it seems that the issues of the moment are things like: the environment, climate change, Brexit, identity politics, mental health, relationships, diet, lifestyle trends, technology, football, gender relations, race relations and the latest dance craze.

So, these are the things we’re talking about in this series. I’m happy to be joined by Amber because it means there are some unexpected funny moments, conversational tangents and general laughter. In this one for example, we end up talking about obsessional bird watching, Marvel movies and what Scarlett Johansson is like in real life.

I hope you enjoy our conversation. I’ll speak to you again on the other side (not in the spirit world, I mean, on the other side of this conversation).

OK, let’s carry on then, with the next word from the Word of the Year list, which is plogging. What’s that then? Well, listen on and you’ll find out…


Plogging

Noun: a recreational activity, originating in Sweden, that combines jogging with picking up litter

Comes from the Swedish word plocka “to pick” + jogging

  • Do you do this?
  • What do you think of littering?
  • Have you ever seen anyone littering?
  • Do you ever say anything to people who litter?
  • Why do people drop litter? What excuses do they give?

Birdwatching 

Footage of flocks of Starlings, as mentioned by us. They’re actually called bird murmurations.

Twitchers

VAR

Abbreviation: video assistant referee

Some notes about VAR – *not actually said in our conversation*

It seemed to create a fairly clean World Cup – cleaner than others in the past, but still not perfect of course. It didn’t stop Neymar from diving, but it did make him look stupid. It’s hard to say if it was a resounding success. For clear “black and white” decisions, it seems to work. Offside, ball across the line, etc. But when there’s still a human element of subjective judgement, it’s still doesn’t quite solve the problems. For example, judging whether a handball is intentional or not – sometimes slow motion can make it look intentional when it’s not.

There’s some doubt over whether it really is fair. Sometimes you see mysterious committees of people discussing the decisions in the VAR room. Some people jokingly called it the Vladimir Assisted Referee, I suppose as a suggestion that it could still be subject to corruption somehow – especially since you can’t hear what is being said in the VAR room. People still disagreed with a lot of the VAR decisions.

Also it meant this was the WC with the highest number of penalties ever. It has changed the game a little bit. We’re still working out how to use it well.

Vegan

Noun: a person who refrains from using any animal product for food, clothing, or any other purpose

No animal products at all.

  • Pros and cons of a vegan diet?
  • Have you ever eaten at a vegan restaurant?
  • Would you consider going vegan?

Whitewash

Verb: to cast a white actor in the role of a character from a minority ethnic group or to produce a film or play using white actors to play characters from a minority ethnic group

E.g. casting Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One in Dr Strange. The character is Asian in the comic books. Tilda Swinton is a white British woman.

Is this an example of “whitewashing”? Was the character of The Ancient One already a racial stereotype anyway?

Other examples might include Scarlett Johansson as Major in Ghost In The Shell and Johnny Depp as Tonto in The Lone Ranger.


Episode Ending

Right! That’s it! The Words of the Year series is done! We survived!

It was a bit tricky there in places as there were some controversial topics that can be difficult to talk about without getting some people’s backs up, but I think it was good to have Amber with me for the last two episodes. There was a bit more levity there I think.

Levity (noun) = humour or lack of seriousness, especially in a serious situation. It’s like making things a bit lighter than they are.

Levity is often a good thing, because I (personally) don’t like things to get too heavy and for people to disagree with me angrily. I just want everyone to like me and for everything to be ok and never to be challenged or disagreed with in any way, he said, jokingly.

What else do I have to tell you? 

At the beginning of part 4 I mentioned the last-minute special stand up show I was doing with Paul at The Comedy Store in the UK.

The Comedy Store

The show

Meeting some LEPsters. Nice to meet you!

People keep telling me they like the British Comedy episodes. I plan to do more. They just take a bit of time to prepare.

People also like the storytelling episodes. Again, I plan to do more of them! They take time as well, if I’m writing the stories myself. Also I’m a bit reluctant to read out other people’s stories all the time, because they’re not mine, you know. There are royalty free stories in the public domain, but they’re not always perfect (too long, old fashioned language). But we will see.

If you like my storytelling episodes, there are quite a few in the archive. They’re in two categories I reckon, maybe 3 categories.

Cat. 1 – telling a pre-written story, written by me or another author. E.g. The Mystery Story (29) and The Mystery Continues (30), and The Hyde Park Mystery Story (in the App – App-Only Episodes category), also The Hitch-hiker by Roald Dahl (545),  A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (320), the Victorian Detective online text-adventure mystery stories (338, 339, 425, 426)

Cat. 2 – telling a story which I’m making up on the spot. Improvised stories (usually quite stupid and comical) like The Pink Gorilla Story (125) and The Pink Gorilla Story 2 (400), The Talking Dog Story (153), The Prawn Story (166) and the Phrasal Verb Chronicles parts 1 and 2.

Cat. 3 – just episodes with some anecdotes and stories from my life. Check out episodes in the archive with the words “anecdotes” or “story/stories” in the title.

(Hi Cat! 3 Cats, in fact!)

So there are some storytelling episodes in the archive and in the app that you might not have heard, and which you can check out. But I do plan to do more of that kind of thing. My episodes have always been quite diverse and I aim to keep it that way. I’ve got more interviews with guests coming up as well in the future.

Feel free to send me your suggestions, if I think they are doable I will add them to the ever growing to-do list. It’s very easy to make the list! It’s harder to make the episodes actually happen.

Also, do check out LEP Premium. There are about 23 episodes/videos now available, plus some phrasal verbs and more content coming every month. To sign up for LEP Premium go to www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium

That’s it! I expect to talk to you again in some form before the Christmas holidays. We are going to the UK to spend a week at my parents’ house. I have no idea if I will get a chance to record anything with my family while we’re there. I will see. You can expect more episodes to arrive in the New Year, and hopefully one before Christmas. We will see.

But for now though, that’s it.

Speak to you soon, bye!

565. The Collins Words of the Year (Part 5) 2018 with Amber Minogue

Talking to my friend Amber about some trending vocabulary and hot topics from 2018, like plastic pollution, dance crazes and the Brexit backstop. Includes discussion, language explanations, David Attenborough impressions and more. Notes available.

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Introduction Transcript

Hello! How is Podcastland at the moment? How is LEPland? Does it look like Lapland at the moment? (It’s Christmas at the time of recording)

*Luke rambles a little bit about Lapland (a part of Finland where Father Christmas comes from) and LEPland (an imaginary place, populated by LEPsters – listeners to this podcast).*

This is episode 565 and it’s called The Collins Words of the Year (Part 5) 2018 with Amber Minogue. So…

I hope you’ve been enjoying this series about the words of the year. I expect you’ve already heard parts 1-4, which were about the words chosen from 2017. It’s now time to move on to the words from this year, from 2018.

Just a reminder – these are words selected by the makers of the Collins Dictionary for a list that they publish every year, their Words of the Year. The words are chosen because they’ve been used a lot this year and because they touch upon some big issues of the moment. So, this is interesting for LEP because of the vocabulary involved but also because it gives me a chance to talk about some trending issues of the moment, on this podcast.

Check out the page for this episode on the website where you’ll see the words (so you can be sure you know how they are spelt), and also various other notes, links and videos. The notes in particular contain other words and phrases that you will hear in these episodes, and this can help you to learn those bits of language too.

So now let’s move on to the words from 2018, this year. Just two more episodes to go in this series. I’m very happy, in this one, to be joined by Amber, so I hope you enjoy listening to the two of us wittering away, and going off on various tangents and telling little stories and so on, as we discuss the Words of the Year for 2018.

So, here we go…


Amber is raring to go! = she’s ready and eager to start

Single-use

Adjective: made to be used once only, and then thrown away or destroyed

It’s almost always followed by the word ‘plastic’

  • Single use plastic
  • Single use plastic bags
  • Single use plastic cutlery
  • Single use coffee cups
  • Single use straws
  • Single use hypodermic needles

In many cases “single-use” is the way the industry says “this is designed to be used once and then just thrown away”. It means “disposable”.

Vocabulary: Verbs for what you do with rubbish

  • to get rid of something
  • to throw something away
  • to chuck something away/out
  • to discard something
  • to dispose of something

Also

  • rubbish (UK) / trash (US)
  • litter (rubbish thrown on the floor)

Have you seen Blue Planet 2? It’s one of the UK’s most-watched documentary series. It’s incredible. It featured a whole episode about how the oceans are being devastated by pollution of various kinds, particularly plastic and it really brought the message home to viewers in the UK.

9 ways to reduce your plastic use (Greenpeace UK)
  • Carry a reusable bottle. In the UK we use over 35 million plastic bottles every day! …
  • Say no to plastic straws. Plastic straws are bad news for our oceans. …
  • Avoid excessive food packaging. …
  • Use refill stations for detergents. …
  • Say no to disposable cutlery. …
  • Get your milk delivered. …
  • Avoid microbeads. … (tiny bits of plastic often used in exfoliating products)
  • Carry a shopping bag.

Just a few small changes by everyone can make a big impact on this problem.

9 ways to reduce your plastic use

Reduce – reuse – recycle

Backstop

Noun: a system that will come into effect if no other arrangement is made

We think of Brexit and the Northern Ireland problem, and the fact that everyone keeps saying that we need a ‘backstop’ in the event of a no-deal. A backstop then is a kind of fallback position or a plan B that we can use if no other arrangement is made.

  • The Irish backstop
  • The border backstop
  • The Brexit backstop

This comes from baseball originally, but it’s been used so much because of Brexit and the Northern Ireland border issue.

Can you explain the Northern Ireland border issue?

*The following notes about the Brexit backstop were not actually said in the episode*

Ireland/N.Ireland is where the only land border between UK and EU will/would be. This is an issue because nobody wants a hard border there. It brings back painful memories of the troubles, when border posts were often the targets of bombs. We just don’t want to go back to those times in any way. Things are still sensitive there and we all want to maintain the peace. Putting a hard border there with border posts might trigger the conditions for conflict again.

So, the UK and EU have both agreed to a guarantee that there won’t be a hard border there. This arrangement is known as the backstop. It’s a safety net to prevent a hard border. As far as I can tell, it’s not very well-defined and it’s not really a good solution because it effectively guarantees some kind of soft border and various advantages for Northern Ireland in which people and goods there will be able to move across the border without having to stop and be checked thoroughly.

Even though Theresa May is guaranteeing that the border issue won’t be a problem because we’ll find a solution and we have this backstop guarantee, The UK and EU are both unhappy with this. The EU are unhappy because it’s essentially like leaving the back door open. You can’t really have an open spot in one part of the EU’s border without it compromising an essential aspect of EU membership, which is the protection of the free trade zone. The UK aren’t happy because Scotland will feel it’s unfair. “We want special treatment too. How come people of N Ireland get this soft deal (moving in and out of the EU freely, while not being part of it) and we don’t? We don’t even want Brexit in Scotland.” This could be a flashpoint for Scotland leaving the UK and the breakup of the UK. It’s just another crack in the whole Brexit shitplate. (Shitplate isn’t really a word. I just came up with it, and I think it means a plate made of shit, which now has a crack in it)

(the) Floss

Noun: a dance in which people twist their hips in one direction while swinging their arms in the opposite direction with the fists closed

This is the latest dance craze.

Describe it

Swing your arms with fists clenched in front and behind your body, while swinging (not twisting) your hips from side to side. It’s more difficult than it looks.

A Brief history

Some time in 2016 a kid with a backpack posted a video of himself doing the floss. It went viral. Then in 2017 Katy Perry filmed a video featuring the floss and it went stratospheric. She then featured backpack kid in a performance on SNL and loads of people posted videos of themselves flossing, tutorial videos and all that, and everyone started doing it.

It completely passed me by, I’ll be honest! Because I’m both too old (because it’s not part of my world) and too young (because I don’t have kids at the right age to know about it).

Other dance crazes from history

The twist, the loco-motion, the mashed potato, the watusi, the funky chicken, the hitch hike, the YMCA, the running man, the robot, the moonwalk, the macarena, Gangnam style, etc etc.

Gammon

Noun: a person, typically male, middle-aged, and white, with reactionary views, especially one who supports the withdrawal of Britain from the European Union

A pejorative term describing a certain type of person. What’s the profile of a typical ‘gammon’?

Appearance
They’re called gammons because of the way they look – they’ve often got these pinkish faces, flushed skin, maybe it’s because of age or drinking or something, but the term is used because they look like gammon.

What’s gammon? It’s a kind of cooked ham, which is a standard pub meal. Gammon steak with chips, maybe egg and a slice of pineapple too.

Attitudes
You often see them on the TV, particularly on shows like Question Time asking angry questions and generally acting like stereotypical small-minded little Englanders. They’re always disgusted, outraged, angry, shocked, and seem to imagine that Britain was best when it was bombing or being bombed by the Germans. 

“We got through WW2, we can get through Brexit!” (a lot of people didn’t get through WW2 though, did they?)

BBC Question Time “Gammon of the Week” (Welsh edition)

The gammon backlash
There is a backlash to this term, from the people targeted by this word. They’re now saying it’s a form of racism.

Is it a racist term?

Arguably the word “gammon” is a form of racist abuse, targeting a certain type of lower-middle class or working class, middle-aged white male. It’s a form of name-calling, which is never good in a civilised debate.

Gaslight

Verb: to attempt to manipulate (a person) by continually presenting them with false information until they doubt their sanity

This word has come up on the podcast before! It’s almost as if us talking about it brought it back into the popular consciousness.

Have you ever been gaslighted? Do you know any cases of it?

MEL B said she was gaslighted by her husband (see link)

www.theguardian.com/music/2018/dec/01/mel-b-i-got-used-to-lying-i-didnt-want-anyone-to-find-out

Gaslighting / Hobson’s Choice / Burlap Sack – Do you remember when Amber and I talked about these words before? 

Amber and I have discussed gaslighting before on this podcast. We also talked about some other phrases we’d noticed a lot. That was in episode 431 of this podcast.

431. Restaurants & Hotels / Really Strange TripAdvisor Reviews (with Amber)

MeToo

Adjective: denoting a cultural movement that seeks to expose and eradicate predatory sexual behaviour, especially in the workplace

Talked about it on the podcast with Jessica from Honestly English.


If you don’t know what plogging is and you would like to know, you’ll have to listen to the next part of this series, which will be part 6 in fact – that’s episode 566, coming very soon (possibly available now in fact, depending on when you’re listening to this).

So that was us talking about single-use, the Northern Ireland backstop, the floss, gammons, gaslighting and MeToo.

Not much conversation between us about #MeToo there, mainly because I’ve already talked about it on the podcast recently and I don’t want to go over the same ground again. You can go back to episode 556 if you want to hear more. We talked positively about it. Obviously, #MeToo is a complex issue which has its critics as well.

For example, I’ve put a video on the page for this episode in which a few comedians from the States talk  about the #MeToo movement (Bill Burr is one of them) in a more critical manner, not just ranting against it for whatever reason, but having an intelligent conversation expressing some degrees of scepticism and all that.

So, if you want, have a look at the video, it’s on the page for this episode. (below)

Otherwise, just stick around for the next part in which we talk about plogging, (and explain what it is – and there’s nothing sexual about that, I think!) and tons of other stuff.

Thank you for listening to my podcast. That’s pretty much the end of this episode. Just a couple of reminders before we finish…

Become a Premium LEPster and get access to the growing library of Premium episodes of this podcast. The premium episodes all focus on language. Often I use conversations I’ve had on the podcast, mine them for vocabulary and grammar (I dig out the vocab and grammar) and then present that language to you in the clearest and most helpful way that I can. They’re basically English lessons from me, with pronunciation drills, PDF worksheets and everything. When you sign up for Premium you get access to all those episodes, plus all the new ones which come out every month. A Phrasal Verb a Day is now in the premium package, which means new mini phrasal verb lessons on a regular basis, plus little bonuses here and there like video versions of some episodes of the podcast and so on. That’s all available for the price of a coffee, tea or beer once a month, and by the way I don’t necessarily use that to drink coffee, tea or beer – the money helps to support this podcast and the time I spend on it. To sign up go to www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium

Sign up to the mailing list on my website to get a link in your inbox whenever I upload normal episodes of this podcast. You can use that link to go straight to the episode page where you’ll find the notes, scripts, videos and the comment section. Also, if I post website-only content, you’ll get emails for that too, and sometimes I do upload website-only stuff, including music mixes, DVD commentaries and other stuff that doesn’t go on the podcast. Just go to the website and sign up for the mailing list there, it’s free.

Also, check the episode archive for everything I’ve uploaded to this website.

That’s it then, I’ll speak to you again very soon in the 6th and final part of this episode and then you can hear all about plogging and what the hell it actually is!

Thanks finally to Amber for being my guest in this episode.

Speak to you in the next part. Bye!


563. The Collins Words of the Year (Part 3)

More vocabulary explanations & discussion of big issues, including how social media affects our worldview, the pros and cons of fidget spinners and debates about gender identity, including thoughts on the new female Doctor in Doctor Who. Transcript available.

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Part 3 – Transcript (99% complete)

Welcome back to part 3 of this series I’m doing about the Collins Dictionary Words of the Year. I’m going through the list of words from 2017 and then the plan is to move onto the words for 2018 and talk about them with Amber. She’s coming round here tomorrow morning actually.

So the Words of the Year – Collins select these lists of words every year, based on which words they’ve noticed being used a lot in this 12 month period. They’re not necessarily new words, and they might be phrases made from existing words. The main thing is that these words have risen in use significantly during the period and as a result they tap into issues, events and feelings that are very current.

Talking about the words of the year on the podcast is both a way for me to explore some vocabulary and also just talk about some issues of the moment.

Check the page on the website for this episode in order to see a lot of the things I’m saying written there, as transcripts and for other information.

Talking about these words, and discussing them also involves using various other useful bits of vocabulary that you can learn from me. Listening to episodes of this podcast can help you raise your level of English, starting with your listening skills – but the benefits to your English can be many, including developing your awareness of pronunciation, expanding your vocabulary, noticing aspects of grammar and all of this helps you with your speaking skills too. That’s the plan. Certainly, listening regularly, listening for longer periods and listening to something that I hope holds your attention – this is all really healthy for your English, so let’s keep going.

I have 6 words/phrases to deal with in this episode, so let’s not hang about.

In part 1 of the series I talked about how Collins uses data to make its dictionaries and other language reference books and I talked for quite a long time about the phrase fake news which topped their Words of the Year list for 2017.

Then in part 2 I talked about other words in the list for 2017, including antifa, corbynmania, and cuffing season. 

I’ve got 6 words left. Let’s see if I can deal with them all in part 3 here. Let’s go.

Echo chamber

noun: an environment, especially on a social media site, in which any statement of opinion is likely to be greeted with approval because it will only be read or heard by people who hold similar views .

The concept is, that if you live in an echo chamber, you only ever hear your own opinions coming back to you.

Echo (a verb and a noun) is when you make a sound and it travels away from you and then bounces off a surface and comes back to you. It’s like if you’re in a huge hallway and you go “hello!” and you then hear your own voice coming back to you, saying “hello!”

Hello hello hello ? ? ?

Echo echo echo ! ! !

So the echo chamber idea – when you live in a world in which you only ever hear or read your own ideas.

Nowadays there is so much media content out there, including news and just different opinions and comments about the world, and we have the ability to filter out certain things.

Eventually, if you only choose to see or hear things that you like, you’ll never hear about any conflicting opinions, you’ll never face disagreement, contradiction, challenge or other points of view. This can be quite dangerous. It makes you soft and unprepared for your ideas to be challenged. It can make you small minded because you only get a blinkered view of the world – you don’t get exposed to different opinions and it makes you unaware of what’s really going on in the world. It’s like living in a bubble. When something big happens, it can seem totally shocking and unbelievable.

Weirdly, in this super connected world, we are less and less connected and more and more divided, as we put ourselves into these more carefully defined personal categories and only receive information that fits with that category, we become more separated from the experiences of other groups of people.

That’s the theory behind the expression, echo chamber. Generally, this expression is a buzz word for this whole phenomenon.

Filtering out opposing viewpoints and living in a bubble.

These circumstances can push us away from each other, and make it harder to understand different opinions.

The results of the Brexit referendum and US presidential election in 2016 were both greeted with disbelief and shock by some people. The people on the losing side could not understand how their opponents refused to have their opinions changed by apparently reasonable arguments, while the winners remained convinced of the rightness of their own cause.

Basically, we were surprised and shocked by the existence of other points of view. Experts said that this situation was due to many people living in an ‘echo chamber’, where they only hear the views of people who share and reinforce their own opinions. This is increasingly possible when people form online communities that exclude any voices that challenge or threaten them.

For example, a lot of people no longer read newspapers or get their news from the TV. Instead they perhaps just look at Twitter to see what’s going on, but on Twitter you choose each and every account that you follow so you cherry pick the content, rather than just receiving the same information as everyone else.

Also it’s quite common to block people who disagree with you or argue with you. The result is an echo-chamber. And it’s not just for people who didn’t vote for Trump or Brexit. There are right-wing echo chambers too, including social media sites that welcome the types of opinions that are not really accepted by more conventional social media. So everyone is capable of living in an echo chamber.

The term ‘echo chamber’ originally referred to a room that scientists constructed to create echoes for use in sound recording or experiments.

Echo chambers are used to create real echoes which can be used for music or sound recording, instead of relying on digital echo (delay) effects.

Often the best echo chambers for music are bathrooms because they have those shiny ceramic tiles that let the sound bounce around nicely. That’s one of the reasons it’s nice to sing in the shower. Your voice echoes off the tiles and it sounds pretty good!

The idea of an environment where you can hear your own voice repeated back to you made this a perfect metaphor for the world of social media, where many people only talk with those who agree with them, thus creating a rather distorted picture of what the world is really like.

Do you live in an echo chamber?

A real echo chamber in a music studio. Actual echo chambers are used to create genuine echo and reverb effects. Check it out! What a cool studio!

Fidget spinner

noun: a small toy comprising of two or three prongs arranged around a central bearing, designed to be spun by the fingers as means of improving concentration or relieving stress.

This is so 2016/2017. I don’t know if people still use them or talk about them. Perhaps kids these days have moved on and talking about fidget spinners is not cool at all.

They look a bit like little wheels and you hold them between your fingers, flick them and they spin around and around quite satisfyingly. They’re fun to just fidget with, and fidgeting with them is quite addictive.

So, it’s just a fun toy that spins in your hand, right? No arguments and politics here, right? Nope – even fidget spinners divide people too!

Let’s look at the for & against.

For
It’s fun!
People say they’re good for kids with ADHD and autism.

From iheisthmus.com www.theisthmus.com.au/2017/06/fidget-spinners-the-for-the-against-the-important/

The biggest argument from the pro-spinners side is that they are a useful tool for kids with ADHD, autism, anxiety, and other similar conditions. Occupational therapist Sandra Mortimer said “It can help with emotional regulation for children feeling anxious, worried and nervous.”

While there is no academic research about fidget spinners in particular, fidget tools (such as putty and stress balls) have long been known to help with this. The lack of specific academic research is to be expected though– fidget spinners are only a few months old, and research takes literally forever (well, a really long time at least).

There are some pretty cool creative uses for it (although as far as I can see this just means letting them spin in different places). E.g. balance a spinner on your fingers, make them spin on a table and see how long it spins, throw them between your hands while they spin, spin them and switch them onto different fingers, spin it and put it onto your nose, etc…

Against
As a fidget tool – it’s not a very good one. It’s big, it requires hand eye coordination so kids have to look at it – so it’s actually very distracting. It’s hard to just spin it in your hand and not look at it. So you can’t use it while working for example, or just have it in your pocket. It tends to use all your concentration.

It’s just an annoying trend and they’ll probably be forgotten in a few years until they come back as the latest nostalgia toy.

Have you ever used one?

Do your kids have them?

Gender-fluid

adjective: not identifying exclusively with one gender rather than another

So, it means when people don’t feel they have a fixed gender. They might feel male sometimes and female at other times and perhaps even feel like they belong to some other gendered category that we don’t even really have the language to describe.

Oh no, we’re back on difficult territory again! This is another minefield of a topic.

Now I remember why I kept putting off doing this episode! Too many trigger warnings, potential problems and complexity! But it’s a big subject at the moment, so let’s have a look…

This word relates to people who don’t identify as having a fixed gender.

Noun: gender fluidity

Some quick examples from a Google News search for “gender fluid”.

Pearl Mackie: It’s 2017- the Doctor is gender fluid
PinkNews-Dec 15, 2017
Outgoing Doctor Who star Pearl Mackie has responded to the backlash against a female Doctor, saying that the Doctor is gender fluid and the gender of the actor doesn’t matter.

Loki will be pansexual and gender-fluid in new Marvel novel
Washington Blade Dec 13, 2017
Marvel is releasing a series of three novels focusing on anti-heroes in 2019. One novel will focus on Loki, Thor’s adopted brother and nemesis. Author Mackenzi Lee took to Twitter to answer questions about the project and informed fans that Loki is “canonically a pansexual and genderfluid character.”

Men in skirts: gender-fluid fashion is no longer a novelty
Times LIVE-Dec 14, 2017
The ancient Egyptians, Romans, Zulus, Scots and countless others didn’t wear trousers and no one thought of them as effeminate. [Luke: I challenge anyone to find a bunch of Scottish men in kilts and to tell them they are effeminate! Ha! Good luck with that pal.] The same could be said of jewellery and many other fashion items. We spoke to a couple of experts to find out why gender-fluid fashion is trending.

Some people see this as progress, others see it and just get really angry. They get ‘triggered’ by it, using that expression again from part 1 of this series.

I’m just not going to get into it at great length because I exhausted myself with “fake news” and “antifa” and I’m going to take a pass on this one.

Do you have an opinion on this?

It’s complex. It’s not just – do you mind that people define their identity outside the traditional binary gender roles. It’s not just that. It’s also things like how this affects various changes in society. Some people think it’s all progress, others are really losing their minds about it, other people are just putting their foot down and saying “wait, I don’t mind how you identify – you’re free to be whoever you want, but don’t force me to change my world” – that type of thing.

Gender-fluid people or transgender people are saying “Hey, it would be really nice and respectful if you could just acknowledge my identity and perhaps make a few changes to make me feel like I belong in this world – like maybe you can use different language to make me feel accepted – in fact, we’re working on making it illegal to refuse to do so”, and those who disagree are saying “you can’t force me to do things like use certain language by law”  – and then other people are far less respectful and reasonable in their dialogue, and there’s just a lot of abuse and hate speech flying around too. And then there are people like me who are going “what? Sorry, what? Who said… wait? Who’s right? What’s going on? What year is it???”

Oh, it’s probably worth mentioning Doctor Who again.

The 13th Doctor, played by Jodie Whittaker

So, as you may know, Doctor Who is a British science fiction TV show that’s been on television longer than a lot of people have been alive. I think it has the record as the longest running TV series ever, having started in 1963 and still going strong today.

In a nutshell, Doctor Who is about a time-travelling alien (who looks human and speaks English and everything) who travels around in a blue police box, generally saving the earth. It’s a lot of fun and is very inventive, creative and funny and many generations of people in the UK grew up as children watching the show. My parents grew up with it, my brother and I grew up with it, our nieces and nephews are growing up with it.

The character, called The Doctor, has actually died lots of times, but every time the Doctor dies – usually when he comes to the end of his current life-span, he regenerates in a new form.

Basically, at the end of a season the Doctor dies and then is reborn but with a new actor in the next season (or series as we usually say in British English actually!)

It’s a really cool way of keeping a TV series going. Each new incarnation of the Doctor is different in that they have a certain look, they have certain characteristics – brought by the different actor in the role each time, but also the Doctor always maintains certain core characteristics like charisma, leadership, strength, courage, eccentricity, humour, love for the humans and a desire to protect us, certain human companions and the blue spaceship or TARDIS (actually a craft that travels through both space and time).

There have been loads of actors playing the doctor over the years, and millions of us are very affectionate towards this character and the actors who have played him (or her).

Then this year, the producers of the show decided that the new Doctor would be played by a woman. Jodie Whittaker was chosen – a good British actress. So now, The Doctor is a woman. It turns out, the Doctor is a gender-fluid character. She doesn’t always regenerate as a man, she can regenerate as a woman too. Naturally, a lot of people were really pissed off, saying things like “The Doctor is not a woman! You’ve ruined this character and my memories of childhood! Stop this PC nonsense from infecting everything! This is just the loony left at the BBC trying to infect everything with poisonous feminism! Leave our TV characters alone!”

I read some comments saying things like, “It’s The Doctor, not The Nurse – he should be a man!” A lot of it is just sexism. I understand that people don’t like change, and this character is very close to people’s hearts, but there’s actually no reason why The Doctor can only be male. It’s a fictional time travelling alien from another planet, that changes shape when it dies. I think it can turn into a woman, that’s fine!

I haven’t actually seen any of the episodes in their entirety. I must admit that these days whenever I watch Doctor Who, I’m just completely confused! It’s great and there’s something very comforting about the fact that the show still going after all these years, but the storylines always confuse me completely. I have seen clips of the new Doctor Who with Jodie Whittaker and it looks good. She’s funny and a bit weird and charismatic and that’s the spirit of the character. I personally don’t mind that the doctor is a woman at the moment. I think the writers can do whatever they like with the character.

As long as the writing is still good, the acting is good, the general hallmarks of Doctor Who are still the same, I think it’s ok.

I’d be more upset if the writers of Doctor Who changed something more important about the character – like deciding she now shouldn’t have a sense of humour, or that she should stop caring about people, or that she loses the Tardis or something like that. That would be worse. The Doctor becoming a woman – doesn’t really change the spirit of the character that much and if anything it brings something fresh to the role, and it looks like Jodie Whittaker is great and loads of fun, like the Doctor should be.

So, female Doctor Who – why not?

But I don’t think this really counts as proper gender fluidity actually, because it’s a fictional alien character. I think gender fluidity is more likely to impact our lives in more real ways than this. Like for example how it is affecting language and conversations about language.

For example, what pronouns do we use to refer to people who have different gender identities, like people who identify as neither a woman nor a man, or some other gender which is a combination of both somehow. People might say “I feel that I am neither a man nor a woman” “I’m both and the language doesn’t have the words to reflect that, so we need to introduce some new words to include us, because if we’re not included in the language, then the culture is extremely prejudiced against us.” Also, trans-gender or gender-fluid people can feel very rejected or unrepresented or offended when their identity isn’t recognised by people, specifically when the wrong pronouns are used.

Pronouns – words like he, she, her, his and so on.

So some people want to introduce new pronouns to reflect the diversity of gender identities out there and they want to introduce new laws which say it’s technically a hate crime to use the wrong pronouns. 

I don’t know if this kind of thing has ever happened before and there are several debates combined in this. There’s the “Do people have the right to change their gender if they feel that way?” and in my opinion I kind of think, well, why not I think people should be allowed to do what they want. But a second debate is, “Do they get to legislate what language we can and can’t use?”

Forcing people to use certain forms of language by law – I just don’t know what to think about that. That does seem a bit like controlling people’s freedom to use language, but this whole thing exists in a very fuzzy and grey area involving freedom of speech and also the problem of hate speech and so on… It’s a moral maze.

And so, that’s where we’ll leave this subject. I’d like to think it’s ok for me not to have an opinion on some things. That’s my “I have rights” card here – I claim the right to just not have an opinion, thanks very much. I’m not ready to decide what I think about it all yet, and that’s ok. I’m allowed to do that, and so are you.

I know, you’re not even asking for my opinion, right? And I have no duty to give you my opinion.

Anyway, it’s interesting and you’re hearing all the words I’m using to talk about it, right?

This is the end of part 3! This series is longer than I expected. Part 4 coming soon…

Dictionary definitions – Collins English Dictionary. Copyright © HarperCollins Publishers

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/

552. Discussing Comedy & Culture (with Amber & Paul)

Amber, Paul and I listen to a comedy video which is often sent to me by listeners to this podcast. The video is about the experience of trying to understand people when they speak English. Let’s see what the pod-pals think of this comedy from another country. The conversation then turns to comedy, culture, language and some more Alan Partridge. I read out some listener comments at the end of the episode. Notes, transcripts and links available.

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Transcripts & Notes

Introduction

Welcome back to another episode featuring the PODPALS Amber & Paul.

In this episode we discuss comedy in different countries, including what makes comedy funny, what can make comedy culturally inappropriate, whether Brits have a different view of comedy to other cultures, and whether understanding comedy is just about understanding the language or if there’s more to it than that.

This is clearly the topic which I’m a bit obsessed with: How comedy or humour can reveal our cultural differences in the most striking ways. Perhaps comedy is the key to truly understanding our cultural values somehow.

I often talk about how learners of English often don’t find British comedy funny, and that this is a pity for me. One of the worst things I can hear is someone dismissing British humour or comedy as simply “not funny”. I don’t really mind if people say our food or weather is bad, but don’t touch the comedy, I think. But honestly, when I see comedy from other countries – like TV comedy in France where I live, I have to admit that I often don’t find it funny and I do find myself saying things like “oh, this is French comedy…” meaning – French comedy simply isn’t funny or only works on one level. Is that true or am I being hypocritical? I don’t really know.

Anyway, these questions are at the heart of the discussion in this episode, which also involves the three of us listening to and discussing a video – a video that I have been sent many times by listeners. Listeners have sent this video to me more than any other. I wonder if you know what that video could be.

Unfortunately Paul had to leave halfway through this episode because he had a live radio interview scheduled. He’s a busy man who is in demand all over the place. But after he leaves, Amber & I continue the discussion which goes on to discuss my recent episodes about British comedy and we revisit the subject of Alan Partridge.

So without any further ado, let’s get back to my coworking space and jump into the conversation once more.


The video that people have sent me more than any other

I get sent things like videos and memes and stuff. Sometimes it’s the same thing, like the “Eleven” video and also “What British People Say vs What They Mean”.

But this one more than any other.

I’m not going to tell you what it is yet. We’re just going to listen to it and I want you to tell me what you think is going on, and what you think of it.

Outtro Transcript

So there you are folks. Quite a lot packed into that episode. Lots of questions and points about comedy in different cultures and that video from Russia too. About that video, on balance I’d say that I personally didn’t find it funny when I first saw it. I found it a little odd. It’s like a big family entertainment show with a lot of attention being paid to what I expect are (or at least look like) celebrities in Russia in the audience. The comedians are just sitting on the stage, which is fine I think because you don’t always need lots of stage movement and stuff as long as the material is good.

I got the joke, which is that this is how it feels when you listen to people speaking English, but I found it really quite weird the interpretation of the British guy, but also fascinating.

He basically does this … [Luke copies the impression]

…and is stuttery, hesitant and incoherent.

It’s interesting to sort of look at British people through the eyes of Russians.

I guess this means that Brits must seem hesitant when they speak and I expect this also comes from hearing Brits with accents like perhaps the cockney or northern accents, but the result sounds nothing like any of those accents really. It’s a sort of garbled, lost in translation version of a British person with certain traits highlighted and emphasised perhaps because they don’t quite match the Russian way, or something.

I found the impression of the English guy more weird than funny. It felt like, “Is that what they think we sound like?”

The Indian guy is sort of a funny impression in that he’s got the tone and rhythm right but it’s a pretty broad impression and in fact more of a caricature than a full impression. Also there’s just the issue that copying an Indian accent if you’re not Indian is somehow considered a bit inappropriate in the UK.

I talked about this with Sugar Sammy in a recent episode.

534. Sugar Sammy Interview (Part 2) Language & Comedy

I still don’t know where the comedian in the Russian video is from but he could be Indian maybe.

But I get the joke. This is how it sounds for you when you hear these people.

I didn’t find it funny at first but actually I’m finding it more and more funny as I watch it again and again.

It’s also funny to me that I often talk about the challenge of showing UK comedy to learners of English and how they don’t get it, and then someone sends me a comedy video from another country and I have the same reaction, more or less!

I expect there are people in the audience who know more about this (video) than us so leave comments telling me more about this Russian TV Comedy Club video.

Also, I’m heartened to read some of your comments relating to the recent episodes about comedy.

Right now: I’ve just uploaded the 2nd Alan Partridge episode. There haven’t been many comments yet. Slightly disturbing silence. Have I confused everyone?

Edit:
**TIMESHIFT**
It’s now a week later.
I’ve received more messages than I did last week when I recorded this part of this episode.
Thanks for sending your comments. I’ll go through those messages in a moment.
But first, here are the messages I had received at the time I recorded this outtro last week, which was just after I’d released the Edinburgh Fringe Jokes episode and the first two Alan episodes.
*TIMESHIFT back to the present*

Here’s a selection of comments

Salwa • Alan Partridge Part 1
Oh that was really funny and enjoyable. Thank you very much for introducing Alan Partridge to us. I did not find the comedy difficult to understand at all. In fact, some of the jokes made me laugh out loud.

Mariangel García • Best Jokes from the Edinburgh Fringe
Hi Luke, I hope you’re doing alright
I’d like to tell you that you should continue making these podcasts about comedy, they’re quite enjoyable and help us improve our English, as you just said, understanding jokes in our second language can be the hardest thing.
By the way, please don’t forget my proposal of making an episode about British pop music. I’m definitely looking forward to listening to it.
Lots of hugs from Venezuela.

Anastasia Pogorevich • Best Jokes from the Edinburgh Fringe
Thank you, Luke! I’m really keen on your excellent Joke explanations. I think English humour is fabulous and would like to know more about that stuff. You make all things absolutely clear and I like your positive attitude to your work and to life! Cheers!

Tania •Best Jokes from the Edinburgh Fringe
That’s a pleasure! Thank you, Luke! I’ve got nearly all of the jokes but some after you read them several times. So It’s fun, of course. I know what learners usually say about English humor:)) I myself thought about it that way from the start, but you know, the humor is not just lying on the surface and turns out to be intellectual. Gives work to your brain. And finally you get it! Cool! This is the first audio i’ve listened on your site, downloaded the app and enjoy! English is becoming closer to me!

Vladimir Yermolenko • Best Jokes from the Edinburgh Fringe
Hi Luke! I really enjoyed this new episode on Edinburgh Festival Fringe, thank you so much. The jokes got all clear when you explained some of them. My favorite one was “watch and a log” :)
I also recall some funny jokes in my country, but I don’t know what the style of joke that is. I’ve just translated one from my language.
Dr.Watson asks Sherlock “Can you hear this sinister howl, Mr.Holmes?”
Holmes says “Yes, that’s probably the hound of the Baskervilles”

Then, on another day:
“But what is this sinister silence around us?”
“It’s the fish of Baskervilles, Doctor”

Anya Chu •Best Jokes from the Edinburgh Fringe
Hi Luke,
A little ninja from Taiwan here! I’ve been listening to your podcast for just over 1 year and have been enjoying it sooo much. Really appreciate your work on all the great content!
I’ve just finished the new episode of jokes from Edinburgh Fringe, and I loved it! I was on a bus when I listened to this episode and I kept getting giggles, which I tried very hard to disguise as coughs. British humor is just always on point.
Anyway, thank you again for all the effort on such excellent episodes. Please keep up the great work! :)

Svetlana Mukhamejanova • LEP Premium 06 Part 3
Hi Luke! Re P06[3] please don’t stop making fun, I love your sense of humor)

***TIMESHIFT!***
It’s now the future again. I’m recording this a week after recording the rest of this outtro and there are now more comments on the Alan Partridge episodes, which I’d like to share with you.

Alan (Part 1)

Hiro • 6 days ago
Hello Luke,
I really enjoyed the Knowing Me, Knowing You (aha)show with the child genius. It was so funny I listened to it 3 times! Without your precise explanations, though, I wouldn’t have been able to get all the jokes. Thank you!

Viktoria Luchina • 7 days ago
I adore listening to your episodes about British Comedy! And the way you explain to us some bits of language is perfect. I’ve listened to “Alan Partridge Interviews Child Prodigy Simon Fisher” at least 5 times and I liked it more than the first clip. It’s really interesting that in this case we laugh with Alan and at him. I’m looking forward to next episodes like this one! World needs to explore British Comedy in depth with you!

Alan (Part 2)

Hiro • 6 days ago
Hello Luke!
This second episode is a little more challenging for me than the previous one because the jokes are more subtle. However, the more I listened to your explanatiosn, the clearer the humorous points became to me! Yes, Alan Partridge is an absolute walking disaster! He makes me cringe so much I cannot listen to each one of his episodes in one go.
Again, without your excellent guide, I wouldn’t be able to understand all the nuances and layers of this comedy. Thank you very much, Luke!

Marat • 7 days ago
Hello, Luke! My name is Marat, I am from Russia. I really enjoy listening to your podcast in general and these Alan Partridge episodes in particular! In the first part you have mentioned The Office series as being full of cringey situations. I haven’t seen the British one, but have seen the American one (with Steve Carell). And that was really all about cringey moments). Have you seen the American one? Which one is more cringey in your opinion? (‘cringey’ is a new word to me, so I use it everywhere now :) ).

Alan (Part 3)

Zdenek Lukas • a day ago
Hi Luke, I just want to let you know that I have been thoroughly enjoying the episodes about Alan Partridge (currently in the middle of the 3rd one). I love this character and I actually played the clip from the first episode (the one with the child prodigy) to teach types of questions and the pronoun “whom”. I am a big fan of these episodes and I think you clearly managed to do justice to this character. Thank you for your podcast!

peppe124 • 2 days ago
After you spent several hours on 3 episodes, I think we all should spend a couple of minutes writing a comment. We own [owe] that to you.
You are THE teacher every school of English should have! The method you used on this series was just brilliant.
Giving the introduction and background (with cultural references as well), letting us listen and guess and then going back over the clips was really helpful to test and improves my listening skill!
I also liked the content itself,that is the comedy, although I must say I liked the first 2 more; but that’s because there were more, kind of, jokes.
Thank you very much Luke for all this. Keep up the great job!

Tatiana • 2 days ago
Hi Luke, it’s the first time I’ve come out of the woodwork, really. Just to say a few words about the Alan Partridge episodes. I have enjoyed all of them. They give a little insight into real English, the genuine one, that is what British people really laugh at! That’s amazing. Thank you for that! They are right, the people who say, ‘If you understand comedy, you understand the language’.
Your explanations before listening are so detailed that I find almost no difficulties to understand most of Alan’s words. And it is valuable! I tried to find those clips on YouTube (they’re all embedded on the page), and they are even better with video, I would say, (because) you can watch the facial expressions and body gestures.
But then I watched some more – those that were not scrutinised on the podcast. It was a nightmare – I could understand hardly half of it, and most jokes just flew over my head. I felt so disappointed, I see now that proficiency level is as far from me as the Moon.
Thank you for doing your job for us: your podcast is, at this point, one of the major ways of improving my English. I listen and re-listen, take notes, revise them from time to time and so on.
Please keep going with your comedy episodes, they are great!

Damian • 3 days ago
[The] Episodes about Alan Partridge (generally, all episodes about British comedians) are brilliant! Many thanks!

Nikolay Polanski • 5 days ago
All three episodes are very nice, even though it is sometimes hard to get, why it is funny, to be desperate, stupid, mean and lonely. )))
I mean – you said before “try to watch it as a drama, and you’ll appreciate the comedy” – it seems like drama to me )
It is funny, but also sad.
But the episodes are top notch, thanks for the great work you’ve done

Ilya • 4 days ago
I love it! I want more episodes about British comedy! One of my favourite topics.

Francesca Benzi • 3 days ago
Just a few comments, but all of them are a big thumbs up!
I’d never heard of Alan Partrige before listening to your podcast, so thank you: I had a very good time with each of the three episodes.
Brits behavior can often be weird, from an Italian point of view, and listening to your podcast builds up my knowledge of how different we are.

Yaron • 3 days ago
Coming out of the shadows for a moment to say that I like the Alan Partridge episodes. In a way, it reminds me of the brilliant episode about Ali G that you did few years ago (which I recommend to anyone who hasn’t listened to it yet)
Thank you Luke.

I find your comments very reassuring and I’m very glad to read them. I’ll do more episodes about comedy in the future. In the meantime, check the episode archive for other British Comedy episodes.

In fact, here are the links (11 episodes)

Previous episodes about British Comedy

156. British Comedy: Ali G

172. British Comedy: Peter Cook & Dudley Moore

195. British Comedy: Monty Python’s Flying Circus

202. British Comedy: Monty Python & The Holy Grail

313. British Comedy: Tim Vine

316. British Comedy: Tim Vine (Part 2)

427. British Comedy: Limmy’s Show

428. British Comedy: Limmy’s Show (Part 2)

462. British Comedy: Bill Bailey

469. British Comedy: John Bishop

507. Learning English with UK Comedy TV Shows

I also have episodes about telling jokes and explaining humour in social situations. Get into the archive and find out for yourself.

In the meantime, you should sign up for LEP Premium. Get the episodes on the LEP App, sign up at teacherluke.co.uk/premium for hot English action, helping you deal with vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation and have a bit of fun in the process. :)

Thanks for listening!