"The best comedy is when you attack the strong, not the weak."For the dudes in fedoras, see Hardboiled Detective or Private Detective.
—Ian Hislop, editor.
A British fortnightly magazine of current affairs and satirical humour, running since 1961.
It does a lot of investigative journalism and has been sued for libel a considerable number of times (it usually loses, and would have been bankrupted by the damages if not for donations from supporters and subscribers). Its editor, Ian Hislop (a team captain on Have I Got News for You
), even held the record for 'Most Sued Man in England' for a time. For many years it was verging on a point of pride how long it had been since they won
a case. The first time Ian Hislop won a libel suit, the following issue was filled in celebratory manner with yet more libelous material, just because they knew they'd get away with it. note
Regular Cartoons and Ongoing Parodies
- "The Broonites", which features the Brown camp of the now former Labour government and who all speak in exaggerated Scottish accents- even the English ones. This is done in the style of The Broons, a cartoon strip from The Sunday Post.
- Contains an apparently deliberate example for comic effect of Just Plane Wrong. In the 1205 strip, Gordon Brown is put on a plane to Afghanistan to solve the government's popularity problems. The plane- an English Electric Lightning, long gone from RAF service.
- This is possibly a bizarre example of the cartoonist having Shown Their Work. You see, the original cartoonist on The Broons- (Dudley D Watkins) spent the whole of World War Two drawing anything military in the same style as his earlier adventure comics: That is, straight out of World War One.
- The Robber Baron cycle, a fictional series of operas detailing the life and crimes of Silvio, the Robber Baron, based on Silvio Berlusconi of Italy.
Radio Times: Classic Opera Buffooni, which opens with the Robber Baron Silvio cavorting in the Palazzo Fornicazione with a chorus of scantily clad nymphs who sing the chorus 'Money, Money, Money — We've come here for the Money'.
- Prime Ministerial parodies: Reporting on governmental affairs in the style of something else. These generally take the form of either a personal diary/correspondence (particularly by the PM's spouse) or an internal missive at a fictional institution designed to parody the PM's style or policies.
- "The New Coalition Academy" - in the style of a posh school's newsletter for David Cameron's Tory-Lib Dem coalition. Cameron is the headmaster, while Nick Clegg is his deputy. Inspired by the Academies that were part of the Coalition's education policy.
- "Prime Ministerial Decrees"- Gordon Brown as a Stalin-style leader. Inspired by a comment by one of Brown's underlings that he had "Stalinst" tendencies in his leadership.
- "St. Albion's Parish News" - Tony Blair as a rural vicar of the sanctimonious yet "trendy" type (became a TV series as A Sermon from St Albion's). Inspired by Blair's slickness and known religiosity.
- "The Secret Diary of John Major (aged 47¾)" - written in Adrian Mole style.
- "Dear Bill" - Margaret Thatcher's husband Denis writes to Bill Deedes, editor of the Daily Telegraph. Capitalised on Sir Denis' perceived alcoholism and actual friendship with Deedes.
- "Heathco. Newsletter" - Edward Heath as MD of a failing business (a grocery, apparently, which was used to poke fun at then-Science and Education Secretary and grocer's daughter Maggie Thatcher). Its symbol was a yacht, because Heath was famously fond of sailing.
- "Mrs. Wilson's Diary" - Harold Wilson's wife writes in the style of BBC radio show Mrs. Dale's Diary. Inspired by the working-class image Wilson liked to put on, despite the very middle-class reality of his background.
- "Dave Snooty and his New Pals"- David Cameron in the style of The Beano strip Lord Snooty. Boris Johnson features quite a bit (crossing over from the earlier Beano parody Boris The Menace).
- "The Adventures of Mr Millibean"- Replacing The Broon-ites, Ed Miliband and the Labour Shadow Cabinet in the style of the Mr. Bean cartoon spinoff.
- "From the Message Boards". Parody of online political venues and comments threads, populated by assorted rabid fascists, Single Issue Wonks, bloodthirsty vigilantes and unclassifiable nutters. Notable commenters are "Bogbrush" and "Sword of Truth." Alleged to have been inspired by The BBC's "Have Your Say" discussion boards. Often suffers from being saner than the real thing.
- Spiggy Topes and the Turds. A fictional band from The British Invasion, who are a very transparent parody of the The Beatles
- "Celeb", made into a brief TV series, it involves a fading pop-star Gary Bloke and his wife, daughters (Rosedrop Bunnypetal and Pixie Frou-frou) and son Troy.
- "Supermodels" - Parodies the current events in the fashion industry, all the models in this comic are drawn as a thin line for the body.
- "It's Grim Up North London" - features a group of friends of the new age liberal type.
- "Pseuds Corner", a column which highlights particularly pompous and pretentious quotes from that week's media.
- "Colemanballs", which records ridiculous or just plain stupid quotes from the broadcast (and usually sports) media, usually caused by the low brain-to-mouth delay of spontaneous sports commentary. Named after the now-retired and notoriously gaffe-prone sports commentator David Coleman. A typical Colemanball, spoken by Alan Minter: "Sure there have been injuries and deaths in boxing - but none of them serious."
- Extends to other fields when the material is abundant, such as "Warballs" regarding the War On Terror, and "50 Shades of Balls" for overuse of 50ShadesOfGrey references.
- "The Book of (Insert Israeli leader name here)", which presents contemporary Middle Eastern events in the style of the King James Bible, and usually ends in "and so it was back to the square which is called one".
- "Yobs" or "Yobbettes" when the story features females. A Strip which features (un)working class people behaving yobbishly.
- Young British Artists: a satire on the works and attitudes of modern British artists. Typically featuring Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin and Carl Freedman.
- Craig Brown's Diary: Spoof diary of politician or celebrity, usually based on the assumption that their private life is exactly like their public life (So Prince Charles spends all his time worrying about architecture, Barack Obama can only talk in inspirational speeches, and so on). Made into a Radio 4 series as The Lost Diaries.
- E.J Thribb: A 17 1/2 year old crap poet. His poems are always "In Memoriam", always begin with "So, farewell then..." and are often bizarre and amusing. Sometimes his name is adapted into an Incredibly Lame Pun: after Ariel Sharon had a stroke, he signed off "E.J Thribbutz".
- Gnome: a spoof editorial by the fictional proprieter Lord Gnome or his lackey E. Strobes. (Lord Gnome appeared in the 1993 TV special The Bore of the Year Awards, played by the Eye's real-life contributor and majority shareholder Peter Cook.) Also, "The Curse of Gnome", where they point out that people who've won libel cases against them generally come to a bad end.
- Glenda Slagg: Spoof tabloid woman's columnist, whose articles are full of condemnation/praise for whoever the gossip magazines are talking about, usually switching from one to the other within a single column. Catchphrases "Aintchasickofim" and "Dontchaloveim".
- Mary Ann Bighead: A particularly vicious send-up of Mary Ann Sieghart, a female lifestyle/politics/culture columnist who the magazine perceives to be arrogant. Frequent references to the spectacular achievements of her children, who are normally named "Brainella" or some other such variant, and the stupidity of politicians, her childrens' teachers and the reader.
- Polly Filler: Spoof broadsheet woman's columnist, whose articles are about how difficult it is being an upper-middle class young mother, because you have to spend all day telling the au pair to do things. Also uses her column to plug the collected edition of her columns, the novel based on her columns and, most recently, the film based on the novel based on her columns.
- "The Useless Simon", her husband, who she presents as lazy and loutish but who is actually implied to be a better (or at least, as good a) person than she is.
- Her name is an Incredibly Lame Pun on PolyFilla, a British brand of spackling paste used to fill up unsightly gaps in walls, in much the same way that Filler's columns are used to fill gaps in the paper with some content, regardless of quality.
- The Alternative Voice (Dave Spart): Straw Leftist. And it's typical of the right-wing, Thatcher-loving junta that, er...
- Allegedly based (at least recently), on Guardian columnist Seumas Milne, though it draws inspiration from those "left of Chomsky" generally. In his early years, Spart, was based on the USSR's various apologists in the UK (including, at the time, one "Harry Steel" - the pseudonym of...Seumas Milne).
- A Taxi-Driver Writes: Straw Conservative. String 'em up, it's the only language they understand. Often found right across from Dave Spart, agreeing with him for entirely different reasons.
- The Eye's Controversial New Columnist: An angry baby, who gives the important baby's eye view of current events (usually that the people involved are acting like, well, babies).
- Dame Sylvie Krin: a saccharine-impregnated royal correspondent and author of fawning biographies and bad fiction about the royal family and other celebrities. Her "stories" usually feature a Purple Prose-esque, fawning and overly romantic description of celebrities going about their business exactly as they do in real life:
A story about Prince Charles: "Is mater abdicating?", thought Charles, displaying his renowned sensitivity.
A story about Rupert Murdoch: "WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING YOU LITTLE WOMBAT'S DONG?," said Rupert sagely.
- Phil Space (and Distaff Counterpart Philippa Space): A generic Punny Name for any columnist, especially those writing an unimportant or redundant story. Occasionally readers across the world will find real examples of journalists called something similar and send them in.
Fond of the Unusual Euphemism
and obscure nickname, sometimes for legal reasons, to the point that it can become unreadable to those not in the know
. Most of these are derived from very obscure old political scandals.
Obscure Eye Terms
- "Exotic cheroot" = cannabis
- "Tired and emotional" = drunk
- "Ugandan discussions" = having sex
- Sometimes the adjective "Ugandan" is used to denote eroticism - "Ugandan advances" etc. Though sometimes mistaken for a racist slur, it actually comes from an obscure scandal where an Irish journalist and an exiled Ugandan politician claimed to have been "discussing Uganda" when they had more or less been caught with their pants down at a posh journalistic house party in London.
- "The reply given in the case of Arkell vs. Pressdram" = "Fuck off" (for details, see Sophisticated as Hell.)
- "Carter-Fuck" = Carter-Ruck and Partners, legal firm with whom Private Eye have crossed swords many times. (And once, when the firm complained, they changed it to "Farter-Fuck").
- "Crapita" = Capita, a large out-sourcing company known for cocking up Government contracts for things like building schools and running IT systems
- "Inspector Knacker" = the Police, especially the Metropolitan Police (a.k.a. Scotland Yard, as in "Knacker of the Yard — geddit?)
- "[Takes out onion]" = insincere public crying
- "The Glendas" = the sort of columnists Glenda Slagg is a parody of. Usually female, although Tony Parsons of the Mirror has been designated a "Glen".
- The Grauniad = The Guardian (a newspaper known for its spelling mistakes and other typographical errors)
- The success of this nickname can be seen by the fact that grauniad.co.uk redirects to the Guardian's website.
- The Torygraph = The Daily Telegraph (right-leaning newspaper)
- Also The Steffigraph during Wimbledon.
- The Indescribablyboring = The Independent (another newspaper)
- That's it. (That's enough nicknames. Ed)
Pretty much every British newspaper
has a well-known nickname that was given to them by the Eye
. A lot of politicians and celebrities have also been given nicknames, usually derisive.
- Baillie Vass = former Prime Minister Alec Douglas-Home (after the Aberdeen Evening Expressnote mixed up the captions for a photo of him with a photo of the titular castle)
- It's all right not to have heard of him- he was only in office a year.
- They revived the joke when Douglas-Home's nephew Charles became Editor of The Times in 1982, calling him "Charles Vass", and probably expected to continue with that joke for many years (after all, most of his predecessors had lasted at least a decade); however, Charles died young in 1985.
- Tony Blair was "The Dear Leader" (the title used by Kim Jong-il of North Korea) due to accusations of a messiah complex.
- Although in his later years he was referred to as "the Vicar" due to a perceived similarity to trendy clergymen. He passed on the "Dear Leader" title to Gordon Brown.
- "Brenda" = HM The Queen
- "Brian" = Prince Charles
- Richard Desmond is "Dirty Des", a reference to the porn channels he owns.
- Boris Johnson is "Beano Boris" due to his cartoonish antics. Also sometimes known as "Boris the Menace" for the same reason.
- Colourful Lib Dem Lembit Opik was dubbed "Lemsip Optrex" (two brand names for cough medicine and eye drops respectively)
- Ed Miliband has become "Mr. Milibean"
- Broadcaster and journalist Andrew Neil is always referred to as Andrew Neill, purely because this irritates him.
- South African president Jacob Zuma has been referred to as Shagga Zulu ever since his trial for rape (and subsequent claim that showering reduces the risk of HIV transmission. It really, really, really doesn't).
- This one was particularly low-hanging fruit, as Zuma really is Zulu. Even if he hadn't been tried for rape, the man has four wives—two of whom he married while in office—and 20 children. From there the joke is obvious.
- Infamous London libel firm Carter-Ruck and Partners is always referred to "Carter-Fuck", except when it is referred to as "Farter-Fuck".
- The Independent newspaper is the "Indescribablyboring"
- The Daily Express is the "Daily Sexpress", due to its obsession with how EVIL! AND DISGUSTING! AND SICK! AND FOUL! this SICK FILTH is (Full story and PICS page 94.
- The Daily Mail is occasionally referred to as the Daily Dacre (after its editor), the Daily Fail, or the Daily Hitler.
- The Evening Standard is called "The Evening Boris" for its support of the current Mayor of London, Boris Johnson.
- CDC is referred to as "seedy C"
- Wendi Deng is referred to as Wendi Dung.
- Robert Maxwell was nicknamed "Cap'n Bob". This fell out of use when the magazine discovered the even better nickname (originally coined by Harold Wilson, no less) of "the bouncing Czech." Nowadays, he is almost never referred to without some mention of his criminal activity during his lifetime. This is because he sued Private Eye in libel for exposing it, won, and took £220,000 off them. His death and the subsequent revelations mean that the magazine is Vindicated by History and free to call the criminal Robert Maxwell, a thief and a criminal, a thieving criminal.
- Mary Ann Sieghart is often called Mary Ann Bighead, due to a perceived use of her columns to boast about her lifestyle.
- Max Hastings is always referred to as Hitler Hastings due to his obsession with the war. Either that or "The World's Worst Columnist."
- Former Telegraph editor William Rees-Mogg is often called "Mystic Mogg" because of his tendency to make awfully bad predictions about the outcomes of elections. (Mitt Romney was to be President in 2008, Gordon Brown was to win the UK election in 2010, and Rick Santorum was his prediction for the US 2012 election.)
- Ancient former Telegraph editor Bill Deedes is referred to as Bill Deedesh, mocking both his (very) advanced age and his fondness for the amber flow. A Running Gag on their part is that, whenever the magazine draws a historical parallel to modern events, the ancient newspaper (for instance, the Bethlehem Times) will be edited by Deedesh.
- Piers Morgan is "Piers Moron", sometimes phrased as "Piers 'Morgan' Moron" as though Moron is his real name and Morgan the nickname.
- Rupert Murdoch is "The Dirty Digger" (Digger = Australian) and Richard Desmond is "Dirty Des", both referencing their more unsavoury connections.
- Notoriously terrible PFInote company Capita are inevitably referred to as "Crapita".
- Richard Branson is referred to as Beardie.
- The Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs, (DEFRA) is referred to as "Department for the Elimination of Farming and Rural Affairs". Its acronym is sometimes modified to DEFRO.
- Margaret Beckett is referred to as Rosa Klebb for her disastrous tenure at the above and her complete lack of interest in the environment, food, or rural affairs.
- The late Sir James Goldsmith, a frequent and vindictive litigant, was usually "Sir Jammy Fishpaste" and other similar names, such as "St. Jammy Fishfingers". The magazine considers some aspect of his activities to be objectionable. Similarly, his appearances sometimes end with him having to go and phone "John in Kenya", a reference to John Bingham, 7th Earl of Lucan (AKA Lord Lucan), who the Eye semi-seriously accused him of helping escape there after he killed his children's nanny.
- Prime Minister Harold Wilson was always named as "Wislon".
- The Financial Services Authority is invariably referred to as "The Fundamentally Supine Authority" in reference to its reluctance to act and its seemingly close relationship with the industry it is supposed to regulate, often contrasting its performance with the swift and draconian methods of its United States counterparts.
- The Maily Telegraph" is a composite of The Daily Telegraph and The Daily Mail. Similarly, "The Stun" is a generic red top tabloid newspaper, like "The Sun" and "The Daily Star".
- HM The Queen is referred to as Brenda. Prince Charles is Brian.
- The Department for Transport (DfT) is usually referred as "DafT".
- The Department of Trade and Industry was often the "Department of Timidity and Inaction".
- Brighton is referred to as Skid Row-on-sea.
- Transportation company FirstGroupnote is referred to as "Worst Group".
There are also features on the hypocrisy of the Fleet Street
press ("Street of Shame") and a great section called "Rotten Boroughs" on local council misbehaviour, along with annual awards — such as for Tory bigots.
This work provides examples of:
(That's enough Tropes. Ed
However, the truly unparalleled touch of genius about Private Eye
is widely thought to be its famous (cont. p.94)