Tag Archives: stand up

630. The English Guy with a Sitcom on Japanese TV (with BJ Fox)

A conversation with English comedian BJ Fox, who performs stand-up in Japan and has his own TV show on NHK. Our conversation includes the story of how BJ managed to pitch the show to Japanese producers, how he learnt Japanese to a proficient level, doing stand-up in a different culture and much more.

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Hi everyone, welcome back to the podcast. It’s lovely to be talking to you again. I hope the feeling is mutual.

Let me tell you about this episode. So, this one is a conversation with an English stand-up comedian, living in Japan. He goes by the name of BJ Fox and he’s doing really well over there. He’s one of the top comedians on the English language comedy scene in Tokyo (which is a relatively big scene in fact) he also performs stand-up in Japanese, which is really cool because it means that his Japanese must be really good – he makes audiences of Japanese people laugh a lot in his shows. He has also performed stand-up in lots of other countries, especially across Asia but also in the UK and now he has his own sitcom on Japanese TV – on NHK, which is basically the Japanese equivalent of the BBC. So, he’s got his own TV show.

Now this is quite an extraordinary achievement – to get your own sitcom on Japanese telly. BJ writes the show himself and also plays the main character. So, how did he manage this? How did he get his own TV show? I mean, a lot of people move to other countries, manage to learn the language and live quite successfully there, but not everyone ends up with their own TV show. Also, how did he learn Japanese to such a high level? What’s it like doing stand up in Japan? What’s his TV sitcom all about?

BJ has also worked in the video games industry, including time spent at the Pokemon company and at Rockstar Games. I don’t know if you know Rockstar Games. They’re the ones who produce the Grand Theft Auto series and also the Red Dead Redemption series, and in fact BJ was one of the people responsible for bringing Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption to the Japanese market.

I spoke to BJ over Skype recently and asked him about all these things.

Sign up to LEP Premium to get a vocabulary / pronunciation episode based on this conversation – https://www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium

Before we listen, I just want to mention that I have published a premium episode covering specific vocabulary from this conversation. I went through the recording, picked out lots of vocabulary and in the premium episode I explain it, demonstrate it and also drill it for pronunciation. Those of you who are premium subscribers will have access to that in the app and on the website. It’s Premium episode 18 (parts 1 & 2) and I think you’ll find that listening to that episode (either before or after you listen to this converstion) will really help you understand everything much better, it’ll help you notice and pick up certain phrases and to practise saying them with all the correct, natural pronunciation, and all of that is a great way to maximise your learning potential with an episode like this. That’s what my premium episodes are all about.

So check out Premium series 18 – which accompanies this episode. It’s already available in the app and on the website. To sign up to LEP Premium just go to www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium and the best way to listen to premium content is by using the Luke’s English Podcast App. If you have any questions, just send me an email through my website or through the app.

Right then, let’s meet BJ Fox and find out about his stand-up, his career, how he learned Japanese and what it’s like having his own sitcom on Japanese TV.

Home Sweet Tokyo – Season 3 – coming soon to NHK World

Videos & Links

A clip from an episode of Home Sweet Tokyo.


Watch episodes of Home Sweet Tokyo on NHK’s website here.

BJ Fox’s Website where you can see more videos and find out his gig dates.

The Comedian’s Comedian Podcast – Stuart Goldsmith interviews some of the best comedians in the world in great depth and finds out exactly how they do their comedy.


That was BJ Fox then. I’d like to say thanks again to him for coming on the podcast. It was really interesting to talk to him.

I suggest that you have a look on the page for this episode on the website where you will find a clip from Home Sweet Tokyo, links to BJ’s website and also a link to The Comedian’s Comedian Podcast, which is absolutely fascinating for anyone interested in exactly how comedians do what they do – which is, basically, to make people laugh really hard until their faces hurt. It’s like actual magic, it’s amazing.

And don’t forget that I recently published a two-part Premium episode covering language from this conversation. If you haven’t done so already, sign up to LEP Premium in order to listen to that and maximise your English learning from this podcast. The episode covers vocabulary and pronunciation, so you can expand your range of English and sound more like a native speaker. Sign up at www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium .

I’ve also recently uploaded more little premium videos with pronunciation drills. They’re short videos in which I drill some sentences, you can see me saying the sentences, I highlight some features of pronunciation like sentence stress, weak forms and connected speech, you can see my mouth moving as I say them, you can copy me and also the target sentences are written on the screen with some features highlighted like the stress and the weak forms. Premium LEPsters – there’s a heads up. Check out the latest content – it’s there in the premium category in your app, and also online at teacherluke.co.uk/premium . There should be more content coming this month.

A bit of a ramble

Recent episodes

Basically, it’s been great to get some nice feedback from listeners. The 2 episodes with James (Oasis, Do you ever…?) have had great responses. People really enjoyed them. I am lucky to have a brother who I get on with most of the time, and we make each other laugh a lot. I’m glad if that comes across on the podcast and that you can join in the laughter too.

The Emina episode – I’m very happy that lots of you found it inspiring and also that you found lots in common with her. I think it’s always interesting to speak to people who have learned English to a proficient level, and to try to work out how they did it.

The Rick Thompson Report is always popular – people often say that this is how they get informed about Brexit. Even some of my friends who are native speakers of English listen to those episodes. The UK’s general election is due to happen on 12 December (Thursday) and I would like to record something about that after the results are in. My Dad will hopefully be up for it, but I can’t guarantee it. It depends if we find the right time to do it. December is shaping up to be an extremely busy month.

I haven’t finished the 3-part series about “88 Expressions that will confuse everyone” – the series about very British expressions and slang. I do plan to finish that. I promised you 88 expressions and so far I’ve given you 50. So I owe you another 28. Check out my maths!

Also, the episode about terrible jokes went down well, so I do plan to do more of that kind of thing. Basically, we’re going to keep on trucking here at LEPHQ. I say “we” – it’s mainly just me, isn’t it? With a little help from my friends and family of course, who join me as guests sometimes and of course the support I get from you my listeners in the form of donations (thank you thank you thank you if you’ve donated) and also just the fact that you are loyal listeners, that you recommend the podcast to your friends, leave glowing reviews on places like iTunes (LEP is simply sensational, there’s no other word for it). So thank you for the support.

Crazy strikes in France

Emmanuel Macron (the French president) is currently attempting to reform pension laws here. I don’t fully understand it, but because of this, a lot of workers across many sectors are protesting and going on strike at the moment and it looks like the strikes are going to continue throughout December, which could make life extremely difficult here. It already is, in fact. The main problem is transport, but this has some major knock on effects in other areas. Almost all the public transport is closed – The Metro, busses, train lines, trams, and in Paris that makes a huge difference because almost everyone relies on it to an extent. So this means that loads of other things are affected. Lots of people can’t get to work and it causes a lot of general chaos. For us the main problems are the creche and our travel plans at Christmas.

The daycare centre (creche) for our daughter could be closed for the next couple of weeks, so my wife and I will not be able to work like normal. We’ll have to stay at home with the little one. Now, I’m not complaining – it’s always lovely to be able to spend time with her and I can walk to school when I have lessons to teach. Also, I have some sympathy with the people who are on strike but this could seriously affect my podcast output this month because while I’m looking after my daughter I can’t really do anything else, including podcasting.

Update: Our daughter is being looked after for a few days by her grandparents, leaving us free to concentrate on work we need to do before Christmas. But it’s only for a few days – so I have to cram all my content creation into these next few days. So I will be locked in the Pod-Castle, making episodes as quickly as I can!

Luke – tell us what happened yesterday, as an example of the travel chaos gripping the city.

Also it could affect our travel plans to the UK for Christmas, so everything is up in the air at the moment. The main thing for you is that it might be difficult for me to prepare, record and upload all the content I’m planning for the next few weeks, and that includes the annual Christmas episode (which this year is going to be about Christmas jokes), perhaps one other free episode of the podcast which I haven’t worked out yet, maybe a Star Wars episode if I get to see Episode 9 when it is released here on 18 December, also I’m planning another premium audio series and more premium pronunciation videos. That’s quite a lot of content but I will be off on holiday during the Christmas period so I want to publish or prepare quite a lot of content before that, but I might not be able to do anything. We will see what happens and whether we can find childcare for the little one.

Anyway, let’s see how much I can get done in the time I have. It might just be that I have to do some late night or early morning podcasting, or perhaps no podcasting at all. We will see. But I just wanted to let you know, in case you get radio silence from LEP later this month.

But now it is time to wish you all a warm farewell until next time. Check out the LEP App if you don’t already have it, check out LEP Premium, sign up to the mailing list on the website, follow me on Twitter, have a look at the page for this episode for all your BJ Fox info and I will speak to you again soon I hope, but for now it’s just time to say GOODBYE!

610. British Comedy: James Acaster

Listen to a lovely bit of stand up comedy that will require quite a lot of breaking down in order for you to understand all the jokes like a native speaker, but there’s lots to learn in the way of language and culture in the process.

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Transcripts and Notes

This is LEP episode 610. and it’s called British Comedy: James Acaster.

In this one we’re going to listen to a lovely bit of stand up comedy that will require quite a lot of breaking down in order for you to understand all the jokes like a native speaker, and there’s lots to learn in the way of language and culture in the process.

James Acaster is a popular stand up comedian from the UK who has won various awards, done Netflix specials, Edinburgh shows and who appears on panel shows and TV comedy programmes all the time. He’s now a very popular and well-known stand up in the UK.

I’ve got a clip of one of his performances from the New Zealand Comedy Gala in 2013 on YouTube.

I’m going to play the video in about two parts.

You have to try to understand it – not just what he’s saying, but why is it funny?

Then I’ll go back through the clip, sum it up, go through it line by line, breaking it down for language.

You can then listen again using the video on the page for the episode.

Who is James Acaster? (Wikipedia)
James Acaster is an English comedian originally from Kettering, Northamptonshire. (accent?)
He has performed for several consecutive years at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and won two Chortle awards in 2015.[3] He has been nominated for Best Show five times at the Edinburgh Fringe.[4] Acaster has appeared on several panel shows, including Mock the Week and Would I Lie to You? He has a 2018 Netflix show entitled Repertoire, consisting of four hour-long stand-up comedy performances.[5] He has also written a book, James Acaster’s Classic Scrapes, consisting of true stories, most of which were originally told on Josh Widdicombe’s show on XFM.[6] He currently hosts panel show Hypothetical alongside Widdicombe and food podcast Off Menu with fellow comedian Ed Gamble.

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
Ginger-ish hair
Looks a bit like Jarvis Cocker

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

Ready-to-eat apricots

You get these bags of fruit in the UK (and elsewhere I’m sure) of fruit which is ready to eat.

It’s been cut up, washed, prepared. It’s ready to eat.

For example, you might get “ready-to-eat apricots”. That’s what James is talking about here.

Also, the expression ”You are what you eat?”

Play the clip: What’s the joke about apricots?

Stop and explain it

What kind of apricots are these?
They are ready-to-eat apricots.
How do you feel?
I feel ready. Ready to eat apricots.
In fact, you could say I was ready to eat these ready-to-eat apricots.
Maybe you’re not ready to eat apricots.
Maybe you just want some, which is why they’re in a resealable bag.
So, they should be renamed ready-to-eat-some-apricots.

A lads’ night out / You wouldn’t bring an apple to an orchard

James went on a night out with a bunch of lads.

For James, this was not an enjoyable night.

It wouldn’t be for me either. I’ve never been one of those guys who likes to go out on a lads’ night out.

Lets me explain what a lads’ night out is like.

Lads are usually English young men, together, doing male things and generally being aggressive, overly sexual, crude, rude and competitive.

  • Lots of alpha male behaviour
  • Heavy drinking
  • Taking the piss and general one-upmanship and aggressive, laddish, competitive behaviour
  • Spending time in bars and clubs that you hate but they think are brilliant (terrible, terrible music, awful people, loud, smelly, horrible)
  • Trying to pick up girls and the general lack of a moral code – cheating, lying, using alcohol – all in an attempt to get lucky with a girl. This includes cheating on your girlfriend if you have one.
  • Medieval-level sexual politics – being openly judgemental about women’s appearances, giving women marks out of ten, saying whether or not you would shag any of the women around, looking at their bodies and comparing notes etc.
  • You get sucked into it through peer pressure and become part of it even though you hate it.

One of the lads, who has a girlfriend and yet plans to pick up a girl at the club, when asked why he didn’t bring his girlfriend, says “You wouldn’t bring an apple to an orchard”

An orchard is a place where apples are grown. It’s full of trees and there are apples everywhere. You might pay to access the orchard and pick the apples.

You wouldn’t bring an apple to an orchard. Presumably because you wouldn’t need to bring one because there are loads there anyway.

How about bringing your girlfriend to a night club. Is it the same?

This leads James to kind of question the logic of that statement and go off an a monologue about bringing an apple to an orchard and how that compares to bringing your girlfriend to a nightclub.

To be an accessory to something (like a crime)
An apple a day keeps the doctor away

Play the clip: Do you understand all the comedy about the nightclub and bringing an apple to an orchard?

Stop and explain it

Going to a nightclub with a bunch of lads
One of them cheats on his girlfriend and you become an accessory to it, like it’s a crime and now you’ve become pulled into it. You’re involved in it, without intending to be, and you could go down, like you’re an accessory to a crime.

In this sense, you just have to keep a secret, you’re being expected to lie on behalf of someone else. The guy is a twat basically.

This lad says “You wouldn’t bring an apple to an orchard”.
But then James deconstructs this analogy in a brilliant way.

This is nuanced comedy which is subtly making fun of stupid lad culture in a clever and funny way, with some weirdness and surrealism.

Go through it line by line

One of the reasons I like it is that a lot of people might just say James is being weird and that he’s some sort of loser, but he’s absolutely right in my opinion and he’s just clever and not afraid to be himself and he embraces the slightly weird things in life, because let’s face it, life is weird.

Types of humour / how nuanced & subtle humour can be all about changing the context of the situation in order to reveal new perspectives.

This acknowledges the fact that there are many different perspectives or layers to any situation and a good comedian can make you realise a whole different underlying meaning by just changing one bit of perspective.

Despite the fact that I like this a lot and so do many other people, I’m sure plenty of others don’t find it funny because it’s not fast enough, there aren’t enough dynamic changes (he doesn’t change his voice a lot, a lot of the jokes are left to the audience’s imagination), it’s pretty low energy, maybe little things like (I can’t get into it – I just don’t like his hair cut or his shoes or something) and also some people just don’t really want to look at the world from a different point of view. Some people prefer more direct humour, perhaps with a more obvious target or more relatable things, like observational comedy or something.

As usual, I’m worrying that nobody will get it, but what’s the point of that? Some people just won’t get it because “you can bring a horse to water but you can’t make it drink”.

And it doesn’t matter. If you didn’t find it funny, that’s totally fine. At least you’ve learned some English in the process. :)

Vocab list

  • Ready-to-eat apricots
  • They say “you are what you eat”
  • A resealable bag
  • A lads’ night out
  • Check out the arse on that
  • Big time
  • Normal people perv solo
  • To outnumber someone
  • Sinister
  • A dented suitcase
  • To cheat on someone
  • An accessory to a crime
  • Despicable
  • An orchard
  • Fit birds
  • Eloquent use of language
  • A little bit miffed
  • This godforsaken pisshole of an orchard
  • Who in their right mind compares women to apples?
  • Another saying “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”

Here’s another short clip of James Acaster, this time talking about Brexit and comparing it to a tea bag in a cup.

Should you take the bag out or leave it in?

James Acaster Brexit Tea Bag

Now explain that Luke!

Tea / Brexit

Should you leave the bag in or not?
If the bag stays in, the cup as a whole gets stronger. It might look like the bag is getting weaker in some way but it’s actually part of a good strong cup of tea.
If you take the bag out, the tea is actually quite weak, and the bag goes straight in the bin.

Do I even need to explain how that analogy works with Brexit?

Should the UK stay in or go out?

If the UK remains, the EU as a whole gets stronger. It might look like the UK is getting weaker in some way, but it’s actually part of a good strong union of nations.
If the UK leaves, the EU gets weaker and the UK goes straight in the bin.

Quite clever really.

You can watch James Acaster clips on YouTube.
You can see his Netflix specials “Repertoire” on Netflix
You can read his book “Classic Scrapes” from any half-decent book shop.

That’s it for this episode!

572. Worst Stand-up Gig Experiences (with Amber & Paul)

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. 

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Introduction Transcript

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.

Outtro Transcript

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.

https://www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium – LEP Premium

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)


Paul’s Vlog about the Football Awards, including video footage of the event and his reactions

391. Discussing Language, Culture & Comedy with Alexander van Walsum

Here is a new episode featuring a conversation with a friend of mine who originally comes from the Netherlands but he has lived all over the world. You’re going to hear us talking about cultural differences, Dutch stereotypes, doing business in France, the UK and the USA, the different communication styles in those places, doing stand up comedy and getting Darth Vader’s signature. I hope you enjoy listening to it as much as we enjoyed recording it.

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Alex performing at Le Paname Art Cafe in Paris


You can see Alex performing at “WTF Paris? – Comedy Therapy for Expats” with Amber Minogue at the SoGymnase comedy club in Paris every Friday evening at 8pm. Details here https://www.weezevent.com/wtf-paris

316. British Comedy: Tim Vine (Part 2)

Listen to Luke explain the rest of Tim Vine’s stand up routine from the video “One Night Stand”. Learn some natural phrases and bridge the linguistic and cultural gap between you and native speakers of English. Click here to listen to part 1 of this episode. Watch the video below.

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British Comedy: Tim Vine (part 2)
In episode 313 I played you part of a ten minute stand up routine by Tim Vine, who is a much loved British stand up comedian who specialises in telling one liners – those are very short jokes which usually involve some kind of word-play.
I played you 3 minutes of Tim’s routine.
I expect you didn’t get all the jokes.
I explained them all for you.
I expect you still didn’t find them all funny because explaining a joke often kills the humour of the joke.
BUT at least you learned a lot of language in the process.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it’s difficult to understand jokes in another language. You might go to a comedy show or watch it on TV and everyone else laughs but you’re the only one who has no clue what’s going on. This is because there’s a linguistic and cultural gap between you and everyone else who gets the jokes. Maybe it’s hard for you to hear exactly what’s been said as the lines of a joke are usually delivered quickly and with naturalistic speech patterns. Also, there’s the general cultural difference, which includes certain reference points but also the general mindset of British humour, like the fact that we enjoy laughing at ourselves, and we also enjoy the ironic fun of self-consciously bad jokes. I’m interested in closing that linguistic and cultural gap. The result, I hope, will be that you’ll learn some key bits of language and culture, and you’ll be a few steps closer to understanding natural British English like a native speaker.

In episode 313 I promised that I’d play you all of Tim Vine’s routine and explain it all. In fact, I only managed to get through 3 minutes in that episode. You might be wondering – what about the rest of Tim Vine’s routine? I want to understand that too! Well, that’s what I’m going to do now. In fact, I had one Japanese listener in particular who was very keen to hear me explain the rest of the routine. I’m sorry – I can’t remember your name or how you got in contact with me – it could have been an email, a FB message, a comment on the website, a tweet or some other way. I can’t keep up with the different ways people contact me sometimes – so if you don’t get a reply, I’m very sorry. My email address and other inboxes are often completely swamped by different notifications and messages. I do read everything, but then I don’t always get the chance to immediately respond, and then the message just gets forgotten about. So, I’m sorry if you have contacted me and I haven’t replied.

Anyway, this particular listener was quite desperate to understand the rest of Tim Vine’s routine, so here we go.

Bear in mind that there are some visual jokes in the routine and you’ll have to watch the video to really get them. I’ll explain it all for you step by step in just a moment. This routine is about 10 minutes in total. We’ll start by listening to the first 3 minutes again, which should work as a reminder of what you heard before. Then I’ll let you listen to the next 3 minutes, then I’ll pause it and explain everything before letting you hear the rest of the routine with my explanations.

OK? Got it? OK, let’s go. And remember, if you don’t understand anything at all – just hang in there because all will be explained in the fullness of time.

Let’s go. Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome onto the stage again, the one and only, Mr Tim Vine – let’s hear it for Tim Vine everybody! Take it away Tim!!!

Full video: Tim Vine – One Night Stand

313. British Comedy: Tim Vine (Part 1) + LEP Photo Competition

In this episode we’re going to listen to some stand-up comedy by a popular British comedian called Tim Vine, which should be pretty challenging because he tells lots of puns and fast jokes.

But before that, I just want to tell you about a new competition that I’m launching today for listeners to this podcast. This is the Luke’s English Podcast photo competition. See below for all the details, to download this episode and to watch a video of Tim Vine.

The LEP Photo Competition
It’s been a great year for Luke’s English Podcast with loads of new episodes. All kinds of things have happened this year and I’ve talked about a lot of them on the podcast. I’ve had lots of responses from you my listeners and the podcast is still going from strength to strength in terms of audience numbers.

One of the things that’s made it great for me is that I have such awesome listeners all over the planet. It’s great for me to imagine people listening to my podcast in different situations, in different places all over the world. But I’d like to do more than imagine those situations, I’d love to actually see them. I think it would be really cool if you, the listeners of this podcast, could all share photos of your surroundings while listening to LEP.

Maybe you’re on a bus or train, maybe in your car, maybe just walking around, maybe you’re at home with your pets or a cup of tea, maybe you’re climbing a mountain, maybe you’re on the international space station orbiting the earth or something.

Whoever you are, wherever you are, whatever you’re doing – send me your photos. I want you to take a photo that shows the situation you’re in while you listen. Now, you might think “Nah, you don’t want to see a picture of my surroundings…” Yes, I do! Even if you think it’s boring – I want to see it. If you’re on the bus, take a pic of the bus or your view from the window. If you’re walking along a street, take a pic of the street so we can see what it looks like. If you’re on an alien spaceship listening to this from outside the earth’s atmosphere, send me a photo of the spaceship or your view of earth from a distance. Just take a picture of what you can see while you’re listening.

There’s just one rule – the photo has to contain something that shows you’re listening – so include in the photo the LEP logo or some headphones or a screen with the logo on it or some other indication that you’re listening. You don’t have to include a picture of yourself, but you can if you want to. It’s up to you. The main thing is – I want you to show us something that you can see in your surroundings while you listen to LEP and your photo should contain something that proves you’re listening. So if you’re taking a photo of the street, or the view from your hike in the mountains, make sure there’s a headphone in the photo or the LEP logo or even you listening. Yes, just a headphone in the photo is enough for me.

Send your photos by email to podcastcomp@gmail.com. Closing date for photos is Friday 15 January at midnight London time.

When I’ve collected all the photos, I’ll put them all up on the website and you all the LEPsters can vote for their favourite. Then I’ll pick 3 winners. The top winner will get an LEP mug plus another gift of their choice (another mug, a t-shirt or a bag). The two runners up will get LEP mugs. 

OK, so start taking some photos to show us what it’s like where you are while you’re listening to the podcast. Feel free to get creative! Just make sure you insert something in the photo to show that you’re listening. I want it to be a real picture, not a faked one. OK!

Mailing list
From messages I receive it seems that some of my listeners just can’t wait for me to upload new  episodes and they keep going to my page to see if there’s new content there. You should join the mailing list and then you’ll get an email whenever I post a new episode on the website. On my website near the top on the right there’s a field that says “Subscribe by email” just enter your email address there and click confirm.

Top 10 countries this week (number of ‘plays’ in the last 7 days)

Russia 12254
Japan 10443
China 10428
Spain 7434
United Kingdom 6175
Germany 5588
Poland 4740
United States 4570
Italy 4068
South Korea 3038

Do you want your country to go up in the list? Tell your friends!

British Comedy: Tim Vine
Tim Vine is a British stand up comedian who is famous for doing lots of one-liners. He’s one of the UK’s favourite stand-up comedians. His jokes are all clean and family friendly with no rude language or explicit content. He’s a self-deprecating cheeky chappie who makes everyone laugh. The thing that makes Tim Vine different to other comedians is that he always does a succession of one line jokes in his performances. It’s just joke after joke after joke and often they don’t relate to each other at all, it’s just a relentless and rapid stream of unrelated gags and puns.  British audiences love him, but I wonder what you’ll think of his comedy.

I think to an extent, his comedy is quite challenging for non-native speakers of English. By that I mean that he’s the sort of guy that, if you’re a learner of English, you’ll be watching TV with a group of native English speakers, and Tim Vine will come on TV, and all the native speakers (let’s say youre with an English family or some English friends) all of them will suddenly say, “Oh, I love Tim Vine, he’s soooo funny, you’ve got to check this out, you’ll love this, all his jokes are so clever – they’re all based on double meanings and word play, you’ll love it.” You then watch his set, and he tells joke after joke after joke, the audience on TV is loving it, the other people in the room are all laughing, but to you he’s just saying lots of really quick little sentences without pronouncing the words properly, and he’s acting like a total amateur, and he looks all shy and apologetic on stage, and you think – I can’t believe these English people find this guy so funny, what’s wrong with everyone. Or, what’s wrong with me?

There’s nothing wrong with anyone of course, it’s just a language and culture gap that might stop you from enjoying his jokes, and it’s a big pity because there is a lot of joy and pleasure to be gained from watching Tim Vine do comedy.

So, in this episode I’m going to do something a bit ambitious – I’m going to try to help you understand and enjoy one of Tim Vine’s comedy performances. We’re going to listen to about 10 minutes of Tim Vine’s act, and then I’ll break it down and help you understand exactly what he’s saying and why the audience is laughing. If you laugh at his jokes too – fantastic, that’s wonderful. If laughter happens, then success has been achieved. If laughter doesn’t happen – no problem, we’ll still have success because I will explain the language and you’ll learn some really natural English.

I expect that while we listen to Tim Vine some of you will start thinking – this just isn’t funny. Well, let me just say – Tim Vine definitely is funny and many many people agree with that. In fact, I think that  The only reason someone won’t find him funny is because they just don’t get the jokes. He’s not offensive, he’s not rude, he’s a lovely man who just wants to make people laugh. There’s no other reason for not liking him other than the fact that you don’t understand his jokes.

A few facts to prove my point: Tim Vine is the holder of the Guiness World Record for most jokes told in an hour. He told 499 jokes. The criteria for the record is that the jokes received a laugh from the audience. So, 499 jokes got laughs in one hour. That’s over 8 jokes a minute.

He has won the “Joke of the Year” award twice. That’s the prize for the best joke at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

My Mum and Dad are both huge fans of Tim. They went to see one of his live shows, and absolutely loved it. And, you should know that my parents have exceptional taste in most things.

Now, if those three things don’t convince you that Tim Vine is funny, then I don’t know what will.

Alright, so now we have agreed that Tim Vine is definitely funny, and that if you don’t find him funny then it’s almost certainly because of the language and cultural gap – let’s listen to Tim telling some jokes and then we’ll work on closing that linguistic and cultural gap. Hopefully the result will be that your understanding of English will be significantly raised in the process, even if it requires a bit of work. In fact, this could be the perfect test – teach – test model for learning English.

I’m not saying that you’re not going to understand any of this – I’m sure many of you will get a lot of the jokes without any problem, but honestly I think that if you’re not proficient at English you’ll struggle to get them. And watch out – don’t assume you’ve understood the joke because you understand the words. There’s always a double meaning.

So, let’s go.

Let’s now listen to the first 3 minutes of Tim Vine’s stand up routine from a show called One Night Stand, which is a popular stand-up comedy show on a British TV channel called Dave.

Stop listening after Tim’s song called “It’s easy”.

Then go back through the jokes one by one. If you already got these jokes, then sorry if I’m telling things you already know.

Cultural point: Tim knows, and the audience knows, that the jokes are pretty stupid and crap. On their own they have pretty much no value. But when the jokes come one by one, relentlessly, so fast they build into a rhythm. You don’t get a chance to think about how silly they are, you just laugh at the pun and the next one comes along immediately. That  part of the enjoyment – and if you don’t understand them, or if you think about the individual jokes too much, that can kill the fun. So, analysing the jokes like this is probably the best way to KILL the humour, but anyway…

Now, you should watch the whole video on the page for this episode. You should do that so you can actually see Tim performing the jokes, including the expressions on his face and everything.

That’s it! Remember – don’t give up even if it’s difficult.

And, remember, the force will be with you, always…

Tim Vine – One Night Stand

The video is no longer available – it was removed from YouTube. :(

Tim Vine’s jokes – explained

A listener called Viviane sent me a list of all the jokes in this episode, with explanations. Here they are.

1. Let’s hear it for my internal organs,
let’s hear it for = invite the audience to applaud
Tim plays his body as you hear the sound of an organ. “organ” has two meanings – something in your body (e.g. your liver or kidneys) and a musical instrument.

2. This bloke said to me: “I’m gonna dress up as a small island off the coast of Italy.”
I said: “Don’t be so silly. (Don’t be Sicilly.)”

3. I think a parachute jump is the scariest thing that I have ever, ever… refused to do.
(You expect him to say “that I’ve ever, ever done.”)
Actually I once did the parachute jump. They got you attached to the instructor, and you jumped out of it together. So in this airplane, they attached me to this bloke, and we jumped out, and it was really frightening, because half way down, he asked me “how long have you been an instructor?”

4. But we’ve all heard the theory that people look like their pets. Well tonight I’m going to test this theory out. You, sir, have you got a llama(秘鲁 骆马)?
The suggestion is that the person looks like a llama.
Just so you know, whoever sitting there I always say “have you got a llama?”, I just got lucky tonight.

5. I went to Sooty’s barbecue, and had a Sweep steak.
hand puppet bear, Sweep is Sooty’s best friend. He’s a dog.
a sweepstake = a sort of bet in which you can win all the money
The suggestion is that Tim ate Sooty’s best friend. This joke isn’t very good because the situation doesn’t make sense. Why would he have a sweepsteak at a barbecue?

6. I met the man who invented the window sills, what a ledge! (what a ledge/legend)
A window sill is a type of ledge.
“What a ledge!” is a way to say that you think someone is brilliant, or a legend.

7. This antique dealer came up to me. He said, What do you think of the Chinese Dynasty? I said, it was very badly dubbed.(配音)
Dynasty: a famous American TV show during the 1980s.
This is because most of the Chinesr movies, for example, kungfu movies from the 80s were always very badly dubbed, so the movement of the person’s mouth and the voice you’ll hear would be completely out of synchronization.

8. I said, I would open a shop in Saudi Arabia. He said, Dubai? (Do you buy?) I said, yeah, and sell!

9. My grandfather was a very controversial artist, he designed the lion in Trafalgar Square. It doesn’t sound very cutting edge, but at the time, it really put the cat amongst the pigeons.
Cutting edge: innovative
Put the cat amongst the pigeons: totally upset the situation.
Trafalgar Square is famous for having lots of pigeons.

10. Someone said to this New Zealand bloke, I’m going to a Swidish furniture shop. He said, Does it look like I care?(IKEA)
“I care” and “IKEA” sound quite similar in a Kiwi accent.

11. I’m going to buy some furniture polish (comes in an aerosal can).
He said, “Pledge?”
I said, “I will give you my word.”
pledge: a brand name. It also means  = to promise

12. You probably think this was all very well, but when do we get to sing with you Tim? The answer is now.
I might be totally deaf, I never thought I’d hear myself say that! (“I never thought I’d hear myself say that” means “I’m surprised that I’m saying that” but it also means that he’s surprised to actually hear himself saying it because he might be deaf.

~It’s easy.~ (It sounds like the introduction to the song, but then you realize that that’s the song. Songs typically will lay down a theme, the introduction will probably be about 4 bars long)

13. This song is called Subtraction, take it away! (What you say in a performance before a song, Let’s start the song!) Hit the music please!
“subtraction” is also the act of subtracting numbers in maths, or ‘taking things away’.

14. ~It’s easy~
Blimey that was hard work, wasn’t it? (so, it wasn’t actually easy)

15. Bnag! That’s bang out of order.
“That’s bang out of order” is what you say when someone is behaving in an unacceptable way.
He’s also talking about the word “BNAG” which is the word “BANG” but with the letters in the wrong order.

16. I don’t know why I put myself through this. (Tim has taken a piece of cardboard, and put his head through the hole.)
To put yourself through something = force yourself to have a difficult experience
He is also literally putting himself through a piece of cardboard.

17. Hello, My name is Bruce Willis, and I was in a diehard film, I shoot people and people shoot back at me. Yes, I am BruceWillis, I was in The Sixth Sense, I am a film star. I’m Bruce Willis. Sorry, I think I might give you the wrong impression.
To give someone the wrong impression = to make someone think the wrong thing about you.
Also “to do an impression” means to copy the voice of someone.
In this joke he has copied Bruce Willis, but with the wrong voice. He’s given us the wrong impression.

18. So I went to the binocular shop. I’ll tell you what, they saw me coming.(“They saw him coming” = They gave him a bad price, they ripped him off – but they literally saw him coming because of the binoculars)

19. Of course, binoculars is plural, and the singular is — telescope!

20. But I love language.
Does every sentence have to contain a vegetable?
I said, “Not nece-celery.”
“Necessarily” can sound like it contains the word “celery”, which is a vegetable.

21. And then there is the word “mortar” 石灰/迫击炮. Mortar has two different meanings, as I discovered when the house I bought exploded.
Mortar = the stuff that attaches the bricks to each other. “bricks and mortar”
Mortar also means a kind of weapon which launches a grenade into the air.

22. So I went down to the local pub.
“Do you like the local jokes?”
“Yeah, me too. They are right up my street.”

affirmative: It’s right up my street. = It’s my kind of thing.
Negative: It’s not my cup of tea.

23. I walked in, there was a very drunk man slumped in a chair. He looked at me and said what do you do for a living? I said, comedian. He said, “I admire anyone who can stand up…”(leave it hanging)

We expect him to say that he admires anyone who can stand up and try and make people laugh, but this man is drunk and he just admires anyone who can just stand up.

24.I said, “I bet you can’t name a single subject I don’t have a joke about.”
You said, “Beavers.”
I said, “Damn” (Dam = a house made by a beaver on a river)

25. I did a gig the other day, and it went very badly. Yeah cheers. And I walked out of stage, and all I could hear was one person clapping. And then I remembered, I was wearing flip-flops 人字拖.

26. I did a gig the night before to a whole bunch of reindeers, and I slayed them!

In comedy, when you make the audience laugh, you can say you kill/slay/smash the audience.
A slay is also a kind of large sled or vehicle that a reindeer would pull, like the kind of thing that Santa uses. So “slay” has two meanings.

27. But you know, the first job I’ve ever had was playing the back part of a pantomime Wasp, and I thought I was the bee’s knees.
the bee’s knees = fantastic
He also thought he was literally the bee’s knees (because he was wearing the back part of a wasp costume, and wasps look like bees)

28. Do you know the other day I got lost in the jungle. Luckily I had a compass 罗盘/圆规 with me, so I was able to draw a perfect circle with a pencil.
“compass” has two meanings – a device for navigation, and a device for drawing perfect circles.

29. A small blue garden bird made of mahogony! It’d be great if I had a related joke, wouldn’t it? (wooden tit)
Tit is the most common kind of garden bird in the UK. (Look at the tits!)

30. ~Waiting can sometimes be lots of fun~ (Every time you expect him to sing, he doesn’t.)
~But not always~

31. Do you know I have a friend who always takes the mickey out of me for having a “pay as you go” phone, who’s always go like “~You’ve got a pay as you go phone~” So eventually I took out a contract, and had him killed.

In the UK, you’ve got two kinds of phone contract: pay as you go (lower status people who don’t have much money), and monthly contract (don’t need to top up your credit)
take out a contract: to ask an assassin to kill sb.

32. So I said to this bloke: “Me and some friends were just talking about you.”
He said, “You disgust (discussed) me.”
I said, “Yes we did.”

33. He said, “Next time you are asleep I’m going to wake you up!”
I said, “That’s disturbing.”
disturbing his sleep, but also disturbing in an emotional way meaning worrying.

34. (visual joke) I’ve nearly finished filling in my CV, it’s got a little bit there.
fill in a CV = complete your CV
fill in = fill something with colour

35. I think my worst invention was this rubber band wind chime 风铃. All right, pipe down.

36. Ladies and gentlemen, I will leave you with this. (meaning “I will say this and then I will leave”. But as he said that, he had his hand on the microphone stand) Because I’ll be honest with you, it doesn’t belong to me, I don’t bring it with me.

37. I was standing on the beach, I walked into the wave holding a tub of Taramasalata ( a kind of dip), and a man said, “What are you doing?” I said, “I’m taking a dip in the sea.”
take a dip: take a short swim
a dip also means a sort of sauce

38. I was steering a yacht with my stomach muscles — ab sailing!
abseiling means climbing down a mountain backwards via a rope

39. This farmer came up to me and said, “I got 68 sheep, can you round them up for me?” I said, “Sure, 70.”
to round up some sheep = to collect all the sheep together into a group
to round up a number = to raise or lower the number to the nearest round number. E.g. 4.9 – round it up to 5

40. But I’m going to be honest with you, ladies and gentlemen, I don’t think I’m going to do this job for much longer. (the audience goes “aahhhh” in sympathy and disappointment) Not enough of you and too long a pause. But what concerns me is that one day, I’ll wind up an old man… and he’ll attack me.

I’ll wind up an old man = I’ll end up being an old man
I’ll wind up an old man = I’ll make an old man angry


285. Ten More Fixed Expressions (with Paul Taylor)

It’s been about one month since I last uploaded an episode of the podcast, but now LEP is back! Where have I been? Well, I got married (expect a podcast about that soon) and took some time off after that, and then I had lots of work commitments, comedy commitments and honeymoon-organising commitments and I didn’t have enough time to record an episode, but of course I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to speak into the microphone, and that opportunity came today. So here it is.

Paul Taylor is with me for this one and we’re going to do another round of our vocabulary game, just like we did in episode 283.
That episode was called “Ten Fixed Expressions” but that now seems to be quite a dull title. Certainly, we did teach 10 expressions but the title seems a bit boring don’t you think? I’m wondering what to call this episode and I still can’t decide as I’m writing this. I always think that titles of my episodes should describe what is in each episode, and should also be fun and interesting enough to catch your attention. In this case Paul and I teach you ten expressions again, but we also have a chat about our recent news, and get very sidetracked by a negative review on TripAdvisor of one of our recent comedy shows.

The main aim of the episode is to play the vocabulary game and let you understand the meaning of ten English expressions but it also is a chance for us to mess around a bit and talk about other things if we feel like it, especially if it is entertaining or interesting for you.

So, should I call this episode “Another Ten Natural Expressions” or “Ten More Natural Expressions” or “Ten Natural Expressions (Part 2)”? Maybe “Vocabulary Game with Paul Taylor (#2)” is a better title? I can’t decide. I’ll choose the title when I’ve finished writing this and editing the episode together, and whatever title you see at the top of this page is the one I finally went for. I suppose you’ll probably be thinking – “Luke, the title doesn’t really matter. It’s the content that counts.” That’s true of course, but I do think the title is quite important for attracting new listeners to the podcast, and because it helps you to identify the main content of the episode. Let me know what you think about the title of this episode by leaving a comment below.

In This Episode
Anyway, regardless of my indecisiveness about the episode title, here’s what you can expect in this episode.

1. Hi Paul, hi Luke, etc. :)

2. Conditions are almost exactly the same as in the recoding of episode 283. It’s boiling hot. I’m with Paul Taylor. We’re sitting in the shade, mostly, except for my leg which is in direct sunlight again. We’re going to play a vocabulary guessing game like last time we did this (episode 283).

3. What’s new Paul? He’s been doing more comedy gigs. We got a bad review for one of our comedy shows, and we talk about it a little bit. The wording of the review bothers us a bit (also the fact that it’s so negative of course). Here’s a picture of the review (below). What do you think of the description? Ignore the lack of a full-stop at the end of the second sentence. Is the comment slightly ambiguous? What does it really mean? Look at the review and then choose option a) or b).
Screen Shot 2015-08-03 at 15.20.45
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One thing’s for sure, this person did NOT enjoy our show! You can’t please all the people all the time, and bad reviews are just a part of putting on comedy shows. So, never mind!

Anyway, in our conversation we use the negative review as a chance to talk about the importance of being dedicated, motivated and positive as a way of pushing through a barrier of resistance that you might experience if you want to really achieve something in life, like becoming a really funny comedian or learning another language to an advanced level.

4. The Ten Fixed Expressions & Vocabulary Guessing Game
The rules of this game are the same as last time. I’ll explain an expression to Paul and he has to guess which one I’m talking about. Listen to my explanations – can you guess the expressions before Paul does?

Here are the ten expressions I explain in the episode. Listen to the episode to get definitions and examples, or just google them for online definitions.

1 all’s well that ends well
2 an eye for an eye (and a tooth for a tooth)
3 and Bob’s your uncle
4 and pigs will fly!
5 that’s another kettle of fish
6 as cheap as chips
7 to ask for trouble
8 to be away with the fairies
9 to be back to square one
10 to be all ears

That’s it!

Listen all the way to the end of the episode to hear some out-takes of my introduction to this episode. What are out-takes? They’re the mistakes that are edited out of the final version of a film, song recording, or in this case a podcast episode. Sometimes it takes me a few attempts to get the introduction right. I might do nearly 10 failed introductions before I finally get it right and continue with the rest of the recording. They’re not normally intended for publication, but sometimes they’re pretty funny so I shared them with you at the end of this episode.

Don’t forget to leave your comments below this episode! Thanks for being awesome listeners and LEPsters and all that. You’re the best. Look forward to more episodes coming soon…

Luke ;)
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246. Funny Flight Stories

Listen to some stand-up comedy and true stories about flying experiences, learn some vocabulary and consider what makes these comedy routines funny. [Download]

Small Donate ButtonIntroduction
This episode features a few humourous accounts of people’s experiences on aeroplanes. Why have I chosen this topic? Well, why not? There’s no Christmas connection or anything, it’s just an episode I’ve been thinking about for ages and I finally got around to doing it. Actually, the main reason is so I can play you some stand up comedy, which hopefully you will both learn from and enjoy.  I always want to play you some stand up comedy – because it’s brilliant and I want to share it with you! The subject of flying is something that is pretty universal, so I thought there was a good chance you’d be able to relate to it. Also, comedians all seem to have material based on flying. it’s a really common topic for stand-up, precisely because it’s universal but also because it’s a pretty bizarre experience in some ways!

Please be aware that there is some rude language in this episode.

Let’s listen to some stories of people flying.
Almost all of these are comedy routines by stand up comedians.
One of them is an inspirational story, which has some laughs in it.

3 things I wonder:

  • If you get the details of the stories
  • If you find them funny
  • If you know all the vocabulary

To understand the subtleties I’ll give you a quick summary of each story before you listen. Then you’ll know the main events, leaving you to focus on the funny details.
To deal with the humour, I will explain what I find funny about each sketch. Obviously, humour is totally subjective – it depends on the person and there is no universal form of humour. However, I also find that humour is one of the last things that you can pick up when you’re learning a language. Learners tend not to find the same things funny as native speakers – perhaps because they don’t get the cultural reference points, or because you can’t understand it well enough to get all the jokes immediately. Instant comprehension of all the subtle shifts in tone and meaning is very important for finding something funny. Most of the funny aspects of these routines are not obvious jokes. It’s far more subtle than that. So, let’s see if you can pick up on those subtle things and see the humour in each bit. I’ll give you my assessment of “what I think is funny” after each bit.

So, you’ll get summaries for general understanding, and some commentary on the humour as well.

There’s also vocabulary, which I don’t think will be such a problem but we will see. I’ll explain some items of vocabulary that appear.

And as if that’s not enough already, there are scripts of every stand up routine that you hear in this episode. You can check them out on the webpage and use them to understand every single word if that’s what you fancy doing.

So, I would like to know which is your favourite story or routine in this episode. you’re going to hear 5 stories/routines. Please vote for your favourite using the poll on the page for this episode.

In no particular order you will hear these things:

  • Louis CK – The Time I Thought I Would Die
  • Eddie Izzard – Biscuits On A Plane
  • Jerry Seinfeld – At the Airport
  • Ric Elias – 3 Things I Learned When My Plane Crashed

Louis CK’s Story

  1. Louis talks about a time when he was scared for his life. He thought he was going to die. It’s a true story.
  2. He was flying from Indianapolis to New York and there was a delay because of a technical problem with the plane. The fuel guage was broken.
  3. The pilot decided to fly even though he didn’t know how much fuel was in the plane.
  4. Louis just assumed that the pilot knew what he was doing. He unquestionably put his trust in the pilot. Why do we do this?
  5. Louis expresses some concern about the rather relaxed approach to safety which the pilot is taking.
  6. The plane is still delayed because of bad weather at their destination.
  7. The pilot informs the passengers that he is going to lie to the tower, telling them they’re going to Philadelphia, even though they’re going to go to new York.The plan is to say they’re going to Philadelphia, and then at the last minute, ask for permission to land in New York. He thinks the weather is not so bad there.
  8. Again, Louis expresses concern about the attitude of the pilot and he wonders why the pilot is sharing this information with him.
  9. Louis and the other passengers basically accept the situation because, perhaps stupidly, they have faith in the pilot and the whole situation.
  10. The weather during the flight is terrible. There was a big storm.
  11. He managed to listen to the conversation between the plane and the tower in new York.
  12. The tower didn’t allow the plane to land in New York because of bad weather.
  13. They could have run out of fuel and fallen out of the sky at any moment.
  14. suddenly the tower in NY announced that the airport was closed due to bad weather.
  15. The pilot panicked and requested urgent permission to land.
  16. The tower guy allowed him to land, but he was quite annoyed.
  17. The pilot immediately went in for landing.
  18. It was an extremely stressful and dangerous landing in low visibility.
  19. The pilot and all the passengers were extremely emotional at the end.
  20. Even the taxi drivers at the airport were surprised by the dramatic landing of the plane.

Louis CK – When I Thought I Was Going to Die (From the album “Word – Live at Carnegie Hall”)

Buy “Word – Live at Carnegie Hall” by Lous CK here https://www.louisck.net/purchase/word-live-at-carnegie-hall

I’ll tell you this story about one time that I thought I was going to die. I think it’s the only time where I thought “why wouldn’t this be when I die?”

I was on a plane. I’ve been on a lot of planes in a lot of shitty weather and stuff, but this shit was fucked up.

I was in Indianapolis on a plane, waiting to take off, and we’re sitting there and the pilot comes on, and he says “Hi folks, erm, the fuel gauge is broken so we’re waiting for maintenance.”

So, we wait, about 20 minutes. Then he comes back on,

“Folks the fuel gauge is still broken, but we’re going to go anyway. We don’t know how much fuel we have, but we feel confident that it will be okay so we’re going to go.”

And I’m thinking, okay, well, he’s a pilot, I’m sure he’s going by some manual that says, you know, ”(if) the fuel gauge breaks, call maintenance. If they’re not there in 20 minutes, fuck it. Fuel gauges are overrated, just go, you’re fine. Just top it off and remember what happened.”

So then we still don’t take off and the guy comes back on, “err folks we have another problem, LaGuardia Airport in New York won’t give us clearance to take off because the weather’s been bad there intermittently, so we’re going to wait for that.”

So we wait 20 minutes. Then he comes back on, “Folks, LaGuardia still hasn’t given us clearance, but we’re going to go anyway. We’re looking at the radar, we think the weather will be fine. So what we’re going to do is say that our destination is Philadelphia, we’ll get clearance to go there. Halfway to Philadelphia we’ll switch courses to LaGuardia airport and we’ll be probably there in a few minutes.”

I swear to god he said this.

First of all, I’m pretty sure you’re supposed to be honest with the dude in the tower. Does the tower have to go “Really? You’re going to… come on! Tell me where you’re going!”

And why is he telling us this shit? Am I going to have to corroborate this lie if we get pulled over by the sky police at some point in the flight? “Oh no we’re totally going to Philly, I’ve got a brother there and err, we’ve got a thing in Philly”

But I’m still fine with it because we’re travellers on the plane, like “yeah, I’ve got a thing, fuck it, I’m immortal, just go please. Yes, go into marginal weather, with shoddy equipment, secretly. I totally support this plan.”

So, we take off. We get above where we are right now, and it’s just a black motherfucker of a cloud. It’s just like The Wizard of Oz. It’s just there are trees throwing apples at us, it’s crazy. It’s just horrible, and we’re “GUGGGGGUGUGUGU” the whole flight, and we’re making these circles, and me and the guy next to me are both listening to the tower. You know how you can plug into your seat sometimes and you can listen to the tower talk to the airplanes, and we keep hearing our guy trying to get clearance to land, from LaGuardia.

PILOT: “Ah; this is Delta 288 requesting clearance to land.”

TOWER: “Ah, that’s a negative 288. Low visibility.”

A few minutes go by.

PILOT: “Ah, this is 288. We would really like clearance to land.”

TOWER: “Yeah, that’s a negative 288.”

Like he was getting annoyed. And meanwhile, we’re just circling, and burning this vague amount of fuel. We could just stop being an airplane at any second.

And then we hear this. This is all true. The LeGuardia guy comes on and says,

“This is LaGuardia airport to all area airplanes, we are closed for the night, zero visibility, not safe for landing, please divert to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania or Boston.”

And then we hear our guy.

“This is Delta 288, we need to land now! We have no fuel! We have no fuel we have to land right now!”


Then there’s a pause, and then we hear this.

“Well, then, clear to land then 288”

That’s how he said it, like “Dude… (sighs) No-one can see okay? But, just, I … (sighs) I guess all the dumb decisions you made today have made this a good one. Just take a shot, I’m going home. Just fuckin’, turn the lights off after you crash, I don’t give a shit frankly. By the way you’re not supposed to be here you fucking liar you said you were going to Philly.”

So as soon as we get clearance, we just “nyaaaaaaa”, like we start bulleting, “nyaaaaaaa…” We’re either flying desperately towards the ground or falling. I don’t know that there’s a difference.

We come out of the clouds and there’s the fucking earth, right fucking there! It’s right there! That’s what low visibility means. We come out of the clouds and “Oh fuck it’s right there oh jesus!”

And the plane just “nyaaaaaa…” And you can feel the plane go “Oh fuck, I can’t do that, what are you nuts?” We go “brrrrrrr” and veer over the highway, and I swear to god I saw people in their cars go “what the fuuuck?”

And we hit the runway like sideways, like “kapoof!” And the pilot comes back on, all true I swear to god, he’s totally out of breath, he’s like (heavy breathing & shaky voice) “welcome to LaGuardia airport, New York City, (crying) you may turn on your cellphones now and you may call your loved ones.”

He said that. He said “You may call your loved ones” and everybody on the plane was crying and rocking back and forth just sobbing, calling their husbands and their wives. I’m divorced, what am I (going to say) “Hi remember you hate me? Well I almost died.”

And I got in a cab, and the cab driver goes “that was a very bad landing.” I was like, “How did you know that was me?”

“That’s the only plane that landed in 4 hours. We all watched, the drivers, we said ‘they are going to die’”

What I think is funny about this

It’s always a bit of a bad idea to try and explain humour, because it usually kills all the comedy, but what the hell, let’s do it anyway.

Firstly, there aren’t really any jokes in this bit. It’s just the way Louis tells the story, adding some descriptions, some sarcasm, some attitude and drama. That’s it really. The first big laugh comes from the line “fuck it”. As if a manual for a pilot would say “If the fuel guage doesn’t work, fuck it. Just go.” Of course a manual wouldn’t write that. Instead, this indicates the negligent attitude of the pilot who is flauting the safety regulations. This is what is going through the pilot’s head, and is clearly a huge act of negligence.

There’s something funny about copying the voice of a pilot, especially when he’s acting rather irresponsibly. We all hear those pilot’s announcements. This is the guy who we are all trusting our lives to. He usually sounds quite relaxed. Pilots have a certain kind of voice, thankfully. If they sounded different it could be worrying. Anyway, copying his voice is quite amusing.

“I think you’re supposed to be honest with the dude in the tower”. This is a really funny line. It’s understating the formal protocol the pilots must follow. Being honest with the ‘dude’ in the tower is a fundamental responsibility of the pilot. The choice of the word ‘dude’ is also funny because we’re talking in informal terms about normally formal things. This highlights the careless attitude of the pilot.

“Why is he telling us this shit? Do we have to corroborate his story?” True – why was he telling them? The character of the pilot is like a shitty friend who expects you to lie for him.

Everyone on the flight just accepts everything that’s happening. This is a really good observation. We put our trust in people in authority positions very easily. We consider ourselves immortal when we’re not responsible for our own safety. It’s the same in taxis. We never put on our seatbelts in the backs of taxis. Why not?

Louis is just a great storyteller. He brings the story alive with certain detailed descriptions to elicit fear, surprise and so on. He knows just how much detail should be given in the correct places. The humourous bits are delivered with excellent timing. They’re not obvious jokes. He’s a master. He makes it look easy. This is not easy.

Then we have the irritated conversation between the pilot and the tower. The pilot is a total dick and the tower is getting annoyed with him. You don’t expect a pilot to behave like that.

Then the dramatic moment when Louis hears the pilot panicking, which he describes as “interesting”, clearly understating how alarming it must have felt to hear that.

The tower is so pissed off, and this is expressed with the line “Well, clear to land then” which is delivered with so much frustrated despondency by Louis, as if the guy in the tower is a tired parent who has run out of patience with his child. This kind of frustration in a conversation is usually over something like homework or another petty disagreement. In this case people’s lives are involved. Louis’ performance is great. He adds loads of attitude into the conversation between the pilot and the tower. Again, the pilot is a dick, who has everyone’s lives in his hands.

Louis even gives a voice to the plane which has a personality of its own, complaining that the pilot is pushing it too hard – “Dude, I can’t do that!” Expressing how low to the ground they were he mentions people in their cars who he could actually see mouthing the words “What the fuck?” which must have been very scary!

This is just a dramatic and engaging story, which seems to be true, told in a way which highlights the general irony of being at the mercy of a pilot making bad decisions.

By demonstrating that the pilot is emotional and out of breath after the landing, Louis allows us to imagine what we couldn’t see in the cockpit of the plane: the pilot had a really hard time landing the plane and is seriously traumatised. For some reason, letting the audience imagine something for themselves is quite funny. Also, Louis’ impression of the emotional pilot is just quite amusing.

The choice of phrase “You may call your loved ones” also emphasises the emotional nature of the landing. Louis considers calling his ex-wife, who hates him, which clearly would be a pointless move. This highlights Louis’ sense of alienation, and the fact that nobody really cares about him. Louis is like a classical comedy character – lonely, sad, alienated. We also get another character – that of the taxi driver who we learn justwatched the plane land, fully expecting everyone on board to die.

That’s it. Again, explaining it does NO JUSTICE to the quality of Louis’ work. Generally, I find that it helps if you care about the story you’re listening to. If you’re emotionally invested in it, it’s more engaging and therefore funnier. If you believe it’s true for example, it’s likely to be funnier. I expect that’s why Louis often says “I swear this is true”. Please listen to the routine again. Please care about it – you’ll find it more enjoyable and rewarding.

In case you were in any doubt about the comic value of that routine, Louis CK is widely considered to be perhaps the funniest stand-up working on the scene at the moment. He is a celebrated comedian. Anyone who knows anything about comedy knows that he’s great. If you were doubting if he really is that funny, well, I would say yes he is. In the end of course, humour is subjective – but it may help you find it funny if you know that many others do too.

Eddie Izzard – Biscuits on a Plane
Here’s my basic version of Eddie’s routine about eating biscuits on a plane. Again, I’m doing this so you can understand the main point, and then compare this description with Eddie’s version. It may allow you to notice the humourous aspects of it.

  1. Eddie describes a flight from Cork in the Republic of Ireland to Belfast in Northern Ireland. It’s not a long flight, and so the plane is really small. In fact there were only about 6 people on board.
  2. He walked across the runway to the tiny plane, carrying his bags. It felt like he was in the Beatles.
  3. The pilot was waiting by the plane, which reminded him of going on holiday with his Dad when he was a kid.
  4. He describes a few things which felt odd about being on such a small plane. The pilot was right there in front of them, and yet he still did the formal announcement like on bigger flights.
  5. He talks about the fact there was no co-pilot, but that the pilot had brought coffee and biscuits to share with everyone.
  6. He talks about the safety considerations of flying, including the idea of ‘bird strike’ which is when birds can go through the jet engine of a plane, causing an accident, although Eddie doesn’t agree with the term bird strike, because the birds aren’t choosing to strike the engine, but rather they are being sucked into the engine against their will.
  7. The pilot on the tiny plane gave the safety announcements, but people don’t usually listen to the safety announcements, so perhaps the staff should make it sound like there’s going to be an accident just to make sure people listen properly.
  8. Eddie makes fun of the life jacket and other safety procedures.
  9. Eddie describes the fact that the in-flight refreshments were some coffee and biscuits shared by the pilot. He notices that the pilot has a secret stash of chocolate biscuits and jammy dodgers, which he doesn’t share with the other passengers. He gets into an argument with the pilot over why he deserves to be given chocolate biscuits. This ends in the pilot crashing the plane into a mountain in order to win the argument.
  10. Eddie dies at the end of the story.

Eddie Izzard – Biscuits on a Plane
Download “Glorious” by Eddie Izzard in iTunes here https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/eddie-izzard-glorious/id334208655

I had to do a flight last year on a tour which as from Cork to Belfast. There were only 6 passengers, and someone turned up and said “Well, we’re not going to put you on the 747 because that would be laughable, so we’ve got a Volkswagon Beetle with wings for you.

We had our bags, we didn’t give them to anyone, we just walked with them. Obviously I didn’t walk like this, that was comedy, I was walking like this, because that’s a better mime position, otherwise you just think I’m walking, but that’s with bags you see, in case you ever need it, you know in Nigeria and… They’re very big in mime in … anyway…

So yes I was walking along with the bags and going through. It’s a very small airport, you just go through a wooden door and someone goes “beep” “Oh there’s a problem there, I’d better check”.

And walking across the runway to get to the plane. If you ever do that, walking with your bags across a runway to an aeroplane you feel like The Beatles with squirrels going “Aahhhh”

We got there and the pilot was right by the plane. It was just like going on holiday with your Dad. He was going “Come on! Come on! Come on you don’t need that! Right!”

“That’s my bag! Bloody hell”

“Come on get in we’re going to miss the clouds, come on!”

So we get in and he was taxiing over to the runway, “Come on heads down put your head down I can’t see! Come on!”

And he was right there. We were sitting right here. I could touch him on the shoulder, just like in the car with your Dad. He was doing… even though you could turn around and talk to us he was still doing “This is your pilot speaking. Welcome to flight 1 from here to there. We’re going to be flying at a height of 10 feet, going up to a height of 12.5 feet if we see anything big. Your co-pilot today is a thermos of coffee.”

I thought there was a rule in flying that you have to have two pilots in case one goes “Oh for fuck’s sake” (and collapses) and the other one goes “I’ll take over!” Dun-da-de-dun-da-daa “I’ve got one of my own!”

People in the back “I’ve got one!”

We had a thermos of coffee that was going to fly us home.

And he’s there and doing the stuff and we’re getting into flying and, they have a word in airports, the industry, the airways industry have a thing called bird-strike, bird-strike it’s called. It’s when a flock of birds, just flying along “oh what a wonderful day, the sun’s…” splat! They go straight through a jet engine! It’s called bird-strike and it’s a misnomer, it’s not true because the birds aren’t striking, it’s an ‘engine-suck’. It’s an ‘engine-making-bird-soup-melange’ you know?

These birds aren’t going, “Who’s for bird strike eh? Johnny Human’s got these big metal buggers and they piss me off! I vote we go for bird strike! Alfie, Ginger, Stevie, Feathers, Stephens, Big Beak O’Reilly, Jimmy The Penguin, are you with me? Oh you’re a penguin so you stay here. Come on let’s do bird strike! Dun-da-de-dun-da-daa Faster faster! 747!” SPLAT

And just before they go through, do they go “look there’s Rod Stewart in first class” splat.

We don’t know.

But umm, they do the safety announcements there. My guy on my plane was going, “the safety instructions… the safety instructions are here, next to me. If you see me go through this door then please follow me quickly.”

If you’ve been in a big aeroplane recently, no-one is listening. It’s a problem I believe because noone’s listening to the security announcements, you know the safety things, because everyone’s going “yeah yeah, there there there lights, flash flash … and death”

Umm, it’s a kind of “yeah alright, you know, huuu”

But the pilots have been told to sort of, you know, pick up the importance of these speeches, and there going “please do listen to the safety… please do because we’ve changed things around now, so yeah you don’t know what we’re doing. We’re putting the lifejacket on back to front. Some of the safety exits are false now, they’re not true at all. Listen very carefully because I’ve got a bad feeling about this flight. I don’t think we’re going to make it.”

After that announcement everyone’s going “Show me! Show me! Show me everything! Private showing – show me again, that’s good, now I’m putting it on now, fuck it I’m putting it on now!”

Let’s all have a cup of coffee thanks. And they have these lifejackets, and they, you pull it and pffffff and you’ve got a little pipe here for top up. I don’t know about you but I don’t want top up. I want stays up. Top up implies hole in, implies having to (blows heavily) I want fucking stays up no hole in the first place thank you very much! Bloody top up? No, it’s all a bit, sort of, ‘tea and crumpets with the vicar’ “top up” you know. You crash in the atlantic, bobbing around, going “oh you survived as well… care for a top up? You couldn’t top me up could you? No I didn’t need it I’m just trying to break the ice. Hey float over here float over here. Look: two pipes – pan pipes! Doo doo doo doo doo.”

It’s 2000 miles to Europe, 1000 miles to America, you’ve got your whistle “Peeeeee” The little light going “beep beep” And after a while a pilot fish comes up and goes “Eh Eh! That’s my gag! WHat weird people” And there’s Noah shooting around in a speedboat going “Nurrrrrr-  If anyone’s got big ears you can get in and sit on the side. Photos for the Bible”

So I was in my aeroplane in my small aeroplane and the guy’s there, and we have drinks and light refreshments, when we get above the clouds, and coffee comes back from the thermos, and you go ooh, cheers, ta mate and that goes back, and he had this wicker basket with biscuits in, digestive, you know not terribly interesting. So I take the best ones, and it goes back to the guy at the back who goes “all these are crap”. You know when you’re not hungry but you get offered a biscuit, you want better than that, you know. “I didn’t want anything, but err, what have you got? Ohh”

So I’m nibbling my biscuits and drinking my coffee and I notice out of the corner of my eye the pilot reaches under his jacket and pulls out chocolate biscuits and in a flash I realise he’s hidden them there and taken them out of the wicker basket and hidden them underneath, and I knew that because that’s what I would have done. You know when you’ve got friends round, “Do you want some biscuits, I’ll just go and get you some biscuits and you’re in the kitchen and you go “Oh, I’ll just have one” Someone comes over, “Do you want a hand?” “Oh no no no. Just letting this mouse run over my hands here” [This is a VISUAL JOKE]

So the pilot’s there eating chocolate biscuits and I’m there going “Heeeeey, chocolate biscuits? Eh! Digestive! Crap, biscuit.”

He’s going “Get off! (I’m the) pilot! You know, stress! Chocolate biscuit! What the hell?”

And I’m going “No! Customer! Customer’s always right. Digestive crap biscuits?”

“Fuck off! Five years training for this! Hard time! Chocolate biscuits. Perks of the trade.”

“I don’t agree…”

“Fuckin’…” Naaaaaaaaaa (He starts flying towards the ground)

“Hold on hold on!”


“What were you saying about chocolate biscuits?”

“No, fine! HAve the chocolate biscuits! I don’t care I don’t care!”

Nyaaaaaaaa (he steadies the plane) “…chocolate biscuits”

20 minutes later, reaches in and pulls out jammy dodgers!

“Jammy dodgers?!”

NAAAAAAAA (he flies at the ground again)


And we hit a mountain, and I died.

So that was the end of that plane flight, and err… and that is also the end of the show, so thank you very much for being here. Good night.

What’s Funny About This? (In my opinion)

Really, it’s all about Eddie and his idiosyncratic style. It’s a cute story, with some observational comedy around the subject of flying, but really it’s Eddie’s unique postmodern approach which makes it special for me.

The way he talks is amusing to me.

He bends reality. It’s surreal.

He deconstructs the whole performance – doing mime jokes and generally being self-conscious.

You know, I think with Eddie, either you get it or you don’t and no amount of explaining will change your mind. He’s a bit like Marmite.

Some specific things from the routine:

“We’ve got a Volkswagon Beetle with wings for you” – an image to describe the crappy little plane.

The visual mime joke about the way he walks. This is just a joke about how miming an action has to be quite specific because different mimes suggest different things. You have to watch the video.

You go through the wooden door and someone goes ‘beep’. The security is so basic that it’s just a person saying ‘beep’, not a security system.

The comparison between the pilot and his Dad, which highlights how small and cosy the flight was, while also having nostalgiac comedy value. Sometimes comedians will get lots of laugh from inciting the audience to just remember something from the past – like old mobile phones described in detail or in this case those memories of going on holiday with your parents. Comedians often do this – describe shared past memories in detail and the audience gets a pleasant nostalgic thrill from it.

The other thing is just making observations, with a specific attitude. This is the basis of a whole form of stand up comedy – observational humour. Lots of comics do this. Just observe or notice specific details about commonly experienced things, and express them with an attitude (usually questioning the strangeness of these small details we all experience). Jerry Seinfeld is the master of this. Eddie Izzard does it a lot, and in this routine he does quite a lot of this – talking about the safety routines on planes, the lifejacket and so on. We can all relate to this. Also, the juxtaposition of these familiar things in such a small plane.

Questioning the logic behind the term ‘bird strike’ and renaming it ‘engine suck’, and then voicing the thoughts of birds who team up to take down aeroplanes. For some reason they are portrayed like brave young WW2 era British pilots, like in the battle of Britain.

Then there’s the whole scene with the pilot and his secret supply of biscuits. I don’t really know why this is funny – I can’t explain it. I just enjoy Eddie’s account of arguing with the pilot and the reasons why they should or shouldn’t be allowed to share the chocolate biscuits.

Then the cheeky ending in which he dies, which is a playful deconstruction of first person story archetypes. Of course it’s impossible for him to have died at the end of the story. In the video I love the cheeky look on Eddie’s face at this point.

I just love Eddie.

Did I mention that I met him and had dinner with him earlier this year? Just saying…

Jerry Seinfeld – Airplane Flights
This is a famous comedy routine by one of the most well-known comedians in the world, but I shouldn’t build it up because it could end up being an anti-climax. Don’t expect too much, just try to follow what he’s saying. Basically, Jerry talks about various aspects of airports and flying, zoning in on some of the more ridiculous or pointless aspects of that experience. Observational comedy. Here are the observations. For me, it’s all about Jerry’s delivery, timing and choice of words.

Jerry’s Observations

  1. Jerry sarcastically points out that the people who work in airport security are quite incompetent and unmotivated, and probably not very bright. He wonders why the staff are so bored and lazy, using sarcasm.
  2. He describes the fact that the woman you typically see at security is quite fat and her trousers are stretched almost to breaking point. This would be quite cruel if it wasn’t so well worded. Jerry has a reputation for being a clean comic, but if you look more closely he is actually quite aggressively anti-social. He holds the whole world in contempt, which is hugely enjoyable because let’s face it – we hate queueing up in the airport and having to listen to the safety announcement. He’s just voicing the thoughts we all have in our heads in those situations. “What’s with these people? I mean, really?”
  3. He suggests that the x-ray machine is useless because it’s impossible to identify any objects, and the guy looking at the screen is unable to identify any bombs or weapons or anything.
  4. He wonders why the taps (or faucets) in airports have those special ‘on-off’ buttons. Why don’t they have normal taps? Don’t they trust us to use normal taps?
  5. He wonders why sandwiches are sooo expensive in airports.
  6. He wonders why the pilot tells us everything he’s going to do, and in a self-satisfied voice. We don’t need to know really. All we care about is that we get to our destination.
  7. He observes that the safety announcement is patronising – as if we need to be told how to open that old fashioned belt buckle. Of course he doesn’t mention this is explained to us for legal reasons, instead focusing on the fact that it’s just odd and annoying the way we are patronised so much in these situations.
  8. He notices that the stewardesses are very vague when pointing out the emergency exits during the safety announcement. The arm movements are always pretty vague aren’t they? It also looks like some sort of musical number in a Broadway production.
  9. He mentions that everything on the plane is tiny, even the language they use to diminish problems during the flight.
  10. He points out the idiosyncrasies of the aeroplane toilet, particularly the presence of a hole for razor disposal. Who is shaving on these flights?

Jerry Seinfeld – Airplane Flights

But I love to travel. I love it whether it’s a car or whether it’s a plane.

I like to get out there, I like to keep it moving.

I love airports. Feel safe in the airports thanks to the high caliber individuals

we have working at X-ray security.

How ’bout this crack squad of savvy motivated personnel?

The way you wanna setup your airport’s security, is you want the short, heavy set women at the front with the skin tight uniform.

That’s your first line of defense.

You want those pants so tight the flap in front of the zipper has pulled itself open, you can see the metal tangs hanging on for dear life.

Then you put the bag on the conveyor belt. It goes through the little luggage car wash.

Then you have the other genius, down at the other end, looking at the little X-ray TV screen.

This Eistein has chosen to stand in front of X-rays 14 hours a day as his profession.

Looking in that thing…

I have looked in that TV screen. I cannot make out one object.

He’s standing there… “What is that? A hairdryer with a scope on it?”

“That looks ok. Keep it moving.”

“Some sort of bowling ball candle? Yeah, I got no problem with that, just…”

“You know, we don’t wanna hold up the line.”

So, I go to the bathroom in the airport.

What is the story on the sinks in airport bathrooms that they will not give us a twist-it-on twist-it-off, human-style faucet?

Is that too risky for the general population?

Too dangerous? We gotta install the one-handed, spring-loaded, pain-in-the-ass Alcatraz-style faucet.

You know, those ones you gotta go: “Hey, boy I got a little water there”

“Hey I got a couple of drops.”

What is it they think we would do with a faucet?

Turn them all on full, run out into the parking lot,

laughing, pushing each other into the bushes?

“Come on, the water’s on, let’s go!”

“I turned it on full blast.”

“You idiot! We’re businessmen, we’re gonna miss our plane.”

“Who cares! Water!”

That’s how they think we’re gonna act.

Do the people that work in these little shops in the airport have any idea what the prices are every place else in the world?

“Yeah, $14 a tuna sandwich. We think that’s fair.”

Then you get on the plane. The pilot of course always has to come on the PA system.

This guy is so excited about being a pilot, he can’t even stand himself.

“Well, I’m gonna take it up to about 20,000.”

“Then I’m gonna make a left by Pittsburg.”

“Then I’m gonna make a right by Chicago.”

“And then I’m gonna bring it down to 15,000.”

He’s giving the whole route, all his moves.

We’re in the back going: “Yeah, fine.”

“You know, just do whatever the hell you gotta do. I don’t know.”

“Just end-up where it says on the ticket, really.”

Do I bother him with what I’m doing?

Knocking on the cockpit door: “I’m having the peanuts now.”

“Yeah, that’s what we’re doing back here.”

“I thought I’d keep you posted.”

“I’m not gonna have them all now, I’m just gonna have a few.”

“I don’t wanna finish it because it’s such a big bag.”

Then the stewardesses have to come out.

They have to do their little emergency equipment show.

You know, that thing they do. One of them reads it, the other one acts it out.

“Hey, we have seatbelts and oxygen masks.”

“Things for you to use.”

They show you how to use the seatbelt, in case you haven’t been in a car since 1965.

“Oh, you lift up on the buckle! Oh!”

“I was trying to break the metal apart.”

“I thought that’s how it works.”

“I was gonna try and tear the fabric part of the belt.”

“I thought if I could just get it started…”

Then they’re always pointing out the emergency exits,

always with that very vague point though, isn’t it?

“Where the hell would these places be?”, would you say.

The plane’s at a 90 degrees angle, your hair is on fire,

you’re looking for this.

How you think you’re gonna do there?

She’s thinking: “I’m getting out before you’re getting out.”

“You’re dead, you’re dead, I’m gone.”

Then they always have to close that first class curtain, too.

They always give you that little look.

“Maybe if you had worked a little harder… I wouldn’t have to do this.”

It’s all a tiny world on the airplane, isn’t it?

There’s always that little tiny table there, tiny computer,

little cramped seats, tiny food, tiny utensils,

tiny liquor bottles, tiny bathroom, tiny sink, tiny mirror, tiny faucet.

So, there’s a small problem, there’s gonna be a slight delay,

we’re gonna be a little late.

I always go in the airplane’s bathroom, even if I don’t have to go,

I gotta go in there.

It’s nice. It’s like your own little apartment on the plane, isn’t it?

You go in there, lock the door, the light comes on after second.

It’s like a little surprise party.

But I’m always impressed with the amount of equipment that they have in that place.

I mean it’s little, but they got tissues, towels, closets, compartments,

tiny slot for used razor blades. They always have that.

Who is shaving on the plane?

And shaving so much they’re using up razor blades?

Is this what’s happening?

What? Is the wolf man flying in there, for Christ’s sakes?

Who could shave that much?

What’s funny about this?

Well, it’s the wording, the timing, the delivery, the world-weary attitude, the fact that I know exactly what he means, and all the observations he points out.

I simply suggest that you listen again, and read the transcript and buy “I’m Telling You For The Last Time” on CD or DVD. It’s a masterclass in observational comedy.

The stuff about the staff is sarcastic. He describes them as ‘high-calibre’, ‘Einstein’ and ‘geniuses’ when in fact they’re quite the opposite. My favourite line is “Look at this crack squad of savvy motivated personnel.” A crack squad is a specialised team, like a team of excellent soldiers. The best of the best. ‘Savvy’ means that they have expert knowledge. ‘Motivated’ you know, and ‘personnel’ is a professional word to refer to members of staff. He’s describing them like a highly skilled team of experts. Obviously, they appear to be lazy, unmotivated and unambitious.

The bit about the x-ray machine always cracks me up. He describes the thoughts of the ‘Einstein’ who has chosen to sit in front of an x-ray machine for 14 hours a day. The guy is looking into the screen, completely misidentifying dangerous items – “What is that? A hairdryer with a scope on it?” – This is clearly some kind of gun.

“That looks ok. Keep it moving.”

“Some sort of bowling ball candle? Yeah, I got no problem with that, just…” – This is obviously a bomb.

But he lets all of them through.

Voicing the decision making process of the people who priced the sandwiches always amuses me. “14 dollars a tuna sandwich? Yeah we think that’s fair.” It’s clearly unfair, and  ‘it’s funny because it’s true!’

I love the bit where he voices the smug pilot explaining the route,

This guy is so excited about being a pilot, he can’t even stand himself.

“Well, I’m gonna take it up to about 20,000.”

“Then I’m gonna make a left by Pittsburg.”

“Then I’m gonna make a right by Chicago.”

“And then I’m gonna bring it down to 15,000.”

He’s giving the whole route, all his moves.

We’re in the back going: “Yeah, fine.”

“You know, just do whatever the hell you gotta do. I don’t know.”

“Just end-up where it says on the ticket, really.”

Do I bother him with what I’m doing?

Knocking on the cockpit door: “I’m having the peanuts now.”

I love that bit about “I’m having the peanuts now”


It goes on.

To be honest, it’s just a class act, it really is. I hope you enjoy it. That’s the point, it’s for your enjoyment. Sometimes it’s worth remembering that you should just go with this kind of comedy. Don’t try too hard to understand it on a deep level or anything. Just enjoy the delivery, the choice of words, the to and fro with the audience, the rhythm of the comedian telling jokes and constructing stories and the audience coming back with laughter at regular intervals. It’s very pleasant and pleasing to me. I can’t imagine something better to listen to as a way of improving your English, except just any episode of LEP of course ;)

Ric Elias – 3 Things I Learned When My Plane Crashed

This is not a stand-up routine, it’s just an awesome true story and we love engaging true stories on LEP don’t we? I thought it would be a good way to end this episode of the podcast.

This is an account of someone who was on board US Airways Flight 1549 which had to crash land in the Hudson River after a bird strike during take-off from LaGuardia airport in 2009. The pilot was a real hero as he managed to land in the Hudson River with no loss of life.

Here the storyteller reflects on what it is like to face your death, and what he learned from that. It’s worth remembering that we shouldn’t take anything for granted!

Ric Elias – 3 Things I Learned When My Plane Crashed

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Imagine a big explosion as you climb through 3,000 ft. Imagine a plane full of smoke. Imagine an engine going clack, clack, clack, clack, clack, clack, clack. It sounds scary. Well I had a unique seat that day. I was sitting in 1D. I was the only one who could talk to the flight attendants. So I looked at them right away, and they said, “No problem. We probably hit some birds.” The pilot had already turned the plane around, and we weren’t that far. You could see Manhattan. Two minutes later, three things happened at the same time. The pilot lines up the plane with the Hudson River. That’s usually not the route. (Laughter)He turns off the engines. Now imagine being in a plane with no sound. And then he says three words –the most unemotional three words I’ve ever heard. He says, “Brace for impact.” I didn’t have to talk to the flight attendant anymore. (Laughter) I could see in her eyes, it was terror. Life was over.

Now I want to share with you three things I learned about myself that day. I learned that it all changes in an instant. We have this bucket list, we have these things we want to do in life, and I thought about all the people I wanted to reach out to that I didn’t, all the fences I wanted to mend, all the experiences I wanted to have and I never did. As I thought about that later on, I came up with a saying, which is, “I collect bad wines.” Because if the wine is ready and the person is there, I’m opening it. I no longer want to postpone anything in life. And that urgency, that purpose, has really changed my life.

The second thing I learned that day — and this is as we clear the George Washington Bridge, which was by not a lot — I thought about, wow, I really feel one real regret. I’ve lived a good life. In my own humanity and mistakes, I’ve tried to get better at everything I tried. But in my humanity, I also allow my ego to get in. And I regretted the time I wasted on things that did not matter with people that matter. And I thought about my relationship with my wife, with my friends, with people. And after, as I reflected on that, I decided to eliminate negative energy from my life. It’s not perfect, but it’s a lot better. I’ve not had a fight with my wife in two years. It feels great. I no longer try to be right; I choose to be happy.

The third thing I learned — and this is as your mental clock starts going, “15, 14, 13.” You can see the water coming. I’m saying, “Please blow up.” I don’t want this thing to break in 20 pieces like you’ve seen in those documentaries. And as we’re coming down, I had a sense of, wow, dying is not scary. It’s almost like we’ve been preparing for it our whole lives. But it was very sad. I didn’t want to go; I love my life. And that sadness really framed in one thought, which is, I only wish for one thing. I only wish I could see my kids grow up. About a month later, I was at a performance by my daughter — first-grader, not much artistic talent … … yet. (Laughter) And I’m bawling, I’m crying, like a little kid. And it made all the sense in the world to me. I realized at that point, by connecting those two dots, that the only thing that matters in my life is being a great dad. Above all, above all, the only goal I have in life is to be a good dad.

I was given the gift of a miracle, of not dying that day. I was given another gift, which was to be able to see into the future and come back and live differently. I challenge you guys that are flying today, imagine the same thing happens on your plane — and please don’t — but imagine, and how would you change?What would you get done that you’re waiting to get done because you think you’ll be here forever? How would you change your relationships and the negative energy in them? And more than anything, are you being the best parent you can?

Thank you.


He described the crash landing as a miracle, but was it really?

What do you think?

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201. Nikolay Kulikov: A Russian Comedian in London

Nikolay Kulikov is an award-winning Russian screenwriter and stand-up comedian. This year he spent a couple of months living in London (and also briefly in Dublin) performing stand-up comedy. I saw one of his performances in English on video and thought he was very funny! So, I decided to contact him for an interview to find out more about him, his experiences learning English, his views on performing to British & Irish people, and how he feels about life in Russia these days. I hope you enjoy the episode! **Please be aware that this episode features some rude language and swearing** Right-click here to download.

Small Donate Button
Here is an email I sent to Nikolay, inviting him to be on the podcast, and his reply:

Dear Nikolay,

My name is Luke Thompson and I am an English teacher and stand-up comedian. I do a podcast called Luke’s English Podcast. It has listeners all around the world, and many of them are from Russia. Recently one of my Russian listeners sent me a message with a video of you performing stand-up in Ireland. I thought it was really funny. You’ve got great jokes and a lot of talent.

I was wondering if I could interview you by Skype some time and feature the interview on the podcast. Essentially, I’m interested in your story. How did you learn English? What made you start doing stand-up? Where have you performed around the world? How is your comedy received in Russia, particularly some of the slightly controversial things you say about the place?

I think you’d be a great guest and my listeners would enjoy hearing from you. You will also be heard by thousands of people around the world so it would work as publicity for you too. Let me know if you’re interested in being interviewed over Skype some time, perhaps next week.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you.

All the best,

Luke Thompson

Nikolay’s Reply:

Hi Luke!
It was a pleasure to receive such a wonderful letter.
Yes, let’s do this! I’ve got a lot to talk about and it can be real fun.
Next week is excellent.

ninja_tune_largeThanks to Anna Khazan and Natalia Dalik for bringing Nikolay to my attention and helping me to contact him. You’re my LEP Ninjas!

Nikolay’s Stand-Up in English in Ireland

Find Nikolay on Twitter, YouTube and VK Nikolay Kulikov

The Spoon Thing from The Matrix – “There Is No Spoon”
You might have heard Nikolay and me talking about a spoon in this episode, and wondered what we were talking about. You might have thought, “There is no spoon” – what do they mean? If you found that to be a little bit mysterious, let me explain it to you!

It’s from a scene in the movie The Matrix (1999).

I don’t know if you’ve seen the film, but the basic premise is that the human race has been enslaved by machines. The machines have connected everyone to a computer programme which replicates the real world. It’s an incredibly convincing simulation of real life. It’s so convincing that most people don’t realise that it’s just a dream, and that in reality they are slaves to machines. Some people have “woken up” and realised that the reality in which they are living is just a dream. Those people form a rebellion in order to fight against the machines. They are able to move in and out of the matrix whenever they want. One of the key members of the rebellion is a guy called Neo (Keanu Reeves). Some of the others believe he is the chosen one who will allow the humans to defeat the machines, but in order to do so he first has to learn to understand the nature of the matrix (in fact just a computer programme) and then to control it from within. In the first film we follow Neo as he learns about the matrix and begins to understand how to control it. One of the concepts at the heart of this film is that reality is just what we perceive – that there is no ‘reality’ there is just the way we perceive the world through our senses, and if you learn to control your senses, you can then control reality. The things we see are just our imagination. We’re living in a dream, and it may be possible for us to become lucid within the dream, and therefore control everything that happens all around us. It’s deep, man. There’s also some wicked kung fu.

So, the spoon thing.
There is a key scene in the film in which Neo learns about how to control the matrix. He encounters a boy who has learned to bend spoons using only the power of his mind. The boy holds up a spoon, and it bends. Neo is amazed and asks the boy how he does it. The boy says “You have to realise that there is no spoon. There is only you.” What he means is – you have to realise that the world you see is just created by your senses (which are being controlled by the matrix programme), so in order to bend the spoon you have to remember that the spoon does not exist, and that it is just the product of your senses. If you can control yourself, then you can control the world around you. Neo picks up the spoon and for a moment he manages to make it bend. This is an important moment for Neo, and after this he learns how to control the matrix, and then fight back against the machines which are enslaving the human race. You can see the scene below (YouTube video).

Some people think the film is a profound meditation about the nature of reality. Other people just think it’s an awesome kung-fu movie. For me, it’s a bit of both – philosophy and kung-fu. It’s a good combination!