The British sense of humor

Do you stay up nights worrying that the British have lost their sense of humor? Put those fears to rest, folks, because it’s alive and well and utterly bizarre. Let’s start (and mostly stay) with the political landscape. What other country boasts an Official Monster Raving Loony Party, a Church of the Militant Elvis Party, and a yogic flying party (which isn’t its official name and the party doesn’t think it’s funny, but we’ll get to that)?

Let’s start with the Monster Raving Loony Party, which was founded by Screaming Lord Sutch and someone with a less interesting name so never mind him. Sutch ran in 41 elections as a candidate for various parties. One of the early ones was the Go to Blazes Party, but then he perfected the art of party-naming and remained a Monster Raving Loony for the rest of his life. The highest number of votes he ever got was 1,114. He’s now gone to that great election campaign in the sky, where I’m sure he’s getting all the votes he deserves (I have no idea how many that would be), and the current leader is Howling Laud Hope.

Irrelevant photo: Birds nesting in postal box, by D.L. Keur. Some of you will have already seem this--I posted a link last week. But D.L. was kind enough to email me the photo so no one can escape. Thanks, D.L. Much appreciated.

Irrelevant photo: Birds nesting in postal box, by D.L. Keur. Some of you will have already seen this, since I posted a link last week. But D.L. was kind enough to email me the photo so no one can escape. Thanks, D.L. The world’s just a smidgen better because a few extra people get to see this.

The party’s policies include fitting air bags to the stock exchange in preparation for the next crash and marking any puddle deeper than 3 inches with a yellow plastic duck. I can’t find it on their web site, probably because I didn’t look closely enough, but I read somewhere else that they want to address global warming by fitting air conditioners to the outside of buildings.

Folks, this is what the world needs: A realistic approach to global warming and the instability of the economy. With yellow plastic ducks.

I can’t explain why the party’s made Official part of its name. Did someone start an unofficial one? Was there a split, with both sides accusing each other of not being true to the party’s principles? Did some part of the membership hold that only puddles deeper than six inches needed to be marked with plastic ducks, or that the ducks didn’t need to be yellow? Until someone goes to a convention and reports back (or on a lower level of commitment, contacts them and asks), the mystery will remain. If I had a shred of respect for myself as a journalist, I’d do email them, but the truth is that I’m no journalist.

Remind me: What do you get out of reading this blog?

Moving on, the Church of the Militant Elvis Party is led by David Bishop, whose name can’t compete with the leaders of the Monster Raving Loony Party. Maybe that’s why he’s also registered several Elvis-themed campaign groups, including the Bus-pass Elvis Party, the Elvis Defence League, and the Elvis and the Yeti Himalayan Preservation Party. I’m not sure what the difference is, in this context, between a political party and a campaign group, and I seriously doubt it matters.

In 2005, the party ran a candidate in Erewash, which is a real place and, sadly, not pronounced Earwash. Based on the usual Google search I do when something’s this earthshaking (hey, I go all out for this blog), I learned that “most people” around there pronounce it Errywash—like ferrywash, but without the F.

I didn’t find any mention of how not-most people around there pronounce it, but it does make a person wonder.

The same search taught me that I can get the wax micro-suctioned out of my ear for just £25—or £35 if I’d rather have it done in the privacy of my own home, because I might feel a little, you know, private about my ears, even though I do walk around with them hanging out for all the world to see. Whoever’s offering that price doesn’t know where I live or they’d charge more.

I’m not usually followed around the internet by earwax ads, so I couldn’t help wondering if the great googlemaster thinks I don’t know how to spell ear or if the great googlemaster just has a sense of humor.

But we were talking about the Church of the Militant Elvis Party. Bishop ran on a promise to (among other things) go to the North Pole and yell at the icebergs to stop melting. He campaigned in a red cat suit, claimed he was heckled—I can’t think why—and got 116 votes. In 2010, his platform included digging moats around houses. No, he didn’t volunteer to dig them. It’s only by following the implications of his campaign promise that I got to the verb dig, and I may be assuming too much. What I read actually said he wanted to introduce them. House, meet moat. Moat, meet house.

Job done. It’s quick, it’s cheap, and it keeps the campaign promise.

Finally we come to the Natural Law Party, which grew out of the transcendental meditation organization. If I remember correctly, some decades ago they trademarked their name and insisted that it be spelled with initial caps and followed by the letters TM, not because that’s an abbreviation of transcendental meditation but to mark that the name was trademarked. I was working as an editor at the time and I wrestled bare-handed with issues of this sort on a daily basis. And lived to tell the tale. So what could I say but, “Oh, yeah? How you gonna make me?”

I said that to myself, mind you, since no one else cared. But that sort of thing mattered to me. And it still does—enough for me to lower case the organization’s name even though capping it would make sense. It is an organization. That is its name. Names are capitalized. But hey, if it matters that much to them, I’m happy to do the opposite.

It’s a good thing I’m writing about political parties instead of running for office. Power goes right to my head.

The Natural Law Party seems to take itself seriously. As well it should. According to the BBC article I linked to just above, “It promised in 1997 to create an ‘ideal quality of life – prosperity, creativity and happiness [for all]’, crime would be reduced by creating coherence in national consciousness, and defence would depend on an integrated national consciousness to make Britain invincible.”

The logic of that sounds as shaky as the grammar, but apparently that would all happen through meditation and yogic flying.

“Yogic what???” you ask.

Why yogic flying, silly, which if you watch the video you’ll learn consists of bouncing around on a mattress with your legs pretzeled across each other like the Buddha’s.

I’m not an expert on the Buddha, but I’m quite sure he didn’t bounce around on a mattress. I don’t think anyone had gotten around to inventing bouncy mattresses back then.

When the Natural Law Party withdrew from the electoral process, it blamed the negativity and cynicism of the electorate. The BBC kinda thought it might have had something to do with how much money it cost them to run each campaign. But hey, that’s cynicism for you.

Enough politics. A final note, to prove the British sense of humor extends from politics into real life: I took a load of brush clippings to the dump the other day (that’s the tip if you’re British), and a guy who worked there helped me empty the car. They do that there if they have the time. It’s very nice, and they’re very nice, and even I managed to be nice. After we’d tossed the last bits of greenery, I found a snail in the back seat.

“Want a snail?” I said for no reason I can quite explain, although I’ll offer a few alternatives. Pick the one you like: It was there. Thanks didn’t seem like enough and I hadn’t thought to bring brownies. I’m a wise-ass and my mouth doesn’t always consult my brain.

“Thanks,” he said after only the smallest hint of hesitation, “but I’m trying to give them up.”

While we’re (marginally) on the subject of thanks, I owe many of them to—argh: someone for suggesting this topic, sending me a couple of initial links, and telling me about the Church of the Militant Elvis Party, thereby enriching my life significantly. (I already knew a bit about the other two but hadn’t thought of writing about them.) We exchanged several comments and I enjoyed the conversation. You’d think I’d know who it was, wouldn’t you? It’s really rude not to remember but I thought (a) that wouldn’t happen and (b) if it did (I know what my memory’s like and I never completely trust it) I could just pick it up from the comments section.

Yes, indeed I could, but which post were we exchanging comments at the end of? None of the ones I checked, and I zipped through a lot of them. So whoever you are, forgive me. And let me know who you are. Please. I’d meant to post a link to your blog, if only I’d been bright enough to leave myself a trail of virtual breadcrumbs, and I can still do that in a follow-up post.

Finally, if anyone wants to push me in the direction of a topic, please do. I don’t promise to write about it–some topics work for me and some just don’t, and I still haven’t found a way to predict which ones will set me going. But I love getting suggestions. It’s the Comments section that makes this so much fun to write.

76 thoughts on “The British sense of humor

  1. Sounds like your friend at the dump/tip was a Goons fan.

    Okay so the Goon Show was first broadcast in the 1950s but they are being re-run on Radio4Extra, if you want British humour in extremis, that’s the place to go.

    Thing is, those shows had a running gag that might be “Here, have a picture of Queen Victoria” “No thanks I’m trying to give them up” or “Here have a gorilla” “No, I only smoke monkeys, they’re milder”, or some other variation.


    He’s a Goons fan.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, damn. And here I was crediting him for being quick on his feet. I never have seen any of the Goons shows. Some odd bit of chemistry interferes with Wild Thing’s and my appreciation of British comedy shows, although the sense of humor in real life delights us. I’m not going to try to explain that, but I might be wiser to avoid the Good shows and rely on your description, which does make me laugh.


      • The Goons was a Radio Show broadcast in the 1950s. It was written by Spike Milligan and sometimes co-writers like Eric Sykes and Michael Bentine (Britain’s craziest Argentinian comedian). It starred Spike, Peter Sellers and Harry Secombe and the long-suffering announcer Wallace Greenslade. It was (and is) utterly surreal, and audiences loved it. I’m too young to have heard the original broadcasts, but I discovered the series when in my teens, and I’ve never looked back. As Steve Turnbull says above, the shows are regularly broadcast on Radio 4 Extra and they’re still very funny after all these years.

        Oh, and Prince Charles is a fan too.

        BTW: BBC Radio 4 Extra broadcasts on DAB radio and BBC iPlayer, but not on FM. It features lots of BBC Radio programs that have been broadcast over the last sixty odd years: comedy programs, dramas, quizzes, and book readings.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Wild Thing replaced her car radio so she could listen to DAB. She was hoping for jazz, although the Goon Show might have been a plus. But we’ve never gotten the damn thing to play anything but the standard stations (which as far as I’m concerned consists of Radio 4 and nothing else). And then she lost enough of her sight that she had to stop driving, so we sold my car and I drive hers, which is newer but now has a radio that doesn’t show the time. And doesn’t play the Goon Show.

          She blames it on being way the hell out in the country, but it could be sheer incompetence on our parts. Technological wizards we’re not.


  2. This might all sound silly to other readers, but I think I might take any of the candidates thee parties would put forward in our upcoming election. The ones our parties are working on might not know how to safely cross a 3″ deep puddle.

    As for topics, you may have done it before, but the way you pronounce stuff always makes me shake my head. In a earlier post of mine, about the doors at Barkhamsted Reservoir, my friend in England commented: “Here in the UK it would be spelled Berkhampstead (there is such a place!) and still pronounced Barkemstead!” – I’ll never understand. I’m blaming England for the way the people near Boston pronounce “Woburn, MA” (woo-burn).

    Anyway, in response to your “what do you get out of it…” question, I come here to be entertained and you never disappoint.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Good news on the what you get out of it front. And I’ll see where the pronunciation topic takes me. You’re right–it gets pretty bizarre. Derby is Darby. And so on. You wonder what happens to the kids who are taught to read phonetically when they get old enough to realize they were duped. Do they give up reading forever?

      Liked by 1 person

      • In Shropshire they’re still arguing about whether Shrewsbury is pronounced shroosbury or shrowsbury, and some people still argue over whether a scone is pronounced skone or skon.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I used to live in the West Midlands, which includes the county town of Warwick (famous for it’s castle).
        This is pronounced “Worrick”. However, even British people don’t know how to pronounce the names of places that aren’t in their own locality. Thus, one day a truck driver from Lancashire (NW England) on his way to Warwick stopped and asked me “Is this the road to War-wick”? He would have done any American proud – apart from his broad Lancashire accent, that is.

        And Barnoldswick in Lancashire is of course pronounced “Barlick”!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Warrick I knew about, mostly because a (much younger, need I say?) friend is in school there. But Barlick? C’mon, people. What are you thinking?

          I have got to do a post on this. If only I can stop laughing long enough.


  3. As a collector of rubber duckies, I am concerned that they are being left to mark puddles. What happens when a garbage truck drives over one of them? Pedestrians have rubber boots they can wear and don’t need an innocent, vulnerable, adorable rubber duck risking its existence. I’m outraged and will not vote for the Monster Raving Loony Party, even in the after life. Thank you for alerting me to this disgrace.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Who suggested this subject? It was me, and sadly my memory is also crap and I can’t remember which post it was a comment to/in. Probably one of your old ones linked to/from the linky things at the bottom of each of your posts. But don’t worry about a link, please. (Unless you really want to.) I’m still recovering from the astounding number of visits from the last time you linked to my blog. (Insert grateful but Britishly-embarrassed smile here. I’ll skip the emoticon. There. Skipped it. Did you see?) Oh and as for finding where it was (my comment with the suggestion for this post, which is great by the way, in case I forgot to say – which of course, I did) there used to be a global-search thingy on the dashboard that claimed to search absolutely everything in ones blog, so you could use that if it still exists. If you remember.

    Oh and while reading, I thought of another topic for you. Alas, while writing my comment, I forgot it. Well, it had something to do with the Royal Mail (aka pain in the royal backside) copyrighting ‘their’ colour red. The one used on their postboxes, etc.

    Liked by 1 person

    • THE ROYAL MAIL COPYRIGHTED THE COLOR RED??? Even if it’s only their version of it, that’s hysterically funny–over-the-top absurd. If I can find out anything at all about that, I just know I can do something with it. Endless thanks. And I’ll put up a link in a day or three. Thanks for letting me know the suggestion was yours. If I’d had a memory, my entire life would have been different. Which might or might not have been a good thing.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh yes, they did indeed. Google the following: royal mail copyright red, and you’ll see. (They’ve got pdf files with stuff about it and you’ll find more, too.) They did it a few years ago. I wonder how they’d enforce it though.
        How d’you know your entire life isn’t different?

        Liked by 1 person

  5. They say that if you put two Greeks together, you get three political parties… So every time we go to vote we get this stack of pages with parties we never even heard of – but British humour is lacking, because none are as funny as the ones you describe. And by the way, I LOVED today’s irrelevant photo – if that isn’t typically British , I don’t know what is.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Ps, or maybe Pps. What do I get out of your posts? I love your take on the place I was born in, with the many comparisons to the place you were born in. I love your writing and your sense of humour.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Flying Buttocks organization I will cap. I’ll even enjoy doing it. I won’t put in the little flying TM symbol, but that’s only because I can’t be bothered to figure out how to get a superscript. Once upon a time I had to know that stuff, but I don’t now and oddly enough I find I don’t have a lot of call for it.

      A Contrarian Party. Hmmm. I might feel at home there, at least a good part of the time. But I’m too contrary to start it myself. How about we sign up if someone else starts it?

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: Thanks: a link | Notes from the U.K.

  8. While I knew about most of those “fringe” parties, the Church of the Militant Elvis Party was new to me. I love that about your blog: I get to learn about my own homeland through your perspective and your telling of your discoveries and experiences always makes me smile and chuckle.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Church of the Militant Elvis Party is its name? I mean, Church of the Militant Elvis Party is its HONEST TO GODS NAME???

    Confession: I mostly skimmed this post, first time through. Because I thought you were just making jokes — and jokes only explicable to Brits and Brit-adjacents — and I just didn’t have the necessary brain space to figure ’em out today. Then I hit your next post and thought: “Well….maybe? NO. Surely not! But I guess…? I’ll just check it, then.”

    And merciful zeus if that isn’t the real name after all.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Pingback: How to pronounce British place names | Notes from the U.K.

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