James Harris is a writer, comedian, English teacher and language learner (French, German, Chinese) from England. In this funny chat, we talk about learning Chinese, being married to a Chinese woman and his semi-autobiographical book, “Midlands” which tells several funny and touching stories about two ex-pats living in Germany; Stuart, who is a stand-up comedian trying to understand the Germans, and Doug who gets involved in a love affair. James reads several passages from the book during the episode.
Stuart describes his early days in Germany, learning German.
Then a chance meeting in a pub had earned him an invitation to Berlin. Laura, Danish and short, was staying there for the summer, rummaging around in the archives for information about a particular Jewish family who had gone on to achieve cultural success in post-war Denmark;
Laura, a snub-nosed Danish girl with glasses who loved Israel and wheat beer. Stuart didn’t care much about her interests but did enjoy spending the days reading on her balcony and socializing with university friends at night;
by the end of the summer his hair had lengthened and his German increased fifty-fold, meaning he now knew about a hundred words. ‘Hallo!’ he would say, then ‘Weltschmerz’ and following a further pause ‘Auf Wiedersehen,’ saying a final farewell to people he would see again the next day.
He also hadn’t yet learnt to ask whether something was sugar or salt, leading to an evening eating some very sweet chips. But even speechless he wasn’t, at last, uneasy in Berlin – it seemed to him a gentle city, where the trains slid in and out and the open spaces pacified tourists drunker and rowdier elsewhere.
It was like the Germans had become one of the peaceful races in Star Trek, the ones introduced by an insert screen of their orderly, verdant planet, Bajorans, say, or some other species permanently threatened by obliteration; and what a change after the tiny cubicles and traffic-jam living of the English, who could only ever be the Borg.
Surrounded by pacifists, Stuart revelled in the license of Englishness, his ability to voice the odd mildly aggressive opinion or wildly over-celebrate during that summer’s football tournament, until England lost. He swam in lakes, and bought a bicycle, and gradually stopped thinking of England and the ashes it had fed him.
In Oxford, where he had been President of the University sketch revue, people had printed gossip about him in the student newspapers, asked him to leave parties, dealt with him as the man who had committed that deepest and most unforgivable of Oxford crimes: failure.
He had failed, as a comedian and a young man, and now publicly; his country had rejected him. He had been humiliated in front of an audience of his contemporaries and sent into an internal exile.
Afterwards, many of these young dilettantes, at the time apparently picturing future lives as bereft of unforeseen distress as possible, lives composed of simply an endless procession of success, successes occurring within a network of contacts which they had built up at University and which would continue to provide them with unstinting support throughout their adult lives, never violating the simple and essential principle that all was permissible as long as it did well – did not want his name on their social CV.
From Chapter 14
Stuart is on-stage doing stand up in Germany.
‘Don’t you sometimes get the feeling,’ said Stuart, years before on the stage in Heidelberg, ‘that if Barack Obama had been German it wouldn’t have been “Yes We Can” but ”Nein das geht nicht”? No you can’t.
‘Everyone would have been chanting it – No you can’t! No you can’t! Of course in this version Obama would not have been black.’
Stuart was closing in on the kill. ‘And this very lack of optimism,’ he said, treading across the stage, limbering, into the really good stuff now, ‘is actually built into the German language itself.
Like for example, when you’re really happy in English, you say “I’m on Cloud Nine.” But in Germany you say, “I’m on Cloud Seven.”
Does this mean that even in their happiest moments the Germans are two clouds less happy than English-speaking people?’
And after developing that bit, which meant moving into a depiction of an exemplary German, Hannes, in his German heaven, with an allotment, board games, juice and an Autobahn heading directly to Mallorca, he noting, somewhat wistfully, the celebratory Anglophones on Cloud Nine who were dancing to ‘Video Killed the Radio Star’, which was an excuse to sing it, following which they – the Anglophones – called down to Cloud Eight “Hey Hannes man! Come and join us here on Cloud Nine” and Hannes replying “No thank you. Everything on Cloud Seven is perfectly satisfactory” then moving on to speculation as to the occupants of the other clouds, the French on Cloud Eight living it up, their motor scooters floating off the cloud and down to Cloud Zero where the Greeks were and below them the Cypriots who’d had to sell the cloud, and were just falling – after all these and other jokes, Stuart had them where he wanted them.
‘Isn’t it funny that, since the Second World War, the Germans have been like’, change voice, German accent, ‘”We Germans. We have done so many things wrong and there is no way we can ever put them right.”
And now Greece is like,’ pause, turn of the head, “Well, actually…”’
They laughed, and laughed, and laughed. They got it.
A rambling episode about making a fresh start in the new year, and some things I just have to tell you about listening to Luke’s English Podcast using a podcast app on your phone + lots of tangents. I hope you enjoy it!
I start reading at 12mins12seconds in the audio version
Sometimes I go “off-script” and say things which are not written here. I hope you can follow it all.
If you’re new to this podcast – I’m Luke, I’m an English teacher and comedian from England, and I’ve been doing this podcast for learners of English for about 14 years now.
You can use my podcast to improve your English in various ways, but the main thing is that it can help you do more listening, which is essential for acquiring natural, and instinctive English. What I mean by instinctive English is that you get an instinctive feel for the language, and this is what you can get from simply engaging with English in spoken form or written form and focusing on understanding it. It really helps if the process is fun and so I do try to keep things funny (this isn’t funny though) or just entertaining and interesting as much as possible.
This is episode 805 and it’s called A New Year Ramble 2023.
I am just going to talk to you for at least an hour. Just listen to my voice for the duration of the episode and remember – all the words and sentences I am saying are all going into your brain and a lot of it will stick there! This is perhaps more effective for your English progress than slaving away over a grammar book or staring at word lists. Just listen to me, follow my words, stick with me and hopefully enjoy it all. Let the rest happen naturally.
For this episode I’ve written some notes which I am reading from sometimes, and some stuff is spontaneous.
The main thing in this episode is that I’m just going to have a ramble. That means talking and talking, sometimes going this way sometimes that way, moving from one topic to another and one thought to another without having a very clearly defined structure. As I said, I’m just going to talk to you for a while. Join me!
New Listeners, a Fresh Start & Learning English with LEP in 2023
In January I find that new people start listening (hello!)
Also people return to the podcast and generally refocus on learning English, turning over a new leaf.
New Year’s resolutions
I like to make a fresh start every January and say some things on the podcast to explain what this is, how it works, and how you can learn English from my content.
This is the 14th time I’ve recorded an new year episode. It’s my 14th January on this show so I have done quite a lot of episodes in the past welcoming new people and talking about how you can learn English with this podcast, and what the aims of this project are.
So, instead of repeating the same things again, I’ll suggest that you check out some of these episodes. (Pick some episodes to recommend)
Where can I find all your episodes, Luke?
You can always find all my episodes in the archive on my website. If you’re watching on YouTube, not all the episodes are there. Just some.
All rest are in my episode archive on my website including episode titles, numbers, summaries of what’s in each episode and then on each page you’ll find an audio player, a download button and sometimes vocabulary notes, transcripts of some or all of the episode and more things.
Some things you should know about how to listen to LEP
I’ve noticed from quite a lot of comments and emails recently that people don’t know certain key information about my show.
Let’s just clarify a few things here about this podcast.
Free episodes (Luke’s English Podcast)
and premium episodes (Luke’s English Podcast Premium)
Free episodes are free! You’re listening to a free episode right now!
If you’re listening using a podcast app on your phone, you might notice some advertising. This helps me to continue doing the podcast and pays for things like rent, internet, food.
Premium episodes are only available if you sign up to LEP Premium for about 4$ a month. This also helps me to pay for things like food, clothes for my daughter, flowers for my wife, and loads of other things. This is how I actually live these days!
Anyway, premium episodes are for premium subscribers and they’re usually about vocabulary, pronunciation and grammar.
The premium episodes have PDFs.
Some premium subscribers don’t know how to find the PDFs.
I’ll tell you more about premium a bit later including the best way to listen to premium episodes and how to get the PDFs.
How to listen to the free episodes
My show has always been primarily an audio podcast which most people listen to using a podcast app on their phone.
You can also listen to the episodes on my website.
I publish my episodes on YouTube as well.
Over the last couple of years I’ve been filming myself with a webcam while recording my episodes and putting those video versions on YouTube. Some of those YouTube videos have sort of gone viral and I’ve ended up being a kind of YouTuber as well, but I still consider this show to be an audio podcast first and foremost.
Sometimes there is more content in the audio versions, for example if I have an interview with a guest, the video version might only contain the conversation, whereas the audio version will probably include an introduction and some talking from me at the end of the episode (perhaps a short ramble or some vocabulary explanations).
When it’s possible I add some text on the screen of video versions on YouTube so you can read while you listen, but I don’t do that every time.
Automatic subtitles are available (usually) on my YouTube videos.
But this show is primarily an audio podcast. This is how I think of it. It’s an audio show which you can listen to in the normal way people listen to podcasts, which means using a podcast app on your phone.
Now, I’m going to go a bit basic here and explain what a podcast app is.
Back to basics: What is a podcast app?
The majority of you listening already know all this stuff so I’m just patronising you, but I suppose you could just pay attention to the way I’m describing all of this. How would you explain how to listen to a podcast, to someone who is completely new to the whole thing? Here’s how I would do it.
For those of you who don’t know, a podcast app is an app you download (free) onto your phone from the App Store (iOS) or Play Store (Android).
Lots of apps are available as I said. Check your phone. You might already have one. If you’re on iOS, you can look for the one with the purple icon that says Podcasts. Personally I’m not a huge fan of that app, but it will work fine.
Maybe you don’t have a podcast app on your phone, in which case, download one (PocketCasts!) then just search in the app for Luke’s English Podcast and then subscribe to it. Of course, other podcasts are available but who needs other podcasts I ask you?
New episodes will arrive there every time I publish them and it’s super convenient. You can listen to episodes on headphones (recommended) or just blare them out loud on your phone on the back of the bus or something if you want to annoy everyone around you or perhaps help them learn English too.
You can listen when your phone is connected to wifi (probably at home or maybe in the office when you should be working) or you can listen when you’re outside using your phone’s data internet connection.
Podcast apps will also save your place in the episode, if you press stop for some reason. The app will remember where you stopped. Then when you go back to the app later and start listening to that episode again, the app will remember where you stopped and you can carry on listening. Perfect! No need to worry about my episodes being too long! No need to listen to the whole thing in one single sitting.
There are also other advantages to using a podcast app on your phone, including being able to add my premium episodes to the app as well, if you sign up. I’ll explain more about that in a minute.
A lot of people use Spotify to listen to podcasts. Great! The only problem there is that you can’t add premium episodes to Spotify, because it’s not a “normal podcast app”.
Don’t use the Luke’s English Podcast App any more
By the way, I am not talking about the LEP App here. A lot of you have downloaded that on your phones.
It’s listed in the app store as “Luke’s English Podcast App” and it might appear on your phone as simply LEP.
But, don’t use the LEP app any more. It is defunct. New episodes are no longer arriving there and in a few months it will disappear from the App Store completely. So, you can forget about the LEP App now. It’s sad, I know, but it’s not the end of the world because you can continue listening in any other normal podcast app as I’ve said.
How to listen to LEP Premium and how to get the premium PDFs
Right, so let me talk a bit about LEP Premium. This isn’t a promotion by the way, it’s just information which a lot of people don’t know. No pressure to sign up to my premium subscription or anything. It’s totally up to you. Of course I hope you do, but it’s up to you right?
By the way, premium people – new episodes are coming including some storytime episodes.
So, I am constantly getting emails from people saying “I have signed up to LEP Premium but how do I listen and how do I get the PDFs?” and I just feel like a surprising number of people out there are somehow missing out on basic information which you just have to know or I might go a bit mad and stick bananas in my ears and then everyone will say “Hey you’ve got bananas in your ears” and I’ll say “What??” and they’ll say “You’ve got bananas in your ears!!!” and I’ll say “What????” and they’ll say “WHY HAVE YOU GOT BANANAS IN YOUR EARS???” and I’ll say “I CAN’T HEAR YOU I’VE GOT BANANAS IN MY EARS!!!”
That’s what will happen if everyone continues not to know certain basic information about my podcast and about how the premium part works.
Let me explain as quickly and clearly as possible, then we’ll move on to some ramblings about other perhaps more entertaining matters.
The best way to listen to premium episodes is to add LEP Premium to a podcast app on your phone.
Let’s say you’re using Apple Podcasts to listen to the normal free episodes of LEP and you’ve decided it’s time to also listen to the premium content to push your English further. Maybe one day you just say to yourself “Hey, I think it’s time to also listen to the premium content to push my English further” but then you think, but what do I do? Where do I go? And crucially – how do I get those precious PDFS????
Ok, so let’s say you’ve gone to www.teacherluke.Co.uk/premiumon your phone and you’ve signed up to LEP Premium and you are logged into Acast+ (the platform I use for the premium subscription).
You’ll see that you have the option to “Listen now” or “Add show to app”.
If you tap “listen now” you’ll see a list of all the episodes and you can play them, listen to them. But this is not a convenient way to listen.
You need to tap “add show to app”, so tap that and you can choose the podcast app which you have on your phone and which you use to listen to the free episodes, see?
Again, let’s say you’re using Apple Podcasts. Let’s use that as an example.
Where it says “Add show to podcast” you then tap “Apple Podcasts” and the Apple Podcasts app will magically open, giving you the option to subscribe to LEP Premium there. Do it! You’ve already paid, you’ve put your card details in and stuff, what are you waiting for. Add LEP Premium to Apple Podcasts! Go for it!
Now you have upgraded your LEP episode list on Apple Podcasts. You will now be able to find the premium episodes in your list. Before it was just the free episodes. Now the list includes the premium episodes too. Celebrate! It’s a miracle!
Spare a thought for LEPsters who can’t sign up to LEP Premium because of government stuff (Give peace a chance)
I think at this point it would be appropriate to spare a thought for those LEPsters who are unable to sign up to LEP Premium on Acast+, probably because of two possibilities – either Acast has been blocked by your government because they think that LEP and LEP Premium are just far too dangerous for people to listen to, because – heaven forbid, I might talk about things which perhaps directly contradict the version of reality which they are trying to pull over your eyes, OR your credit card will not work for international payments because your country is being sanctioned because your government is being very naughty indeed. In any case, if you can’t access LEP Premium, I am sorry, but have a word with your government OK? But don’t get thrown in jail. I know, that’s easier said than done. I don’t know – I don’t want to casually suggest that you all rise up in some kind of revolution or something, and overthrow the people who run your country, because you simply cannot allow this madness to continue and you simply must be allowed to sign up to LEP Premium on Acast+. This is up to you. I’ll let you weigh up the risks and the potential benefits and so on. Good luck.
OK but let’s say you’ve signed up to LEP Premium and you’ve successfully added the episodes to your podcast app of choice. The premium episodes are now in your list, along with the other episodes. It might not be obvious at first, but they are there, just waiting to be discovered and listened to.
How can you find them? Well, you’ll need to scroll through the list a bit. Just scroll down through the episode list and BINGO you’ll see them. All premium episodes start with P and a number. P42, P41 etc. Some episodes have the word [Premium] at the start.
Premium episodes P01-P36 were all added in July 2022 and they can be found between free episodes 776 and 777. Scroll down to episode 777 and look under it – see! Loads of premium episodes are there! (if you’ve signed up to the premium subscfiption and added the episodes to your app as I explained before)
ALL THIS STUFF ABOUT PODCAST APPS AND THE PREMIUM EPISODES IS GOING TO STOP IN A COUPLE OF MINUTES I PROMISE!! TRY NOT TO GET IMPATIENT OK??
What about the PDFs for those premium episodes?
The links for the PDFs can be found in the show notes for each premium Episode.
Anyway, what are “show notes” for podcast episodes?
In podcast apps, all podcast episodes have some text notes. This is where podcasters can add maybe a summary of the episode or some links to other things online.
See if you can find the show notes or episode notes for each episode. Go on, have a look right now?
Some of you are saying “Come oooon Luke I know where the show notes are” OK then, find them right now and look at them and then say to yourself “Yes, I know where the show notes are, thank you Luke”
On Apple Podcasts, while you have an episode selected (you’ll see the LEP logo, the name of the episode and a play button) just drag the screen up and the notes will be revealed below. Again, it’s like magic or a miracle or something. An actual miracle. Thanks Jesus!
(one of my new year’s resolutions is to have more FUN in my episodes again, because life is too short)
This is where you will find the links to download the PDF for the episode.
Tap one of the links, open the PDF and read it while you listen or send it to your computer where you can study it more carefully, annotate it with a pdf reader or even print it on paper in the old fashioned way. Then use a pencil to do the tasks.
If you’re not signed up to LEP premium: Hello! That’s fine!
You don’t have to sign up to the premium service if you don’t want to, can’t afford to or aren’t allowed to due to confusing global events and the actions of powerful men who sit at tables deciding your future.
You are still a LEPSTER and you can still enjoy all the free episodes and all the rest of it, until of course the thought police completely turn off your access to the internet. Which country are you talking about Luke? Well, whichever country is doing it.
There are show notes for all the free episodes too. (For many of you I’m teaching grandma how to suck eggs)
If you’re listening in a podcast app. Have a look – you’ll always find a link to the “episode page”. That’s where you can read any vocab notes, find the associated youTube video (if there is one) and other information that I mention in the episode.
YouTube Comments / Keeping My Episodes Varied / I’m the boss round here (yes, I am a powerful man who sits at a table and decides YOUR future)
Now we’re talking about YouTube which is another platform where I publish my episodes – either in video format (where you can see me talking, if that’s your cup of tea) or just listen to episodes without video and maybe switch on the automatic subtitles (don’t forget to smash that like button and click the bell icon and all that jazz).
One thing about being on YouTube is that there are more comments.
This is because it is much easier to comment on YouTube than it is if you are in audioland (listening on a podcast app on your phone, probably).
On YouTube the comment section is right there, and it is an integral part of the YouTube experience.
So, people comment a lot more, which is great. It is lovely to get your feedback and it’s encouraging when people respond to what you’re doing.
Sometimes it is amazing, especially if people write genuinely positive and appreciative things.
It’s mostly great, but it’s sometimes a bit irritating.
As you know, if you are a human being, the negative things tend to stick with us a bit more than the positive things.
By and large, my audience (like any audience of learners of English it seems) is incredibly thankful and appreciative, which is lovely. But naturally there are some people who are not so thoughtful and who write comments which probably tell us more about them than they do about the content that they’re commenting on.
Now, while I do believe it is really important to take criticisms on board, to consider them and to learn from them, some comments are just a bit annoying!
Well, obviously just abusive or directly rude comments are just the kind of “bird shit on the window of life” but there are some comments which are not exactly abuse, but which just show a certain lack of consideration for the content creator. I’m not going to list all the things that irritate me, because what’s the point, but one thing I have noticed is when I upload an episode, let’s say it’s a story episode, and the comment is “I miss your rambling episodes” or “Please make content about phrasal verbs” or “Please make short videos like “Don’t say please” or “stop saying thank you”.
Or I upload a rambling episode and someone comments “Make more stories, we want stories” or I do an Amber & Paul episode and the comment is “We want a Rick Thompson Report!” You get the idea.
I do a variety of episodes, and I’ve always tried to keep the episodes varied for the whole time I’ve been doing this podcast, for better or worse. This is because:
You can’t please all the people all the time (You might think that one type of episode is the best, but plenty of others will think that another type of episode is the best – in the end, I decide)
Keeping things varied keeps me motivated
It’s important for you to hear a variety of things – not just stories, not just teaching phrasal verbs etc, but also conversations, monologues, some easier episodes, some which are more difficult etc
I don’t think anyone thinks about this more than I do. I put my experience, my professional knowledge and also my heart and soul into making these episodes. They’re not always exactly perfect, but there is no such thing as “perfect” and it’s a fruitless mission to try and chase it.
Ah shit I feel like I’m being too negative now, and also overthinking everything. Ah well.
Is my show blocked in China?
Chinese LEPsters – how do you listen to my podcast? Do you use a VPN? Is my podcast available in Apple Podcasts? Is it available on any other apps? Let me know :)
Happy New Year! LET’S HAVE FUN IN ENGLISH IN 2023! GIVE PEACE A CHANCE!
Leave a comment to let me know you’re not a skeleton 👇
Marie Connolly is an Australian stand-up comedian and TEFL teacher who has written a book of short stories about times when men (from various countries) have flirted with her. In this episode Marie shares some of those stories, tells us about English men vs French men vs Australian men and much more.
Transcripts & Vocabulary Notes for this episode (promos, introduction, ending)⤵
LEP Premium Promo
Before we start – a quick mention about LEP Premium. Premium LEPsters, I just want to let you know that P24 is now finished and uploaded. It is an epic series – homophones, jokes, building your vocabulary (which is so important) and also working on your pronunciation. I’ve also uploaded P25 which contains pronunciation drills for the previous free episode (LEP682) which was all about English accents. I said I’d do a pronunciation episode for that, and I’ve done it. You can practise saying the sentences with my normal accent, and also with several regional accents too. The aim being to strengthen both your listening skills and your speaking skills.
Second thing – the WISBOLEP competition deadline is 15 October. Is that clear? Originally I said 31 October but the date has changed! The deadline is now the 15 October 2020. If you don’t know what the competition is, check out episode 681.
But this is episode 683, and I’m keen to get started, so let’s go…
Hello and welcome back to LEP. It’s new episode time again!
This is an episode with a guest. So you’re going to be listening to another authentic conversation at natural speed in English which can be difficult to follow but is good training for your English.
Before going any further, let me explain the title of this episode. “683. Feelgood Stories of Flirting with Marie Connolly”
Feelgood is an adjective (one word) which we use to describe anything that makes you feel good! For example we can say a feelgood film, feelgood food and or feelgood stories, which would be stories that will make you feel good.
Feelgood stories of flirtingFlirting means interacting with someone in a way that shows that you fancy them, find them attractive, and are probably interested in perhaps getting ‘romantically involved’ with them, let’s say. Synonyms include ‘chatting someone up’ , ‘hitting on someone’ or perhaps ‘trying to pick someone up’. A person can be a flirt, and the adjective is flirtatious.
Feelgood stories of flirting with Marie Connolly
And Marie Connolly is my guest in this episode.
Marie is a stand-up comedian, a ski-instructor, an English teacher and writer. Her latest book is full of short stories about flirting with the opposite sex.
Before we meet Marie, let me give you some context to help you understand this conversation, which can ultimately help you learn more English from it.
Marie is from Australia but she has lived in a few different countries. It’s a bit of a stereotype that Aussies like to travel away from Australia (this is called Going on Walkabout), but in this case it’s true. Marie has spent time in various places including Brisbane, Syndey, London, Liverpool, The French Alps and now Paris.
Marie was born in Australia but her dad was from Liverpool and her mum was from El Savlador in central America, which is quite an interesting combination.
For those of you who are interested in accents and pronunciation – Marie has a slight Australian accent because that’s where she grew up. It’s not super strong, but you should be able to notice it a bit.
Here are the main things you’re going to hear us talking about:
As you might expect we chat a bit about stand-up comedy, what it’s like dealing with tough moments on stage and reasons why it can be hard to do stand-up in front of audiences of non-native speakers.
I’m afraid to say that the infamous Russian Joke story makes yet another appearance, which is my fault because as you’ll hear, I’m the one who brings it up. I know, I know. I can’t believe I’m still talking about the Russian Joke, and some of you are now saying “Wait, what’s the Russian Joke?” Long-term listeners will know all about this. Clearly I have deep mental scars from this experience which still haven’t healed. Either that or I secretly love telling this story.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, just keep listening because I am going to tell the story once more. Yes, I know.
Marie gives some thoughts on Liverpool where some of her cousins live, and her favourite English shops for buying clothes, which leads to some chat about Marks & Spencer – the quintessentially English clothing and food shop, which also has branches in Paris where you can buy proper tea. (not property, no – they don’t sell flats and houses, no I mean “proper tea” good quality tea)
….I’m now pausing for laughter…
Marie tells us about her time living and partying hard in London, and then her decision to move to France to work as a ski instructor at a ski resort in the Alps, while making trips to Paris to perform comedy gigs.
You’ll hear some details of Marie’s comedy shows in English and French in Paris.
At the moment she is doing her own one-woman show in English called “Sydney, London, Paris, Darling”. You can see it if you’re in town, COVID permitting of course. At the moment, in France, Theatres are still allowed to open and Marie’s show is in a theatre so it’s still on. If you’re in town why not come and check it out? She is very funny and has some great stories to share.
Then we move on to talk about the latest book that Marie has written, called “40 Frenchie Feelgood Flirts”. It contains 40 short stories. This is yet another book recommendation on the podcast. I think it could be a really good thing to read, if this is your cup of tea. Short stories are perfect for learners of English, because they’re short – do I need to say more?
It’s chick-lit, which means books primarily for women that usually include romantic themes.
The stories in Marie’s book are all cute anecdotes about times when men have flirted with her, hit on her, or chatted her up. There’s no explicit sexual stuff in Marie’s book. As Marie says it’s just innocent fun. So it’s less “40 Shades of Grey” and more “40 Shades of Hey, How are you doing?”
— I’m now pausing for more laughter and applause, thank you —
The rest of the episode is mainly Marie sharing some of her stories of flirty moments with men who she has encountered.
She also talks a bit about how French men are different to Australian or English men.
What do you think the differences might be? What do you think Marie is going to say about the way a French man will approach her, compared to an English or Australian man?
Hmmm, have I piqued your interest? I hope so. Listen on to find out the details.
Vocab hunters – Here is some language which you can simply notice as you listen. When you hear these things, take a mental note.
I know you are keen to get to the conversation, but bear with me. This will be useful for your English, and that’s what this is all about at the end of the day (and the beginning of the day, and the middle of the day, etc) Trust me, I am a professional.
I’m not explaining this all now, I’m just saying it so you can notice it yourself when it comes up naturally. If you don’t understand these phrases, don’t worry. I will explain it later in the episode. But you might be able to work it out from context as you listen.
*There is some swearing*
To backtrack – “You can’t backtrack” [this one comes up twice]
To stick in someone’s craw – “It stuck in my craw. It bothered me.”
To be over it – “Maybe I’m not over it”
Deep scars – “Maybe there are deep scars”
To wilt – “I wilted in front of them”
To be sick to your stomach – “I was sick to my stomach”
To be swallowed up – “Can I please be swallowed up?”
A halterneck top (an item of women’s clothing that is quite revealing) “I was wearing a halterneck top”
To snuggle under the duvet – “If I could have, I would have snuggled under the duvet and just stayed in bed for a year.”
______ by name, ______ by nature – “Alex Love, our mutual friend; lovely by name and lovely by nature.”
A coping strategy – “Every comedian has their own coping strategy”
To rectify – “Get back on stage as soon as possible and rectify”
Dainty / pastries – “I’m not used to French dainty pastries, I prefer the big fat Australian ones”
To pay through the nose – “I will pay through the nose. I just want the best tea I can get.”
A hub / antipodeans – “It was a hub for antipodeans”
To be up shit creek (without a paddle) – “Because of Brexit I’m up shit creek.”
A snapshot of something – “It’s a snapshot of life in France”
To be hit on / to be picked up / to be complimented – “40 times I’ve been hit on, picked up or complimented by men”
Abs – “One was very white but he had super-fit abs”
White vs Pale (to describe a person)
A sand castle
To blush – “He would blush and I would feel amazing.”
The contents (of a book) / to pique someone’s interest – “Can I read through the contents to pique people’s interest?”
To mime – “He started swimming with his hands. He was miming and I was laughing.”
A man bun – “He had long hair up in a man bun. I called him Mr Man bun.”
Ok so try to notice those things, maybe try to guess what they mean and I’ll be explaining them on the other side of the conversation.
But mainly, I hope you just enjoy listening to this chat.
Now, get ready because things are going to speed up a bit, as we meet Marie Connolly…
Thank you again to Marie. After finishing the recording, we realised there were other stories we’d forgotten to tell, including the time Jerry Seinfeld turned up at one of our little comedy shows in Paris and performed in front of about 20 people including Marie and me, and how it was just a little bit awkward, but still amazing and quite surreal. Jerry Seinfeld at one of our shows? What are the odds? So Marie will have to come back for another episode in which we can describe that experience for you.
Just a reminder about Marie’s comedy show (if you’re in Paris) and her books (which you can get anywhere in both paperback and Kindle versions).
The One-Woman Comedy Show
“Sydney Paris London Darling” you need to check her Facebook page – Marie Connolly Comedy.
Marie’s books, including “40 Frenchie Feelgood Flirts”
Marie’s page on Amazon where you can find her books. The main one we talked about is “40 Frenchie Feelgood Flirts”. She writes under the pseudonym Muddy Frank (read the titles of the books available)
Explaining the Vocabulary
Let’s go through that vocabulary again, from the beginning of the episode.
Did you notice any of the words and phrases I listed before? Did you get a sense of what they mean?
Let me go through them again, and I’m going to clarify them as quickly as possible. I’m not giving these phrases the full LEP Premium treatment (because I like to go into lots of detail in those episodes) I might put them into an upcoming episode of LEP Premium so I can make sure you learn the vocabulary properly and we can do the usual memory tests and pronunciation drills as well. But now, this is the sort of quick version. Let’s call it the 10 peso version.
The vocabulary is already listed above ⤴️
Still not sure about the meanings? Try using www.oxforddictionaries.com to check them out. Other online dictionaries are available.
And that is the end of this episode.
What’s coming up in the future? Who knows – nobody can predict the future, except weather forecasters.
As usual I have more episode ideas than time, but I do have a few interviews lined up, including some more friends you might not have heard on the podcast before, and some regular guests that you’re probably waiting to hear from too [yes episodes with Amber & Paul are in the pipeline, it’s just a bit tricky to find times when we are all free].
Basically – more conversations with guests are coming up as well as the usual episodes on my own on various topics. So, it’s going to be more of what you normally get with LEP!
Right, I will let you go now.
Thank you for listening.
Check the episode page on my website where you’ll find transcripts for 95% of what I’m saying in the introduction and ending parts of this episode, plus other things like a photo of Marie and me (oh Luke, a photo!?) plus the comment section and things like that. I often put other things on the website page for you to check out as well, including little YouTube videos relating to the episode or other bits and pieces.
I look forward to reading your comments on the website.
Follow me on Twitter @englishpodcast which is where I am also quite active.
Tweets by EnglishPodcast
Sign up to LEP Premium to access all the other episodes I make, all focused on helping you build your English in various ways. www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo
Have a good one. Be excellent to each other, and party on in your own sweet way.
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.
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.
Who wrote it and all that stuff?
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
In the last episode you heard me talking to Amber and Paul. I hope you enjoyed that. It was lots of fun. I recorded it last week and after doing that mammoth episode about poshness Amber had to go but Paul stayed and so I thought we would return to the topic of the British citizenship test. We talked about this last time in episode 527 when Paul took the test on the podcast and failed.
I still had some other bits and pieces that I wanted to cover in the episode, including a stand up routine about the citizenship test and also an article in The Telegraph. Both of those things include their own citizenship tests, so let’s see if Paul can pass them. Be prepared to be either shocked or amazed by Paul’s knowledge about British things in general. Also we end up taking a citizenship test for the USA and to see if we pass or not, just keep listening.
So this episode is a chance for you to listen to Paul and me in conversation, but there’s also loads of stuff to learn in terms of British culture and certain words which are often pronounced wrong by native speakers of British English.
Check the page for this episode, where you will find links to the various tests and videos we’re talking about.
Let’s now join Paul and me after we’d just finished a cup of tea, ready to talk more on the podcast and let’s see how much he and you know about British life, culture and language.
Videos & Links
Imran Yusuf’s British Citizenship Test
The Daily Telegraph’s British Citizenship Test for Meghan Markle
In a recent episode of this podcast, you heard me talking to Amber and Paul about experiences of doing comedy and both Paul and I mentioned a British comedian called Paul Chowdhry. I have mentioned him on the podcast several times before, and I’ve been meaning to do a whole episode about him for a while now. So here we are.
In this one we’re going to listen to the audio of some of Paul Chowdhry’s stand up. Let’s see if you can understand it, and if we can learn some English from it and also some things about English life and culture too.
Who is Paul Chowdhry?
He’s a British comedian, from London. He was born in the UK and is of Indian origin.
In terms of ethnic groups in England, white people of English origin are by far the majority ethnic group, but the next largest group is Indian.
I’ve chosen to talk about Paul Chowdhry in this episode because he’s a really funny comedian, and I talked about him with Amber & Paul on the podcast recently. He’s one of my favourite comedians.
Because Paul is of Indian origin, ethnicity, identity and accents are often topics in his comedy. I think really this is just because he’s always playing with social conventions about what we find acceptable or not acceptable, about the subtle tensions that exist between ethnic groups. Without getting too serious, he makes fun of everyone, including white English guys called Dave, his Indian parents or Indians who are fresh off the boat and living in England, Chinese waiters, African taxi drivers and all sorts. I like him because of the accents and impressions he does, because of how quick and brief in his delivery he is.
He’s just funny and that’s it. Certainly, England’s ethnic diversity is a theme that always comes up in his comedy and perhaps informs the audience’s reactions to him.
So, it might be necessary to give you some info regarding ethnic groups in Britain. Here are some stats, and this is from the UK’s most recent census, the 2011 census. The census is the country’s largest national survey and is very reliable and impartial as a source of information, so these figures are generally accurate.
What do you think? If you could imagine a pie chart with different segments for the different ethnicities in the UK, what would it look like? What do you think are the ethnic groups and their percentages?
Here are the figures, which by the way are controversial, not because of the numbers but because of the way the different groups are classified. For example, the categories “white” and “black” are not really ethnicities, are they? Anyway, here’s some information from the 2011 census.
I think this meant people registered as British citizens, and could include people born in the country or people who moved there and became citizens.
UK Population by Ethnicity
Source: UK Census/Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethnic_groups_in_the_United_Kingdom
By the way, most of the non-white ethnic groups are concentrated in the cities, particularly London, which is by far the most racially or ethnically diverse place in the UK.
London has had a diverse population for centuries, but most of the Indian and Caribbean families moved there in the immediate postwar period.
People like Paul Chowdhry, who are basically around my age would have grown up in the UK, but with Indian parents.
Anyway, back to Paul Chowdhry.
It’s quite interesting that Paul Chowdhry’s audiences are often quite diverse. He appeals to everyone – white people, Asians, Afro-Caribbeans and so on. In his audience he often picks out the groups of people of different origins and it’s funny the way he makes fun of them one after the other.
No need to go further into all that stuff. It’s just a bit of context. It doesn’t all have to be about ethnicity. Like I said, I mainly wanted to do this episode because I just find him to be really funny.
So, let’s just listen to some of Paul’s material and see if you can understand it and if we can learn some English from it.
This is the audio from a YouTube video of Paul Chowdhry’s appearance on a TV show called Live at the Apollo. This is the BBC’s big stand up comedy show, which is filmed at The Hammersmith Apollo, which is just 10 minutes down the road from where I used to live in London. It’s a huge venue and they have big comedy shows there and they also do music concerts. All the great bands that you love, all the great British rock bands from the last few decades. They’ve all done shows at the Hammersmith Apollo. It’s a very famous venue. The Who, Elton John, Queen, Black Sabbath, David Bowie’s last concert as Ziggy Stardust was there – just all of the great bands. and also all the big comedians that we have.
Anyway, this is the audio from Paul Chowdhry, Live at the Apollo.
This routine is full of slang, rude language, accents and jokes about ethnic identity. That’s what you can expect.
I’m not sure what you’re going to think of think of this, as ever, because this could easily be considered offensive (because he’s making fun of different ethnic groups to an extent), but my instinct tells me this is just funny and so I’m just going to go with it. But certainly a lot of the laughs come from the fact that this kind of thing, the sorts of things he’s saying are borderline unacceptable, but in some way he gets away with it because it’s coming from an Indian guy. Although the things he’s saying might be considered unacceptable or politically incorrect if they came out of the mouth of a white guy. For some reason because it’s coming from an Indian guy that kind of makes it ok. If it was a white guy up there making fun of ethnic minorities, that would be considered extremely old fashioned and in very bad taste, but Paul has got the pass, the card, because he is Indian, so he can do it.
He can even get away with doing impressions of Africans and Chinese people, which I would definitely not get away with in front of an English audience.
Anyway, enough from me. Let’s get into it.
Paul Chowdhry Live a the Apollo (2012)
An example of bad dubbing in a kung fu movie
Express yourself – write your thoughts in the comment section below!
Amber, Paul and Luke tell some stories of their worst ever stand-up comedy gigs. Expect some anecdotes about embarrassing and humiliating experiences on stage, and “dying on your arse”. Intro & outtro transcripts available + bonus audio in the LEP app.
In this episode you’re going to hear a conversation with Amber & Paul – both regular guests on this show as you will know if you are a long-term listener.
I thought I could do this episode with no introduction, just jumping straight into the conversation, but I’ve decided that I do need to say just a few things before we start. I think it will help to put our conversation in context, which should help you understand it all and generally keep up with our fast talking. I know, I can’t help doing these rambling intros, but what are you gonna do? There ain’t nuttin’ you can do.
This conversation is quite fast
When I get together with Amber and Paul, we talk quite quickly and we talk about things that you might not know about, like things that we’ve seen and done together. That might make it hard for you to keep up and understand everything. So, a bit of context from me, now, might help. This is going to make this episode longer, but that’s ok isn’t it?
Amber, Paul and I are all stand-up comedians and in fact that is how we know each other. We all originally met while doing stand-up in English in Paris. Stand-up, you should know by now, is a form of comedy entertainment in which one comedian stands on stage with a microphone and tells jokes and stories to make the audience laugh.
Amber and I do stand-up on a kind of part-time basis while also doing other work but Paul is a full-time comedian, and is actually quite famous these days, particularly in the French-speaking world. He has made some TV programmes for French television and YouTube and also he has a one man stand up comedy show which has been very successful, playing to large theatres of people. Sometimes Paul invites other comedians to open his shows, which means doing 5-10 minutes of stand up in front of Paul’s audience, in order to warm them up before Paul takes the stage. So, you’ll hear us talking about when Amber and I opened for Paul in a big theatre recently.
And then we go on to talk about other stories and experiences of doing stand-up comedy over the years.
I don’t know if you’ve ever seen stand-up comedy live in a club or theatre, or if you’ve watched a lot of stand-up on TV. It might not be a big thing in your country. But a great stand-up show is possibly the best kind of comedy entertainment because when it goes well, you laugh so much. You laugh until your face hurts. That’s how good it can be. That rarely happens with films in the cinema. When was the last time you went to the cinema and laughed all the way through, like, every 15 seconds you’re laughing? Well, a good stand up show will be like that.
A bad stand up show on the other hand, can be extremely uncomfortable and embarrassing.
Good and Bad Stand-up Comedy Shows
But what makes a show good, or bad?
The thing is, as a comedian, after performing on stage even just a few times, you realise that it’s not just you, your jokes, your performance that make a show good. There are other factors involved that are terribly important for making sure a show is successful and that the audience have a good time. I mean, you can do pretty much the same thing – the same jokes, the same stories at one show and get lots of laughs, but then do it at another show in front of a different audience in a different room, with different conditions and it can get no laughs.
Certain things are vital, basically to make sure that the show goes as well as possible.
Obviously, you need a good performer with good material. But also, the audience need to be able to see and hear the comedians on stage, there shouldn’t be many other distractions in the room. The audience should be in the dark a little bit so they don’t feel too self-conscious. The audience should be sitting together, fairly close to each other and fairly close to the performers. They should be comfortable but not too comfortable and it helps to bring the comedians on and off the stage quite quickly, in order to keep the energy up. It also makes a difference how you introduce the comedians on the stage and have them exit the stage, in order to manage the expectations and the reactions of the audience and generally to make the audience feel like the performers know what they’re doing and make sure the audience remember the comedians at their funniest moments (e.g. to end on a laugh not a dead moment).
In fact, there are loads of little factors which you should get right in order to run a successful comedy show. It’s show business, basically.
But the thing about stand up is that if the show doesn’t go very well, then for the comedian it’s especially painful, because you’re basically up there completely on your own and you’re completely exposed. It’s not like in music when you can basically hide behind your song or your instrument and you probably have other musicians on stage with you. As a stand up if things don’t go well, you know about it instantly because nobody laughs and it’s like you’re dying up there.
On the other side of the coin, when it goes really well and the audience laugh a lot, it’s an incredible feeling for everyone, particularly the comedian. But any stand-up who has done even just a few gigs will have stories of both good and bad experiences. It’s particularly common for comedians to share with each other their stories of the bad experiences and the times when they “died on their arse” which is how comedians call having a bad gig. A gig, means a show or concert. Stand ups love to tell each other about difficult gigs they’ve experienced. It makes us feel better, and stories of failure are usually pretty funny, right?
I’m saying all this, because basically, in this conversation you are going to hear Amber, Paul and me talking about some good gigs we’ve had recently and then some stories of truly awful experiences of dying on stage, not literally dying because, well, if we had actually died on stage then we wouldn’t have been able to record this, because we would be dead. Maybe we could have come back as ghosts, or something, but ghosts can’t talk normally, because they’re ghosts and they’re made of clouds or whatever. Ghooooosssts teeeend to speeeeeeaaak like thiiiiiiis, that’s how ghosts speak. That’s is no good for podcasting or any form of communication really, except for scaring people out of an old house.
That’s the only time when ghosts speak, isn’t it? When some people enter their old house and they want to scare them away. Leeeeave this plaaaaaace. Etc. or maybe they want to steal their souls and they say “jooooooooin usssss!”
So no, hahahaha just being silly. The point is, you’re going to hear stories of us having bad gigs and as we say, “dying on our arses” but not literally, don’t worry.
I think that’s it for context. I hope you can keep up with this and that you enjoy another conversation with Amber and Paul.
So, that was Amber, Paul and me, recorded in my flat just the other day. I hope you enjoyed listening to some of our stories of doing comedy there.
A couple of comments at the end here.
You’ll notice there wasn’t much from Amber in this episode. Paul and I did most of the talking I think. Perhaps we didn’t really let her get a word in, although I think she was happy, but still – sorry to the ‘Amberfans’ who missed out on some of her input and, yes, her lovely voice. I’ll make sure we get more Amber input next time they’re on the podcast, which should be fairly soon because Paul is now less busy than he was before and is more available for podcasting duties, not that it’s a duty.
There is Bonus Audio in the App
You will find nearly 20 minutes of bonus audio for this episode in the LEP app. Just tap the gift icon to access that. You’ll hear more of our conversation which wasn’t included in this episode because I didn’t want it to be too long. In that bonus audio we talk about more comedy-related topics, including what it’s like to receive negative comments on YouTube and also how Paul has been accused of stealing a joke from Louis CK, which is not true, he didn’t.
Joke theft is actually a very serious business among comedians. It’s one of the big no-nos and if you’re found guilty of joke theft, it can be very bad for your reputation and your career.
The thing is, it can be quite hard to work out if someone has actually stolen someone else’s joke, or whether the two people just came up with the same bit independently, which is possible – depending on the joke.
But Paul has been falsely accused of taking material from Louis CK, but he didn’t – they both just happen to have come up with the same joke.
Basically, this is a joke about how French people measure body temperature by sticking a thermometer up the bum. It seems most other countries just put it in the mouth or maybe under the arm, but the French – up the bum. This is an observation that Paul has been talking about on stage for several years, and Louis CK recently started talking about it too in his stand up (because these days he is with a French woman and has spent time in France). Some of Louis’ stand up shows have been leaked on YouTube, including that bit about thermometers. Also, Paul recently published a clip from his stand up show which included his thermometer joke. So some people have seen the videos and then mistakenly thought that Paul stole the joke from Louis. The fact is, they just both came up with exactly the same observation, independently of each other.
Paul’s been doing that material for several years at least and he has recordings to prove it.
Anyway, if you want to hear about the whole thermometer – bum – Louis CK – joke theft accusation scandal, then check out the bonus audio because we talk about that a bit, and a few other things too. That’s only in the LEP app, which you can get from the app store completely free.
In the app you can also get the full episode archive, plus loads of app-only episodes and content, plus the option to subscribe to LEP Premium content.
Register for LEP Premium to get episodes in which I teach you vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation with PDF worksheets – all available in the app or online.
Join the mailing list on my website to get a link for the episode pages of new episodes when they are published.
Thank you again to Amber and Paul for being on the podcast.
Thank you to you for listening. I hope you enjoyed our stories of embarrassment and humiliation in this episode.
As ever, leave your comments on the website. Check the page for this episode where you will see some transcriptions and some videos, including footage of Paul dying on his arse at the French Football Awards and the vlog he made about it.
Keep in touch. Send me an email with your thoughts.
I’ve got more episodes about comedy coming up, specifically ones in which we listen to some clips and then understand them in detail.
You can look forward to that.
Have a wonderful day, morning, night, evening and please remember to be excellent to each other.
Speak to you again soon, but for now – goodbye!!!
Paul dies on his arse at the French Football Awards. It’s in French, but you can still see him ‘bomb’ quite badly – hardly anyone laughs at his comments and some people aren’t even listening to him (time code 48m29s)
Talking to comedian Sarah Donnelly about how she writes her jokes, advice on public speaking and how to avoid nerves and negative feelings, performing stand-up comedy in another language, and more. Sarah is a comedian and language teacher from the US, now living in France.
Today I am talking to friend of the podcast, Sarah Donnelly.
It’s not the first time Sarah has been on this podcast, but it’s been quite a long time since she was in an episode on her own, I mean – as the only guest, not just alone. She wasn’t completely on her own in front of a microphone in an empty room, like “Umm, Luke? Hello? Is anyone here?” I was there too of course. I mean, without any other guests.
Mostly Sarah has been in episodes of this podcast with other people you see. Earlier this year I talked to her and Amber about their comedy show about becoming a Mum in France (episode 515), and before that she was in a couple of episodes with Amber & Paul (episodes 460 & 461) and she was in one with Sebastian Marx in which we discussed the 2016 Presidential Elections in the USA (388 & 389).
Sarah’s first appearance on the podcast was all the way back in 2013 (episodes 155 & 157).
You’ll hear us talk about that episode a little bit, and how Sarah felt about it.
Sarah is from the United States of America (I’m sure you’ve heard of it, it’s quite a famous country). She originally comes from North Carolina but also has lived and worked in Washington DC, which is where she first started performing stand up comedy.
Then in 2012 she moved to France – roughly at the same time as I did, after she met a French guy. Her story is not dissimilar to mine in fact, except for the differences.
Sarah is a primarily a comedian – she’s a stand-up and also a comedy writer. She performs on stage very regularly – as a solo stand up performer and also with Amber Minogue in their show Becoming Maman – which by the way happens every Thursday evening at 20:15 at Théâtre BO Saint Martin 75003 Paris. If you’re in town, check it out!
Sarah also works as an English teacher at university in Paris.
Our conversation covers quite a lot of things but mainly we talk about:
How Sarah writes jokes and comes up with material for her stand up comedy performances
Some tips for successful public speaking including how to deal with feelings of nervousness that you might have before you do a speech or performance, and any feelings of shame that you might experience if you feel like you didn’t do as well as you wanted – all the usual difficult feelings we experience when doing public speaking. Sarah’s been doing stand up comedy very regularly for years now, and also she has plenty of experience of talking to large groups of students as a teacher, so she knows a lot about speaking to audiences and has some good advice and experience to share.
Sarah is also a language learner – French in this case, and we talk about her experiences of performing comedy in French.
There are also the usual tangents and silly stories and things, but I think this conversation should be useful and relevant for anyone doing public speaking, or speaking publicly in another language, and it’s also just nice and fun to spend some time with Sarah. She brought some pumpkin pie for my wife and me, which was nice of her. Pumpkin pie is a bit of a tradition in the states at this time of year and it was delicious.
So then, without any further ado. Let’s get started.
So, don’t listen to the shame wizard! Don’t listen to those feelings of shame or embarrassment that we do feel from time to time. Try to ignore those voices. Switch it off if possible.
When you’re speaking English, or thinking about your English, the shame wizard might creep up on you and whisper negative thoughts in your ear, making you feel ashamed of yourself. But don’t listen to him. Tell him to get lost.
When you’ve got a presentation to do, the shame wizard might whisper in your ear that everyone thinks you’re rubbish and you have no right to do what you’re doing. Don’t listen to him, he’s LYING!
Good advice from Sarah there.
In the moments before your presentation, stretch out your arms, stand up, take up some space with your body – but don’t punch someone in the face accidentally of course.
Language to describe stand up comedy, writing comedy and writing jokes
Parts of a stand up performance
A set = the whole performance from start to finish. E.g. “I did a 15 minute set last night” or “Did you see Sarah? She did a 30 minute set and it was hilarious.”
A bit = one part of a comedian’s set. It could be a story or just a series of jokes based on a particular premise. For example, “She did a whole bit about puberty, and it was funny because it was soooo true”
A joke = one single statement that is intended to make you laugh. It could be a line or a few lines. “Did Sarah do her chalk joke last night? Oh, man, I love that joke.” “Yeah she did, but I don’t think the audience knew what chalk was… But they laughed anyway!”
Parts of a joke
A joke can be broken down into parts.
The premise = the basic idea of a joke, the foundation of it. Like just the idea that it’s pretty weird that we used to use chalk all the time to write on blackboards, but now, younger people don’t even know what chalk is and essentially we used to write on rocks with other rocks, that was our technology, and it was a bit weird” (that’s a bit nebulous, I mean vague, but it’s a starting point – that’s a premise, just the general idea of a joke)
The set up = parts of a joke that set up the situation and put all the elements in place
The punchline = the funny line that, hopefully, makes people laugh.
The wording of a joke = the specific way the joke is worded – the specific construction of a joke. The wording of a joke can be very important in making it funny or not. Often if you believe the premise of the joke is funny, but audiences aren’t laughing at it, you just need to reconsider the wording of that joke. Once you’ve got the wording right, the joke might be more successful.
Other vocabulary for comedy
Material = all the jokes, bits and sets that a comedian has in his or her repertoire. “She’s got so much material, she could do several Netflix specials now.”
Tried and tested material = the material you’ve done lots of times. You know it well and you’re confident it should get laughs pretty much every time.
To improvise = to make things up on the spot without preparation
An open mic = the sort of comedy show you do when you first start out as a comedian. An open mic means anyone can perform. Often these “open mics” are good places to try out new material, but often the whole arrangement is not exactly “professional level show business”. It could be just in the back room of a bar with people coming and going and a generally sketchy atmosphere.
What about that whole Louis CK thing?
Didn’t Sarah open one of his shows in Paris recently?
Recently on the podcast I talked a bit about how disgraced comedian Louis CK had made a surprise visit to one of our comedy shows in Paris (Sebastian Marx’s show The New York Comedy Night to be exact) and Sarah was invited to be one of the other comedians on the show. It was quite a tricky decision for her. You’ll see that in the end we don’t talk about that in this episode, mainly because we ran out of time. But if you’d like to hear Sarah expressing her thoughts on that situation, then you can check out an episode of another podcast called The Europeans, which is a podcast about Europe and European life. Sarah was interviewed on that show and she talked about the whole situation very clearly. So, have a look. The name of the podcast is The Europeans, and she was in the episode from 20 November 2018. Her interview starts at about 23 minutes into the episode. There’s a link on the website as usual.
Listen to Sarah’s appearance on The Europeans podcast, talking about performing with Louis CK
Sarah’s appearance is at about 23:00
Videos & media mentioned in the conversation
The TED talk about body language
Big Mouth on Netflix
(Subtitles should be available for this trailer on YouTube)
Some more words that came up in the episode
a Nebula [noun] – a cloud of gas and dust in space
Nebulous [adjective] (this is the word I was looking for) – formless and vaguely defined
Puberty [noun] – the period during which adolescents reach sexual maturity and become capable of reproduction.
“the onset of puberty”
Shame [noun] = a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behaviour.
Self-esteem [noun] = confidence in one’s own worth or abilities; self-respect.
Talking to English teacher Jessica Beck about her new website, “Honestly English” and some typical topics she talks about and teaches, including the #MeToo movement and our favourite female superheroes and comedians. Videos and links below.
IELTS Energy is an appropriate title for that podcast because Jessica has loads of energy as you will hear. When we recorded this conversation it was 7AM for her (because of the time difference) which is pretty early for podcasting but she was already wide awake and ready to go. Maybe it’s that American can-do attitude, or the coffee she’s been drinking, I don’t know, but her energy is infectious. It’s one of the hallmarks of the IELTS Energy Podcast in fact, and the All Ears English podcast, which she is also associated with.
Just in case you don’t know, Jessica Beck is an English teacher who lives in Portland, which is in Oregon, which is in the north-west of the USA, which is in North America, which is in America, which is on earth. So you’re going to be listening to a combination of Jessica’s American English and my British English in this conversation.
So, Jessica does IELTS Energy, but she’s on my podcast today because she has just launched a new website and YouTube channel called Honestly English, and I thought we could talk a bit about that and some of the topics she’s been teaching recently in her videos. https://honestlyenglish.com/
So “Honestly English” – this is her own channel, her own project and therefore is a space where she can teach English in her own way and cover topics that mean a lot to her personally and since Jessica is a huge pop culture nerd her videos and blog posts all contain loads of references to movies and comic books and things like that. She is also very passionate about feminism and raising the status of women in society today.
So these are the things we’re talking about in this episode: The MeToo movement, some language relating to that, then women in pop culture and some superhero characters from the Marvel cinematic universe (specifically Captain Marvel, who will be arriving in cinemas early next year in the Captain Marvel movie and then in Avengers 4 I think) and we also talk about some female comedians from the UK and the USA that we’d like to recommend.
I mentioned the MeToo movement there. I think this is a global phenomenon but you might call it something else in your country. In France it was called #BalanceTonPorc which directly translates as “Balance your pork” or “balance your pig” which doesn’t really mean anything does it – the proper translation of that would be something like “denounce your pig” or “name and shame your abuser”. That’s how #MeToo is known in France, and it may have another name in your country.
Wikipedia defines #MeToo like this: The Me Too movement (or #MeToo movement), with many local and international alternatives, is a movement against sexual harassment and sexual assault. #MeToo spread virally in October 2017 as a hashtag used on social media in an attempt to demonstrate the widespread prevalence of sexual assault and harassment, especially in the workplace. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Me_Too_movement
So MeToo is all about encouraging women to come forward and share their experiences of harassment of various kinds. Speaking personally, I knew that women often have to put up with dangerous and just plain weird behaviour from creepy guys – like being approached in the street, feeling unsafe in certain places or just putting up with dodgy comments and behaviour at work. I knew that, but the MeToo movement did open my eyes to how much of this kind of thing Women have to put up with every day. I think about my daughter and the kind of society she’s going to grow up in and I want her to grow up in a culture in which she feels safe, she feels she can talk about things that happen to her, in which she won’t have to just accept certain behaviour from men, and I want her to have cool characters and comedians on TV and in films that she can relate too, just like I did during my childhood.
I know this is actually a bit of a touchy subject. There’s a lot of pushing and pulling going on in terms of people arguing about the place of men and women in society and both men and women feeling targeted, victimsed or demonised and things like that. I’ve seen so many arguments in online comment sections. I find all of that stuff quite exhausting to be honest.
I see arguments on YouTube and people getting really angry on both sides about something like a perceived feminist agenda in Star Wars or Doctor Who, for example and then I see other people getting really angry about those people getting angry about feminism in Star Wars or Doctor Who and I’m just sitting here trying not to get angry about people getting angry about other people getting angry about some people getting angry about feminism in Star Wars or Doctor Who or movies and culture in general and I just think oh can we just have a normal conversation? I don’t know.
In any case, let’s find out from Jessica about her new website, let’s learn some of the words and phrases she can tell us about the MeToo movement and also let’s talk about Marvel movies and some great comedians that you might like to check out.
There are links and videos on the page for this episode as usual if you want examples of the comedians we are talking about, and links for Jessica’s website and stuff. So check those out.
Alright then, so this is Jessica Beck, energetic at 7 o’clock in the morning. American English and British English combined in one conversation, and here we go…
Nerdy English lessons focusing on vocabulary and pop culture!
Language to describe “dirty dudes”
A creepy guy
To harass someone / harassment
Favourite Female Comedians
Mentioned by Jessica
Kathleen Madigan (stand up comedian)
Annie (Kristen Wiig) vs the “perfect” best friend
Melissa McCarthy (comedian / actress)
St Vincent (film)
Mentioned by Luke
Maria captures the experience of being a woman dealing with mental health issues, by recreating the voices and attitudes of other people in her life, particularly her mother and sister who she imitates. They sound patronising and subtly judgemental and of course there are jokes in there but they are so cleverly weaved into her routine. She does brilliant voices and shifts her attitude quite radically. Her normal voice sounds very vulnerable, and the other voices are so much more confident and strident.
OK, she’s strange but that’s the point.
Maria Bamford Netflix show – Lady Dynamite
Maria Bamford interview on WTF with Marc Maron
French & Saunders On TV all through my childhood. Came out of the anarchic post-punk era in UK comedy. Two English women who were just funny in the way they bickered with each other and also took the piss out of Hollywood movies and celebrities. They’re national treasures.
French & Saunders making fun of Mama Mia
Victoria Wood Another national treasure who was on telly all the time. She was like a housewife who was also a comedian. Not like Rosanne Barr, but a normal middle class English woman – a bit like the mum of one of your friends, but she did stand up, sketches and did comedy songs on the piano. She was one of the first stand ups I ever saw, along with various other UK comedians at the time. Her comedy was quite local in flavour, meaning she made reference to things like accents and local identity. Died in 2016 along with loads of other celebs. Bowie, Ali, Prince etc
A stand up who describes the kind of life that most women (of my generation) experience in the UK, while making it very funny. She talks about all the things that women go through relating to relationships and work. She’s very relatable and it’s like observational comedy about relationships and life (but it’s not shit observational comedy).
Sarah Pascoe in Edinburgh
Podcasts recomended by Jessica
Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me (NPR)
YouTube “Honestly English” – videos every Thursday