Rambling on my own about all sorts of things including Brexit news, describing my recording setup and microphones, a book recommendation for you, comments about the Beatles Abbey Road 50th Anniversary, the latest Star Wars Episode 9 trailer and Bill Bailey dissecting music in a brilliant way.
Hello everyone and welcome back to this podcast which is made by me in my flat in order to help you learn English and also enjoy learning English too!
If you heard the last episode, you’ll remember that I was planning to play an idioms game with Paul. That’s what you’re going to hear in this episode – a game with Paul in which we have to try to include some idioms into our conversation seamlessly.
What you can do in this episode is not only follow the conversation as usual, but also try to spot all the idioms as they crop up. There are 15 in total. Admittedly, about 3 of them are explained and defined at the beginning, but 12 others are slipped into the conversation and then explained and defined at the end.
So, can you spot all the idioms during the conversation? Do you know them already? Can you work out what they mean from context? This is good practice because it encourages you to pay attention and notice new language as it occurs in natural conversation. Noticing is actually an important skill which can really help with language acquisition.
When learners “notice” new language, they pay special attention to its form, use and meaning. Noticing is regarded as an important part of the process of learning new language, especially in acquisition-driven accounts of language learning, when learners at some point in their acquisition, notice their errors in production. Noticing will only occur when the learner is ready to take on the new language.
A learner might make an error in the use of a preposition, but “notice” its correct use by another learner, or in an authentic text. This might allow them to begin to use it correctly.
It’s an important skill to develop – to be able to notice language, to identify certain bits of grammar, or certain fixed expressions like idioms, notice the form (all the individual words used to create the idiom) and the meaning. It helps you identify differences between your use of English and the way it is used by natives, and that comparison allows you to then adapt your English accordingly. This awareness of what kind of English you’re aiming for is vital.
Developing noticing skills is an important part of developing learner autonomy and your language acquisition skills. The better you are at noticing, the more you are able to learn English by just listening to audio that you enjoy, rather than going through a language coursebook which teaches you specific language items. So, I encourage you to pay special attention during this episode on idioms and fixed expressions. Obviously idioms are confusing because they’re not literal – the whole phrase means something different to the individual words being used.
About the idioms you will hear. These are all very common ones. Some of them you are bound to have heard before and will not be new to you. In a way though, if you have heard them before I’m not concerned. That just means that you’re starting to learn all our idioms, which is a good thing. Remember that you also have to be able to use these idioms, not just understand them. When you do use them, be extra sure that you’re using them 100% correct – for example you’re not using a wrong little word here or there, or perhaps collocating the phrase with the wrong verb or something.
The topic of conversation just happens to be Paul’s brother Kyle who we talk about on the podcast occasionally. In case you don’t know – Kyle Taylor is a professional footballer who plays for the Premiership team Bournemouth FC, although he is still yet to make his Premiership debut. A debut is your first game. So he hasn’t played in the Premiership yet (he’s only about 20) but he has played in the FA Cup.
Alright, so you can listen to Paul and I discussing Kyle and his footballing career, amongst other things, and you have to spot the idioms, which will all be explained at the end. All the idioms are listed on the page for this episode on the website, so check them out there if you want to see specific things like spellings, the specific form of the idioms and so on.
Right, without any further ado, let’s begin!
Remember, all those idioms are listed on the page for this episode. So check them out.
The Idioms List from this game
(to go) back to the drawing board
to mind your Ps and Qs
to feel under the weather
to be all ears
to take the bull by the horns
to save something for a rainy day
to pull your socks up
to be down in the dumps
to let the cat out of the bag
to bend over backwards
to get your skates on
to call a spade a spade
to be full of beans
not a sausage
What did you think of the episodes about the mystery game? I don’t know what you all thought of that? Did you enjoy it? Was it too difficult to follow? Give me your feedback. You can do that on the website.
Hello listeners and welcome to episode 614. In this episode I’m going to continue reading through this online text adventure that I started in episode 612. This should be the 3rd and final part of this murder mystery story.
You have to listen to parts 1 and 2 first before you listen to this. They are episodes 612 and 613. If you don’t listen to them first, none of this will make any sense, ok!
So I’m assuming you’ve heard those two parts.
Let’s just recap the story quickly.
We’re on the hunt for the killers of 3 prominent academics in London 1861. Intelligent and brilliant people keep turning up dead, completely naked and with their hearts torn out.
After lots of investigation by us (a brilliant Holmes-style detective) and our partner Mardler, we’ve worked out that the killings have been done by a weird religious cult that worships King Cobras and likes to eat the hearts of people as a way of absorbing their intelligence. So they’ve been preying on academics, scientists, surgeons, historians and so on.
We’ve managed to catch two of the principle murderers – a wealthy member of the upper-classes, a woman posing as a nurse in local hospital and now we are on the tracks of the main bad guy, an old man by the name of Lynch who we suspect is currently holding a French intellectual hostage with a plan to murder him and eat his heart in the next few hours. Earlier in the story we got shot and had to jump out of a window so we are nursing an injury and not at our full strength.
We’ve managed to track down Lynch to a house outside London and now we are about to enter the house and hopefully save the life of the French man and bring Lynch to justice. Let’s see what happens next and what kind of score I’m going to get at the end of this game!
I have a feeling that we’re getting close to the end of the story, based on how it’s going. I reckon this should be finished in the next 15-30 minutes, but we will see. If there is time in this episode I will go through a list of vocabulary items that I’ve picked up from the story.
By the way, there are videos for episodes 612, 613 and hopefully this one available for Premium subscribers. You can see me reading through the story, and there are also some bonus extras including a song in 613 part 2. Sign up to LEP premium at teacherluke.co.uk/premium
Right, let’s carry on then!
an acclaimed historian
the odour of varnish
a furrowed brow
I thought I had you for a minute
bags under your eyes
gutted like an animal
She has blisters on her left fingertips from the strings
Gray rummagesthrough his desk drawer for a moment
Marilyn is taken aback
Marilyn hastily digs through her bag
her hand returns clutching two ticket stubs
This is a pretty good alibi, assuming we can hear from some witnesses that confirm her whereabouts
you don’t rule her out as a suspect entirely just yet
birch tree pollen
They got into a violent scuffle
scraping your palms on the hard road
You stumble back onto your feet and catch up with Mardler
sweat forming on your brow
sprint across the road
tripping on a discarded piece of garbage
Dilated pupils, bloody nose, hoarse voice
lurking at Hollowleaf Hospital, he’s trying to score some drugs
Dr Yates slumps down on the ground, defeated
Another dead end!
footprints on the floor
following the faintfootprints
a bruise on Julian’s face
The floorboards creak noisily as you walk over them
you tackle him to the ground
Most of the doctors and nurses have gone home for the night, but a few stragglers are left caring for the sick and wounded.
You wince in pain.
Your kneecap and head are throbbing.
Sorry I have to ambush you like this
Crisp morning air fills your nostrils
You feel winded by the time you reach Palomer’s door
a shard of glass
Mardler ponders your theory.
He was brushing up on German translations when we saw him last
Listen to Luke investigating a ‘choose-your-own-adventure’ detective story and read along if you like! Learn English in fun ways with stories on Luke’s English Podcast. Video available for premium subscribers.
In this one I’m going to go through another online text adventure in order to try to solve a murder mystery set in Victorian London.
It’s been a while since I did one of these on the podcast.
Several times in the past I have read through online detective adventure stories written by Peter Carlson and available at textadventures.co.uk
There were episodes 338 & 339 (A Murder Mystery Detective Story) and episodes 425 and 426 (Victorian Detectives) in which I was joined by Amber in Paul. (links at the bottom)
These are based on stories and text adventures that you can find at textadventures.co.uk I usually use the ones done by Peter Carlson and in fact after recording the first one, Peter got in touch with me to tell me that he liked the way I did it and was welcome to use his other stories. So, kudos to Peter for being behind us on this one.
In the first episode I read through the story entitled Victorian Detective, and then second one was the sequel “Victorian Detective 2” and now we are on to the third instalment of the series, that’s right it’s “Victorian Detective 3”.
So the idea behind these text adventures is that you read through some text on a webpage and there are certain words highlighted which you can click on for extra information and every now and then you have to make a decision which can affect the way the story turns out. Each decision relies on your observational skills and your reading of the information provided. You have to be like a Sherlock Holmes style detective, or a text detective if you will, to work out the right choices based on the evidence you’ve read.
This sort of thing is great for learning English because you can do tons of reading with very specific goals each time. It’s online so you can check out new words when you come across them and the fact that you’re part of the story makes it extra engaging. You can also read along with me as I play the game, or play it on your own later. And if you do that, consider leaving a comment or review at textadvantures.co.uk thanking Peter Carlson for his work.
You can check out loads of these games at textadventures.co.uk and I’ll let you explore them in your own time.
Right, so what about Victorian Detective 3?
In this series we play the part of a brilliant detective who has skills similar to those of Sherlock Holmes. You have perfect memory, demonstrated by the fact that you can re-read any text so far. Your super fast decision making ability is represented by the unlimited time we have to make our choices in the game. And our vast knowledge is represented by the internet and we are encouraged to google any things we don’t know about.
As a detective we have a police partner that we work with called Mardler. He’s a bit like the Lestrade character in Sherlock Holmes in that he is a police officer who often gets things wrong and is a bit competitive with you. So Mardler is our partner.
So here’s how it’s going to go.
I’ll read through each section and read all the other peripheral info that you get by clicking on different words. I’ll explain things as we go if I think it’s all getting complicated. I’ll invite you to think about the right option each time and if you want you can read along with me by following the link on the website.
I have no idea how long this will take! It might be several episodes, we’ll see. I haven’t done the game before so I don’t know how long it will last. In this episode I think I’ll go for about an hour and then I’ll find a good place to pause the story. Some kind of cliffhanger would be good.
Your task is just to try and keep up with the story, perhaps think about each decision too. If I make a mistake at any point, jump into the comment section and explain your thoughts.
But mainly, just try to follow the story and I hope you find it interesting and enjoyable as a way to learn English through listening.
I’m slightly concerned that my reading of texts might distance you from the story slightly. I really want you to concentrate on imagining the surroundings of each scene. It helps if you really visualise each situation as you listen to it. Use any descriptive language you can find to help you paint a visual image of what you’re hearing in the story. This can make a big difference to your ability to keep up and to stay involved all the way through.
So for this story we’re in London in 1861. Victoria is on the throne. The American Civil War is breaking out in the USA. London is probably quite a dirty, smokey, foggy sort of place with some very upmarket areas and also some slums. People used horses and horse-drawn carriages to get around and do things. It’s the world of Sherlock Holmes basically.
Right, so without any further ado, let’s begin the story.
There’s a little bit of chess at the beginning and I admit that I’ve done this several times to get the right sequence of moves. QUEEN – PAWN – PAWN
Also, as we go through I’m picking up or losing points based on my decisions. I think it’s not possible to die in the game, but the outcome might be different and your score can be different each time.
Here is another episode of this podcast for people learning English.
This time we are dissecting the frog again as we are going to be looking at top jokes from this year’s Ed Fringe. I’m going to read all the jokes to you and then dissect them for vocabulary which can help you learn English really effectively.
Explaining a joke is like dissecting a frog. You can learn something from it, but the frog dies in the process.
So let’s dissect the frog again!
A challenge for you:
Can you understand the jokes the first time you hear them?
Can you repeat the jokes, with the right timing, intonation and stress, to make the joke funny?
The Culture of Joke-Telling in English
Remember, when someone tells you a joke there are certain normal responses you should make. You shouldn’t give no reaction.
You have to show that you see that a joke has happened. Don’t just give no reaction or respond to the question on face value.
So when someone tells you a joke, you have to show that you’ve noticed it.
go “awwww” or something
Say “I don’t get it”
Heard it before
You also have to respond to certain jokes in certain ways.
Knock knock – who’s there?
Any kind of question, especially “What do you call a…?” or “What do you get if you cross xxx with yyy?”
You answer: I don’t know. Then the answer is the punchline.
Jokes from the Edinburgh Fringe 2019
I did one of these last year – episode 547. A whole year has gone by. So I did 64 episodes of the podcast, plus all the premium ones. Quite a productive year for LEP!
Right now stand up comedians all over the UK are having a welcome break and a chance to think about how their Edinburgh run was and what they can learn from it.
The rest of us are reading articles in the press about the best jokes from this year’s fringe, and which new comedians to look out for over the coming year or two.
What’s the Edinburgh Fringe again? (I’ve talked about it a lot on the podcast. Never actually been there.)
The Edinburgh Festival Fringe (also referred to as The Fringe or Edinburgh Fringe, or Edinburgh Fringe Festival) is the world’s largest arts festival, which in 2018 spanned 25 days and featured more than 55,000 performances of 3,548 different shows in 317 venues. Established in 1947 as an alternative to the Edinburgh International Festival, it takes place annually in Edinburgh, Scotland, in the month of August. It has been called the “most famous celebration of the arts and entertainment in the world” and an event that “has done more to place Edinburgh in the forefront of world cities than anything else.
It is an open access (or “unjuried“) performing arts festival, meaning there is no selection committee, and anyone may participate, with any type of performance. The official Fringe Programme categorises shows into sections for theatre, comedy, dance, physical theatre, circus, cabaret, children’s shows, musicals, opera, music, spoken word, exhibitions and events. Comedy is the largest section, making up over one-third of the programme and the one that in modern times has the highest public profile, due in part to the Edinburgh Comedy Awards.
Every year hundreds of stand up comedians go to the Fringe to do their shows. It is a sort of make-or-break experience.
Have you ever done it Luke? What’s it like?
I did something about different joke types in the last one of these episodes. I talked about things like “pull back and reveal” and “then I got off the bus”.
Here are about 5 different joke types, or stand-up techniques.
Puns (word jokes) – one word or phrase means two things at the same time, maybe because one word can sound like two words – homophones. [Why was 6 afraid of 7? Because 7, 8, 9. —> “8” sounds exactly like “ate”]
Pull back and reveal – the situation radically changes when we get more information. [My wife told me: ‘Sex is better on holiday.’ That wasn’t a nice postcard to receive.” Joe Bor 2014]
Observational humour – noticing things about everyday life that we all experience, but haven’t put into words yet. [What’s the deal with airline food, right?]
Similes – Showing how two things are similar in unexpected and revealing ways. [Explaining a joke is like dissecting a frog…]
Common phrases, reinterpreted. This time it seems that most of the jokes are based on well-known common phrases and how they could mean something else if you change the context. It’s like a pun but for a whole phrase. [Conjunctivitis.com – now there’s a site for sore eyes. Tim Vine]
The top 10 jokes of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2019 have been announced, with comedian Olaf Falafel taking the coveted top spot. Check out the full list below.
After previous triumphs from the likes of Tim Vine, Stewart Francis and Zoe Lyons, Falafel scooped the prize with a snappy vegetable themed one-liner.
He took ‘Dave’s Funniest Joke Of The Fringe’ with the gag:
1. “I keep randomly shouting out ‘Broccoli’ and ‘Cauliflower’ – I think I might have florets”.
Florets are chunks of broccoli or cauliflower
Tourette’s is a condition in which people shout out the rudest and most taboo thing in any situation, particularly stressful ones.
The two words sound quite similar.
It’s not the best joke in my opinion.
What makes a really good joke?
If it’s a pun, it should work both ways.
You’re looking at a sentence that means two things at the same time. Ideally, both of those things will make overall sense.
“I keep randomly shouting out ‘Broccoli’ and ‘Cauliflower’ – I think I might have florets”.
So, one sense here is that he has a type of tourette’s which only involves shouting out broccoli and cauliflower. That makes sense, sort of.
But the other meaning doesn’t. Why would he be randomly shouting out the words broccoli and cauliflower if he had some florets in his hand?
So, for me it doesn’t quite work.
Here’s a joke that works both ways
I broke my finger last week. On the other hand, I’m ok.
On the other hand means “But” (the whole sentence still makes sense) He broke his finger but overall he’s ok.
On the other hand means “literally on his other hand” (the whole sentence makes sense again) He broke his finger on one hand, but his other hand is ok.
“I keep randomly shouting out ‘Broccoli’ and ‘Cauliflower’ – I think I might have florets”.
It came from Falafel’s show It’s One Giant Leek For Mankind, which was performed at the Pear Tree.
The comic, who won with 41% of the vote, claims to be “Sweden’s 8th funniest” comedian. He also works as an acclaimed children’s book author.
(This is like a democratic election in which the one that 59% of people (the majority) didn’t vote for, is the one that’s picked.)
Falafel said: “This is a fantastic honour but it’s like I’ve always said, jokes about white sugar are rare, jokes about brown sugar… demerara.”
(How is that like winning this list?🤷♂️)
Check out the rest of the top ten below.
2.”Someone stole my antidepressants. Whoever they are, I hope they’re happy” – Richard Stott
Listen to a lovely bit of stand up comedy that will require quite a lot of breaking down in order for you to understand all the jokes like a native speaker, but there’s lots to learn in the way of language and culture in the process.
This is LEP episode 610. and it’s called British Comedy: James Acaster.
In this one we’re going to listen to a lovely bit of stand up comedy that will require quite a lot of breaking down in order for you to understand all the jokes like a native speaker, and there’s lots to learn in the way of language and culture in the process.
James Acaster is a popular stand up comedian from the UK who has won various awards, done Netflix specials, Edinburgh shows and who appears on panel shows and TV comedy programmes all the time. He’s now a very popular and well-known stand up in the UK.
I’ve got a clip of one of his performances from the New Zealand Comedy Gala in 2013 on YouTube.
I’m going to play the video in about two parts.
You have to try to understand it – not just what he’s saying, but why is it funny?
Then I’ll go back through the clip, sum it up, go through it line by line, breaking it down for language.
You can then listen again using the video on the page for the episode.
Who is James Acaster? (Wikipedia) James Acaster is an English comedian originally from Kettering, Northamptonshire. (accent?) He has performed for several consecutive years at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and won two Chortle awards in 2015. He has been nominated for Best Show five times at the Edinburgh Fringe. Acaster has appeared on several panel shows, including Mock the Week and Would I Lie to You? He has a 2018 Netflix show entitled Repertoire, consisting of four hour-long stand-up comedy performances. He has also written a book, James Acaster’s Classic Scrapes, consisting of true stories, most of which were originally told on Josh Widdicombe’s show on XFM. He currently hosts panel show Hypothetical alongside Widdicombe and food podcast Off Menu with fellow comedian Ed Gamble.
He’s originally from Northamptonshire which is in the east midlands. He doesn’t have a strong northern accent or a brummie accent, although I do think he would say “podcast” instead of “podcast” and “bath, grass, laugh” with that short a sound too.
The main thing is that he drops all his “T” sounds and also “TH” sounds.
So, “bring them” sounds like “bring em”
“Sitting in a tree, eating all the apples” sounds like “si’in in a tree, ea’in all the apples”
“Theft” becomes “Feft”
He also says “Raver” instead of “rather”.
All very common features of local English – dropping Ts and TH sounds is common all over the country.
What is his comedy style?
Whimsical (unusual, strange and amusing)
Thinking of things in a different way, unconventional (quite normal in stand up)
Acting a bit cool even though he isn’t
Geeky looking, wears sweaters, clothes even a granddad might wear
Looks a bit like Jarvis Cocker
James bought some ‘ready-to-eat Apricots’ and he went on a lads’ night out
You get these bags of fruit in the UK (and elsewhere I’m sure) of fruit which is ready to eat.
It’s been cut up, washed, prepared. It’s ready to eat.
For example, you might get “ready-to-eat apricots”. That’s what James is talking about here.
Also, the expression ”You are what you eat?”
Play the clip:What’s the joke about apricots?
Stop and explain it
What kind of apricots are these?
They are ready-to-eat apricots.
How do you feel?
I feel ready. Ready to eat apricots.
In fact, you could say I was ready to eat these ready-to-eat apricots.
Maybe you’re not ready to eat apricots.
Maybe you just want some, which is why they’re in a resealable bag.
So, they should be renamed ready-to-eat-some-apricots.
A lads’ night out / You wouldn’t bring an apple to an orchard
James went on a night out with a bunch of lads.
For James, this was not an enjoyable night.
It wouldn’t be for me either. I’ve never been one of those guys who likes to go out on a lads’ night out.
Lets me explain what a lads’ night out is like.
Lads are usually English young men, together, doing male things and generally being aggressive, overly sexual, crude, rude and competitive.
Lots of alpha male behaviour
Taking the piss and general one-upmanship and aggressive, laddish, competitive behaviour
Spending time in bars and clubs that you hate but they think are brilliant (terrible, terrible music, awful people, loud, smelly, horrible)
Trying to pick up girls and the general lack of a moral code – cheating, lying, using alcohol – all in an attempt to get lucky with a girl. This includes cheating on your girlfriend if you have one.
Medieval-level sexual politics – being openly judgemental about women’s appearances, giving women marks out of ten, saying whether or not you would shag any of the women around, looking at their bodies and comparing notes etc.
You get sucked into it through peer pressure and become part of it even though you hate it.
One of the lads, who has a girlfriend and yet plans to pick up a girl at the club, when asked why he didn’t bring his girlfriend, says “You wouldn’t bring an apple to an orchard”
An orchard is a place where apples are grown. It’s full of trees and there are apples everywhere. You might pay to access the orchard and pick the apples.
You wouldn’t bring an apple to an orchard. Presumably because you wouldn’t need to bring one because there are loads there anyway.
How about bringing your girlfriend to a night club. Is it the same?
This leads James to kind of question the logic of that statement and go off an a monologue about bringing an apple to an orchard and how that compares to bringing your girlfriend to a nightclub.
To be an accessory to something (like a crime)
An apple a day keeps the doctor away
Play the clip:Do you understand all the comedy about the nightclub and bringing an apple to an orchard?
Stop and explain it
Going to a nightclub with a bunch of lads
One of them cheats on his girlfriend and you become an accessory to it, like it’s a crime and now you’ve become pulled into it. You’re involved in it, without intending to be, and you could go down, like you’re an accessory to a crime.
In this sense, you just have to keep a secret, you’re being expected to lie on behalf of someone else. The guy is a twat basically.
This lad says “You wouldn’t bring an apple to an orchard”.
But then James deconstructs this analogy in a brilliant way.
This is nuanced comedy which is subtly making fun of stupid lad culture in a clever and funny way, with some weirdness and surrealism.
Go through it line by line
One of the reasons I like it is that a lot of people might just say James is being weird and that he’s some sort of loser, but he’s absolutely right in my opinion and he’s just clever and not afraid to be himself and he embraces the slightly weird things in life, because let’s face it, life is weird.
Types of humour / how nuanced & subtle humour can be all about changing the context of the situation in order to reveal new perspectives.
This acknowledges the fact that there are many different perspectives or layers to any situation and a good comedian can make you realise a whole different underlying meaning by just changing one bit of perspective.
Despite the fact that I like this a lot and so do many other people, I’m sure plenty of others don’t find it funny because it’s not fast enough, there aren’t enough dynamic changes (he doesn’t change his voice a lot, a lot of the jokes are left to the audience’s imagination), it’s pretty low energy, maybe little things like (I can’t get into it – I just don’t like his hair cut or his shoes or something) and also some people just don’t really want to look at the world from a different point of view. Some people prefer more direct humour, perhaps with a more obvious target or more relatable things, like observational comedy or something.
As usual, I’m worrying that nobody will get it, but what’s the point of that? Some people just won’t get it because “you can bring a horse to water but you can’t make it drink”.
And it doesn’t matter. If you didn’t find it funny, that’s totally fine. At least you’ve learned some English in the process. :)
They say “you are what you eat”
A resealable bag
A lads’ night out
Check out the arse on that
Normal people perv solo
To outnumber someone
A dented suitcase
To cheat on someone
An accessory to a crime
Eloquent use of language
A little bit miffed
This godforsaken pisshole of an orchard
Who in their right mind compares women to apples?
Another saying “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”
Here’s another short clip of James Acaster, this time talking about Brexit and comparing it to a tea bag in a cup.
Should you take the bag out or leave it in?
James Acaster Brexit Tea Bag
Now explain that Luke!
Tea / Brexit
Should you leave the bag in or not?
If the bag stays in, the cup as a whole gets stronger. It might look like the bag is getting weaker in some way but it’s actually part of a good strong cup of tea.
If you take the bag out, the tea is actually quite weak, and the bag goes straight in the bin.
Do I even need to explain how that analogy works with Brexit?
Should the UK stay in or go out?
If the UK remains, the EU as a whole gets stronger. It might look like the UK is getting weaker in some way, but it’s actually part of a good strong union of nations.
If the UK leaves, the EU gets weaker and the UK goes straight in the bin.
Quite clever really.
You can watch James Acaster clips on YouTube.
You can see his Netflix specials “Repertoire” on Netflix
You can read his book “Classic Scrapes” from any half-decent book shop.
No transcript for the intro to this episode, but there is a transcript for the ending (below)
Queen at Live Aid 1985
Alex Love “How to win a Pub Quiz: British Edition” at Edinburgh Fringe 2019
The Stand, Room 2. 12 o’clock noon, throughout August (but not 12 August).
Tickets here https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/alex-love-how-to-win-a-pub-quiz-british-edition
So that was Alex Love talking about one of his favourite bands, Queen.
I hope you managed to follow all of that. I understand that the sound quality wasn’t exactly perfect and Alex can be a bit of a mumbler sometimes, but this is good practice – not every conversation or bit of listening you’ll do will happen in completely perfect acoustic conditions. It’s good training to listen to conversations like this from time to time.
So I know that plenty of you out there are big fans of Queen and you might have things to say yourselves, so I’d like to invite you to leave your comments in the comment section.
You can write responses to any of the things that came up in this conversation and here are some questions for you too. These are pretty much the questions I asked Alex I think.
How did you first get into Queen?
What’s their appeal, to you and to everyone?
How would you describe their sound?
What’s the story of the band? Do you know their origins and how they went on to become such a huge band?
What are your favourite songs of theirs and why?
What’s Bohemian Rhapsody all about (the song)?
What about the film Bohemian Rhapsody? Have you seen it? What did you think of it? And have you seen Rocketman the Elton John film?
What can you tell me about the individual members of the band? What was the dynamic between them all? (Often seems to be the secret to every band’s magic)
So do feel free to write some things in the comment section in response to any of those questions.
If you’re heading to Edinburgh for the Fringe this year, why not check out Alex’s show, which is always a hit at the festival. It’s called How To Win a Pub Quiz and it is part stand up comedy show and part pub quiz. It’s described in the fringe website as being an interactive comedy game show. It is a lot of fun.
Just a reminder about premium content. I’ve uploaded series 13 and series 14 is almost ready to go now. So, plenty of premium stuff available now and it’s all about repeating, demonstrating and clarifying language which has come up naturally in conversations on the podcast, and there are pronunciation drills focusing on different aspects of pronunciation each time. Episodes and PDFs available in the app and online. Go to teacherluke.co.uk/premium to get started.
Again, things might be a little bit quiet with the free podcast, but premium episodes are coming.
OK, I look forward to reading your comments as they come in.
No song from me, as Alex requested, just because I don’t feel really good enough to tackle a song by Queen. They’re all too technical and Freddy’s voice is so strong and has so much range to it that it’s hard to do covers of Queen songs, but perhaps if I somehow meet up with Alex we can do some kind of duet, which I’m sure would be absolutely horrible… but if that’s what the people want, that’s what I’ll do!
Hello and welcome back to Luke’s English Podcast. How are you? It’s boiling hot here. We’re in the middle of a heat wave and today the temperature is expected to be in the high 30s with a feels-like temperature somewhere in the 40s.
I’ve never understood that. So the temperature is 39 but it feels like 43. So isn’t the temperate 43 then? I don’t get it.
In any case, it is boiling. So if at some point I stop talking, you hear a thud and the podcast goes silent – don’t worry, I’ve just passed out from heat stroke or exhaustion or something. Just joking, but it is very hot.
These aren’t exactly perfect conditions, but my dauntless British spirit is unbowed by any crisis, as we heard in the last episode, so I will be just fine, thank you.
I wonder how it is where you are.
Now, enough idle chit chat, let’s on to this episode.
This is episode 602 and it’s the second part of this episode I’m doing about British comedy TV show “The Day Today”.
You should listen to part 1 before listening to this, and also know that there are notes, videos and bits of transcription on the page for this episode on my website. Just go to teacherluke.co.uk and check the episode archive where you will find all the other episode pages, plus some bonus website-only content too.
In the first part of this episode I talked to you about The Day Today – what kind of programme it is, who made it and so on. Then we listened to three clips from that show which you can find on YouTube and then I broke them down for language and to help you understand the humour.
That’s exactly what we’re going to continue doing in this episode. I have 3 more clips, available on YouTube, so let’s do it like this:
First I’ll talk to you about the clip we’re going to see, explaining the context, giving you the main details and asking you to listen out for certain things. This part is necessary because it will really help you understand the reference points and bits of humour that you might otherwise miss.
Then we’ll listen again bit by bit and I’ll explain specific things including phrases or other features of English
Hopefully through this process you will understand and appreciate the humour and you’ll also pick up some English in the process.
Just a reminder – The Day Today is a parody news programme. None of the stories we’re going to hear about is real. It’s all completely made up parody for comedy purposes. This show makes fun of the conventions and clichés of TV news and current affairs programmes, and does it with a weird and surreal twist.
Also, I want to appeal to you to write to me about these episodes. Whenever I do episodes about comedy I wonder what people are thinking. Part 1 of this is doing well in terms of listens, but in terms of comments there are only a couple on the website and I’ve received maybe one email about this, so I’d like to appeal to you to get into the comments section. As a teacher in a classroom and a stand up comedian in a comedy club I get instant feedback on what I’m saying and doing. On the podcast it’s not like that. I record episodes, publish them and then I have no idea beyond just a few numbers, what people think. So, write to me and let me know what you think of this. Do you understand it all? Does it entertain you or disturb you? What are you thinking? Let me know.
Get The Day Today DVD Box Set on Amazon https://www.amazon.co.uk/Day-Today-Complete-BBC-Disc/dp/B000171RU4/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=the+day+today&qid=1560774228&s=gateway&sr=8-1
OK, so let’s carry on with the first of our three clips.
It’s your blood – “Chopper of Doom” 22:30 (Episode 1)
This is from a feature called “It’s your blood” which is exactly like those old TV shows that told stories of bad accidents and how the emergency services responded to them. We used to have a show called 999 which was exactly the same as this.
They always used reconstructions with actors to remake the accident, and they were very cheaply done with the victims telling the story with a voice over. The presenter was Michael Buerk (again) and he had a certain kind of tone which was serious and stern with a patronising edge as if to say “If you’re stupid enough not to take precautions then you deserve to have an accident” perhaps with a little pause, looking at the camera to say “Don’t be an idiot”.
A little snippet of 999 (12:00)
Listen out for the stern, dramatic and slightly patronising tone of it. Also, it’s presenting itself as a public safety broadcast but really it’s just stories of bad accidents reconstructed for our entertainment.
So this is a little clip from BBC 999. (12:00)
On the Day Today it was called It’s Your Blood.
“Every week on It’s your blood we feature an actual bad accident”.
It’s a parody of that kind of show. Did you have shows like that in your countries? Someone tells the true story of a bad accident that they had and then it’s reconstructed using actors and sometimes the real ambulance workers themselves, who are always terrible actors.
In this clip, the accident is that a farmer flies his helicopter above some fields, but passes out while flying. The helicopter is dangerously out of control in the sky and might crash on some children. Luckily the farmer’s dog is in the helicopter, so the authorities manage to save the situation with the help of a local shepherd who whistles to the dog through the CB radio, instructing him how to land the plane, which he does.
If you’re not listening carefully you could easily miss the fact that the dog is the one that lands the plane, because everything is told in such a serious way. The dog even has a voice over at one point as it explains what it was like to fly in the helicopter.
Listen out for
How Chris Morris ramps up the drama by suggesting that the blades of a helicopter could easily kill humans “Helicopters, machines for cutting air, air that’s soft and easy to slice, like human beings.”
The perhaps unnecessary levels of drama, violence and suspense in the retelling of the story
Making the reconstruction had ethical questions because it forced the victims to face their ordeal again
“All bodily fluids are the ones that actually emerged at the time.” Ridiculous and impossible, but somehow exactly the kind of thing they’d say on a show like this. For example, the first 20 seconds of the real BBC 999 show.
The way he says “For this reason and many others, you may find that the following sequence produces a very powerful sensation in your brain and body” Listen out for how he says the final line “a very powerful sensation in your brain and body” in a kind of tragic way because it involved an actual bad accident. They could just not show this, but for some reason it’s their duty to show it and for us to watch it because a man had an accident and we shouldn’t do it too.
The voice over from the sheepdog Lindsay “It was smooth and exhilarating like an aerial motorbike” – that’s the sheepdog actually speaking in voice over
Question: What causes the farmer to pass out?
The local resident who takes 10 minutes to call for help because she’s too busy filming the disaster on her camcorder
Does the story end on a positive note or a negative note?
Clip begins at 22:30
A treat – give a treat to someone, promise someone a treat, get a treat for doing something, to deserve a treat, give a dog a treat A memento – I decided to video it for him as a memento Perilous – the helicopter was perilously out of control To head towards something – the chopper was heading towards a field, heading for a field
REDUNDANCY (Peter O Hanrahanrahan) 5:05 (Episode 6)
Economics Correspondent Peter O Hanrahahanrahan is back. This time the story is that General Motors in Detroit have laid off some workers at their factory.
Some language A factory / a plant To lay someone off / to make someone redundant
How many workers have been laid off? Peter O Hanrahahanrahan has the story, live in Detroit. The thing is, he’s got the wrong number.
Chris Morris presses him on this, forcing him to embarrass himself by showing his notes, which have a doodle of a spider in a spider’s web in the corner of the page.
Chris tells Peter off like he’s a naughty schoolboy.
Listen out for
Peter’s conviction at the moment that this is “Mass redundancy on an unprecedented scale”
How Chris shows his scepticism over Peter’s number.
How Peter quickly admits that he’s wrong when Chris asks to see his notes.
“You’re lying in a news grave” …what does it say on the gravestone? …news
Clip begins at 5:05
The POOL (Coogan’s bit) 24:21
This is from a spoof fly on the wall documentary about a municipal swimming pool in London and the people that work there.
You know that kind of thing – a camera crew follow people around their working life and reveal little human dramas that go on and tell the story of people in their ordinary lives in their own words.
In this one we’re at a swimming pool and we’re following some of the staff there. We see footage of the staff interacting, dealing with problems. We see what it’s really like to work at a swimming pool. There used to be a lot of shows like this on TV, and they spawned parodies like The Office. The bit I want to look at is Steve Coogan as the pool’s security guard. He’s playing a much older man and it’s pure Peter Cook. It’s a great little comedy character that we have never seen again.
He’s the security guard at the pool and he describes his work including several incidents like when a pigeon got into the pool once. It seems his working life is extremely boring and mundane, but then we learn that one year a person was killed at the pool and there’s a question of whether the security guard is somehow responsible for this. I love the way he responds to the suggestion that he’s liable for the person’s death.
Listen out for
Coogan’s tone of voice, accent and other little touches that make this an authentic feeling character
The way Coogan’s story about the pigeon has a very boring ending
What did he do one night when he found a woman’s swimsuit?
What’s his response to the allegation that he was responsible for the death at the pool?
Clip begins at 24:21
Rick Thompson in the DVD extras for The Day Today
The DVD has various bonus extras on it. I remember watching one of those extras with my brother and there was one which was a mini documentary about news broadcasting and how The Day Today uses the style of news for comic effect.
After a couple of minutes, we were surprised to see our dad on screen! He’d been filmed for the documentary and there he was in the BBC newsroom talking about news.
Let’s investigate a brilliant British comedy TV show and use it to learn English. The Day Today was originally broadcast on the BBC in the mid-90s and is now considered a groundbreaking parody of news programmes and launched the careers of various comedians, including Steve Coogan.
Hello folks, this episode is called British Comedy: The Day Today and in this one we’ll be looking at another classic bit of British TV Comedy.
First I’ll tell you everything you need to know about the show and then we’ll listen to some clips and I’ll explain the language for you.
This time, it’s The Day Today which was originally broadcast on TV in the 1990s, 1994 to be exact – yes, that’s probably before some of you were even born. But we don’t care about whether this is old or brand new, it doesn’t matter. I think good comedy always stands the test of time, and The Day Today is no exception. It’s still relevant and funny now just like it was before. And in any case, I think it’s part of the fabric of British culture now, just like many other classic bits of British TV comedy that we all grew up watching on TV.
What kind of programme is it?
It’s a surreal parody of news and current affairs TV programmes. It’s a comedy version of the news.
Imagine the news, like the BBC 10 o’clock news, but with everything turned up to 11, everything exaggerated. It’s more dramatic, more pompous, more self-important and much more ridiculous than the real news.
But The Day Today isn’t just an impressions show of people copying news readers, it had this amazing surreal twist to it, which made it so much more subversive.
The show made fun specifically of the self-important nature of TV news and used surrealism and absurdity under the guise of a news broadcast.
The news always presents itself as being very important, very serious, very heavy, completely trustworthy, stern, authoritarian even. These days TV news has softened a bit, but not much. It still has this air of superiority, which I suppose is a necessary part of attempting to convey information in a factual, serious and balanced way. But TV news language – both oral and visual has become a cliché (had become a cliché back in the 90s) which makes it very ripe for making parody comedy.
An example of real TV news headlines
Here’s an example of the opening of the BBC 9 o’clock news, which was and still is the flagship news programme for the BBC.
Listen out for the serious tone of the newsreader Michael Beurk, the important and significant sounding music and also Michael Beurk’s slightly old school pronunciation in places. All of these things went into The Day Today. (News begins at 00:50)
The difference between the Day Today and other shows which have parodied the news was the surrealism. Basically this meant taking a silly story and dealing with it in the most serious way possible, but there was more to it than that. The phrases used, the images created and the slight sense of twisted insanity create this version of the news that’s part Monty Python, part Peter Cook and part some kind of high tech dystopian vision of the future.
This is absolutely a show that inspired Charlie Brooker to do work like Black Mirror. In fact, the creator of Black Mirror worked with Chris Morris – the main guy behind The Day Today. So, for me, they come from the same creative community. Clever, satirical, twisted, dark and very funny comedy writing in the UK.
The Day Today was broadcast at 9pm on BBC2 – the same time as the national news on BBC1. Apparently some people mistakenly watched The Day Today, thinking it was the real news, and believed the stories.
The parody of news tropes was spot on. It looked, sounded and smelt like news. The opening titles of the show captured that sense of drama, pomposity and urgency that you get from news programmes. The set looked just right. The different characters were weird and bizarre but perfectly captured the sorts of journalists or presenters that you could find on TV.
Alan Partridge made his first TV appearance on this show as the sports reporter with a chip on his shoulder who was always getting things wrong.
The language is a big part of it. The news readers speak in this kind of news dialect, with a certain kind of intonation, complex sentences that go on too long and mixed metaphors, as we will hear.
Excellent performances by the cast, all of whom have gone on to do other great things.
Chris Morris is a talent that people often forget about, but he was fearless, original, very clever, quite ruthless and a bit sick – the perfect recipe for great British comedy. He went on to do another show called Brass Eye, which was similar to The Day Today but more extreme and controversial (and is a potential other episode for LEP), then various weird comedy projects like BlueJam, an ambient mix album with subliminal sketch comedy going on at the same time. Then he became a film director and did the film Four Lions which is about inept terrorists planning an attack in London. The film won various awards, as did The Day Today.
Armando Iannucci went on to make The Thick of It and In The Loop – political satires about life on Whitehall, and then Veep which is the American equivalent following the vice president. He also directed Death of Stalin and has been involved in writing for Alan Partridge and other big projects.
Other notable cast members are Steve Coogan of course who went on to become successful as Alan Partridge but has also starred in a few Hollywood movies and things.
All the other comedians on the show went on to do more great work. Rebecca Front, Doon Mackichan, Patrick Marber, David Schneider.
Other writers on the show were Graham Linehan and Arthur Matthews who went on to create Father Ted and later The IT Crowd and Black Books (just Graham Linehan).
LET’S LISTEN TO SOME CLIPS AND USE THEM TO LEARN ENGLISH
Alright, enough already. Let’s listen to some clips which you can find on YouTube, and which I have posted on the page for this episode, with time codes to help you find the clips.
There are only 6 episodes of The Day Today but they’re pretty packed with classic stuff.
I’ve been through all 6 episodes and picked out some of my favourite moments to share with you.
The plan is to play them, then break them down sentence by sentence to make sure you understand them 100% and hopefully, get the jokes, although this show doesn’t really use jokes per se, but in any case the aim is to help you understand and appreciate the humour and learn plenty of English in the process.
All the episodes are on YouTube so you could check them all out later if you like, or buy the excellent DVD box set from the BBC, which I own and recommend to you. It’s only £5 on Amazon. Other bookshops are available.
I have played some clips of this show before, and explained them for language. You might remember Alan Partridge’s World Cup Countdown or his Sports Roundup, there was Peter O’Hanrahahanrahan interviewing the minister for ships, and I think also we had the interview with the woman raising money by selling jam.
Anyway, let’s get into it.
First I want to play you the opening titles of an episode, just for the music really, because it sets the tone. There are a few ridiculous headlines too.
CLIP 1: THE DAY TODAY – OPENING TITLES
What are the three stories exactly?
Luke describes the opening titles
Those headlines again
Remember the way grammar changes in headlines.
FIST HEADED MAN DESTROYS CHURCH
Presumably a man with a fist for a head has destroyed a church. You can imagine him headbutting the walls or something. Don’t think about it too much, it’s supposed to be funny to hear such ridiculous things spoken in that voice using that register.
CAR DRIVES PAST WINDOW IN TOWN
The most boring story. A car drove past a window in a town. It’s accompanied by a video of a car driving past a building.
LEICESTER MAN WINS RIGHT TO EAT SISTER
Presumably a man from Leicester has taken court action to allow him to eat his sister. You could imagine this was a real story if he wanted to ‘wed’ his sister, or cousin, especially if he’s from Leicester, but this is to ‘eat’ his sister.
“Those are the headlines, now fact me till I fart.”
CLIP 2: WAR
Australia and Hong Kong have signed a treaty to create an amazing free trade agreement which will be very beneficial for both places and marks a new beginning of peace and cooperation between them.
Chris Morris interviews the British Minister with special responsibility for the commonwealth (this is the days when HK was still a British dependent territory) and the Australian Foreign Secretary – both men who are responsible for the deal.
The interview seems to start as a celebration of the new deal, but the newsreader Chris Morris manages to manipulate the two of them into a diplomatic fight which ends in a declaration of war.
This is a great sketch. The newsreader causes a war in order to be able to cover it in dramatic fashion on his news show. For me it’s about how the media can sometimes drive the agenda through their reporting. The BBC isn’t officially biased. In fact I think most journalists have an honest intention to report on what’s happening, but they’re always going to impose some of their world view on the way they explain stories. But also you get the sense sometimes that some TV producers and presenters are a bit seduced by their own power and end up pushing things in a certain direction under the guise of critical thinking.
Also, perhaps news programmes thrive on creating drama and reporting on a war is somehow the dream of many broadcast journalists, or at least seems like that because war correspondents have this air of action and adventure which borders on being romantic, and the efficient and lively way that broadcasters deal with stories of war makes it seem like they’re enjoying it somehow. There’s precise technical information, reporters in the middle of the action and loads of dramatic music, graphics and images.
Let’s listen to this sketch, which is about 4mins long.
Over to you
Here are some things to listen out for
How Chris Morris stokes up tensions and pushes the two diplomats towards war
Chris Morris’s confrontational interview style, typical of BBC presenters like Jeremy Paxman, notorious for bullying politicians on TV
The mixed metaphors and clichés like, “The stretched twig of peace is at melting point” and
“People here are literally bursting with war.”
The glee with which Chris says “YES, IT’S WAR!”
The OTT way that the show snaps into action once war has been declared, like they were ready and prepared for this, and as journalists this is what they live for
The name of the Day Today smart bomb (which I think is an actual bomb fired by The Day
Today, with a camera on it, so they can report from the middle of the fight. The news station have launched their own bombs in this war)
The clunky way the show goes to the weather, after all that war
I will be going through all of this again after we’ve heard it and I will break it down to the bare bones and will explain language and all that
CLIP 3: Peter O’hanrahahanrahan – Ich Nichten Lichten (Episode 2)
Ministers in Europe have been involved in difficult discussions about quota rates for trade with the US. I expect they’ve been debating what the rates should be, with some ministers disagreeing about the final decision.
Economics correspondent Peter O’Hanrahahanrahan is in Brussels because he says he’s spoken to the German minister and knows how he feels about the decision.
Peter O Hanrahahanrahan’s name is a joke on a real correspondent called Brian Hanrahan (an irish name I think) who actually used to call our house sometimes to speak to my dad (who used to be a BBC news man). Michael Beurk also came round sometimes. He was one of the presenters of the 9 o’clock news who is parodied by Chris Morris on The Day Today. In fact, I feel like I grew up in a news household because my dad often reviewed videos of presenters, we always watched the news, there were BBC pens and mugs all around the house and we sometimes met BBC TV presenters and news readers. I never met Alan Partridge though.
Peter O’Hanrahahanrahan is incompetent, stupid and also petulant (disobeys orders and lies, childishly). It turns out that Peter hasn’t spoken to the German minister and just stayed in his hotel room the whole time. He’s making up the information and can’t even speak German.
Listen out for
The way Chris Morris is sceptical about what Peter is saying, and starts to question his story subtly, before full-on bullying him and telling him off like a naughty schoolboy
Peter’s pathetic attempt to speak German, clearly pretending that he knows the language and actually spoke to the German minister, when he doesn’t and didn’t
How Peter finally admits that he doesn’t actually know what happened and didn’t speak to the minister at all, like a teenager admitting that he’s lying
Peter O Hanrahahanrahan – Ich nichten lichten (starts at 19m40sec)
CLIP 4: SOME KIND OF DRUBBING INCIDENT (Episode 3
In this one we start with a sports report from Alan Partridge but it gets interrupted with the news that The Queen and the Prime Minister have had a fight. We then follow the story and learn that during their weekly meeting, the PM (John Major) punched The Queen. This sounds shocking of course, especially now that The Queen is elderly, but that’s not the point.
Instead the show is mocking the way the news would deal with a constitutional crisis, springing into action in order to cover the crisis in full detail. It’s also just ridiculous to imagine The Queen having a brawl with anyone.
Listen out for
The report from Jennifer Gumpets in front of Buckingham Palace. This report is so realistic.
There isn’t much comedy in it beyond the bizarreness of the story. It’s just a perfect little parody of a report from a correspondent.
“And as a result of that broadcast the crisis has deepened dramatically” The news actually makes the situation worse by broadcasting footage of the fight, and then starts reporting on that too.
Spartacus Mills (history expert) – “Can you sum it up in a word? No. A sound?” What sound does Spartacus use to sum up the situation?
The special broadcast which was pre-recorded and designed to be played at times of crisis. It’s basically a way to say “This is Britain, and everything is all right. It’s ok. It’s fine.” and it’s filled with proud patriotic sentiments. The irony is that this kind of thing is either a) needed now in order to make British people feel that everything’s fine or b) the sort of thing used by the Leave campaign to convince people to vote Brexit.
What’s the solution to the crisis which has been agreed by both sides?
Clips start at 5:38 & 19:40/21:10
The PM was seen to leave hurriedly after half and hour