Category Archives: Video

622. General Ramble (Oct 2019) Learning English / Politics / Recording Setup / Book Recommendation / Beatles / Star Wars / Bill Bailey

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.

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Episode Notes & Videos

Rick Thompson Report/Politics

🤷‍♂️

My Recording Setup

A Shure SM57 into a CL1 Cloudlifter then into a Behringer Q502 and then into the Zoom H5.

Book Recommendation

One Train Later by Andy Summers

The Beatles Abbey Road 50th Anniversary

Star Wars Episode 9 The Rise of Skywalker

Episode 9 Trailer

RedLetterMedia predict the plot of Star Wars 9

Bill Bailey & Music

621. British TV: Dragons’ Den (Part 3) Discord in the Den

One more episode about this TV series involving entrepreneurs getting investment for their business startups. In this one there’s plenty of disagreement and some strong feedback from the Dragons.

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A bit of language

  • They’ve applied in their droves, eager to get an investment.
  • It’s the Dragons’ own money on the line.
  • The rest will leave empty-handed.
  • Going on DD must be very nerve-wracking.
  • They’re giving him a healthy dose of reality, but also it’s pretty brutal feedback.
  • They’re going to go to town on him.
    5.20
  • Peter Jones just looks bewildered.
  • His steadfast belief in his product may be admirable but that’s not enough for Peter Jones.
  • I am pleading with you not to do it.

Pitch 1 starts at 01:53 // Pitch 2 starts at 13:35

Leave me your comment – don’t be a ninja!

620. British TV: Dragons’ Den (Part 2) Negotiation

Listen to a real business negotiation and learn loads of English in the process. Vocabulary, scripts and notes available below.

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Transcript & Notes

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

Peter Jones
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?
£20,000
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

Duncan Bannatyne
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

James Caan
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.

Deborah Meaden
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

Theo Paphetis
Which supermarket is it?
– Tesco
They must have asked you whether you could produce in the right volume?
Yes
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)

James Caan
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?
12
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

Theo
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.

Deborah Meaden
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.

Peter Jones
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.

James Caan
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).

Duncan Bannatyne
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.

Peter
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.

That’s it!

What do you think? Would you like some more Dragons’ Den on the podcast?

Let me know your thoughts in the comment section.

619. British TV: Dragons’ Den (Part 1) Vocabulary

Learn tons of business vocabulary in context in this episode all about a TV show about entrepreneurs negotiating investment for their business startups. Notes & scripts available below.

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Transcript & Notes

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.

Vocabulary

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

  • Business plan

  • Cost price

  • List price

  • Retail price (RRP)

  • Mark up

  • Margin

  • Profit (net and gross)

  • Manufacturers

  • Wholesalers

  • Retailers

  • B to B

  • B to C

  • SWOT analysis

  • Projected sales figures

  • Turnover

  • Projected turnover

  • Income

  • Revenue

  • Return on Investment (ROI)

  • Ask the bank for a loan

  • Get family to lend you money

  • Use a government scheme

  • Venture capitalists

  • Equity investors

  • Business angels

  • Pitch

  • Elevator pitch

  • Investment amount

  • equity/shares

  • stock/stocks

  • Negotiate

  • Patent (pending)

  • Competitors

  • Valuation of your company

  • “I’m out”

Meet The Dragons

Peter Jones
At age 16 he set up a tennis academy.
He now has a £250m empire in leisure, telecoms & media.

Deborah Meaden
Made millions in the holiday and leisure industriesShe sold a stake in her company in a £30m deal, while maintaining 23% of the company.

Duncan Bannatyne
From Glasgow. He’s worth over £170m.
He owns “Bannatyne’s” health clubs, casinos and hotels.

Theo Paphetis
He’s a retail specialist.
He takes failing companies and transforms them into thriving businesses – Partners, Ryman.

James Caan
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
  • Would you like to invest?
  • What questions would you like to ask next?

Kirsty’s pitch begins at 44:00

To be continued in part 2…

614. Another Murder Mystery Detective Story (Part 3)

Here’s the conclusion of this online murder mystery text adventure game. Vocabulary is reviewed at the end. Video available for premium subscribers.

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Episode notes and transcriptions

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!

Word list

  • an acclaimed historian
  • the odour of varnish
  • a furrowed brow
  • a loner
  • Julian chuckles
  • I thought I had you for a minute
  • a raving lunatic
  • a bookmark
  • bags under your eyes
  • confident footsteps
  • a mutilated corpse
  • gutted like an animal
  • She has blisters on her left fingertips from the strings
  • Gray rummages through 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
  • dried mud
  • following the faint footprints
  • a fist
  • 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.
  • a cane
  • Sorry I have to ambush you like this
  • gears turning
  • 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
  • You limp into the shop
  • Quentin Lynch was cold and out of breath
  • Discerning detective

Previous detective episodes

338. A Murder Mystery Detective Story (Part 1 of 2)

339. A Murder Mystery Detective Story (Part 2)

425. Thompson, Taylor & Minogue: Victorian Detectives (Part 1) with Amber & Paul

426. Thompson, Taylor & Minogue: Victorian Detectives (Part 2) with Amber & Paul

612. Another Murder Mystery Detective Story (Part 1)

613. Another Murder Mystery Detective Story (Part 2)

613. Another Murder Mystery Detective Story (Part 2)

Join Luke as we continue to work through this mystery story following a serial killer through the streets of Victorian London. Read the story and play the text adventure game as you listen.

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Video part 1 (with a bonus song due to technical difficulties)

Video part 2

Sign up to LEP Premium to unlock this video www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium

Episode notes and transcriptions

Here is part 2 of this new murder mystery detective story.

You should listen to part 1 of this first! Click here for part 1.

In this episode I’m reading through an online text adventure from www.textadventures.co.uk

This one is Victorian Detective 3, written by Peter Carlson.

Listen and enjoy the story and read along with me if you like.

Here’s the link http://textadventures.co.uk/games/view/itwcu1_epk2b-azzulq6cw/victorian-detective-3

Let’s continue the story!

Word list coming in part 3…

Previous detective episodes

338. A Murder Mystery Detective Story (Part 1 of 2)

339. A Murder Mystery Detective Story (Part 2)

425. Thompson, Taylor & Minogue: Victorian Detectives (Part 1) with Amber & Paul

426. Thompson, Taylor & Minogue: Victorian Detectives (Part 2) with Amber & Paul

612. Another Murder Mystery Detective Story (Part 1)

612. Another Murder Mystery Detective Story (Part 1)

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.

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Video Version for Premium Subscribers

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Episode notes and transcriptions

Hello folks and welcome to the podcast.

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.

textadventures.co.uk/games/view/itwcu1_epk2b-azzulq6cw/victorian-detective-3

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.

textadventures.co.uk/games/view/itwcu1_epk2b-azzulq6cw/victorian-detective-3

Previous detective episodes

338. A Murder Mystery Detective Story (Part 1 of 2)

339. A Murder Mystery Detective Story (Part 2)

425. Thompson, Taylor & Minogue: Victorian Detectives (Part 1) with Amber & Paul

426. Thompson, Taylor & Minogue: Victorian Detectives (Part 2) with Amber & Paul

Word list coming in part 3…

610. British Comedy: James Acaster

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.

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Transcripts and Notes

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.[3] He has been nominated for Best Show five times at the Edinburgh Fringe.[4] 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.[5] 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.[6] He currently hosts panel show Hypothetical alongside Widdicombe and food podcast Off Menu with fellow comedian Ed Gamble.

Accent-wise
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)
Thoughtful
Thinking of things in a different way, unconventional (quite normal in stand up)
Weird
Acting a bit cool even though he isn’t
Geeky looking, wears sweaters, clothes even a granddad might wear
Ginger-ish hair
Looks a bit like Jarvis Cocker

James bought some ‘ready-to-eat Apricots’ and he went on a lads’ night out

Ready-to-eat apricots

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
  • Heavy drinking
  • 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.

Vocab
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. :)

Vocab list

  • Ready-to-eat apricots
  • They say “you are what you eat”
  • A resealable bag
  • A lads’ night out
  • Check out the arse on that
  • Big time
  • Normal people perv solo
  • To outnumber someone
  • Sinister
  • A dented suitcase
  • To cheat on someone
  • An accessory to a crime
  • Despicable
  • An orchard
  • Fit birds
  • 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.

That’s it for this episode!

604. London Native Speaker Interviews REVISITED Part 2

Listening to the audio from another old YouTube video of mine, and then exploring it for new vocabulary and English learning opportunities.

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Transcript

Hello folks, welcome to a new episode. In this one I’m going to go through some more audio of interviews I did with native speakers of English in London 10 years ago and will mine if for any nice bits of English vocabulary that we find.

Before we begin this episode properly I just want to say a couple of things about the last episode – the one about Queen & Freddy Mercury and also to let you know about my plans for the summer and how that might affect the podcast.

We’ll start with summer plans.

Summer Plans

First of all, I’m going away on holiday during the 2nd week of July, so no podcasts will go up during that time. Then when we get back I’m teaching intensive summer courses at the British Council, which means teaching all day every day. I still have the evenings, but having a lot less time probably means I won’t be able to produce podcasts at the usual rate. So, things might go quiet for the rest of the month. Also, in August we have several holiday plans which are currently coming together and that will mean being away for at least half of the month. So things might go quiet during July and August, only to return at the normal rate in September. I’ll also prioritise premium content, because that is stuff I I feel I have a duty to publish.

Right, so that’s the summer plans and how they will affect the podcast. Things might be a bit quiet as usual at this time of year, but there’s the whole episode archive to explore, all the app-only episodes you might not have heard and all the premium content too.

Audio Quality – Queen Episode

Next let me say a couple of things about the last episode, which was all about Queen, before starting this episode properly in a few minutes.

First of all, I received some nice, enthusiastic responses from people who were very pleased that I was finally talking about Queen on the podcast.

For example, Francisca Lopez Aperador on YouTube wrote:
Hi, Luke, I was waiting for this episode. You really made my day. How could express how thrilled I am. Thanks, thanks, thanks. Cheers from Spain, teacher.

However, some people are saying that Alex is unintelligible in the Queen episode. There weren’t many comments, but I reckon if I just get one or two comments about something, it’s probably representative of what a lot of other people (ninjas) are thinking too.

For example, Arsiney wrote on the website:
I don’t understand any words in this conversation.
Luk`s speech is clear but this guy speaks like alien.

So, is Alex unintelligible? Does he speak like (an) alien?

Personally I understand every single word Alex says and said in the episode and also I noticed that YouTube’s automatic subtitles understood most of what he said (my episodes go up on YouTube now too, so you can see the automatic subtitles, which are 90% correct, going up to 95% correct when I’m on my own).

But there were definitely moments when it was difficult to understand everything he said – largely due to the audio quality during the call and partly due to Alex’s speech, and that probably made it a less satisfying listening experience for you.

Apologies for that. The audio quality wasn’t up to the normal high standard that you have become used to.

Also, Alex doesn’t enunciate as clearly as I do, but then again most people don’t.

This brings us back to this perpetual question of the way I speak on the podcast.

“Luke, do you speak normally or do you slow down because I understand everything you say but I don’t understand other native speakers.”

I do try to be normal and natural but I’m also trying to speak clearly. This is actually how I speak. I always make an effort to speak clearly. That’s who I am – partly as a result of being an English teacher, but also it’s just the way I was brought up to speak.

However, in the real world you’re going to hear people who don’t speak as clearly as me, and you need to prepare for that. I think that most people don’t speak as clearly as I do and it’s not just about speed, it’s about diction. Diction is the manner in which words are pronounced. To an extent you’ve been spoiled by my clear diction. You also have to listen to people who are harder to understand. It trains you to do things like use the context, and other words you can hear to piece together the bits you don’t understand. It’s not always going to be laid out on a plate for you, and you can’t always blame the speaker for not being clear enough for you. As I said, I always understand everything Alex says, so as far as we are concerned, he doesn’t have a problem with his speech. He goes through his life fine, communicating without issues, doing comedy on stage and making people laugh. So, Alex’s pronunciation isn’t a problem in his life. He doesn’t speak as clearly as me, but not many people do.

So, listening to someone like Alex is actually good training.

The Pros and Cons of Audio Quality & Learning English

It’s important to listen to subprime audio.

But I know that some of you will be frustrated that you couldn’t understand or hear everything, and I’m sorry about that. I thought it would be alright. I think the main thing was the audio quality actually.

Understanding what you hear is an important part of the learning process, but be careful of getting used to understanding everything. Sometimes you have to learn to fill in the gaps yourself.

I want you to understand everything you hear. Understanding what you’re hearing is an important part of the enjoyment of this podcast. It’s also an important part of how this works. I’ve talked about the role of comprehensible input. Basically, this is the theory that you learn language when you understand it, and so finding compelling material to listen to that you understand is vital.

So, naturally, clear audio is a part of that and that’s why I spend a lot of time attempting to make sure the audio is of good quality on this podcast. Where possible I even send microphones to guests I’m interviewing by Skype. I’ve sent mics to my dad, my brother, Raphael in Liverpool. I sent a mic to Andy Johnson. I couldn’t send a mic to Alex because he was using his phone, making a whatsapp call over a cellular connection. I expect this meant that the bandwidth of the audio was very narrow, or something like that. Perhaps the audio was compressed so much that there was not much range in the frequency, making it sound squashed or small. I’m not an expert in audio broadcasting so I’m not sure, but it’s probably something like that. Alex doesn’t have wifi at home – believe it or not, and so our only option was to do a voice call. No way for him to plug in a USB microphone. So, that’s one of the reasons for the difficult audio.

I’m probably going too far here and people are going to write to me saying “It’s ok Luke, don’t apologise too much!” etc. I usually go a bit over the top if I’m apologising for something on the podcast – usually because I’ve mispronounced a place name, I’ve made some factual error about your country, like saying your country is part of another country when in fact they’re separate independent nations. You know, stuff like that. Even apologising for uploading too much content. And now, apologising for less-than-perfect audio in one episode. I am probably going too far.

But it’s still worth taking this moment to talk about the pros and cons of good and bad audio, when learning English.

There are good and bad things about having super clear audio and English you can understand easily.

The pros are that you can learn a lot from it (comprehensible input) and you get the satisfaction of understanding it all.

The disadvantage is that you get used to it and then struggle to understand fast native speech.

There are also pros and cons of having audio that’s harder to understand.

Difficult audio trains you to listen more actively and intelligently.

But sometimes it’s frustrating when you don’t understand.

It’s about striking the right balance. Hopefully on my podcast I mix it up and have some audio which is not too difficult to follow, that you can learn from and enjoy, while also presenting you with more difficult things that you have to really focus on.

Now, about this episode you’re listening to right now.

This is London Native Speaker Interviews Revisited part 2.

Recently I uploaded part 1 of this series. That was episode 591.

If you remember, what I’m doing is revisiting some videos I made 10 years ago, when I went into central London with my video camera in order to do quick interviews with people about life in London. My question was “What is London really like?” I got loads of little responses from people talking about the good and bad points of life in our capital city and the videos were pretty successful. Two of them now have over a million views. Not bad.

So in these audio episodes what I’m doing is revisiting those videos. We’re going to listen to the audio from the video – see how much you can understand, and then I’m going to break it down in the usual way, clarifying bits of language and helping you to expand your vocabulary.

Also this gives me a chance to be like a film director doing my own DVD commentary track, which is always fun.

How does this relate to the topic of audio quality?

Well, I recorded these video interviews on a basic handheld camera just using the inbuilt microphone. There’s a bit of wind and loads of atmospheric noise (because central London is a very noisy place) and so yes, the audio isn’t as crystal clear as you might expect, but as I’ve said – it’s good practice. This is where we strike that balance between challenging listening and comprehensible listening.

Right, so let’s go! Let’s listen to the audio – we’ll do each mini interview one by one, and then I’ll break them down for language one by one.

We’ll listen to each clip twice. The first time I’ll just ask you the question “What are the good and bad things about living in London?”. Then listen and try to understand. Then we’ll listen again and I’ll break it all down bit by bit, and there’s quite a lot of nice, natural vocabulary to learn from this video.

On the page for this episode on the website you’ll see:

  • The video
  • A transcript for most of this, especially the first part
  • Transcripts for each part of the video
  • Vocabulary notes with definitions, for the bits of vocabulary I explain during the episode

Right, so let’s get started!

Student / Justin Bieber / Ed Sheeran

Transcript

Graphic design student: Hello
Luke: So, how long have you been in London?
Graphic design student: Two weeks
Luke: Really? What do you do?
Graphic design student: Err, graphic design. Camberwell, School of the Arts.
Luke: Ok. So, your first two weeks.
Graphic design student: First two weeks. It’s quite a big impact. Very big, lots of people, and it’s quite expensive as well.
Luke: Ok. What’s the best thing about it?
Graphic design student: Err, night life. Very good night life. It’s got, you know, erm… If you go to the right places… A lot of action, erm, you know, a lot of friendly people as well.
Luke: Excellent. What about the worst thing?
Graphic design student: Depends on where you go. I mean, there’s quite a lot of, err, muggers about, dodgy people looking at you weirdly. You want to just, turn, turn away from them
Luke: Ok yeah
Graphic design student: Apart from that, generally a lot of people are quite nice. I mean, there’s some people that shove about, but, you know, you’ve just got to deal with it.
Luke: Ok, thank you very much
Graphic design student: That’s ok
Luke: Cheers.

Vocabulary
how long have you been in London?
night life
A lot of action
Muggers
dodgy people
looking at you weirdly
Apart from that, generally a lot of people are quite nice
there’s some people that shove about
you’ve just got to deal with it.

Girl in the red scarf

Luke: So, hello
Girl in red scarf: Hello
Luke: Where are you from?
Girl in red scarf: I live in Redhill, which is about half an hour away from London
Luke: Ok, erm, how long have you lived there?
Girl in red scarf: Two weeks!
Luke: Ok. Everyone’s been living in London for two weeks for some reason. So, what’s London really like then?
Girl in red scarf: London, well, London’s a really really massive place which can be quite overwhelming, but it’s not that scary after you’ve, you know, got stuck in there. Erm, London has everything you’d ever want, if you’re into theatres, art, education, night clubs, anything. Erm, I would say, just get stuck in there and go for it!
Luke: Ok, great, and what’s the worst thing about London?
Girl in red scarf: The worst thing… oooh the worst thing… err, I think the worst thing would have to be the pollution. It’s probably not as bad as some countries, but you always feel like you’ve got black fingernails.
Luke: Ok. Thank you very much.
Girl in red scarf: Thank you

Vocabulary
Overwhelming
but it’s not that scary after you’ve, you know, got stuck in there
if you’re into theatres, art, education, night clubs, anything
just get stuck in there and go for it!

Real Londoner

Real Londoner girl (who hates pigeons): Hi!
Luke: So, are you from London too?
Real Londoner girl (who hates pigeons): Yes, I am
Luke: Ok, so how long have you lived here?
Real Londoner girl (who hates pigeons): Err, my whole life. Luke: Ok, so you’re a real Londoner
Real Londoner girl (who hates pigeons): Yes, a real Londoner
Luke: Ok, what’s it really like then, living here?
Real Londoner girl (who hates pigeons): What’s it really like? Erm, well I think it’s fantastic. It’s nice to live in such a cosmopolitan place with lots of things to do. You can never say that you’re bored or have nothing to do because then that’s all down to you, so…
Luke: What’s the best thing about it?
Real Londoner girl (who hates pigeons): Erm…
Luke: You might have just answered that
Real Londoner girl (who hates pigeons): Yes I think I have. Just the variety and everything you want to do. Lots of things for different age groups, there’s always something for someone to do. I would say the best thing is, like, the cultural little occasions that we have, like Chinese New Year and things like that, where you have big street parties. I would say that’s the best thing.
Luke: Ok, what about the worst thing?
Real Londoner girl (who hates pigeons): Oh… I don’t like to answer that question
The girl with the red scarf (off screen): Pigeons!
Real Londoner girl (who hates pigeons): Oh yeah! I hate pigeons! I hate pigeons! They’re just…
Luke: What’s wrong with them?
Real Londoner girl (who hates pigeons): They’re diseased!
Luke: They’re diseased. Flying rats.
Real Londoner girl (who hates pigeons): Yes
Luke: Right?
Real Londoner girl (who hates pigeons): Yeah. That’s the worst thing, I don’t dislike anything else.
Luke: Ok, thank you very much
Real Londoner girl (who hates pigeons): You’re welcome
Luke: Cheers

Vocabulary
It’s nice to live in such a cosmopolitan place
that’s all down to you
I hate pigeons! They’re diseased. Flying rats.

Young Business Couple

Smartly dressed couple: Hi
Luke: So, are you from London
Smartly dressed girl: Err, we’ve just moved here, yeah.
Luke: Just moved here, right, so err… How long have you been here?
Smartly dressed girl: Err… We’ve been here for a couple of weeks.
Luke: Ok. Everyone I’ve interviewed today has been in London for, like, two weeks. I don’t know why… So, what’s London really like then? What do you think?
Smartly dressed guy: Err, it’s a huge place. There must be about 10 million people living here. It’s got a lot of good things, bad things. It’s vibrant, it’s multicultural. It’s got fantastic places to eat, fantastic places to go out in the evening.
Smartly dressed girl: Fantastic theatre, fantastic restaurants. Fantastic museums, art galleries. Absolutely loads of stuff.
Luke: Ok
Smartly dressed guy: It’s a fast paced place. People seem to be moving around a lot faster than in the rest of the country
Smartly dressed girl: Sometimes that can get quite a bit much, you know. People sort of rushing everywhere all the time
Smartly dressed guy: But it’s interesting, but there’s also negatives to living here
Smartly dressed girl: It’s very congested, it’s very expensive. Err, extremely expensive, public transport is expensive. It’s hard… it can take a long time to get anywhere
Smartly dressed guy: And there’s also a lot of pollution, and crime as well. So, if you come to live here I think it’s about finding the right enclave
Smartly dressed girl: Yeah, the right neighbourhood to live in, definitely…
Smartly dressed guy: And having friends. Set up your own community of friends, rather than knowing your next door neighbour.
Luke: Yeah. Ok, thank you very much
Smartly dressed guy: No worries
Luke: Cheers, bye bye
Smartly dressed girl: Cheers, bye

Vocabulary
we’ve just moved here
How long have you been here?
We’ve been here for a couple of weeks.
There must be about 10 million people living here.
It’s vibrant
It’s a fast paced place.
Sometimes that can get quite a bit much, you know
People sort of rushing everywhere all the time
It’s very congested
I think it’s about finding the right enclave

Vocabulary with definitions

Here are some definitions of some of the vocabulary in the video.

night life – social life at night, for example clubs and bars
a lot of action – lots of exciting things happening, and lots of nice girls to meet
muggers – criminals who might steal things from you in public (e.g. attack you and steal your bag)
dodgy people – people who are strange and can’t be trusted
looking at you weirdly – looking at you in a strange way
turn away from them – look/turn in the other direction
shove about – push people when in a large crowd (e.g. pushing people when getting on or off a crowded train)
you’ve just got to deal with it – you have to just learn to live with it. You can’t let it make you unhappy.
massive
overwhelming – having such a great effect on you that you feel confused and do not know how to react
if you’re into theatres, art, education, night clubs, anything – ‘to be into something’ means to be interested in it, or to enjoy it
just get stuck in there – get involved without hesitation or fear
and go for it – just do it!
pollution – dirty air caused by cars, bad air conditioners etc
a cosmopolitan place – a place with lots of people from all over the world (positive adjective)
Pigeons – very common birds which you find in the city (see the video at about 3:33)
vibrant – full of energy and activity in an exciting way
multicultural – involving people from many different cultures
fast paced – with a quick lifestyle (e.g. people rushing about everywhere, walking very quickly, in a hurry)
get quite a bit (too) much – be stressful and annoying
congested – full of traffic, lots of traffic jams
the right enclave – a small area within the city in which you live and feel comfortable
neighbourhood – part of town in which you live

601. British Comedy: The Day Today (Part 1)

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.

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Introduction Transcript, Notes & Videos

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.

Who wrote it and all that stuff?

Wikipedia en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Day_Today

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.

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

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

The Currency Kidney