String 'em up! It's the only language they understand...
Although in the US, taxi
drivers often have a Funny Foreigner
stereotype, it's quite different (in a sense, the antithesis) in England. Often ex-police
, the drivers of black cabs (or to be technical, Hackney Carriages
) are known for falling into the second type of Political Correctness Gone Mad
and liking to share with their customers their views on what's wrong with society today (immigrants, the youth, etc.) and their proposed solutions (public hangings and floggings). Not to be confused with black people who drive cabs, toward whom this character might not be congenial. note
Another stereotype is that cab drivers like to drop the names of celebrity passengers, as in "I 'ad that Liam Gallagher in the back of my cab last Friday".
The test taken to qualify as a Black Cab driver in London is called "The Knowledgenote
", takes about three years
to study for, and requires a ridiculously intuitive knowledge of London geography
. As Bill Bryson
put it, "[London cabbies] would sooner entrust their teenage daughters to Alan Clark
for a weekend than admit they've never heard of your destination", but chances are they have.
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- One Hellblazer story focused on two young cabbies-in-training. Apparently the Knowledge was also a demon-sealing ritual.
- A Viz strip had Cockney Wanker taking the Knowledge, which included directions from two arbitrary points for Londoners (a straightforward journey) and out-of-towners (Up the M1 to Dundee, and back down again), and being able to do a stream-of-consciousness speech from any topic to "Enoch Powell, send them all back".
- The second stereotype occurs in Shakespeare in Love, where the black cab is replaced by a Thames ferry boat.
- The racist cab driver in Football Factory.
- A deleted scene in 28 Days Later shows Selena, Jim and Hannah taking turns driving the black cab and doing their best London cabbie impersonation, much to the annoyance of actual cab driver Frank. The DVD commentary mentions that you can't drive a black cab without experiencing an irresistible urge to do this.
- Anthropomorphic British taxis can be seen during the last third of Cars 2, which takes place in London, England.
- The Knowledge is about four men taking The Knowledge with Nigel Hawthorne as their eccentric examiner he acts so strange to see how the candidates will deal with the equally strange General Public
- Alluded to in the novel Neverwhere, when after Richard returns to "London Above", the first thing he does when hailing a cab is to express interest in hearing all of the driver's geopolitical opinions. He is so eager about it that the guy thinks Richard is mocking him.
- From Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency:
"They should all be deported," said the taxi driver as they drew to a halt.
"Er, who should?" said Richard, who realised he hadn't been listening to a word the driver said.
"Er-" said the driver, who suddenly realised he hadn't been listening either, "er, the whole lot of them. Get rid of the whole bloody lot, that's what I say. And their bloody newts," he added for good measure.
- The Book of Dave by Will Self is about the diary of a London cab driver accidentally becoming the basis of an Intellectual Property Religion 500 years into the future.
Live Action TV
- Private Eye often has its "A Taxi Driver Writes" like this, mocking any given public figure who happens to have said or done something crudely right wing. Usually involves the Catch Phrase "I had that [X] in the back of my cab the other day, very clever man..."
- Frequently the driver also uses the phrase "They should be strung up, it's the only language they understand". In one piece the driver was talking about preventing prisoners from "cheating justice" by hanging themselves.
- When the right-wing comments come from radical Islamic preachers, they sometimes change it to "A Camel Driver Writes".
- Ron White reports in one routine that, with a Scottish separatist as a driver, one can see all of London in about 10 minutes.
"Buckingham Palace? I wouldn't go there if you paid me!"
- Peter Kay recounts that he was once paid to do stand-up for the annual gathering of the cab driver's union, and he started off by making the audience turn their chairs around so they were facing away from him, and then opening with: "Been busy? What time are you on till?" (The two questions he claims it is physically impossible for a passenger to avoid saying to a cabbie).
- Jasper Carrott, while talking about unexpected people he found running the London Marathon:
"Loads of London cabbies. I didn't know they could walk, never mind run. You could tell 'em easily, they were the ones turning around and going "Ere, 'ow you doing, mate?" It took 'em all ages, 'cause they went via Bristol."
- In his Red Dwarf memoir, The Man in the Rubber Mask, Robert Llewellyn confirms the second stereotype (with a dash of the first) by saying he has only once been in a black cab where the driver didn't refer to having had "that coloured geezer, the Scouse one, Craig Charles" as a passenger. And that driver was a novice.
- In his comic book based on real events The Quest For The Big Woof, black British comedian Lenny Henry describes how his (white) then-wife went past the Notting Hill Festival in a cab, and the driver started going on about how "darkies" should go back where they came from if they wanted to have festivals. Furious, Dawn French (a British comedian of considerable note herself) told him who her husband was, and he replied "Lenny Henry? Really? You couldn't get me a ticket, could you, love?"
- Probably subverted by Stephen Fry, if only because of the fact that he isn't a real cabbie. Although strangers have been known to get into the back seat while he's stopped at a red light and ask him to drive them to Waterloo Station.
- In the TV series of Notes From A Small Island he is interviewed by Bill Bryson while driving his cab; at the end of their interview, he quotes an exorbitant price for the fare.
- The Up Series includes Tony, who became a cab driver (who was in the middle of the knowledge at 21) and also played one in several TV shows.
- Cabbies in training may be seen beetling around London on scooters with maps attached to the windscreen, getting a feel for various routes. London is a fairly large city with an unbelievably random and complicated road system and one study found that successfully memorizing all these damn routes actually rewires the drivers' brains. They're also required to demonstrate a high standard of spoken English and take some first aid training. In return, they have the right to drive in bus lanes and certain other privileges.
I 'ad that Fast Eddie in the back of my cab the other day! Very important gentleman...