Hello and welcome back to Luke’s English Podcast. This is your regular opportunity to practise your listening and develop your knowledge of British English culture.
This is episode 637 and this is the first of a three part series about Quintessentially British Things(that you might not know about).
You might be wondering what quintessential means.
It’s a word that’s often used in front of places, nationalities or cultures.
A quintessentially English summer
He’s the quintessential New Yorker
5 signs that you’re quintessentially Canadian
Quintessentially British or English is a common one. There are lots of articles and quizzes online to work out if you are quintessentially British and they all contain typical examples of Britishness, like cups of tea, Mr Bean, social awkwardness, the weather and so on.
So quintessential means a typical example of something. A thing which seems to be a perfect, unique example of something specific. Like for example a food which is uniquely British and is a great example of Britishness, like, what fish and chips maybe?
As I said there are plenty of articles about quintessentially British things online, but they always deal with the same tired old stereotypes of Englishness or Britishness that we’ve heard a million times and don’t always just apply to the UK.
For example this one, from BT
Let’s go through it quickly just to get all the usual stereotypes and cliches out of the way first.
But in this series of episodes I wanted to scratch below the surface of British culture a bit, and talk about some perhaps less known things. We all know about the cliches, but what if we go a bit deeper and hear from some English people about their favourite aspects of their culture, be it modern pop stuff, history, literature or geography.
So I decided to ask my Mum, my Dad and my brother to think of some typically British things for us to talk about on the podcast. So that’s what you’re going to get. Hopefully some revealing conversation about a diverse range of British cultural items, but also some good recommendations of other stuff that you can check out in your own time, which could help with your English.
Let’s get started then with this episode with James, my brother. This is quite a long one but stick with it. I asked him to choose 5 quintessentially British things. The next two episodes are shorter as we deal with just 3 things each. But this time it’s 5 and this is what happened, and you should know there is sporadic swearing throughout this conversation, so bear that in mind depending on who you are listening to this with. Check out the page for this episode on the website to see loads of videos and links for the 5 things we talk about.
James’ 5 Quintessentially British Things (that you might not know about)
1. Alan Moore
Writing, publishing, creating, the business of creating and selling books and magazines. Magic, art, politics, religion and the ethical complexity of superheroes in the real world.
2. Viz Comics
3. The Harrington Jacket
4. The Long Firm by Jake Arnott
5. The Fast Show
There you go, plenty of stuff to check out including interviews with Alan Moore, Viz comics which you can get from the local shop if you’re in the UK, The Fast Show with some videos online, books by Jake Arnott,
All that remains to be said is thanks to James for appearing in another episode. The next one is going to be with my dad and he has picked 3 quintessentially British things, then my Mum will be on the podcast with her three choices.
Thanks as ever for listening and I will speak to you again on the podcast soon!
638. 3 Quintessentially British Things (that you might not know about) with Dad
639. 3 Quintessentially British Things (that you might not know about) with Mum
Welcome back to Luke’s English Podcast. Here is the second part of this double episode I’m doing here at the beginning of this new decade.
In this episode I’ll be continuing to refresh the podcast for 2020 with this double-ramble in which I’m talking about the kinds of things you normally talk about in the new year period – what I did during my holiday, my new years resolutions, some of my plans for the future for the podcast and also a chance to reestablish some of the main aims for this show. Also I’ll be talking about my daughter’s English and our efforts to bring her up to be bilingual.
This is part 2, you should also listen to part 1 first.
Do you have any new year resolutions?
Luke rambles about motivation and attitude in learning English
Avoid comment sections on YT, Twitter etc
Work hard, get a good routine, eat well, don’t drink too much, be loving with my loved ones, organise things with my wife, get my bike fixed, keep working on the podcast and trying to make it better all the time.
Here’s something I saw Billy Bragg tweet the other day. It’s some New Year’s Rules by folk singer Woody Guthrie in the 50s or 60s. I thought it was quite good and I intend to follow some of these steps.
What did you get for Christmas?
Paul McCartney tickets
My second chance to see him live and my first opportunity to see him do a whole concert.
I’m very excited to see an actual Beatle doing a show and I understand that he puts on a really great show. I am very interested to see which songs he chooses to play, since I am a big fan and I know almost all of his work. I think he does a lot of Beatles songs these days and has a fantastic band that he’s been working with for ages.
Any other stories from your holiday?
Saw The Snowman with our daughter.
What’s The Snowman? In the local church with the stained glass windows and a live orchestra playing along and some singing. They put up a screen in there.
She is now obsessed by snowmen and said “sennan” whenever she sees one, woke up saying sennan sennan in the morning. Must have been dreaming about a snowman. Kept saying sennan! Sennan! When she spotted one in the street or at the airport.
My Daughter’s English
Is she bilingual? Are you raising her to be bilingual? How are you working on her two languages?
I am planning a whole series of podcast episodes about this, but let’s talk about it a bit now.
Kids need a reason to learn another language. French is obvious, I’m working on the English.
It seems to help if you do English in certain situations or always with a certain person. Major language and minor language. Outside, French is the major language and I’m not worried about her picking it up like a native. She goes to daycare in French, will go to school in French, will have French speaking friends going to French speaking parties. There’s no doubt that she’ll learn French. English is the minor language there because she will use it only sometimes, usually when I’m with her. Then in the house, English is the major language and French the minor one. I speak English with her, I speak English to my wife and my wife speaks a lot of English and some French. We have English books, listen to English songs and also i just play BBC Five Live, 6 Music or Radio 4 in the background quite a lot. She likes watching some cartoons in English and is quite obsessed by The Beatles and often demands to watch Beatle videos on YouTube, which I’m very happy about of course.
Also, when we go back to England she spends all her time in English, talking to my parents, my brother and just people in shops and stuff. Sometimes she sees her cousins and speaks English with them, but they live in the US these days.
In terms of her having a reason for learning English, hopefully it will be obvious but I expect at some point I will have to explain it. English is the language of her dad and all the dad’s side of her family. She is English as well as French and so this is a whole aspect of her personality and her family. Also if she wants to really get to know me she needs to do it in English. The other persuasive things are the fact that a lot of music, TV and films are in English and English can give her way more opportunities in the future. And, hopefully, I can convince her that it’s somehow cool to be able to speak English like an English person.
Her English is coming along. I think her French is a bit better at the moment, but the English is not far behind.
Bilingual kids take a bit longer to speak, but she’s doing fine. (Play recording)
Quintessentially British Things
This is a podcast series that’s coming soon. I think I’ve mentioned it so I won’t go on about it too much but…
Here’s a little preview of what’s to come for the next few episodes.
First there’s the Star Wars 9 megaramble with James, and then a series of 1 to 1 conversations with members of my family.
The idea was that I wanted them to pick a few typically British or English things and then talk about them on the podcast. They could be anything that they thought was interesting or worth talking about → quintessentially British, meaning very typical examples of Britishness, and not the usual cliches like tea, fish and chips, Mr Bean etc.
The result is three conversations about some interesting aspects of British culture, history and geography and also a good chance to get to know each member of my family a bit more, through the British things they like talking about.
So, coming soon to LEP → Quintessentially British Things
I interviewed James, Dad and Mum for that series, but nobody interviewed me. If they had, my QBT would be Neil Innes, who sadly died on 29 December. Neil was one of my favourite people in the world and I was really sad to know that he’d died as was everyone else in my family because we’re all big fans.
Basically, Neil Innes was a musician, song writer, comedian and a sort of absurdist as well as various other things.
He was a member of The Bonzo Dog Doodah Band (later The Bonzo Dog Band). His song “Urban Spaceman” was produced by Paul McCartney and was a hit. Worked with Roger McGough and Mike McCartney. Worked with Monty Python (the 7th python) and provided music, sketches and performances. Worked with Eric Idle on Rutland Weekend Television, where they invented The Rutles, which later became a feature film. Innes wrote two albums worth of music for it. The whole thing was a Beatles parody, but perfectly done and the music was incredibly spot on. For me The Rutles music is up there with The Beatles. I find them to be as good as a lot of my favourite Beatles songs, and yet there is an added enjoyment in that they’re postmodern comedy songs commenting on the Beatles and their age, through a perfect musical parody of them.
Neil Innes went on to record several albums which had music videos too. The albums span many genres of music and there are a lot of really interesting, funny, and spellbinding songs in his discography.
Neil Innes was a brilliant songwriter, an excellent lyricist, and a very wise, aware man who seemed to live a fairly ordinary suburban life, while also writing psychedelic masterpieces. I think he’s a national treasure, but he’s still not that well known. Still, the papers published obituaries of him and there was a lot of stuff on twitter with various people announcing the sad news and wishing his family well.
But it’s sad knowing that he is not with us any more. I used to like the fact that he was in the world and now he isn’t, so it’s sad.
My mum announced the news when my dad, me and my daughter had been out to the park. She came in with a tear in her eye and said “Neil Innes has died”. We all used to listen to The Rutles songs at home and in the car and watched the film lots of times together. James and Dad even went to see The Rutles perform in London, which was mainly just Neil Innes and his band doing all the songs.
So, a long ramble about SW and then 3 episodes about QBT, which I think you should find interesting.
That’s what’s coming up next on LEP!
As ever, thank you for sticking with the podcast all the way to the end of the episode and for being a loyal listener! Don’t forget to subscribe to the YouTube channel, download the LEP App from the app store and consider becoming a premium subscriber in 2020!
This is a Film Club episode about Star Wars Episode 9 The Rise of Skywalker. It contains no spoilers for the film beyond what has been revealed in the trailers already.
So, no spoilers – it’s just going to be my speculation about what’s going to happen in the film.
If you’re interested in the new Star Wars film I hope you can enjoy listening to this before seeing the film. I’ll be doing another one after having seen the film and that will contain all the spoilers.
I’m going to see Star Wars 9 tomorrow. Creche is open. It’s on. (not at the creche)
Talking about Star Wars has become something of a tradition on this podcast now. I’ve done numerous film club episodes about it on this podcast. Everyone should know that I am somehow invested in this series and this goes right back to childhood when I was quite obsessed with it, had the toys, believed I was Luke Skywalker and everything and this continued as I grew up. At university I used to sit around with my friends and speculate about Star Wars.
I saw the prequel trilogy from 1999 to 2005 and didn’t really like it. There are some good moments, but it wasn’t really my cup of tea overall.
Now we have the new Disney produced films and overall I’ve been enjoying them a lot. I think they’ve got the tone just about right. There have been some films which were like big Star Wars sand pit games like Rogue One and there have been the weird, unexpected moments in The Last Jedi.
I’ve done episodes about the original films and all the new releases. They’re all there in the episode archive.
It’s become something of a tradition on LEP to talk about Star Wars at Christmas. In fact this is now the 4th Star Wars film we’ve had at Christmas time and also the 4th time I’m talking about it on the podcast at Christmas.
By the way – yesterday I uploaded the annual Christmas episode of LEP. It’s all about awful jokes you might find in a Christmas cracker. Check it out for laughs, some groans and a nice review of Christmas vocabulary. Also I’ve been uploading some premium videos and more premium stuff coming later this week.
So don’t miss the Christmas Jokes episode. I’m concerned that because I uploaded it just yesterday and I’m now uploading another one, that you’ll miss number 631. So, don’t miss it!
So back to Star Wars. I know that for some of you Star Wars is not your cup of tea, in that case this episode might not be for you.
Also if you’re not a fan of the rambling style episodes this also might not be for you.
So, now I expect I’ve got people listening who are interested in the new Star Wars film and want to listen to me talk about it in a rambly kind of way. OK, let’s go.
I’m excited to see the new film. It’s always fun to see new Star Wars, especially if big things are going to happen, and they definitely are going to happen in this new episode.
But I am also prepared for disappointment. It’s Star Wars for goodness sake, there’s bound to be some kind of disappointment and it’s the culmination of the whole 9 part series. The trilogy of trilogies is going to conclude with this episode. No pressure! I wonder how JJ Abrams is going to deal with this.
A quick look back at the last few films
Episode 7 It was pretty good. Right tone. Some nostalgia value. Felt like old Star Wars again. Criticisms: It was too derivative of episode 4. Rey’s character is overpowered.
Rogue One was also pretty good but was criticised for too much fan service.
Apparently we wanted something where different things happen, and not too much fan service.
The result was Episode 8 The Last Jedi which was all about subverting expectations and changing the rules. Luke is a washed up hermit who has lost his faith. The Jedi are considered a failed project, responsible for the creation of the Sith. I think it’s pretty cool! I liked how it subverted expectations. I enjoyed not knowing what would happen next.
But it took the series in a weird direction and now JJ has to kind of land the plane.
I feel like the hype leading up to this film has been a bit muted. Is it just me, or is that true?
Answers vs mystery
JJ Abrams is good at the mystery Episode 7 was quite good for that. They came up with more questions than answers. Many fan theories. Everyone was looking for answers in ep 8 and instead it was all about subverting expectations.
But in this JJ has to provide some answers and I think we’ll get most of them.
Who is Rey?
Who was Snoke?
Why did Kylo turn to the dark side?
What did Rey’s cave scene mean?
We’ll probably get answers to those things, more or less.
So it’s going to be exciting to get some big conclusions, hopefully. But of course there’s always the potential for the answers to be disappointing.
But maybe we’ll get some mystery too. And I think mystery and open ended ness and less is more, is what SW is all about when it’s good. OT was more about mystery and PT was more about answers. You knew what would happen next.
This trilogy is still interesting to me but it all rides on this episode.
There’s a lot of pressure on this one to bring it back to classic Star Wars but also to kind of provide answers.
Anakin will probably return with the prequel actor. We might see him as a force ghost.
Maybe we’ll get Yoda. We will definitely get Luke. We might get Anakin and also Obi Wan and quignon. They really should. Possibly even Mace Windu.
Maybe Anakin is the Skywalker in the title. They did say they’d bring the whole saga to an end. How could Anakin not be part of it?
Snoke we know is probably a fake person created by the Emperor. In the clip Palpatine says he created all the voices in Kylo’s head including Vader and Snoke. Maybe Snoke was just some kind of creation of Palpatine.
I bet Palpatine in the film calls to Kylo and brings him to a certain place and reveals himself. But will kylo go with him? And how do the others find that place??
Who is Rey? Maybe she is related to someone. Maybe she is nobody.
The cave scene in ep 8 / Is Rey a clone?
Or is it something about how her future is written. Destiny. But what is her destiny?
It would be odd if the force cave was just saying, “you have a destiny”. What does it mean? Weirdest scene ever.
They must be planning a big reveal though, more than just the return of Palpatine which is basically confirmed. There will be another big reveal because we haven’t had one yet. Kylo REN was revealed as Han and Leia’s son right at the start and we’ve had nothing about Rey.
In the cave she knows that what she will see in the mirror is the answer she’s looking for.
We see two shadows come together to become one person who is revealed to be Rey. So she sees herself in the mirror. This could also mean she’s a clone.
Clones featured heavily in the prequel trilogy and Abrams has said that this film will tie together the whole narrative. There may be elements from the prequels in here.
Clones might be back.
Maybe Rey is a clone. Dark Rey – is that a cloned Rey or a vision?
Palpetine might have cloned himself somehow.
Maybe palpatine cloned someone else, like Anakin.
I’m really clutching at straws here.
Is the Star Wars story broken?
Not at all. Lots of loose ends.
So Rey has become all trained up and awesome, maybe with the help of force ghosts.
Kylo is now in charge of the first order and is full in dark side mode. Maybe he’s being haunted by Luke. Maybe Luke will turn him good.
I think the Emperor has called out to him somehow. Maybe he’s using Vader’s helmet and making him think he’s talking to Vader.
He still knows he has a connection with Rey. Maybe they style Skype sometimes.
Finn and Poe – god knows. Maybe they have a mission to collect some artefact.
The resistance has grown after people around the galaxy have joined including Lando.
But I have no idea what’s going to happen!
An Avengers Endgame style ending with all Jedi and with doing battle somehow.
I haven’t seen The Mandalorian yet but I’m looking forward to it. I’ve seen the Baby Yoda memes around but to be honest I don’t know what it is yet. I think Disney+ is coming to France in March or something.
I’ll probably do a full spoiler review of the film on Wednesday after I’ve seen it. I might also go to see it again with my brother and my dad and we might get the chance to talk about it too, but that might be a bit too much Star Wars chat. It could just go into the app or something, for those who want to get it.
A conversation with English comedian BJ Fox, who performs stand-up in Japan and has his own TV show on NHK. Our conversation includes the story of how BJ managed to pitch the show to Japanese producers, how he learnt Japanese to a proficient level, doing stand-up in a different culture and much more.
Hi everyone, welcome back to the podcast. It’s lovely to be talking to you again. I hope the feeling is mutual.
Let me tell you about this episode. So, this one is a conversation with an English stand-up comedian, living in Japan. He goes by the name of BJ Fox and he’s doing really well over there. He’s one of the top comedians on the English language comedy scene in Tokyo (which is a relatively big scene in fact) he also performs stand-up in Japanese, which is really cool because it means that his Japanese must be really good – he makes audiences of Japanese people laugh a lot in his shows. He has also performed stand-up in lots of other countries, especially across Asia but also in the UK and now he has his own sitcom on Japanese TV – on NHK, which is basically the Japanese equivalent of the BBC. So, he’s got his own TV show.
Now this is quite an extraordinary achievement – to get your own sitcom on Japanese telly. BJ writes the show himself and also plays the main character. So, how did he manage this? How did he get his own TV show? I mean, a lot of people move to other countries, manage to learn the language and live quite successfully there, but not everyone ends up with their own TV show. Also, how did he learn Japanese to such a high level? What’s it like doing stand up in Japan? What’s his TV sitcom all about?
BJ has also worked in the video games industry, including time spent at the Pokemon company and at Rockstar Games. I don’t know if you know Rockstar Games. They’re the ones who produce the Grand Theft Auto series and also the Red Dead Redemption series, and in fact BJ was one of the people responsible for bringing Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption to the Japanese market.
I spoke to BJ over Skype recently and asked him about all these things.
Before we listen, I just want to mention that I have published a premium episode covering specific vocabulary from this conversation. I went through the recording, picked out lots of vocabulary and in the premium episode I explain it, demonstrate it and also drill it for pronunciation. Those of you who are premium subscribers will have access to that in the app and on the website. It’s Premium episode 18 (parts 1 & 2) and I think you’ll find that listening to that episode (either before or after you listen to this converstion) will really help you understand everything much better, it’ll help you notice and pick up certain phrases and to practise saying them with all the correct, natural pronunciation, and all of that is a great way to maximise your learning potential with an episode like this. That’s what my premium episodes are all about.
So check out Premium series 18 – which accompanies this episode. It’s already available in the app and on the website. To sign up to LEP Premium just go to www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium and the best way to listen to premium content is by using the Luke’s English Podcast App. If you have any questions, just send me an email through my website or through the app.
Right then, let’s meet BJ Fox and find out about his stand-up, his career, how he learned Japanese and what it’s like having his own sitcom on Japanese TV.
The Comedian’s Comedian Podcast– Stuart Goldsmith interviews some of the best comedians in the world in great depth and finds out exactly how they do their comedy.
That was BJ Fox then. I’d like to say thanks again to him for coming on the podcast. It was really interesting to talk to him.
I suggest that you have a look on the page for this episode on the website where you will find a clip from Home Sweet Tokyo, links to BJ’s website and also a link to The Comedian’s Comedian Podcast, which is absolutely fascinating for anyone interested in exactly how comedians do what they do – which is, basically, to make people laugh really hard until their faces hurt. It’s like actual magic, it’s amazing.
And don’t forget that I recently published a two-part Premium episode covering language from this conversation. If you haven’t done so already, sign up to LEP Premium in order to listen to that and maximise your English learning from this podcast. The episode covers vocabulary and pronunciation, so you can expand your range of English and sound more like a native speaker. Sign up at www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium .
I’ve also recently uploaded more little premium videos with pronunciation drills. They’re short videos in which I drill some sentences, you can see me saying the sentences, I highlight some features of pronunciation like sentence stress, weak forms and connected speech, you can see my mouth moving as I say them, you can copy me and also the target sentences are written on the screen with some features highlighted like the stress and the weak forms. Premium LEPsters – there’s a heads up. Check out the latest content – it’s there in the premium category in your app, and also online at teacherluke.co.uk/premium . There should be more content coming this month.
A bit of a ramble
Basically, it’s been great to get some nice feedback from listeners. The 2 episodes with James (Oasis, Do you ever…?) have had great responses. People really enjoyed them. I am lucky to have a brother who I get on with most of the time, and we make each other laugh a lot. I’m glad if that comes across on the podcast and that you can join in the laughter too.
The Emina episode – I’m very happy that lots of you found it inspiring and also that you found lots in common with her. I think it’s always interesting to speak to people who have learned English to a proficient level, and to try to work out how they did it.
The Rick Thompson Report is always popular – people often say that this is how they get informed about Brexit. Even some of my friends who are native speakers of English listen to those episodes. The UK’s general election is due to happen on 12 December (Thursday) and I would like to record something about that after the results are in. My Dad will hopefully be up for it, but I can’t guarantee it. It depends if we find the right time to do it. December is shaping up to be an extremely busy month.
I haven’t finished the 3-part series about “88 Expressions that will confuse everyone” – the series about very British expressions and slang. I do plan to finish that. I promised you 88 expressions and so far I’ve given you 50. So I owe you another 28. Check out my maths!
Also, the episode about terrible jokes went down well, so I do plan to do more of that kind of thing. Basically, we’re going to keep on trucking here at LEPHQ. I say “we” – it’s mainly just me, isn’t it? With a little help from my friends and family of course, who join me as guests sometimes and of course the support I get from you my listeners in the form of donations (thank you thank you thank you if you’ve donated) and also just the fact that you are loyal listeners, that you recommend the podcast to your friends, leave glowing reviews on places like iTunes (LEP is simply sensational, there’s no other word for it). So thank you for the support.
Crazy strikes in France
Emmanuel Macron (the French president) is currently attempting to reform pension laws here. I don’t fully understand it, but because of this, a lot of workers across many sectors are protesting and going on strike at the moment and it looks like the strikes are going to continue throughout December, which could make life extremely difficult here. It already is, in fact. The main problem is transport, but this has some major knock on effects in other areas. Almost all the public transport is closed – The Metro, busses, train lines, trams, and in Paris that makes a huge difference because almost everyone relies on it to an extent. So this means that loads of other things are affected. Lots of people can’t get to work and it causes a lot of general chaos. For us the main problems are the creche and our travel plans at Christmas.
The daycare centre (creche) for our daughter could be closed for the next couple of weeks, so my wife and I will not be able to work like normal. We’ll have to stay at home with the little one. Now, I’m not complaining – it’s always lovely to be able to spend time with her and I can walk to school when I have lessons to teach. Also, I have some sympathy with the people who are on strike but this could seriously affect my podcast output this month because while I’m looking after my daughter I can’t really do anything else, including podcasting.
Update: Our daughter is being looked after for a few days by her grandparents, leaving us free to concentrate on work we need to do before Christmas. But it’s only for a few days – so I have to cram all my content creation into these next few days. So I will be locked in the Pod-Castle, making episodes as quickly as I can!
Luke – tell us what happened yesterday, as an example of the travel chaos gripping the city.
Also it could affect our travel plans to the UK for Christmas, so everything is up in the air at the moment. The main thing for you is that it might be difficult for me to prepare, record and upload all the content I’m planning for the next few weeks, and that includes the annual Christmas episode (which this year is going to be about Christmas jokes), perhaps one other free episode of the podcast which I haven’t worked out yet, maybe a Star Wars episode if I get to see Episode 9 when it is released here on 18 December, also I’m planning another premium audio series and more premium pronunciation videos. That’s quite a lot of content but I will be off on holiday during the Christmas period so I want to publish or prepare quite a lot of content before that, but I might not be able to do anything. We will see what happens and whether we can find childcare for the little one.
Anyway, let’s see how much I can get done in the time I have. It might just be that I have to do some late night or early morning podcasting, or perhaps no podcasting at all. We will see. But I just wanted to let you know, in case you get radio silence from LEP later this month.
But now it is time to wish you all a warm farewell until next time. Check out the LEP App if you don’t already have it, check out LEP Premium, sign up to the mailing list on the website, follow me on Twitter, have a look at the page for this episode for all your BJ Fox info and I will speak to you again soon I hope, but for now it’s just time to say GOODBYE!
Welcome back to LEP. This is part 2 of this mini series I’m going to do about BBC Dragons’ Den, the TV show about entrepreneurs trying to raise finance for their business startups by going to meet the Dragons – a group of 5 business angels looking to make money by investing in interesting new business propositions.
In part 1 of this I did a long business ramble all about the different factors and considerations involved in an entrepreneur attempting to do an investment deal with a private equity investor. That covered loads of vocabulary relating to loads of different areas of business and laid the ground work for this episode in which we are going to use a real pitch from an episode of Dragons’ Den as a case study from which we can learn loads of English.
Also, the story of this particular investment is particularly interesting and the negotiation takes an unexpected turn which creates more emotional drama than you might expect from a business meeting.
So, at the end of part 1 we listened to Kirsty Henshaw’s original pitch. Let’s listen to that again and break it down for language. After that we’ll listen to the rest of the meeting in bits. We’ll listen and then listen again and break it all down.
This should be a really good one! I hope you’re listening carefully. We might be able to get all of this done in this episode, we will see. There are other Dragons’ Den pitches that I’d like to do too so I might add another episode with some other pitches as well. So perhaps this will be a 3 or 4 part series.
Right, so let’s listen to Kirsty Henshaw again and remember my questions from before.
How much investment does she need? £65,000
What equity stake is she offering in return? 15%
What exactly is the product? A healthy alternative to ice-cream – a frozen dessert (free from dairy, sugar, soya, nuts – everything! But what’s actually in it?)
Why does she need the investment? To buy stock, raise brand awareness with marketing and PR
Would you like to invest?
What questions would you like to ask next?
Kirsty’s pitch begins at 44:00
It tastes more like frozen yoghurt. Is that fair? – She wanted a healthy option, similar to ice cream but there’s no dairy that’s why it’s a frozen desert.
How much has it cost so far?
How many have you sold?
– 2,500 units
– Went to a big meeting with a large supermarket – it’s completely unique, some of the staff had heard about it before
Do you have any forecasts in the first year? – 300,000 units – starting to get into bigger places now
How healthy is it? How much fat is in it? – Less than 3% fat in all of them, no sugar in any, carbohydrates are from fruit extracts, a good form of sugar
What are the ingredients? Brown rice milk (because soya isn’t great for children and rice milk is a good digestive enzyme), the fat is organic virgin coconut oil, sweetened with extract of apple, carob and grape.
How far are you down the track with the supermarket? – Min 400 stores from Sept when they do their refresh
Are they committed? – At least 350-400 stores to trial it
Which supermarket is it? – Tesco
They must have asked you whether you could produce in the right volume?
What did you say? – I said yes because I’ve spoken to the manager of the biggest ice cream manufacturers and they can make it no problem, if we get the order (volume – numbers)
Do you have any idea what Tesco’s potentially could order? – At least four flavours for each store to start with
How many in a case?
If they sold one case per week per store, that’s 400 cases. How much do you make per unit? – Just over one pound
So 4,000 per week is what you’d make. That’s 200,000 a year. – Not including my current suppliers
What did you forecast your profit in year one? – £300,000
So that forecast is not a million miles out. There’s some substance around it.
What’s your background? Uni (sports science), but had to leave because mind was on the business
Who is Worhingshaw’s? – Mix of boyfriend and her name – to make it sound like it had been around for a while
Have you really done all this on your own? – Yes
How do you invest the money in this? – 2 jobs and a bit of a night job, and my little boy
You’re pretty amazing aren’t you? – No, not really. [She starts crying] This has been really tough for you hasn’t it? – I just do it all for my little boy. I just want him to have a good life.
I’ve got to be honest with you. I’m finding it really really difficult to actually take on board what you’ve achieved. It’s phenomenal. I’m totally blown away by it. I’m going to make you an offer. You’ve come in here asking for 60,000 for 15% but I want 40%. And I’ll explain to you why. Because I’m not going to give you 60,000, I’m giving you 100,000 because that’s what I believe you need to make this business successful.
Let me tell you where I am. I think you’ve done a great job against all odds, but here’s my blunt and honest truth to you. I’m not going to beat Theo’s offer so I’m not going to waste my time making you one. Thank you very much but I’m out.
Where do you want to take it? You’d love to see this product in every shop. Reggae Reggae Sauce was a big success because of Levi Roots’ whole story. You could be the frozen desert version of Levi Roots.
For that reason I’d like to make you an offer for the full amount but I only want 25% of the company.
Let me wish you every success but you’re not going to need my offer so I’m out (there are already deals on the table).
I’ll match Peter’s offer (£60,000 for 25%)
Kirsty I don’t want to give 40% away but thank you for your offer Theo. I’m really confused now because I know you’re both brilliant. You’re both ideal to help me, so I don’t really know what to do now.
If we raised it to 30% so we got 15% each, I’m more than happy to work with Duncan if that’s something he would accept (yes).
Kirsty I’d really like to work with both of you. It would be ideal so thank you very much I’d really like to accept your offers.
What do you think? Would you like some more Dragons’ Den on the podcast?
Hello and welcome to LEP#619. How are you today? All good I hope.
In this episode of LEP we’re going to look at a popular BBC TV show which is now in its 17th series on BBC2. We’re going to listen to some clips, I’ll help you understand it all like a native speaker and we’ll be mining the whole thing for vocabulary too. I’ve done episodes like this before about British TV including Top Gear and Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares. Both of those are available in the episode archive. Now it’s the turn of one of my favourites – Dragons Den.
You might be thinking, “Dragons’ Den. What is that? Is it some kind of Game of Thrones thing, a fantasy thing with dragons and stuff?”
No, not at all. In fact this series is all about business startups, entrepreneurs, investors, negotiations and pitching new business ideas.
It’s based on a Japanese TV format. So, Japanese LEPsters might be familiar with DD already. Also it might exist in other countries too. It’s been on the BBC since 2005. I really enjoy watching it and also using clips in class, which I have been doing for years now and is one of my favourite things to do in English lessons. I could spend a whole week on Dragons Den, with all the vocab, the listening, and then doing role plays of business presentations, negotiations and discussions. This is the first time I’ve dipped my toe into Dragons’ Den on the podcast.
There will be tons of business vocabulary in this episode as well as a chance to test your listening skills as we listen to clips of this show including people presenting their businesses and negotiating an investment.
What I’m going to do is this
Introduce to the topic, with quite a lot of business vocabulary relating to everything involved in starting up a new business and raising finance for it.
Play you some clips from Dragons Den, when one person pitches their business idea and dragons start negotiating, and I’ll break it down for vocabulary.
I’ll explain a bit of the vocab as we go through this episode, and there will be a lot of context to help you but mainly I want to focus on just listening to clips from the show and then helping you understand everything. Really, one of my aims at LEP is to help you appreciate things like TV, films and comedy more easily in English, or at least to be able to use them to help you learn English more effectively.
So we’ll focus on the clips after an introduction from me, and then I can deal with the vocabulary more specifically in a premium series, which I’m also working on.
OK, so let’s get into the details of this TV show Dragons’ Den.
First let me explain the title.
Dragons’ Den – what does it mean?
Dragons’ Den. A den of dragons.
To walk into the lions’ den (the place where the lions live) = to deliberately put yourself in a position of danger or difficulty
Usually this means to face a difficult situation, like going into a room full of people who will criticise you. Imagine a politician involved in a scandal going into a room full of journalists. He’s walking into the lions’ den.
A “den” is a kind of place where Lions might live. It could be a clearing in a forest, maybe within the roots of a tree, maybe surrounded by some rocks. A place where the lions hang out and sleep. That’s a den. Kids also build dens in their bedrooms. They take blankets and pillows and drape them over chairs and tables to make little dens which they can then hide in and play inside.
In this case its Dragons’ Den, so this is like a lions’ den but even more scary and dangerous! I think it’s just that dragons are better analogies for scary, no-nonsense business people than lions. Also, it sounds cool “Dragons’ Den”.
So, the dragons are the investors in their leather chairs. The den is a kind of renovated warehouse that could be somewhere in East London maybe, in a trendy new business district. The 5 dragons are sitting in a line with their plush leather chairs, sharp suits, pads and pens, side tables with glasses of water and piles of cash! The cash is just for show of course (there are quite a few lingering shots of the money).
The entrepreneurs are nervous, feeling the pressure. They walk up some tight spiral stairs into the room and the dragons eye them all up judgementally.
Then the entrepreneur starts his or her pitch. The dragons ask questions and drill down into the business plan and then there are some negotiations for the investment.
The entrepreneur is looking for an investment of a certain amount. In return they are offering a portion of the equity of the company.
Equity in this case means the ownership of the company. If you imagine a pie chart or a pizza, perhaps, if you prefer. Imagine that pizza. 100% of it is mine. But I might choose to sell some parts of that pizza to an investor. Let’s say I give them 20% of the pizza for about £20,000. In terms of a business this means that the investor gets 20% of the profits that the company makes. In return I get cash which I can use to get the business going in various ways.
So equity refers to ownership of the company and it is divided into shares. Sometimes it is referred to as an equity stake. So an investor might have a 20% equity stake in a company, for example. The entrepreneur holds onto an 80% equity stake.
This is how finance can be raised. Instead of getting a loan and paying interest you kind of liquidate part of the company to get the cash but you also get the support of an investor too, and that’s the other thing the dragons offer. Not just cash but also some business acumen and contacts to help them get a foot in the door.
The dragons have actually financed a few successful businesses in the past on this show, ones that have made it to the supermarkets or even become household names.
Yes, all the businesses are real, all the money is real and the deals are real, but apparently after making agreements on the TV show, necessary due diligence is done before the deal is officially sealed.
But it’s all real. Real people, real businesses, real money. OK.
We’ll meet the Dragons in a moment, but first I have a vocab list here which I am going to go through in a kind of ramble, a business ramble. Luke’s Business Rambles – could be a good series…
I might briefly explain these terms as we go but my main focus is to try and put all these words into a rambling monologue about why an entrepreneur would need to raise finance for a new business. I plan to go over all of this in more detail in an upcoming premium episode.
Let’s imagine that I have a new business. I’ve invented a pen that goes red or flashes when you make a grammar mistake. Let’s say there’s software you can download for it. It connects to your devices by Bluetooth and you can get different functions, but it’s like Grammarly in a pen.
Why would a startup need to raise finance?
Pay for stock, manufacturing costs, hire staff, find facilities, pay for marketing (how are you going to get people to know about it)
contacts for retail
dealing with a logistics chain
Retail price (RRP)
Profit (net and gross)
B to B
B to C
Projected sales figures
Return on Investment (ROI)
Ask the bank for a loan
Get family to lend you money
Use a government scheme
Valuation of your company
Meet The Dragons
At age 16 he set up a tennis academy.
He now has a £250m empire in leisure, telecoms & media.
Made millions in the holiday and leisure industriesShe sold a stake in her company in a £30m deal, while maintaining 23% of the company.
From Glasgow. He’s worth over £170m.
He owns “Bannatyne’s” health clubs, casinos and hotels.
He’s a retail specialist.
He takes failing companies and transforms them into thriving businesses – Partners, Ryman.
Originally born in Pakistan, his family moved to the UK when he was 2.
Was initially successful in recruitment, setting up several high level recruitment companies which he then sold for large amounts of profit. He is also the founder and current CEO of the UK-based private equity firm Hamilton Bradshaw.
How it works
When the Dragons are interested in an investment they will say “I’m interested…” and will then make an offer.
The rules are that the entrepreneur must get the investment amount they are asking for, or more. The percentage equity stake is what is negotiated.
If a Dragon is not interested in the investment they will declare themselves out by saying “I’m out” and explaining their reason.
“I’m out” has become a sort of catchphrase that you can use in reference to the show.
Dragons’ Den Series 8 Episode 1 (also contains a brutal takedown of an entrepreneur [1st pitch] and an interesting exchange/argument in the wine pitch, with a v nervous presenter)
Kirsty Henshaw – Frozen Desserts
A part-time barmaid looking for investment in her food business.
Listen to the pitch from 44:00
How much investment does she need? £65,000
What equity stake is she offering in return? 15%
What exactly is the product? A healthy alternative to ice-cream – a frozen dessert (free from dairy, sugar, soya, nuts – everything! But what’s actually in it?)
Why does she need the investment? To buy stock, raise brand awareness with marketing and PR
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.
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