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Driver of a Black Cab
aka: London Cabbie
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.

Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Comics 
  • 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".

    Fanfic 

    Film 
  • 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.

    Literature 
  • 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 
  • There's an Armstrong And Miller sketch in which it is revealed black cab drivers have to do two tests - the standard "The Knowledge" one everyone knows about, and another, secret, one where they must segue between a harmless topic and and rabidly right-wing one without the passenger getting annoyed.
    • And another one in which a sat-nav starts making right-wing comments (this joke has been done in other media).
  • The British gangster black comedy Underworld had a taxi-driver hitman who drove a (plot-significantly) white cab, complete with constant moaning about the state of the country to his passengers, including those who he'd kidnapped or killed.
  • When Have I Got News for You discussed Guy Goma, the guy who showed up at a BBC news studio looking for an IT job but was mistaken for the tech writer Guy Kewney and Pushed in Front of the Audience, Andy Hamilton said that it had been initially reported that Goma was a taxi driver by trade, but he knew that was false because "a taxi driver would have talked much more authoritatively about something he knew nothing about."
    • Another time it came up was when the Caption Competition at the end of the episode pictured the queen sitting in the driver's side of some kind of black vehicle, which Paul interpreted as the city having to take on more part-time drivers during the Christmas season: [posh accent] "I'm not going south of the river this time of night. You must be jokin'."
    • Another example was when it was revealed that Prince Philip owned a black cab, which was a particularly good fit as he is known for making gaffes about other countries' peoples.
    Ian (as Prince Philip): "Bloody Chinese, guv? Slit-eyed bastards! Where you going, Buckingham Palace? That'll be ten quid".
  • The character of Charlie Slater in EastEnders was a black-cab driver, but in his ten-year stint on the show, he averted the trope; he was generally good-natured and was portrayed as apolitical.
  • One of the characters from the vox pops on A Bit of Fry and Laurie is Stephen Fry (who drives a cab in real life, but not as a job) as a stereotypical long-winded cab driver: "If you've got a jar of marmalade in a cupboard, right? And you take the marmalade out of the cupboard, right? You've still got the marmalade. It's not in the cupboard, but you've got the marmalade. You've got to put the marmalade somewhere else haven't you? Course you have, stands to reason. There's the cupboard; no marmalade. But you've still got the marmalade. It's the same with sex and violence on television. You can take sex and violence off television, but where are you going to put them?"
  • School Of Comedy has one, who gives us everything.
  • Derren Brown made one of them forget where the London Eye was. This is tricky, as it's 400 feet tall and visible from everywhere.

    Magazines 
  • 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".

    Radio 
  • A round on I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue, where the object is to fail a job interview, had Graeme, applying for a job as a cabbie, say he doesn't really hold any strong opinions.
  • On The Now Show, Mitch Benn parodied the news that the WOMD dossier was partly based on the testimony of a Baghdad taxi driver by imagining him as a driver of a black cab:
    You know that Saddam?
    Well, I 'ad im,
    In the back of my cab the other day.

    Stand-Up Comedy 
  • 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."

    Real Life 
  • 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...
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alternative title(s): Gabby Cabbie; London Cabbie
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