Tag Archives: humour

309. The Lying Game (Part 2) with Amber & Paul

Welcome back to the second part of this double episode. In part 1 you heard me playing a speaking game with Paul & Amber. Go back to part 1 for the details of the game, including the rules. Part 1 ended on a cliffhanger, with the scores even at 2-2-2. Even stevens! Listen to this episode to find out more. TEACHERS: At the end there’s a 15 minute section in which I explain exactly how to use this game in your English classes. You can download a simple .pdf worksheet (below) which you can use in your classes (just tell your students about LEP, or send me a little donation). Listen until the end of the episode to get my full instructions on how to use this awesome game to teach your students grammar, pronunciation, vocabulary and speaking skills in a really awesome way.

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The Lying Game Part 2

Amber: I used to be a performer at The Rocky Horror Picture Show at Prince Charles Cinema in Soho.

Tie-break round:
Luke: I used to be afraid of the tooth fairy.
Paul: I almost set fire to my parents’ house as a kid.

Final scores:
Luke – 2 / 0 / 1 / 2 / 1 Total = 6 points

Amber – 1 / 1 / 0 / x / x Total = 2 points

Paul – 0 / 2 / 1 / 0 / 0 Total = 3 points

Here’s an example of a Rocky Horror Picture Show Shadowcast (below)

For Teachers – How to use The Lying Game in class

Small Donate ButtonClick here to download a .pdf worksheet to use in Class – The Lying Game Worksheet for Teachers by Luke Thompson teacherluke.co.uk

Listen to the last 15 minutes of this episode of LEP (The Lying Game Part 2) to hear me give detailed instructions on how to use the game in class, including details of the level, procedure, specific language and skills work you can do with students. I can get about 2 hours of class time out of this game, and it’s useful for teaching grammar, pronunciation and vocabulary.

In fact, here are the last 15 minutes of the episode  if you’d like to listen to them again or download for later. :) [DOWNLOAD]

297. Using Humour in the IELTS Speaking Test (With Jessica from All Ears English)

On the podcast today I’m talking to Jessica Beck who has been working in English language teaching for over 10 years. She is an instructor, a teacher trainer and an author of 14 textbooks for learning English. You may also know Jessica from her work on the IELTS Energy Podcast (www.ielts.allearsenglish.com), which is part of the All Ears English. I talked to Gabby and Lindsay from AEE on LEP last year about culture shock, remember that? Well, Jessica is part of the All Ears English team, and is known there as the “Examiner of Excellence”. So, she knows a lot about the IELTS test, and he’s got some good advice for any of my listeners who plan to take the test, including how you can improve your speaking score if you have a good sense of humour. If you’re not planning to take the test, these skills can also be applied to your use of English in general life too.

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Jessica has kindly written a blog post which includes the tips and useful language she mentions in this episode. You can read that blog post below.

I expect that most of you know what the IELTS test is, In fact, I have done an episode about IELTS before on LEP in which I went through every part of the test in one episode, dispensing various bits of Jedi wisdom to help you get a better score. That episode is called “Tips and Tricks for the IELTS Test”, and is episode number 254 of Luke’s English Podcast.
Check it out here www.teacherluke.co.uk/2015/01/22/254-ielts-tips-tricks/

For those that don’t know, IELTS stands for International English Language Testing System, and it’s now the world’s #1 test of English language level. The test measures your English in 4 areas: reading, writing, listening and speaking. The maximum score in each area is 9 (expert user) and the lowest is 1 (total beginner). Lots of universities, employers and other institutions around the world require an IELTS score as requirement for entry, and 7 is usually the target score, sometimes it’s higher, sometimes lower depending on the institution. Cambridge University in the UK for example requires a minimum of 7.5 overall, with no less than 7 in any of the categories. So, if you want that place at a great British or American university, the first challenge is often to get a really good IELTS score, and what you need is good advice and strategies to help you do your best.

So, in this episode we’re going to meet Jessica, and talk specifically about the IELTS speaking test, in which you have a 15 minute interview with an IELTS examiner and your spoken English is tested in a few ways. Jessica has loads of tips for the speaking exam, and I’m hoping that she can give us some advice on how having a sense of humour can get you a better score in the test. So listen for some more top tips for IELTS in this one.

Also, what do you think would happen if I took the IELTS speaking test? Well, listen to the whole episode and you’ll find out…

Now, let’s meet Jessica the “Examiner of Excellence”.

Read Jessica’s Blog Post:

Humor Increases IELTS Speaking Scores

 Say what??!!

 I’m serious. It does.

 By Jessica Beck from All Ears English IELTS 

Many students, and teachers, for that matter, view all exams as formal and academic. Because of this, they believe that on these exams, test-takers must behave, speak, and write in an academic, formal style all the time.

While this may be true for some tests, there are many reasons why an IELTS candidate should not behave this way on the Speaking exam.

As we discussed on the podcast, a common mistake students make is not learning about what the IELTS examiner is looking for.

Students often look at example questions, memorize high-level words and phrases, and believe this is enough.

It’s not!

You must know what you are graded on, and where to use these words and phrases.

Your score, which can be from 0 to 9, is broken down into 4 aspects- Fluency and Coherence, Vocabulary, Grammar and Pronunciation.

You can read definitions of the band scores in each aspect at www.ielts.org/pdf/SpeakingBanddescriptors.pdf.

What you must notice about the band score descriptors is that the examiner wants to hear a range from you- a range in vocabulary, in your ability to communicate about a variety of topics, and in your pronunciation.

The fact is that in Parts 1 and 2 on the IELTS Speaking exam, almost all of the questions are about you. They are personal and informal. Therefore, if you answer these questions in a formal way, you are showing that you do not have a range of communication ability and that you are unable to talk about personal, informal topics.

So, where does humor come in? How does it help you raise your score? Read on!

  • Humor helps you improve your pronunciation score. It helps you relax, allowing you to show your personality and use emotion in your voice. Showing relaxed and expressive pronunciation can push this score up to a 7 or higher!
  • It improves your fluency and coherence score. If you are able to answer some informal questions with a few informal anecdotes, or very short stories, about yourself, this will show that you can communicate appropriately and effectively in informal speaking situations.
  • It improves your vocabulary score, because you show you can use appropriate vocabulary to the question, and you have some knowledge of more interesting words and phrases. Showing the examiner a range of informal vocabulary in Parts 1 and 2, and formal vocabulary in Part 3, pushes your score up to a 7 or higher.
  • NOTE: Even though I’m encouraging you to communicate in a relaxed way, this doesn’t mean that you slump your shoulders and provide one word answers. You must always sit and behave respectfully, and ALWAYS answer in complete sentences.

We gave some examples of how to answer in a humorous manner on the podcast, and the phrase “self-deprecating” came up a few times.

Self-deprecation is the ability to make fun of yourself, or to share information about yourself that shows you make mistakes.

This is a humble way of communicating, and it can endear you to your listeners.

This is true on the exam and in real life!

For example, if the examiner asks, “Do you enjoy taking photographs?” A self-deprecating answer would be, “I’ll admit, I actually love taking selfies. I know this is a silly habit, and that is honestly a bit embarrassing, but I take selfies absolutely everywhere- at home, on the bus, walking up the stairs, waiting for my dry cleaning. However, I post almost none of them, so I guess it’s not that horrible of a habit!”

Other phrases you can use to introduce answers like this are: You won’t believe this, but…, This is crazy, but… and I’m a bit embarrassed to say this, but….

An excellent way to prepare to communicate in this way, on the exam and in real life, is to watch stand-up comedy, or see/listen to interviews with stand-up comedians.

Some podcasts that I recommend are Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, a news quiz with three stand-ups, How Did This Get Made, a show with 3-4 stand-ups who talk about really bad (but sometimes popular!) movies, and Comedy Bang Bang, an interview show with hilarious skits.

If you challenge yourself to experience this type of Western, English humor, not only will this help you communicate impressively with the IELTS examiner, but it will also help you talk naturally with native speakers, and understand more jokes in movies and TV shows.

Have fun and get your target score!

Click here to get the 7 Easy Steps to a 7 or Higher on IELTS 

Jessica Beck is the IELTS professional at All Ears English IELTS. She has helped hundreds of students reach their target score through her simple, step-by-step systems and strategies. Learn more with Jessica on the IELTS Energy Podcast in iTunes.
IELTSspeaking

266. Telling Jokes in English (Part 3)

This is the third and final episode in this series on jokes. In this one we’re going to consider the psychology of puns, hear an old tape recording of my brother and me telling jokes when we were children, and you’ll also get lots more gags and their explanations.

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The Psychology of Puns
Why do we tell jokes? Is it all just fun, or is there something deeper and more psychological going on here? Let’s listen to a clip.
This is a clip from Tim Vine’s DVD ‘So I Said To This Bloke’ about the psychology of puns. Tim Vine (winner of the joke of the year) talks to a psychologist called Ingrid Collins about why we like puns.
Three questions:
1. Why do we tell puns? (two reasons)
2. What’s the condition she mentioned?
3. Why did the audience laugh a couple of times?

Answers
1. For two reasons. One is for the sheer joy of surprise, silliness and the joy of showing up our language in all its light and shade. Secondly, people use puns because they want to avoid talking about more serious things – emotional issues, fear of intimacy etc.
2. The condition is called paronomasia and a person who suffers from this is a paronomasiac.
3. The audience laughs a couple of times because, of course, Tim Vine makes a couple of jokes. The first one is a joke about the word paronomasiac. Para (like parachute) mosaic (a pattern) – he says; “A paronomsiac – as opposed to someone who like parachutes and strange patterns, a paranomosaic.” This is a made up word, and a pun which he came up with on the spot. The psychologist is not impressed, and just says “yes” – in fact we sense that the psychologist is probably judging him and maybe considers him to have paronomasia. Also: “Black beauty – he’s a dark horse”

Round 2 – yet more bad jokes!
11. What do you call a Saudi Arabian dairy farmer?
A milk sheik

12. Why can’t ants go to church?
Because they’re in sects.

13. Man walks into a bar with a piece of tarmac under one arm and says…
I’ll have a drink please and another one for the road.

14. Two fish in a tank, and one of them said…
How do you drive this thing?

15. Why did the scarecrow win the nobel prize?
He was outstanding in his field.

16. A policeman was standing by the side of a road watching traffic. He saw a bus drive past full of penguins, so he stopped it.
“Why is your bus full of penguins?” he asked the driver. “I found them all by the side of the road, they must have escaped” said the driver. “Well take them to the zoo!” said the policeman. “All right” said the driver, and drove off.
A couple of hours later the policeman saw the bus again, it was still full of penguins and now they were all eating ice-creams. He stopped the bus again and said to the driver – “I thought I told you to take them to the zoo?”
The driver said “I did take them to the zoo, and now we’re going to the swimming pool”.

17. Why don’t cannibals eat clowns?
Because they taste funny.

18. A man walking down the streets sees another man with a very big dog. One man says to the other, “Does your dog bite”, the man replies “No my dog doesn’t” The man pats the dog on the head and it bites his hand off. The man says “I thought you said your dog didn’t bite” and the other man says “Yes. Thats not my dog”.

19. Why do Marxists like to drink fruit infusions?
Because all proper tea is theft!

20. What’s ET short for?
Because he’s got little legs.

My Brother and me telling jokes when we were kids
Here’s an old recording from when I was about 6 years old of my bro and me telling jokes. The jokes are listed below. I was a bit young to be able to tell the jokes properly, and I found it hilarious to get the jokes wrong. Nothing has changed really…


Here are the jokes from the recording
Knock knock
Who’s there?
Doctor
Doctor Who?
That’s right!

Why did the fly fly?
Because the spider spider (because the spider spied her)

Doctor doctor I feel like a pack of cards
Sit down and I’ll deal with you later

Knock knock
Who’s there?
Cows go
Cows go who?
Cows go moo not who!

What did the cat do when it got to the motorway?
Meeeeooow!

– get your (py)jamas on

Louis CK talks about a joke written by his daughter
The point is that he loves his daughter’s joke because it is unexpected, and because he can imagine the situation. It’s a funny situation with no explanatory punchline. Normally this kind of joke has a contrived opening because it is leading to a punchline with a double meaning. His daughter’s joke just has a contrived setup, but no punchline, which is actually more surprising and therefore more satisfying! I’ll let Louis explain it.

Who didn’t let the gorilla into the ballet?
Just the people who were in charge of that decision.
(this is a sort of anti-joke made up by a child who doesn’t really understand the rules of jokes, which makes it funny to Louis)
For more jokes written by kids, click here.

Round 3
21. Did you hear about the ice-cream man? He was found dead in his ice-cream van, covered in chocolate sauce and pieces of hazelnut.
The police said that he had topped himself.

22. What lies on the bottom of the ocean and shakes?
A nervous wreck.

23. Q – what did the grape say when the elephant trod on it?
A – Nothing, it just gave a little wine.

24. A man walks into a bar and is about to order a drink when he notices Van Gogh in the corner. He calls over, “Hey, Van Gogh! Want a drink?” and Van Gogh replies, “No thanks. I’ve got one ‘ere.”

25. There were two cows in a field. One said “moo”, the other one said “I was going to say that!”

26. Patient : “Doctor I keep hearing “The green, green grass of home” in my head. Doctor : “That’s called the Tom Jones Syndrome”
Patient : “Is it common ?”
Doctor : “It’s not unusual”

27. Two aerials met on a roof, fell in love and got married. The ceremony was rubbish but the reception was brilliant.

28. A horse walks in to a bar. The bartender says: “Why the long face?”

29. A bear walks into bar. He goes up to the barman and says “Can I have a pint of beer and … … … and a packet of crisps?”.
The barman says, “yes… but why the big paws?

30. A Buddhist monk walks up to a hot dog vendor and says “Make me one with everything.”
Jokes3PODPIC

265. Telling Jokes in English (Part 2)

This is part 2 in a short series on jokes. In the last one we considered some of the social codes around joke telling, including when, why and how we should tell jokes and respond to jokes. I suggest that you listen to that if you haven’t already done so. [CLICK HERE FOR PART 1]

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Introduction
In this episode we’re going to look at some typical joke structures, consider what makes a joke funny, and then I’m going to tell you lots of jokes. So, more entertaining and useful listening practice, with some jokes you can learn and share, and plenty of vocabulary teaching too. Again, there might be a part 3 to this episode, depending how long it is.

Just a reminder: This episode is all about jokes, but even if you don’t laugh at any of these jokes (many of which are, admittedly, quite bad jokes!) that is fine – because you’re learning lots of vocabulary. Perhaps, if you don’t get the jokes the first time, after you’ve understand the vocabulary, you can listen to these episodes again, come back to the jokes and see if any of them strike you as funny on a second listen. Also, I don’t expect you to remember all of these jokes, but you could pick a couple of jokes that you like, learn how to say them, and then share them with a couple of English-speaking friends. But be prepared to explain the jokes if nobody understands!

What are some typical joke structures?
Usually it’s this:
Question (setup)
“I don’t know” (response)
Answer (punchline)

e.g.
Why didn’t the ghost go to the dance?
– I don’t know
Because he had no body to go with.
Ha ha.

There are plenty of other joke types
Here’s a short list of examples

Knock Knock Jokes
Knock knock
Who’s there?
Luke
Luke who?
Luke through the window and you’ll see.

Doctor Doctor Jokes
Doctor doctor I feel like a bell
Well, take these pills and if they don’t work just give me a ring.

‘What do you call a…?’ jokes
What do you call a deer with no eyes?
No idea.

What do you call a deer with no eyes and no legs?
Still no idea.

‘What’s the difference between…?’ jokes
Q. What’s the difference between a tennis ball and the Prince of Wales?
A. One is thrown to the air and the other is heir to the throne.

Shaggy dog stories
E.g. the pink gorilla story

Light bulb jokes
How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb?
None – the light bulb will change when it’s ready.

‘A man walks in to a bar’ jokes
A man walks into a bar…
and bangs his head.
It was an iron bar.

A man walks into a bar, sits down and orders a pint.
There’s a pianist in the corner, playing a song. The pianist has a monkey dancing on top of the piano.
As soon as the man’s drink arrives, the monkey jumps up, runs along the bar, pulls out its willy and pees into the man’s pint of beer.
Furious, the man walks over to the pianist and says “Do you know your monkey’s just pissed in my beer?”
The pianist says, “No I don’t, but if you sing the melody I’m sure I can pick it up”.

‘An Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman’ jokes (pretty old-fashioned and a bit racist)
An Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman are lost in the desert and their jeep breaks down. They’re going to have to walk. The Englishman takes the bottle of water, so if he gets thirsty he can drink it. The Scotsman brings a hat, so if the sun shines he can protect himself. The Irishman takes the car door and says “If it gets too hot I can wind down the window.”
– yes, the premise is that Irish people are stupid. It’s old-fashioned and a bit racist, as I said.

What makes a joke good?
It’s all a matter of taste. It’s completely subjective. There is no universal ‘best joke’ because different people with different tastes will laugh at different things at different times. In fact, the jokes which are totally safe and inoffensive will often be quite crap and boring. They lack any real punch, admittedly like a lot of the dad jokes in this episode. But there are certain things that will make a joke better – clever word play with double meanings of words being exploited, a bizarre or curious situation, the way the joke is told with correct timing, intonation, naturalness etc. There are also themes or subjects which will appeal to a wide audience, helping your joke get a better response from more people. These all help, but ultimately it’s a question of subjective personal taste.

The LaughLab Experiment
A study was done by a British scientist called Professor Richard Wiseman to discover the funniest joke in the world. The experiment, the results of which have been published on a website called laughlab.co.uk, went like this: People were invited to enter their favourite jokes into the website. Then other people from different countries around the world were asked to sign in, read the jokes and then rate the one they found the funniest. 40,000 jokes and 1.5 million ratings were received by the study. Do you want to know the joke? Here we go: (text reproduced from Prof Richard Wiseman’s website. Listen carefully. Do you get it?

The winning joke

After much careful scrutiny, we finally found the joke that received higher ratings than any other gag. Here it is:

Two hunters are out in the woods when one of them collapses and falls to the ground. He doesn’t seem to be breathing and his eyes are glazed. The other guy gets out his phone and calls the emergency services. He gasps, “My friend is dead! What can I do?”. The operator says “Calm down. I can help. First, let’s make sure he’s dead.”
There is a silence, then a shot is heard. Back on the phone, the guy says “OK, now what?” 

This joke was submitted by Gurpal Gosall, a 31 year old psychiatrist from Manchester in the UK. He told LaughLab:

“I like the joke as it makes people feel better, because it reminds them that there is always someone out there who is doing something more stupid than themselves.”

The joke is interesting because it works across many different countries, appeals to men and women, and young and old alike. Many of the jokes submitted received higher ratings from certain groups of people, but this one had real universal appeal.

Also, we find jokes funny for lots of different reasons – they sometimes make us feel superior to others, reduce the emotional impact of anxiety-provoking events, or surprise us because of some kind of incongruity. The hunters joke contains all three elements – we feel superior to the stupid hunter, realise the incongruity of him misunderstanding the operator and the joke helps us to laugh about our concerns about our own mortality.

What do you think? Did you get it?

Let’s hear a short extract from a documentary about jokes produced by the History Channel. It’s presented by an American comedian called Louis Black. In this extract he meets Professor Wiseman and they talk about the LaughLab study and the joke that won. As you listen, just consider this question: What does Louis think of the joke? What’s his opinion?

What did Louis Black think?
He thought it was a bad joke, and that there is no such thing as “the funniest joke in the world” because all humour is subjective. What’s funny to one person will not be funny to the next guy, and so on. It’s your humour, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. The only way to find out what is funny, is to actually go out and tell jokes and see what makes people laugh.

So, with that thought in mind, let me now tell you some jokes. If you don’t understand them, don’t worry – I will explain them all afterwards.

JOKE LIST 
I’ll read all these jokes to you, then explain them afterwards. I think I’ll read out 10, and then explain those, and then do the next 10 and so on…

How Many Jokes Can You Understand?
If you like, you can count how many of the jokes you get. If you get a joke, you get one point.
So, count how many jokes you get.
9/10 or 10/10 = You will probably laugh at anything, and you’re probably on drugs.
6-8/10 = well done! Either your English is brilliant or you just have a natural sense of humour.
4-6/10 = not bad! Jokes are difficult to understand, and if you got 50% that’s actually a very good score.
2-4/10 = Don’t worry too much if you didn’t understand many of the jokes – don’t feel bad, but I think you should watch more comedy in English.
1/10 = Never mind! Listen to this episode again to build up your vocabulary, and I expect you’ll understand more of the jokes. Don’t forget, I’m going to explain them afterwards.
0/10 = hello? Are you alive? – Just kidding. It’s quite normal if you didn’t find any of these jokes funny. Remember, understanding jokes and laughing at them is very hard in another language.

So, just laughing at a couple of these jokes is enough. I don’t expect you to laugh at them all. Just focus on understanding the meaning. If you laugh, that’s a bonus.

You Should Practise Saying the Jokes Too
Also – remember that the delivery is important. I suggest you practise telling these jokes yourself. Listen to the way I say them (I hope I’ll say them correctly) and try and copy the rhythm, intonation and sentence stress. Notice which words are emphasised and how. That’s important. You can read all these jokes on the page for this episode.

Round 1 (and yes, I know these jokes are really cheesy!)
1. Why was 6 afraid of 7?

Because 7 8 9.

2. What’s brown and sticky?
A stick.

3. A man walked into a bar and said “Do you have any helicopter crisps?”
The barman said, sorry we only have plane crisps.

4. What do you call a fly with no wings?
a walk

5. What do you call a fly with no wings and no legs?
a crash

6. What do you call a man with a car on his head?
Jack

7. How much fun do monks have?
Nun.

8. What do you call a blind dinosaur?
Doyouthinkhesaurus.

9. What’s black and white and red all over?
A newspaper in the bin.

10. A: My dog’s got no nose.
B: How does it smell?
Awful
Jokes2PODPIC
PLEASE LEAVE YOUR COMMENTS BELOW AND SHARE YOUR JOKES!

264. Telling Jokes in English (Part 1)

This episode is all about telling jokes, not as a comedian on stage, just in your normal life. Telling jokes is something that everybody does, in countries and cultures all around the world. We all love to make jokes, hear jokes and have a bit of a laugh. For me, jokes are fun and fascinating but I know that for non-native speakers of English they are also notoriously difficult things to manage. If English isn’t your first language, it can be difficult to understand jokes, find them funny, and also to be able to tell them effectively.

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Contents of this Episode
So, in this episode I’m going to tell you everything you need to know about jokes in English, and that includes these things:
What is a joke? (as if you didn’t know)
When/why do we tell jokes?
How do we tell jokes? What are the golden rules for telling a joke properly?
What’s the normal way to respond to a joke?
What are some the typical joke structures? (so you know how to identify a joke)
What are some jokes that you can remember and share with your friends?

So this is not just going to be a guide to jokes and the way they are told,  you’re also going to hear lots of jokes too – I’m going to read out loads of jokes, and explain them to you. So that means that you’re also going to learn a lot of vocabulary during the episode – because often jokes are based on the specific meanings or double meanings of words.

Most of what I’m saying to you here is written on the page for this episode – that’s right, there’s a transcript for most of this, so if you want to read what I’m saying – you can. Just find the page for this episode at teacherluke.co.uk.

Small Donate ButtonNot all of it is scripted because I expect I will go off script and say some spontaneous stuff too, but most of it is. That’s nice isn’t it? Yes it is. Mmm, very nice. I went to quite a lot of effort to prepare this episode in advance and I hope that’s obvious. It should be full of genuine insights. If you find it useful, you could consider making a donation by just clicking one of the yellow ‘donate’ buttons on teacherluke.co.uk. That is entirely optional and completely up to you of course! No pressure!

I expect this will be more than just one episode because it’s quite a big subject, and it’s a subject which is close to my heart so, naturally I have loads of things to say about this!

It might be the case that I do this first episode as an introduction to the subject of jokes, and then in subsequent episodes I’ll go through my list of jokes, and then explain them. That’s right, I’ve prepared a list of jokes. It’s quite a random list and hasn’t been fully tested for quality. It’s just a selection of jokes which I’ve managed to write down, or poach from other lists on the internet. I’ll tell you all those jokes either in this episode, or in separate episodes, depending on how long this all takes.

So this could be another series of episodes of the podcast. There’s so much to talk about and to share.

I’d also like to do an episode about telling jokes on stage and how to do stand up comedy, because stand-up is also a fascinating topic and one that more and more people are getting interested in. Telling jokes on stage is quite a different topic, so that’s another episode for another time.

I love jokes
I really do. I love hearing them and I love telling them. I love the way jokes exploit double meanings in language. Often a joke is based on a word that means two things at the same time, or two phrases that sound exactly the same. Or a joke might be a little story with a surprise which is revealed at the end. So jokes allow us to have fun with the little holes and coincidences that exist in languages. They’re like little language glitches – moments when your brain has to deal with a sudden change in meaning or something that has two meanings at the same time.
I love the surreal world of jokes – the way the normal rules can be broken – rules of language, but also the rules of physics, and behaviour too. Jokes often bend the rules of reality in order to make the punchline work. They lead you in one direction, and then suddenly surprise you with something completely different, and the only link is that the words sound the same.

What am I talking about? Here’s an example of a joke in which the punchline has two meanings.
A hole has been found in a nudist camp wall. The police are looking into it.
To get this joke you need to know that the phrase ‘to look into something’ can mean “to investigate” and also to literally “look inside”. So, someone found a hole in the wall of a nudist camp. A nudist camp is a place where people can enjoy spending time with no clothes on, in the nude. Someone found a hole in the wall and the police are investigating it, but they’re also just looking into the hole.

OK.

A hole has been found in the nudist camp wall. The police are looking into it.

I’ve said it before and I’ve said it again – explaining a joke kills the magic.

“Explaining a joke is like dissecting a frog. You understand it better but the frog dies in the process.”

― E.B. White

 

So, explaining a joke may allow you to understand it, but the joke dies in the process – you probably won’t laugh after it’s been explained. Jokes work best when they are instantly understood. It has to be instant. This is why jokes are often lost on non-native speakers, which is a pity.

However, here at Luke’s English Podcast I have a mission – and that is to try and make you laugh while you learn, and if I can’t make you laugh I’ll certainly aim to teach you something. So even if you don’t find all of the jokes I’m going to tell you (later) funny, then that doesn’t matter, because in the end you’ll learn some double meanings and you’ll be more ready to laugh in the future, because I’m going to explain lots of jokes for you. I expect that many frogs will die during the recording of these episodes…

What was I saying? That’s it – I love jokes!

Jokes can be stupid, brilliant, pointless, dangerous, harmless, disappointing, unexpected, light-hearted, dark, bizarre, rude, intellectual or even illegal.
Jokes can be just a bit of fun, or they can be used to make serious and critical points. They can be very complex things when you examine them but ultimately, jokes are about fun and laughter – and what is wrong with that?

There are all sorts of social rules that surround the telling of jokes.
They’re little bits of language, wrapped up in culture, presented via small social rituals.
Jokes, and humour in general, are often the most difficult aspect of a language to appreciate. The ability to appreciate humour is one of the last things you gain as a language learner.
To get a joke you need to be able to hear the individual words spoken, identify them, understand them, spot the punchline, grasp the pun or word-play and then know how to react appropriately, and this all has to happen instantly. Perhaps most importantly – you need to have identified that it was a joke in the first place, and not just another couple of sentences that you didn’t really understand. It can be even harder to deliver a joke – remembering the specific words, getting the timing right, emphasising the relevant words correctly using sentence stress and intonation. Oh my god! It’s complicated.

Imagine this situation – I’m sure you’ve experienced something similar. You’re in a group of people. They’re all native speakers and you’re not. One of them is speaking rather quickly but you can basically follow what’s being said – even the complex words and bits of grammar. You feel quite proud of yourself “I’m understanding all of this!”. Then the guy says something and everyone bursts out laughing, but to you it just sounded like another sentence. What’s wrong with everyone? Then it becomes clear that he just told a joke, and apparently it was a good one. “Was that supposed to be funny?” You think to yourself. Someone explains the joke to you – you think about it, you get it, but it’s just not that funny! It’s not even clever! Why did everyone laugh so much? Is everyone else weird, or is it you?

The fact is, jokes can be hard to get, and after it’s been explained to you the magic has probably gone. You’ve got to understand it 100%, and instantly. That’s why non-native speakers of English are often not very impressed by humour in English. Jokes don’t usually translate into other languages because they are based on specific sounds or similarities between words. Also the delay in understanding a joke can kill the enjoyment.

I’m not saying that non-native speakers don’t get humour in English. I know they do. Sometimes I make my students laugh a lot, although this is matched by the number of times my student don’t even identify that I’ve told a joke – is that their lack of English, or my bad jokes? A combination of the two I expect. So, even though non-native speakers clearly do laugh at a lot of things in English, I’m well aware that a lot of things are completely lost on them too.

I think that you (as learners of English) need to understand jokes – because it can help you socially, but also because you’re missing out on a lot of fun. That’s why I’ve decided to do this episode.

But don’t expect this to be a particularly funny episode! There’s nothing worse than high-expectations for a joke. If your expectations are too high, you won’t laugh. It’s like when someone says, “I’ve got a really great joke, you’re going to love this!” then the joke is never that funny. So, don’t get your hopes up. Despite the fact that this episode is all about jokes, it’s probably best if you realise at this point that there will be no laughs and no fun in this episode at all. OK?

DO NOT EXPECT LAUGHTER!

What is a joke?
It’s just anything said that is intended to produce laughter. It could be a traditional joke structure, or a comeback, a sarcastic comment or a small story or whatever. If it is intended to produce laughter, it’s a joke.

Vocabulary
There are a few words that you should know. They’re all different types of joke, or just related to jokes in some way. Here they are:
*a pun = a word joke – a short joke that is based specifically on two words/phrases that have the same meaning or sound the same. For example, “Did you hear about the guy whose whole left side was cut off? He’s all right now.”
[‘All right’ = okay, but also, ‘all right’ means ‘only the right’ – in this case, he only has a right side now because his whole left side was cut off. Yes it’s ridiculous. Yes, I like it.]
*a gag = just another word for a joke
*a shaggy dog story = a longer joke with a stupid punchline at the end (e.g. The Pink Gorilla Story or The Prawn Story)
*a one liner = a simple one line joke. E.g. “Conjunctivitis.com – now that’s a sight for sore eyes.” [Don’t get it? Don’t feel bad. Conjunctivitis = a health condition in which your eyes are infected and painful, or ‘sore’. The expression “a sight for sore eyes” = something which you are really glad to see, because you need it. e.g. “You’re a sight for sore eyes” = I’m really glad to see you (maybe because you’re attractive and nice, and I’m bored and surrounded by uninteresting people). Also “site” and “sight” sound the same. Here, ‘conjunctivitis.com is a website for people who have sore eyes. It’s literally a website for sore eyes, and I suppose it’s something you’re glad to see if you have conjunctivitis.] And if you’re in any doubt about the funniness of that joke, it won the “Joke of the Year” award in 2012. That’s an award which is given to the comedian who makes the best joke of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival which is one of the world’s biggest comedy festivals. It was written by Tim Vine, one of the UK’s top comedians. Click here to read more on this story.
*a wisecrack = a clever and funny response
*a comeback = a quick response to a criticism. Winston Churchill was famous for his comebacks. “Mr Churchill, you’re drunk!” “Yes, I am. And you’re ugly. But in the morning I shall be sober. But you will still be ugly.”
or “Mr Churchill, if I was your wife I would put poison in your tea!” “And if I was your husband, I’d drink it!” etc.
*witty (adj) = to describe someone who is funny and able to make quick and spontaneous jokes.
*the setup = the first part of a joke which sets the situation and linguistic context
*the punchline = the funny part of the joke, which is delivered last. E.g. “I couldn’t quite remember how to throw a boomerang” = the setup, “but eventually it came back to me.” = the punchline. [‘come back to me’ literally means ‘return to me’ – like a boomerang does, but it also means ‘remember’]
*a dad joke = a stupid, safe and rather bad joke. The kind of thing your dad would tell you. To be honest, most of the jokes in this series on jokes are dad jokes. They’re not very dangerous or cool. They’re pretty disposable, but they’re fun, and sweet.

Where do jokes come from?
Most jokes just seem to exist in people’s consciousness and nobody knows who wrote them. They get shared orally (or maybe written in emails) and get passed around, but nobody really owns them. When I was a kid, my friends and I used to own joke books. They were compilations of jokes. You could buy these huge books filled with hundreds or thousands of ‘knock knock’ jokes. We used to go around telling them to each other. There were so many. Sometimes I heard some pretty rude jokes too – jokes that involved sexual things that as a child I just didn’t understand. That was a weird way to be introduced to some aspects of sexual depravity – within the context of a joke told by a naughty kid at school. Only later would I understand what they actually meant.
Then there are jokes which have been made up by someone, like a professional comedian – like the conjunctivitis joke. Those ones are actually owned by those comedians and used in their stage performances, and when you tell one of those jokes it’s customary to say whose joke it is – “That’s a Peter Kay joke” or “That’s a Tim Vine joke” for example. It’s a surprisingly difficult skill to be able to write really good jokes. If you can do it well, it can make you quite rich. Some of the best comedians, writers and directors started out by writing jokes for other people. For example, Woody Allen, Steve Martin and David Letterman.
Then there are original jokes made up by people on the spot. If you’re a clever you might be able to come up with jokes spontaneously – and people might consider you to be ‘really witty’ (positive) or perhaps just a ‘smart aleck’ (negative) depending on how well received your jokes or funny comments are.

Mainly in this episode we’re talking about the first category of joke – ones that lots of people know, have no ‘owner’ and which get passed around by word of mouth. As I said, I’ll be sharing loads of them with you later in this episode or perhaps in the next one.
A lot of these jokes which are shared by friends have typical structures, which most people know. Like “Knock knock” or “Doctor Doctor” jokes.
There are also social conventions around joke telling that you need to know, for example – how to tell a joke, how to react when someone tells you a joke, how to identify when someone is joking and how to respond to a joke.
For example, if someone says to you,
“What’s the difference between a photocopier and the flu?”
You shouldn’t try to guess the answer. “Err, well, one is a kind of machine and the other one is a virus. They’re really different actually. Why?”
No – this is the wrong response. The person is clearly telling you a joke. You’re supposed to say “I don’t know” and then wait expectantly for the hilarious punchline.
“What’s the difference between a photocopier and the flu?”
– “I don’t know”
One makes facsimiles; the other makes sick families.
“Haha, good one!” you say, even if it wasn’t that good.

Telling and hearing a joke is like a little social interaction with its own specific rules and conventions that you have to know. We’ll look at this more later.

What’s the point of telling jokes? Why do we tell jokes?
It’s all about laughter and how it makes us feel good. According to Helpguide.org – a trusted non-profit online service giving advice about mental and physical health, Laughter is good for your health. “Laughter is the best medicine”.
According to them:
Laughter relaxes the whole body. A good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after.
Laughter boosts the immune system.
Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease.
Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.
Laughter protects the heart. It improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect you against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.

The link between laughter and mental health
Laughter dissolves distressing emotions. You can’t feel anxious, angry, or sad when you’re laughing.
Laughter helps you relax and recharge. It reduces stress and increases energy, enabling you to stay focused and accomplish more.
Humor shifts perspective, allowing you to see situations in a more realistic, less threatening light. A humorous perspective creates psychological distance, which can help you avoid feeling overwhelmed.

Social Benefits
Strengthens relationships
Attracts others to us
Enhances teamwork
Helps defuse conflict
Promotes group bonding

Jokes are crap, aren’t they?
You might be thinking: “But jokes aren’t funny. I sort of hate jokes. They’re usually awful and I don’t laugh.”
Yes, true. They’re often terrible – like the bad puns that your Dad tells you, or the awful jokes you get on lollipop sticks or inside christmas crackers, but that’s part of the charm really. It’s just a bit of fun – stop taking life too seriously! Kids like them of course, because kids don’t like to take life too seriously, and because most jokes are brand new to children. Also, when you’re a kid is when you are learning about the language and discovering any double meanings can be quite exciting. For me, it’s all about having the right attitude and being ready to laugh and find things funny. If you want to laugh at jokes, you will.

When to tell jokes
I suppose the best jokes are the ones that are spontaneous (made up on the spot).
They are usually received best when they are shared in light-hearted joke telling sessions, when everyone is telling jokes. Sometimes that happens – someone tells a joke and then everyone chips in with a joke they know. Like, “I’ve got one” or “Have you heard this one?” That way you’re not forcing your joke on someone who then feels pressure to laugh at a joke they might not find funny or understand.
Be careful of using them to impress people, break the ice or to charm people, like in a business meeting or on a date. They might have the opposite effect. You have to know when to tell jokes. Normally it’s in a moment where there’s no pressure.
The best results come from comments, or responses that happen spontaneously. If people feel that a joke is too planned or contrived – like you’ve planned it for days or weeks in advance, you’ll look like a prat. So, the best jokes are just unplanned comments that happen in that moment.
So, because the funniest things are spontaneous, it’s all about having the right attitude – being open, looking for the funny side of things, being self-deprecating (laughing at yourself), being sarcastic, joking about things that everybody experiences, not picking on anyone in particular, and wanting everyone to be happy and to enjoy themselves.

Jokes are often best told privately. For example, not announcing a joke to the whole room, but sneaking up on someone and sharing it just between you both, quietly.

Jokes can be risky
You might embarrass yourself or others if the joke is not funny or if you ‘fluff it’ – say it wrong.
Watch out for the content of jokes. A lot of them are pretty rude – and I don’t just mean sexually. They often have victims, or could be very politically incorrect. You could offend people and get yourself into serious trouble, depending on the context and the joke of course.
Watch out for these things: jokes about nationalities, jokes about disability, jokes about blondes, jokes about race, sexist jokes or jokes with rude images. I realise that I’ve just deleted most of the best jokes – but the point is, don’t underestimate how offensive a joke can be. Some people might laugh, some might not understand it, and some will take it seriously and be offended. Also, in some places, jokes are outlawed, especially if they are political in nature. So – be careful when joking.
The right joke at the right time makes everything ok.
The wrong joke, told at the wrong time in front of the wrong people could land you in serious trouble.

So:
be spontaneous
don’t pick on anyone in particular – don’t victimise anyone
be prepared to make jokes about yourself
make jokes about things that everyone is experiencing/sharing

How do you tell jokes?
Perhaps the most common structure for a joke is the Question-Answer format. That means that a joke often begins with a question. It’s quite normal to just ask someone that question, and if they’re familiar with the culture of telling jokes, they will respond with “I don’t know” and then you deliver the punchline.
E.g.
“Hey, how does Bob Marley like his donuts?”
“I don’t know”
“Wi’ jam in”.
“Do you get it? ‘With jam in’ – ‘we’re jamming”
“Ha ha oh yeah, I get it! Nice one!” etc.

So, at the right moment you can just tell your joke by asking the question like that.

Sometimes you can say “I’ve got a joke for you” or “Do you want to hear a joke?” or “Have you heard the Bob Marley joke?”

Try not to say “I’ve got an absolutely hilarious joke – you’re going to absolutely love this!” – because the person will expect too much and it’s bound to be an anticlimax.

Timing is important. It also has to be really clear. It has to be comfortably and easily told.
Make sure you learn it properly! The set-up has to be exactly right, and the punchline too!
Make sure the set up is not too long. It has to give only the most crucial information for the punchline to work.
Make sure you know your joke well, because there’s nothing worse than telling a joke wrong, or forgetting the punchline. It’s the equivalent of a magic trick going wrong – you look like a fool.
Don’t expect much of a response, and don’t expect your joke to make you popular or anything. The chances are, people won’t get it, and if they do laugh, they’ll probably just forget about it, unless the person is a joke fan like you. In the right moment though, jokes can be a lot of fun. So, jokes are not worth a lot, unless you find other people who love them, and then you can share your favourite jokes together.

When telling a joke – remember it! Run the joke through your head before saying it. Don’t get halfway through the joke and then start again because you forgot it.
Make it clear and be confident. People have to be able to hear and understand what you’re saying.
Sentence stress is very important. Usually certain words must be stressed for emphasis.
Make it look quite casual. Don’t be too desperate for a response or laughter.
The best jokes are completely improvised comments made in the moment. Sometimes there is nothing better than a very carefully worded quick response to a situation. It can make everyone burst out laughing quite magically. But again – watch out because jokes can backfire. People may find it offensive, inappropriate or just pathetic.
There are risks in joke telling. You risk losing respect from people, or offending people, but the rewards are high. If you make people laugh, they will like you, and ultimately everyone can enjoy a good laugh – and there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, sometimes it’s the best, most honest feeling in the world – just letting yourself go and laughing uncontrollably. It’s joyful and infections, and being able to create it is a bit like being a good wizard (not an evil one).
Choose to tell good jokes which have a proven track record. Don’t tell jokes that don’t make people laugh, even if you find them funny yourself.
Don’t tell inappropriate jokes – ones that are sexual, racist or which have a victim. Instead try to tell jokes that are universal. Rude jokes can be very funny, but be aware that they are only appropriate in certain situations, and only funny for certain people.
Don’t get all angry, upset and defensive if people didn’t enjoy your joke. You can’t bully people into enjoying themselves. Just shrug it off.
You need to make it clear when the joke has ended and when people are expected to laugh, although don’t expect it to happen.
If you’re going to make a joke, try to connect it to what’s going on at that moment.
Often the best jokes are just one line responses to things happening around you.
Jokes are often best delivered with a straight face, with an understated style. Don’t make a big song and dance out of it. In the UK we normally tell a joke quite straight. We don’t laugh at our own jokes or slap our thigh when we tell the punchline. Laughing at your own joke too much is considered a bit unattractive.
Be prepared to carry on if the joke fails to make people laugh – people might not notice! Otherwise, it’s probably worth admitting that you told a joke and nobody found it funny. Then people will feel less awkward. Sometimes when I tell jokes, nobody laughs. Then I say “that was a joke, by the way, just in case you are wondering” and that sometimes makes people laugh a little bit – maybe out of sympathy if nothing else!
I realise I’m sounding a bit modest here – it may look like I spend all my time embarrassing myself with dodgy jokes. Well, it does happen sometimes, but not all the time.

English people love humour and it’s used a lot, for a lot of different purposes – including breaking the ice, as well as establishing power structures or social hierarchies, or breaking down social hierarchies.
I’m sure it’s similar in your countries too. Kate Fox says that for the English there is no right or wrong time for humour. I know what she means, but I don’t think it’s strictly true. We love joking in many situations, and we’re always ready for a joke or a funny/sarcastic comment, but of course there is a right or wrong place for it. If you just go around making crap jokes all the time, in every situation, you’ll soon become unpopular. I suppose what Kate Fox means is that humour, rather than jokes, pervades all aspects of British life and I agree with that.
The main thing is the intention you have behind your jokes – are you doing it to make people feel happy, to bond your team, to put people at ease, or are you doing it just to draw attention to yourself at the expense of other people’s comfort? If it’s the latter reason, then it’s probably better to curb your enthusiasm a bit.
Really, being funny is more about having the right attitude – being ready, prepared and confident enough to find the funniness in anything.
It’s also about being generous – just wanting to make people laugh without spoiling the situation.
It’s not about cruelty – bullying or targeting people with humour. It’s not picking on other people too much. It is about being willing to take a joke yourself. That’s the first step.
Some people just don’t want to be a person who jokes – they’d rather be serious and expect people to take them seriously too. That’s fine of course. Personally, I think that many of us take life too seriously – and a good sense of humour and the ability to take a joke are admirable, positive qualities. It’s hard to be a genuinely arrogant person while taking a joke about yourself. It’s a good leveler. It makes people equal in status.
Really, it’s just about having an attitude for laughter and jokes. For me it’s best when it’s sort of selfless.
There’s also a love of language involved. Sometimes jokes come out of picking the right words, or playing with language.
One advantage of a good joke is that people’s guard goes down when you make them laugh. You can say some outrageous things and get away with it. Also, people will warm to you if you make them laugh. It’s charming. Good jokes are harmless (and should be).
Also, there are all the benefits of laughter.

How do you react to a joke?
The worst thing you can do is not recognise it is a joke.
It’s also bad if you don’t acknowledge that a joke has been told. You have to show that you identified it as a joke, at the very least.
Some acknowledgement is good.
Ideally you’ll laugh naturally. You could fake a chuckle but don’t go over the top. You could say “good one”, or even “that’s a good joke!” (without laughing)
If you don’t understand it you say: “I don’t get it.”
If you’ve heard it before: “I’ve heard it before.”
If you understand the joke, but don’t find it funny: You can make a noise, like you’re suffering. “Ooohhh!” or even something like “Oh my god what are you like?”
If you understand it and find it funny: laughter!
It may be appropriate then to share a joke that you have too.

End of part 1

What’s the culture of jokes in your country? 
jokes1PODPIC

253. Rapping with Fluency MC!

Chatting and rapping with Jason R. Levine aka Fluency MC! [Download]

Small Donate ButtonI’m feeling pretty excited today because I’ve got a bit of a celebrity on the podcast. Jason R. Levine, also known as Fluency MC is something of a legend in the world of online English language teaching. He’s become pretty well known on YouTube in particular for his videos in which he uses hip hop to bring a fresh approach to teaching English. Jason raps his English lessons, and many of those raps have become YouTube sensations – for example “Stick stuck stuck” the past participle rap (over 2.5million views on Youtube), and the present perfect rap which is a full on explanation of the grammar rules for the present perfect tense, delivered in rhyme. But, Jason is not only a teacher who raps – a look at Jason’s CV shows that he is involved in a number of very interesting English teaching projects – he leads workshops, has published material and is an English specialist for the US department of State – which makes him sound like a government agent, and he has a very interesting academic and personal background which has led him to take this fresh new approach to language teaching. On the musical side, Jason raps but he also plays the drums like me, and he DJs and produces his own tunes. There’s so much to ask him and so much to talk about, and hopefully Jason will do some rapping on Luke’s English Podcast too, and who knows – I might even get involved in that as well. You can look forward to all of it in this episode. (In fact, if you listen to the whole episode you will hear both Jason and me rapping on some of my brother’s music)

I’ve never met Jason before, this is the first time I’ve spoken to him in fact. I always thought Jason lived in New York, but a while ago I was on Facebook and I saw a photo of him in Paris and I assumed he’d visited for work or for a holiday, so I sent him a message saying “next time you’re in Paris, how about an interview for LEP” and he wrote back saying “Actually, I live in Paris”. Needless to say I was pretty surprised. What are the chances of that!? So naturally, I thought I’d take the opportunity to hook up with him and interview him for the podcast, and he’s sitting right next to me now so let’s get started…

Links
Click here for Jason’s YouTube Channel
Click here for colloandspark.com Jason’s website
This is FluencyMC’s Facebook page

Questions & Stuff
These are some questions that we covered in this episode of the podcast.
I’m really chuffed to have you on the podcast Jason, because as we heard in my introduction you’re sort of a living legend of English teaching. Are you famous?
What are you most known for?
What other projects are you involved in?
Where are you from?
What did you study at university?
How does psychology come into your teaching method?
How long have you been teaching?
How did you get into it?
When did you first start rapping in the classroom? Was there one particular time when you first did it? What happened?
You travel quite a lot, teaching in different locations. Do you always rap in class?
How would you describe your approach to teaching?
How is rapping a part of that?
What are the reactions of your students to your method?
What’s collo and spark? Can you explain that?
Is it related to mnemonics?

FluencyMC on YouTube
This is the original video of Jason rapping “Stick stuck stuck” – just about 3.5minutes of one of his lessons.

Luke’s Rapping (Lyrics Below)

Here are the lyrics of my rap at the end of this episode!

The Well-Spoken MC (Lyrics)
Microphone check one two one two
Let me introduce myself to you
My name’s Luke
I’m an ordinary dude
I like food, I wear shoes
I like to watch YouTube
I’m just like you,
or maybe Doctor Who
when I’m in a good suit
I’m feeling in the mood

from time to time
I like to unwind
I Drink a bit of wine
and try to write a rhyme
and when I combine
all of this all online
then surely it’s a sign
it’s my time to shine,
cos I like to feel fine
I do it all the time
and in my mind
I’m going to get mine

It’s just a natural fact
and I like it like that
so relax and sit back
and listen to this track
It’s just a natural fact
and I like it like that
so relax and sit back
and listen…

I get dizzy
with a bit of thin Lizzy,
while drinking some fizzy
getting busy with Queen Lizzy
I’m a gentleman
With a lesson plan
I’ll Help you understand it with a diagram
Of different tenses
and complex senses
or ways of saying sentences with different kinds of emphases
Yes
You could say I’m blessed
With a CELTA and a DELTA and my CV’s fresh!
I teach pronunciation
Throughout the nation
To stop alienation
Caused by poor articulation
It’s just a natural fact
and I like it like that
so relax and sit back
and listen to this track

Cos I speak like a native
and I’m here to get creative
and I have already stated
that I’m very qualificated
I’ve got a wide CV
an even wider TV
which I’d like you to see
in Confidentiality
Because between you and me
and the deep blue sea
One day I’m going to be
On the BBC

Because I’ve got that BBC style
The one that makes you think for a little while
about the way most newsreaders speak
It sounds as if they’re trying to repeat
Sentences of information But With crazy intonation
and weird enunciation that’s clearly fascinating
And at the end of every news report
There is a summary of sorts
Of all the main sports, and some afterthoughts
Where the main news anchor
Turns to the camera
And delivers an answer
in the form of a mantra
This is the voice of the BBC,
and while you’re sitting there drinking cups of tea
We’re working away inside your TV
And on the screen you will surely see
that I go by the name of the Well-Spoken MC

Good night
FluencyMCPIC

251. Welcome to LEP / 16 Things You Should Know about LEP

The podcast has been nominated in the Macmillan Dictionary Award and the voting is now open here www.macmillandictionary.com/love-english-awards/voting-blog-2014.html

[Download]Small Donate Button
When I get nominated for this competition, I usually have quite a lot of new visitors to the site by people who are checking out the podcast for the first time. So, let me take this opportunity to say hello to any new visitors and to give you an idea of what LEP is all about.

In this episode I’m going to tell you 16 things you need to know about LEP. After listening to this, you should have a better idea of what this podcast is all about!

16 Things You Should Know about Luke’s English Podcast
1. I’m a teacher from London, living in Paris, with about 14 years of experience and both a CELTA and DELTA qualification. I’ve lived in Japan too, and I have experience of teaching adults and children at all levels of English, for general, business or more specific purposes. Students I’ve had in the past include Brazilian world cup winners, Scandinavian heads of state, top business executives and even a porn star. I now teach at The British Council and at a top university in Paris.

2. I started LEP in 2009 after taking a course in podcasting with The Consultants E. At the time I just felt like I wanted to have my own radio show, and I discovered ways of creating podcasts on my new Apple Mac laptop, and realised I could publish them myself on iTunes, and then get the word out using social networking. I started to get really busy producing episodes of the podcast. The aim was always to mix up teaching with general entertainment. I wanted to produce episodes that were instructive but also fun to listen to for their own sake.

3. I’m also a stand-up comedian, and I do try to use those skills in my episodes too, from time to time! I do stand-up comedy regularly in Paris, in English. This may not be obvious from this episode, as I’m not adding any jokes to it! From time to time I share some videos of my comedy on this website, and some of my listeners have come to see me perform my comedy live, which is great!

4. The podcast now has over 250 episodes, and I have a really loyal following. In fact, my listeners have lots of names – the LEPpers (yes, LEP stands for Luke’s English Podcast), LEPsters, LEPaholics, LEP Ninjas, PLEPS (people of Luke’s English Podcast) and so on.

5. Some of my listeners have created podcasts of their own, after being inspired to do so by listening to LEP.

6. There are various types of episode that you can expect on the podcast. Some are about specific aspects of English, for example – episodes about idioms, grammar points, pronunciation, vocabulary, and slang. In some episodes I try to keep my listeners locked-in and entertained by making up improvised stories off the top of my head. In some episodes I feature interviews and conversations with friends, family and special guests. Some episodes involve me just talking directly to my audience about whatever comes into my head. Some episodes are about films, music or popular culture, and some episodes deal with specific aspects of British culture and lifestyle. So the podcast covers a broad range of topics. Ultimately, I love the freedom of being able to talk about anything I like! The main thing is that it creates engaging content that encourages learners of English to do more and more listening!

Here’s a quick list of some of the more popular episodes of this podcast:
1. Introduction – this is the first episode I did back in April 2009 and it outlines my basic approach to LEP.
28. Interview with a Native Speaker: The Weather – this one follows on from a vocabulary episode about British weather and features an authentic interview with a teenager called Chris, and his odd views about foreigners in the UK
29. Mystery Story / Narrative Tenses – this is one of the most visited of my episodes. It teaches you narrative tenses (past simple, past continuous, past perfect) via a short mystery story that features several of the UK’s most beloved popular culture icons. The story is continued in the next episode.
71. The Ice-Cream Episode – an unplanned rant on topics such as: Amazon Kindles, robots & technology in Hollywood films and why we should put down the weapons and pick up an ice-cream instead, man.
83. How to Swear in British English – an indispensable guide to all the rudest words in British English. It’s extremely offensive, but extremely useful.
100. Going to the Pub – the guide to everything you need to know before you step into a pub in the UK.
118. Sick In Japan – the true story of how I ended up sick in a Japanese hospital. It contains loads of medical and health related vocabulary, culture shock and a story which is engaging from start to finish!
125. The Pink Gorilla Story – one of the most popular ever, this is just an improvised story that regularly makes people laugh out loud, and which I really should convert into a one-man-show stage play!
140. Ghost Stories – just some scary true stories to keep you awake at night
167. Memory, Mnemonics and Learning English – revolutionise your learning techniques with these powerful memory devices.
174. How to Learn English with Luke’s English Podcast – this is your guide to improving your English using my podcast.
176. Grammar: Verb Tense Review – this is a very complete guide to all the main tenses in English
192. Culture Shock: Life in London – this episode deals with many of those strange aspects of the English lifestyle that foreigners find so hard to understand.
208. Travelling in Indonesia – one of many episodes about travelling experiences, this one has quite a dramatic beginning.

There are plenty more episodes which are popular with listeners, in fact everyone seems to have a different favourite. But that’s just a selection of some of the most visited pages on my website.

7. Yes, my episodes are quite long, but I always explain it like this: Firstly, all my favourite podcasts are long, and I think that it’s quite normal for podcasts to be about an hour long. Radio shows also tend to be at least an hour long too, so why not my podcast? It’s better for my listeners if they listen for an extended period. Why should listening only last 15 minutes? I can’t achieve very much in just 10-15 minutes, and I want my episodes to have some depth and rigour to them. Also, listeners can just pause the episode when they’ve had enough, and come back to it later!

8. I have a transcript collaboration project on my website, which allows listeners to transcribe sections of episodes and build a whole library of transcripts for other LEPsters to use. This is good for the transcribers because it is a big challenge and a good way to improve their English, and it’s good for the other listeners because we have an ever-growing library of transcripts which they can use to help them understand episodes. The collaboration is hosted on my website and is done using google documents.

9. I have won this award three times before and that is completely thanks to my devoted audience, who every year come out in force to vote for me. I hope to repeat the success this year, but I am up against stiff competition! Whatever the result, I’m just happy to have been nominated again.

10. The podcast has had 3 million listens in just over a year, since moving to a new audio host (audioboom.com) which is amazing!

11. I also have some videos on YouTube and they are pretty hot as well! My channel has had about 2.5 million views in total, but I haven’t uploaded anything for a while. The popular videos are ones I did in 2009 and feature me interviewing members of the public in the centre of London. There’s also a video called “16 Ways to Say I Like It”, which you may have seen too.

12. I launch competitions of my own from time to time, for listeners to take part in. The last one was called “Your English Podcast” and I invited listeners to send me short recordings of them doing their own versions of LEP. I received lots of entries and votes and the winner was interviewed on the podcast as a prize.

13. These days I record episodes of my podcast in a room at the top of my apartment, where I have great views of the rooftops of Paris from the windows. I call it the “SpacePod” or “SkyPod” and it’s the podcast HQ!

14. I have another podcast, called A Phrasal Verb a Day. It’s on iTunes and on my website. That is made up of short episodes devoted to individual phrasal verbs. I give definitions, examples and explanations. It’s a great way to pick up more of those tricky items of vocabulary – phrasal verbs. My goal was to record one a day in 2014. I didn’t reach my goal, but I haven’t given up and I still add episodes to the series when I can.

15. I love playing the drums, guitar, bass and ukulele (but not at the same time) and occasionally at the end of podcast episodes I play a song on the ukulele – but you have to listen all the way to the end of the episode to hear it.

16. I put my heart, soul, time, energy, humour, money and love into making episodes of LEP. It’s become quite a big thing in my life after having done it now for nearly 6 years. I enjoy a close and warm relationship with my listeners, I always welcome new additions to the LEP family, and in the future I plan to build my service more and more until I can perhaps do this for a living somehow. The future’s bright and I hope that many more people will join me on this journey to create authentic, entertaining and interesting content that helps you not only to improve your English but to enjoy yourself while doing it. So, I invite you to start listening today and like thousands of others get addicted to LEP – it’s good for your English!

If you haven’t already done it, I invite you to vote for LEP by clicking here. Thank you for your continuing support!
vote for us_love english2

225. Film Club: “Taken”

This episode is all about the film “Taken” starring Liam Neeson as an ex-CIA agent who uses his ‘particular set of skills’ to save his daughter who is kidnapped while on a trip to Paris. Right-click here to download.

Small Donate ButtonYou might remember hearing me talking about this film in a recent episode of the podcast with my friend Corneliu. Remember that? Well, I’m a little bit obsessed by this film, and I talk about it in my stand-up shows, so I’ve decided to devote this episode just to this subject: The film Taken, starring Liam Neeson.

For ages on LEP I’ve been talking about doing episodes about films. I’ve done some movie themed episodes before, but this is the first episode in what I hope will become a series devoted to some classic moments from cinema history. (What Luke, another series – how many series have you started now? – accents, slang, British Comedy, Your English Podcast)
I’ve decided to call the series “Luke’s Film Club” or LFC. (Not Liverpool Football Club)
I could easily have called it “Luke’s Classic Movie Moments” but my brother thought that sounded too American, which put me off slightly. I quite like “Luke’s Classic Movie Moments” or LCMM, for short, so that is the other name of this series.
So, welcome to “Luke’s Film Club” or LFC, which is also known as Luke’s Classic Movie Moments, or LCMM.

taken-filmIn each episode in this series we’re going to look at a classic moment from the movies, and in this one I’ve decided to focus on “Taken” (2008) starring Liam Neeson. Director: Pierre Morel
Writers: Luc Besson, Robert Mark Kamen.

Plot synopsis: A retired CIA agent travels across Europe and relies on his old skills to save his estranged daughter, who has been kidnapped while on a trip to Paris.

Score on IMDB: 7.9/10
Score on Rotten Tomatoes: 58%

This is not one of the greatest works of cinema history. It’s certainly not Citizen Kane or The Godfather or anything. To be honest, it’s a slightly trashy exploitation thriller which pushsd emotional buttons in order to keep you engaged throughout. It has revived the career of Liam Neeson, who is a great actor with a lot of screen presence and gravity. I think Liam Neeson is one of the greatest actors of his generation. Perhaps his most famous role is from Schindler’s List, but he’s been in plenty of other movies and has worked with some of Hollywood’s top talent, including George Lucas, Ridley Scott and Christpher Nolan. Since making Taken, Neeson has become somewhat typecast as this kind of brooding, revenge obsessed middle aged man. He’s made several sequels (Taken 3 is coming soon) and a couple of other similar films since this one.

Now, why have I chosen to bang on about Taken for a whole episode. Well, if you’ve seen the film, you’ll probably agree that it was a wild ride – it’s a thrilling film, but when you think about it, it’s quite ridiculous, and has some very questionable ethics and undertones of racism. But for some reason we’re all expected to leave our brains at the door, and not think about that stuff too much. It pushes some rather strong emotional buttons, and that makes you ignore the dodgy politics and subtext of the film.

I expect a lot of you have seen it because it was a big hit around the world, but many of you won’t have seen it. If you haven’t seen it then don’t worry – I’ll explain the plot and other details you need to know. I should say “Spoiler alert” at this moment – which is something you say before you give away the details of the plot before people have seen it. Don’t worry though, because in my opinion it’s impossible for me to spoil this film. Honestly, it can’t be spoiled. If you’ve seen the trailer for the film you’ll know exactly what happens, and it’s still enjoyable. In fact, the title of the film tells you all you need to know: “Taken” – his daughter is taken (kidnapped) and he does everything he can to get her back. That’s it. It’s a ride, with very few surprises along the way. It does exactly what it says on the tin.
“It does exactly what it says on the tin”

So in this episode we’re going to hear a classic moment from this film, and then I’m going to give you my viewpoint on the film as a whole, and then we’ll go back to analyse some of the language in the classic scene.

You might be thinking: Luke, you’re thinking about it too much. Don’t over-analyse it. Well, I find it hard to leave my brain at the door when I see films and I don’t think I should. Why should I stop thinking when I see a film? No, I like to analyse and intellectualise films, and I LOVE to intellectualise trashy movies like this one. One of my favourite things is to sit around with friends and just take the piss out of a film while watching it. I studied films at university and I learned that any film can be analysed as a text and that everyone is free to take their own interpretation of a movie. I also love talking about films and popular culture in my stand-up routines and I find that they’re a great source of comedy.

So let’s deal with Taken.

1. The classic moment: “I will find you, and I will kill you.”

2. Taken: My point of view (it’s a rant really)

3. Intonation & Sentence stress from the classic scene. (plus some versions in different accents)

The Classic Moment -“I will find you, and I will kill you”
Liam Neeson is a retired CIA agent. While his daughter is on holiday in Paris she is kidnapped. He manages to speak to one of them on his mobile phone. This is his only opportunity to speak to the kidnappers and then save his daughter.

The speech

I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want. If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don’t have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills, skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don’t, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you.

[after a long pause] Good luck.

Taken Kill Map

Here’s a review of “Taken” from my favourite film review podcast Mark Kermode & Simon Mayo’s Film Review.

182. Learning English with Yacine Belhousse

This episode is all about the relationship between language, successful communication, stand-up comedy and learning English! It features an interview with the one-and-only Yacine Belhousse, who is a professional stand-up comedian in his native language and now in English too. A year and a half ago, Yacine hardly spoke any English. Now he regularly performs in English and this year he is doing a 1 hour stand-up comedy show at the Edinburgh fringe festival. How does he do it? How does he deal with the challenges of learning English while also making people laugh in English too? Listen and find out!

Download Episode  Small Donate Button
I’m really pleased to present every episode of Luke’s English Podcast, but this one makes me extra pleased. Why? I just think that we come to some particularly useful conclusions during this conversation, especially related to the attitude that you need to learn English effectively. I’m also pleased to present Yacine because he’s got a great attitude towards learning English and because I think he’s really funny.

Conclusions about Learning Language
In summary here are some of the key points about learning English & communication from our conversation:
– To communicate well, you must take responsibility for communicative exchanges.
– Remember when you’re talking to native speakers, you’re just talking to another human. They have no reason to judge you if you’re just trying to communicate to achieve something. In fact, native speakers have the same responsibility for successful communication as you. So don’t feel that you’re totally responsible for any communication breakdown.
– Be confident and don’t worry about making mistakes. If you do make mistakes, you can learn from them and that’s how you improve. If you’re concerned that you can’t be confident – don’t worry. Confidence is something which just happens when you try to do something. If you focus on achieving successful communication, and don’t get upset by failure – confidence will just come naturally. So, don’t worry about confidence. Just focus on trying to achieve things.
– Have an organised approach to learning – mentally store words and phrases you like in the “good things bucket”. Reject bits of communication that didn’t work in the “bad things bucket”. Perhaps revisit the “bad things bucket” to learn from the errors, but enjoy the contents of your “good things bucket” too!
– Repeat words and phrases that you’ve learned. Repeat them lots of times in order to remember them.
– Learn by doing things. Learn to speak by speaking, failing, succeeding and moving on. You have to be active. Use your English. If you don’t use it, you lose it. You’ve got to be in it to win it!
– Be positive!

Listen to the conversation to find out more.

Links
Would you like to play Yacine’s computer game? Click here to visit the game on his website.

Will you be in Edinburgh during the Fringe? You should check out Yacine’s show. Click here for information on Yacine’s Edinburgh show.

Transcript to #182. Learning English with Yacine Belhousse
The introduction to this episode is transcribed below. If you would like to write some more minutes of transcript, click here to visit the google document for this episode.

Introduction
Here is my introduction to this episode of the podcast.

“Normally I have native speakers on this podcast; British people, Americans, Australians and stuff like that. And yet, most of the people who listen to this are non-natives learning the language. I rarely have learners of English giving their voice, which is a pity because everyone has a story to tell and interesting things to share. …

So, in today’s episode I am speaking to a friend of mine called Yacine. He’s not a native speaker. In fact, until quite recently he didn’t speak English at all. By his own admission, his English is not perfect. Sometimes he can’t find the right words, he has some trouble choosing the correct verb forms or pronouncing words naturally. These are all the normal problems faced by people learning English. However, I believe Yacine is quite special and that’s why I’ve brought him onto the podcast, despite not being a native or near-native speaker of English.

But why Luke? Why are you featuring a learner of English in one of your interviews? Well, there are lots of reasons:
– I think Yacine has a really good attitude towards learning, and I want to explore that so we can pick up some good things about language learning.
– Yacine is a professional stand-up comedian in his native language but he is also now performing shows in English. In fact, this year he is doing a regular one hour show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, which is perhaps the biggest comedy festival in the world, and he regularly performs comedy with the great & legendary Eddie Izzard, who is considered by many to be one of the greatest stand-ups of his generation. Eddie Izzard is not just an inspiration to stand up comedians, he is also an inspiration to language learners all over the world, and we’ll find out more about that later. Yacine is very influenced by Eddie Izzard, and he often supports Eddie when he does shows in France.

Learning a language is a challenging thing for anyone. You know when you speak you feel shy and embarrassed sometimes because you don’t want to be judged (just like me when I go to the boulangerie). These are normal fears. But, can you imagine going on-stage in front of lots of people, Scottish, English, perhaps a bit drunk because the show is on at 9.30PM, and delivering a full one hour stand-up performance in a language you’re trying to learn?
– It must be very challenging.
– You’d need a lot of self-confidence and self-belief.
– You need to focus very carefully on how to communicate your message.
– You need to be able to deal with any possible breakdown of communication.
– You need to stop worrying about errors, and if you make errors learn from them but don’t let them make you lose confidence.
I want to know how Yacine faces these challenges, but also, for me these are the challenges faced by any learner of English, but they are multiplied by the fact that Yacine is also doing this on-stage while having to make people laugh. It’s impressive and I want to know more.

So, this is what I want to investigate in this episode:
– How he’s learning English.
– Doing comedy in French vs English.
– French audiences vs UK audiences – are they different?
– Is humour universal?
– How is good communication an essential part of comedy? How do you make a successful joke? It’s about successfully communicating an idea.

Footnote: Yacine has only been learning for a few years. He hasn’t attended any courses or lessons. He’s self-taught. My professional opinion is that he’s doing really well. His English is better than it was a year ago, and his English is certainly much better than my French!

Yacine might make errors during the episode, and that’s fine. I’ll help him or even give him corrections (“yes please” – he says). This episode is not a judgement of his English, and it’s not his comedy performance either – that happens in Edinburgh. What this is, is an investigation into his English learning experiences and the relationship between language, communication, comedy and language learning!

Click here to transcribe more of this episode using a google document.

Thanks for listening, and have a good day/evening/night!

Luke

yacine PODPIC

My interview on the All Ears English Podcast

Hi everyone,

Today I am featured as a guest on the All Ears English podcast. In the episode you can hear me talking about comedy, humour and telling jokes in English. Click the picture to listen to the episode on the All Ears English website or use this embedded player.

Luke Episode 122-2

You might already know All Ears English. It’s a podcast produced by two American girls called Gabby & Lindsay. They’re both English teachers with lots of experience who also do a podcast for learners of English.

Recently I got a tweet from Lindsay asking if I would like to be interviewed for one of their episodes, and I was glad to accept. It’s fun to be featured on someone else’s podcast for a change. Also, it’s good to establish contact with other podcasters. It was pretty exciting to talk to the girls on Skype and find out how we have a lot of things in common even though we are from completely different countries. Because I am a comedian (as well as a teacher) they were interested in hearing my perspective on differences between British & American humour, and some of my tips on telling jokes in English. Of course, there’s a lot to say on that topic so it is something I plan to revisit fully on LEP.

Here’s a summary of my tips on how to tell jokes in English. As I said, I plan to revisit this subject fully on LEP as there is so much to say!

Luke’s advice on how to tell jokes in English:

  • Be careful about telling jokes in social situations
  • Know when it’s appropriate to tell a joke. Sometimes there might be an informal joke-telling situation with your friends. That’s a great time to try your joke.
  • Be careful about the subject of the joke. Don’t make jokes about race, age, weight, gender or sexual orientation (especially in the United States)
  • Try to tell a spontaneous joke rather than a preplanned joke. The joke is more of an attitude than a specific joke. Instead, develop an attitude that is funny and lighthearted.
  • Make sure that you know the joke well when you are telling the joke so that you don’t forget the punchline.
  • Keep it short and sweet.
  • It should sound natural.
  • Don’t laugh too much at your own joke.
  • Be prepared if your joke doesn’t work, but don’t worry about it too much.
  • Look out for more episodes on humour in social situations in the future!