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Collect the horrible lot!

"History is horrible! Well it was when I went to school."
Terry Deary, many of the BBC Audio tapes
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In between the post-cartoon years and the live-action TV series, Terry Deary starred in many Horrible Histories audiobooks that were released in the mid-2000s, either starring himself or himself with other voice actors.

Some of the audiobooks were released by the BBC, featuring regular actors along with Terry Deary which are basically set up like the live action show, but in audio form, with regular sketches, musical numbers and recurring characters; full of humour and references too old for many children listening to understand (and in many cases, their own parents too).

The other audio pieces, only featuring Deary, were released in several strange ways. Some of them came free in many children's Kelloggs cereals, whereas others also came free, but inside several editions of the Daily Telegraph. These ones were completely opposite to the BBC's; it felt like you were listening to a radio play in which Terry Deary read out the entirety of a Horrible Histories book and occasionally had a musical number (although, in some cases, these musical numbers were recycled from the BBC's audio-plays.)

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The BBC audio series (in no particular order)
  • The Savage Stone Age
  • The Rotten Romans
  • The Groovy Greeks
  • The Vicious Vikings
  • The Stormin' Normans
  • The Measly Middle Ages
  • The Terrible Tudors
  • The Vile Victorians
  • The Frightful First World War
  • The Woeful Second World War

The other audio series (in no particular order):

  • The Rotten Romans
  • The Vicious Vikings
  • The Measly Middle Ages
  • The Vile Victorians
  • Incredible Ireland
  • The Terrible Tudors
  • The Awful Egyptians
  • The Ruthless Romans
  • The Frightful First World War
  • The Woeful Second World War
  • The Villainous Victorians
  • The Savage Stone Age
  • The Angry Aztecs
  • The Incredible Incas
  • The Cut Throat Celts
  • The Groovy Greeks
  • The Barmy British Empire


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Tropes featured in the BBC Series include:

  • A Good Name for a Rock Band: Deary refuses to call the ancient Greeks anything that could insult the people of Greece today, so he decides to call them the "groovy" Greeks.
    The Groovy Greeks announcer: [scoffs] "The Groovy Greeks"? Sounds like a '60s pop group.
  • Abusive Dad: The father character in the play called "Please Don't Send Me To The Workhouse, Daddy! (I'm Only A Helpless Child)" from The Vile Victorians.
    • Upon finding out the baby farmer Margaret Walters had murdered his newborn child:
      Father: So, Margaret Walters has been hanged for letting our child die. We'd have never left the dear boy if we had but known.
      Mother: [devastated, but also matter-of-factly] It was a girl, my sweetness.
      Father: Whatever.
    • How treats his children much later:
      Child: Father, I've made all these boxes of matches. What should I do now?
      Father: Why, go out onto the street corner and sell them.
      Child: But I've got no shoes, and it's freezing cold, Papa.
      Father: [aggressively] Well, the sooner you sell them, the better. GET OUT!!
    • Then uses emotional blackmail on his eldest son, who works as a chimney sweeper, after he tells his father how much his boss abuses him:
      Father: [aggressively] YOU THINK YOURSELF LUCKY I DIDN'T SEND YOU TO WORK IN THE NAIL FACTORY!! The punishment for bad work is to have nails hammered through your ears! WOULD YOU LIKE THAT?!!
      Willie, his son: [terrified] Oh no, Papa!
      Father: OR I COULD SEND YOU TO WORK IN THE RIBBON FACTORY, DO YOU??! They say the whirring machines causes damage to your brain and your spine and can kill you. SHOULD I SEND YOU THERE??!!
      Willie, his son: OH NO, FATHER!!
  • Actually Pretty Funny:
    • Sometimes, Terry's classmates struggle to keep it together whenever he's snarky to the history teacher.
    • A Victorian comedy night hire a replacement comedian, which the crowd despises, however, his joke about a boy with a long nose-hair that "cracked like a whip" whenever he sneezed raises a few guilty chuckles.
  • Adaptation Personality Change: This is probably part of a Rule of Funny, considering the other Horrible Histories' adaptations.
    • William the Conqueror. In the live-action TV series, he was a very proud and patriotic French army general, but in this audio series, he reacts as if being called a Frenchman is a racial slur.
    • Queen Victoria. In this audio series, she is portrayed as miserable and uppity, whereas other media has pointed out that she was often smiling and enthusiastic, even after she finished mourning her husband.
  • Adorkable:
    • Alfred the Great is portrayed as this, from his terrible poetry to his nervous laughter. It makes you feel really sorry for him when he does burn the old woman's cakes. Also doubles as a Dork Knight.
    • A monk in the Stormin' Normans who is given the job of writing the diary of 1066, and later appears again and again throughout the tape.
    • Ijalf the clumsy Viking who constantly drops his sword, steps on his cat, and accidentally punches the scariest local in the village after getting excitable about the horse races. Then he tries to stop the man from killing him by selling him all the sheep on his farm.
  • Added Alliterative Appeal: "Horrible Henry's hideous habit was hacking helpless human heads... off."
  • Adult Fear: Occasionally.
    • The Child Soldiers-attribute of The Frightful First World War. Many of the soldiers in the armies were as young as fourteen (Tommy and George were this age at the beginning) and were unwillingly thrown on the front line after being indoctrinated with advertisements of patriotism and returning home as a hero that would be treated like royalty; when said soldiers returned home, they had heads filled with traumatic war experiences, and considering all the drama that had been happening in the native countries (German government with no leader, Spanish Flu that killed more people than the war, for example), they might've returned to a home that was either destroyed in a bombing attack, or discovered that their family was either missing or dead.
    • Some of the evacuees that were treated badly by their new carers for no reason during The Woeful Second World War. After that disgusting period in their lives, many returned home to find that their parents had either lost their home and was forced to move away, or killed in an air-raid attack.
  • Affectionate Parody: Many sketches are parodies of Match of the Day, televised award ceremonies, This Is Your Life, and comedy galas.
  • After the End: Although not in an apocalyptic sense, the finale of The Frightful First World War is told like this when the war finishes in France and the remaining soldiers return to Britain:
    • The homes "fit for heroes" that they were promised at the beginning turn out to be empty promises; they are forced to live in hostels or on the streets.note 
    • Spanish Flu was around, killing thousands every few hours. The episode tells the story of four women that gambled one night, and by the morning, one of them was still alive.
    • Teenagers were becoming rebellious and the crime rate increased. There was no one to stop them because their fathers and teachers, as well as local policemen, had died in France.
    • Cinemas were either too expensive for people, or weren't good tools for escapism from the public's misery.
  • Alliterative Title: All except The Stormin' Normans, which is actually a Painful Rhyme.
  • Americans Have Wacky Names: We find out in The Vicious Vikings that the American tourist's son is named Elmer Rubinstone III.
  • Audience Participation: In-universe, whenever there's a segment of a pantomime, a poetry recital or a comedy event.
  • Author Avatar: Terry Deary stars as the presenter and protagonist of the series, as well as a younger version of himself in his history classes (you wouldn't be able to tell though because he doesn't even attempt to sound like a child or a teenager.)
  • Badass Baritone
    • The voice that marks the end (or beginning) of a chapter that says "Horrible Histories".
    • Unnamed henchmen that works for certain powerful characters.
      • Characters like these are usually the opposite of the Simpleton Voice examples below.
  • Berserk Button: William the Conqueror demands to not be called a Frenchman, because he's Norman, and actually kills someone when his driven over the edge.
  • Black Widow: Alice Arden from The Terrible Tudors, and Mary Ann Cotton from The Vile Victorians. The latter was an actual Victorian black widow.
  • Book-Ends: The trumpet player in The Rotten Romans who fails to reach the high notes in the appearances at the introduction, a funeral, and at a politician meeting, eventually does in The Stinger, and being denied playing another song by an annoyed crowd.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: The series differs between this and No Fourth Wall. Case in point, The Vicious Vikings, in which chapters were chopped in half by segments of actors talking to Deary between takes, a director on a PA system, a producer occasionally criticizing the script and stage directions being called out. However, it's the only time this is done on a Horrible Histories tape.
  • Brick Joke: Notably, the "blood eagle" from The Vicious Vikings, which is revealled to be a torturous execution disguised as a reward.
  • Call-Back: The quote "A horse, a horse; my kingdom for a horse" is tossed about between the Terrible Tudors and the Stormin' Normans, and is sometimes quoted as "A Norse, a Norse; my kingdom for a Norse".
  • Calling the Old Man Out: The series' main intention. In many cases, Terry Deary often points out that history teachers like to teach students about the nicer sides of history instead of the gruesome parts. For instance, The Rotten Romans has Terry and Felicity disrupt their teacher's lectures whenever he overlooks the darker sides of Ancient Rome — mostly how supposedly "civilised" the Romans were, but the two students state that most of the Roman culture was a rehash in the first place.
    Teacher: The Romans got their religious gods from the Greeks.
    Terry Deary: [under his breath] Pinched them as usual.
    Teacher: [matter-of-factly] ...And CHANGED THE NAMES to suit themselves.
  • Catchphrase:
    • Henry the 7th: "You don't tangle with a Tudor!"
    • The American tourist: "Oh my!"
    • The Grim Reaper: "It is I! [masochistic chuckle]"
    • Queen Victoria: "We are not amused."
  • Character Tic: Scottish poet William McGonagall does a dramatic moan before reciting his poems during his poetry night in The Vile Victorians. It's so contagious, the crowd start to mock him.note 
  • Child Soldiers: In the Frightful First World War, the episode constantly points out that there were a lot of teenagers as young as thirteen who were able to talk their way through the strict contract judges. An angry woman is interviewed about the fear of the enemy invading the British Isles, and she states that there needs to be more soldiers defending the homeland — then she says this:
    Woman: I'm sending my Jimmy down to the Church to sign up and join the army today.
    Male voice in the background: [astonished] He's only nine!
  • Comic-Book Time: So, what year is Terry Deary in during the history school scenes? He has made a point in The Woeful Second World War that he was born after the war and went to school in the 1950s, but he does mention in The Terrible Tudors that schools "in the days of Queen Victoria" are taught in a different way, followed by his class being taught in said way, although he might've been saying that his school was very old-fashioned.
  • Content Warning: Some tapes claim that some material is not suitable for the over 14s.
  • Curse Cut Short:
    • In the Vile Victorians, local night soil men (Victorian cleaners who clean out the street "toilets") are put on trial, and when they have their chance to defend themselves, one of them points out that they go hand-in-hand with their job:
    Night soil Cleaner: Like the pie-man with his van full of freshly-baked pies, the window-cleaner with his windows, the night soil man with his cart full of—
    Judge: [quickly bangs his gavel] Yeah, yeah, yeah...
  • Death as Comedy: It's rather hard not to laugh whenever they use a silly sound effect to emphasis someone dropping down dead, especially if you don't see it coming.
  • Death Seeker: The Grim Reaper is this, but upon other people and not himself. He often says that a character dying in a story he's reading/listening to is his favourite moment.
  • Delegation Relay: Occasionally, when a monarch commands his servants to obey his orders, different voices echo the command around the stereo field. The two commands are "Send for the fortune teller!" from The Terrible Tudors and "Flatten Lincoln!" from The Stormin' Normans.
  • Disappeared Dad: Implied with (and invoked by) Felicity in the final sketch of The Vile Victorians (although it's debatable whether you could class it as canon or not). When she and her father visit a graveyard, she discovers that her father was grateful that her mother had died, so he assaults him until he falls into an open grave.
  • Distaff Counterpart: Freddy replaces Felicity in the Woeful Second World War.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Mostly when it comes to the coverage of the wars, which are treated like a football match.
    • At the end of the Battle of Reading in The Vicious Vikings, the interview with Alfred the Great is similar to a post-interview with a football player.
      • Some of Alfred's responses are similar to a English Premier League player.
        Alfred the Great: Well, you know — at the end of the day ... it's, the end of the day... innit?
      • After the end of Alfred's interview, the only response Alan the commentator has to say is:
        Alan the commentator: [weakly] ...Like I say ... great player.
      • The two commentators often call some of the soldiers strikers.
    • "They think it's all over... it is now."
    • The Terrible Tudors should probably win the prize as the one with the most soccer references, as a war takes place during the Battle of Bosworth.
      • The commentator's introduction:
        Commentator: And you join us on this fine 21st of August for a crucial England match — York versus Tudor — the old enemies... note 
      • After the match is over and the Tudors defeat Richard III, the commentators say this:
        Commentator: Well, there you have it. They'll be no victory tour — no open-top double-decker bus...
        Alan the commentator: Just a very smelly dead body being paraded around the country on the back of an 'orse.
  • Don't Fear the Reaper: The Grim Reaper appears a few times throughout the series, making terrible puns about death that he (and the audience) only understand, and in some cases, very helpful. Deary is scared of him in The Measly Middle Ages and makes sure he knows that he's the main character.
  • Dramatic Thunder: Every time anyone mentioned Teutoburg Forest in the Rotten Romans. Even the history teacher isn't immune to it.
  • Dull Surprise: Many characters don't show any surprise when someone unexpectedly drops dead in front of them.
  • Epic Fail: In the Vicious Vikings, the teacher gives an alphabet lesson, and when he gets to the letter "C", this exchange happens:
    Teacher: "C" is for what, Harold?
    Harold: Uh, sea is for sailing on, sir — and for catching fishing. ...And sea's for that as well. And swimming in, but only in the summer—
    Teacher: STOP!!!! The letter "C" is pronounced "Kuh". And "Kuh" is for what?
    Harold: [positively] "Kill"!!
  • Expy: The classroom scenes always feature a misbehaving wisecracking boy who doesn't care about school because he's going to be a footballer anyway (much like how Terry Deary was at school) and a Teacher's Pet who is ready to answer questions and is always ready to give more information that she additionally researched.
  • Evil Chef: The Bishop of Rochester's cook from The Terrible Tudors, arguably. She probably poisoned his guests either because he probably abused her, or she hated the guests, or because she is evil.
  • Eye Scream: The Tudor playwright Christopher Marlowe who got stabbed in the eye and died.
  • Fate Worse than Death:
    • In The Terrible Tudors, the Bishop of Rochester's cook poisons his dinner guests with a concoction full of laxatives after he's horrible to her. When the guests start to die from dysentery, someone tips off Henry VIII, who responds by legalizing death by boiled alive. She begs to be hung instead, as she's dragged towards the cauldron.
    • Many cases in the Terrible Tudors features this, come to think of it. Characters that either discuss or are taken to be burnt at the stake claim that it's better than being beheaded because:
      A hot steak is better than a cold chop!
  • For Inconvenience, Press "1": In The Groovy Greeks, in order for the gods to be on his side as he leads his army to Troy to get Helen of Sparta back, Agamemnon phones the horrorscope hotline in order to have good weather as the army leave in a few days. The hotline tells him that in order for his prayer to go through, he must sacrifice a human.
  • For the Evulz: There's no reason for Galla and Fjalla to go and kill the Gilling couple, although you could say that the dwarves are sick of the couple probably mooching off them,
  • Freudian Excuse: In the Terrible Tudors, Mary, Queen of Scots is captured and thrown in prison overseas. The Chief of Police is determined to lock her up for a long time.
    Mary, Queen of Scots: How long must I stay imprisoned?
    The Chief of Police: For about 18 years, my dear! I don't like you Catholics, so you can stay in here until you rot!
  • From Bad to Worse: The Frightful First World War ends with a chapter about what happened after the soldiers returned home from Britain. To make a long story short: the crime rate increased, Spanish Flu killed more than the war did, the soldiers ended up homeless, and everyone was too miserable and/or poor to go watch a movie at the cinema.
  • Gallows Humor: All over the place, but mostly in courtroom scenes when criminals have their sentences followed through.
  • Go-Getter Girl: One could argue that Felicity, the Teacher's Pet in Deary's old history classes, is like this.
    • In the Woeful Second World War, she was replaced by a male version called Freddy.
  • Gossipy Hens: Literal ones in a sketch in The Rotten Romans, which shows that hens were used in the navy by clairvoyants. It doesn't end well and the hens are thrown into the ocean.
  • Half the Man He Used to Be: When the first group of Vikings try to invade Britain, they are stopped at the beach by a Saxon guard, who orders them to go away. The leader of the Vikings responds by slicing the guard from head to foot.
  • Hair-Trigger Sound Effect: Teutoberg Forest can never be mentioned without the sound of thunder and lightning.
  • Henpecked Husband: Ijalf the clumsy Viking who accidentally offers all the sheep on his farm to the biggest bully in the village to apologise for accidentally hitting him in the face, is punished by his wife Thora by being fed tree bark for dinner until the time came for the reparation. He obeys without hesitation.
  • Hidden Depths: For a kid that hates school and wants to be a sports star, Terry certainly knows a lot of history in class.
  • Historical-Domain Character: The audio series uses this constantly to tell the stories of the time.
  • Hitler Ate Sugar: In many classroom scenes, Terry is scalded by his teacher for comparing certain historical figures to Adolf Hitler, but Terry had enough evidence on said historical figure to compare them to Nazi leader. For instance, after hearing about Henry VIII having Protestants burnt at the stake because they refused to convert to Catholicism (much like how Hitler had people who were against his views — Jewish people especially — arrested and/or executed), Terry points out that Henry VIII was basically doing what Hitler had done, to which the teacher crossly snaps, "You can't say that!"
  • I Should Write a Book About This: Terry's history teacher is implied to have inspired him to write the series, despite his ambition to be a sports star. At the end of The Terrible Tudors, Deary's teacher pulls him aside after school, and asks him about it in an "asking for a friend" sort of way, but Terry sees through it.
    History teacher: If someone were to collect all of these history facts into a book, and call it "The Terrible Tudors", say ... do you think anyone would buy it?
    Terry Deary: That's a brilliant idea, sir! I'll write it as soon as I get home. [smugly] And, no, sir! Sorry, sir, but I don't think you should write horrible histories.
    History teacher: Ah, well... just a thought.
  • I'll Never Tell You What I'm Telling You!: In The Terrible Tudors, the announcer and the history teacher argue over whether the date of the Battle of Bosworth should be mentioned:
    Teacher: What date did Henry Tudor sail?
    Announcer: Uh, he didn't sail on a date; he sailed on a ship!
    Teacher:: I meant...
    Announcer: We know what you meant, sir, but I refuse to bore the ladies and gentlemen that the year of the battle was in fact 1485!
    Audience: [angrily, simultaneously] GET ON WITH IT!!!
  • Impact Silhouette: Implied in The Vicious Vikings when the Ijalf the clumsy Viking leaves his house.
    [wood and bricks crumble and fall]
    Ijalf's wife Thora: [crossly] Oh, now look at what you've done!! You must remember to lift the latch [on the door] before you open it!!
    Ijalf: Yes dear. Sorry, dear.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: Throughout.
    • A butcher convicted of fraud in the Vile Victorians is sentenced and charged, to which he questions if there was "anyone that could save my bacon?"
    • William the Conqueror tries to invade a town, but the locals bar it up and stand on the guarding walls and shout terrible shoe jokes at him, because his father used to be a shoemaker. William is rather angry and embarrassed, and doesn't want to discuss the topic any further.
    • If there is a criminal sentenced to having their hands chopped off, you can guarantee that they'll claim that this'll ruin their career as a "handyman".
  • Ironic Echo: In the Vicious Vikings, a classroom scene features a teacher talking about old Viking idioms, who mentions that one should "look around a doorway before you step through". The Teacher's Pet points out that Harold once balanced a bucket of water on a door and a teacher got drenched. When the lesson finishes, the class remind the teacher, but he ignores them, immediately inviting him to the same fate as the last drenched teacher.
  • Irony:
    • Dad's Army was a backup army full of men too old to join the army, or were just ex-army soldiers from the First World War in case the enemy invaded Britain. The Nazis never invaded, but the soldiers were still hospitalised and/or died anyway.
    • Jon Price survived the four gruelling years of The Frightful First World War, and from his stupidity, was killed TWO MINUTES before the end.
    • The disruptive young Terry Deary who loathed studying history and hated his teacher is now rich and famous because of non-fiction books he wrote about the subject.
    • When the surviving soldiers from the First World War returned, many of them died from Spanish Flu.
  • The Klutz: Ijalf, the clumsy Viking.
  • Lame Pun Reaction: In courtroom scenes, a bad pun made by the defendant will have a gavel bash as a reaction.
  • Last-Second Word Swap: Many of the musical numbers featured this, especially if the last word was obvious to the parents listening that it would be a swear word.
    • The Victorian song about the graveyards being dug up to create sewage pipes:
      Choir: If some society chap wants a pipeline for his...
      Conductor: ... tank
    • The Roman song had this gem:
      They stabbed them up
      And then they left my boys right in the...
      ... ditch
    • The World War One song about the end of the war (based on a real poem) features this:
      No more church parades on Sunday
      No more begging for a pass
      I will tell the Sargent Major
      To stick his passes up his... nose
      note 
    • As the Greek army's Trojan Horse gets past the gates of Troy:
      Citizen of Troy #1: It's huge!
      Citizen of Troy #2: It's massive!
      Citizen of Troy #3: It's wagging its tail!
      Citizen of Troy #4: Its buttocks is parting!
      Citizen of Troy #5: It's gonna do a...
      [Trojan horse's trap door swings open]
      Greek Soldiers: ATTACK!!!
  • Leeroy Jenkins:
    • Richard III in the Terrible Tudors, despite his soldiers advising him to stay on the hilltop after his insults war with Henry Tudor on the other side.
    • Private Jon Price in the Frightful First World War, who was killed two minutes before the end of the war because he ran out of the line of soldiers that the general organised in order to kill a few more of the opposition, and got shot in the chest.
  • London Gangster: The Gillings' son from Vicious Vikings seems to be portrayed as one with his slight Cockney accent and threatening demeanour.
  • Long Title:
    • From The Vile Victorians, a Show Within a Show is named Please Don't Send Me To The Workhouse, Daddy! (I'm Only A Helpless Child).
    • From The Rotten Romans, there's a blockbuster film arriving in theaters soon called The Eagle Has Landed Again (And Again, And Again...).
  • Lovable Rogue: The teenage Terry Deary (and his Fountain of Expies) in the classroom scenes. Even though in real life, his character would be an annoyance in class, it's rather hard not to love him and laugh at all of his awful jokes.
  • Man of a Thousand Voices: Or the entire cast. You wouldn't believe that there are only four voice actors (and Terry Deary) on all the tapes.
  • Match Cut: In some moments when someone recites a report or a poem, the voices will merge from the reader to the reporter or author who wrote it.
  • Medium Awareness: Occasionally mentioned, however The Vicious Vikings has bucketfuls of this.
  • Motor Mouth: A widow called Alice Arden in The Terrible Tudors is put on trial for the suspicious murder of her husband by her hired assassins called Black Will and Mossby. Despite claiming she's innocent, her mouth keeps getting her in trouble.
    Judge: Yes, and they've been sentenced to hanging in chains, but what part did you play in the murder?
    Alice Arden: I may have just mentioned to them that I'd be happier if he was was dead, and they could have the rings off his fingers and all the money in his pocket if they bumped him off... [embarrassed] I may have just said that.
    Judge: In that case, you are guilty!!
    Alice Arden: [pleads] You're not gonna hang me, are you, honor?! Just for letting a few words slip? You're not gonna hang poor Alice Arden, are you?
    Judge: [groaning] No, I am not going to hang you.
    Alice Arden: [surprised] Oh! ...Well, that's good. I mean, I did try to poison him but it didn't work, did it? And I just happened to mention to Mossby...
    Judge: [Tranquil Fury] Mrs. Arden? ... SHUT UP!!!
  • My Greatest Failure:
    • For Augustus Caesar, it was the German ambush at The Battle of (thunder) Teutoburg Forest.
  • Name's the Same: invoked In The Stormin' Normans, Harald Hardrada orders his army to march to Stanford Bridge, which makes the army chant "Chelsea! Chelsea!" He snaps at them that he means the actual bridge called Stanford in Yorkshire.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed:
    • A scene from The Groovy Greeks has a boxing match in front of the BBC sports crew, and famous boxer Frank Bruno, however, he is only known as Frank, but only the older audience would know who it's supposed to be.
    • Someone who sounds suspiciously like the Through the Keyhole co-presenter Loyd Grossman appears frequently throughout The Stormin' Normans as an (unnamed) interior designer.
    • The sports commentators that commonly appear are based on BBC Sport's football commentating duo Des and Alan.
  • Once per Episode: There was at least one musical number on every episode, much like the later seasons of the live action TV series.
    • A Joan of Arc song.
    • A song about the Romans' failure to fight back at the betrayal of the Germans at Teutoburg Forest.
    • Two World War One songs: one about the soldiers in the trenches making fun of their commanders, and another about how much the soldiers were looking forward to going home.
    • A Victorian song in a graveyard about how graves were being dug up to put in sewage pipes.
    • A Tudor song about Henry the 8th about his 6 wives, featuring famous historical figures and media references.
    • A Middle Ages song about the plague, which is the same song later featuring in the first season of the live action show.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise:
    • Implied in The Measly Middle Ages. Joan D'Arc disguises herself as a young man and is convincing the French Army to attack the English. After reciting her speech, the general says:
      General: Wait a minute, why have you got such a high voice, little man? And on top of this, who is your barber?note  I would give my last Ecosse for a shave like that!
      • Despite that, the general still doesn't realize it's a teenage girl.
    • Again in The Measly Middle Ages when a knight disguises himself as a lady-in-waiting in order to get past his crush's overprotective dad. He teaches her how to sew, but she's not fooled.
      Knight: [in "ladylike" voice] Curses! How did you— [clears throat, then in normal voice] Curses! How did you guess?
      Knight's Crush: The beard was an obvious giveaway.
  • Parental Bonus:
    • Some of the background music used in many scenes are actually music from old radio shows the BBC used to air at least 30 years prior.
    • In the Woeful Second World War, when the Home Guard (nicknamed Dad's Army) is mentioned, the theme of the BBC TV series plays before a record needle scratch is heard.
    • The Vicious Vikings is about to introduce a story set in the countrysides of Scandinavia, but it's promising a boring look into the way of the Vikings' lives with the theme song of The Archers and groans of the annoyed audience.
  • Political Correctness Gone Mad: William the Conqueror demanding to be called a Norman because he is of Scandinavian descent. Anyone who calls him a Frenchman doesn't know what they've got themselves into. note 
    William the Conqueror: I am Norman! North-men, Nor-Man!! You get it?!
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: invoked Purposely invoked.
    • Some sketches are based on true stories that were recorded at the time.
    • A young Terry Deary in the history classroom sketches being disruptive, making snide jokes at the teacher, and being annoyed about studying the subject are based on how Deary acted when he was in school. He didn't care about schoolwork because he had set his dreams on being a famous soccer player.
  • Recurring Character:
    • An American tourist (although she's more of a Recurring Extra), who appears in a tour around the Vikings slave trade and at Stone Henge. She's mostly shocked by the horrible facts, and she makes it known whenever she gasps, "Oh my!"
    • The Grim Reaper, who relishes in making puns about dying and taking people to the other side.
  • Rhymes on a Dime: In the Rotten Romans, a gang of Viking sailors attack a city by pretending their leader's dead. One of the prisoners they're about to kill has a conversation entirely in this.
    Prisoner: [tearfully] Why?!
    Viking Pirate Leader: "Why"?
    Prisoner: Why die?!
    Viking Pirate Leader: "Why die"?
    Prisoner: Why die, I cry?!
    Viking Pirate Leader: "Why die, [you] cry"?
    Prisoner: Why die, I cry?! Oh my!!!
  • Running Gag:
    • The Stormin' Normans feature a choir of kazoo players that constantly annoy William the Conqueror.
    • William the Conqueror makes bad dad jokes that no one reacts to. He responds by mumbling "Oh, I'm wasted on this [location]."
    • A trumpet player in the Rotten Romans who tries to reach the top note, but fails to, resulting in getting his ear, and then his hand, chopped off by Julius Caesar's guards.
    • William the Conqueror being called French, or a "French fool".
    • Someone about to be executed saying "Cor, stone me!" and a police officer replying that he plans to.
    • "A hot stake is better than a cold chop!" from The Terrible Tudors.
  • Sadist Teacher:
    • Terry Deary's history teacher.
      • He gets rather annoyed when the class fail to find any information about the life of children in the Victorian era which wasn't about corpses, dirty water and abusive parents, instead of being grateful that the class did the homework without hesitation.
      • Fails Deary's Tudor homework song on Henry VIII because his song didn't feature dates.
      • Deary's history class hold a school quiz with the prize being that they'd go home early if they got the most, but when the class do win, the teacher gives them homework because they didn't rule against it.
    • The Vicious Vikings had this moment:
      Voice: Awright, Deary, where's your dinner money?
      Terry: In me pocket.
      Voice: Well, give it to me.
      Terry: [in pleading tone] I need it to buy me school dinner.
      Voice: And I need it to buy a packet of fags, so give it 'ere!! [we hear Terry handing the coins over] Oh, there's a good little boy! Following orders and doing what you're asked.
      Terry: Well, I have to, sir. You're my teacher!
    • A mild one in a story in The Woeful Second World War when a schoolboy was given a chocolate bar from his mother. The chocolate then disappears during a practice siren drill, and the boy realizes that it was the teacher who took it. Unsurprisingly, the teacher never admits it.
  • Schoolmarm: The teacher in the Measly Middle Ages chivalrous knight school.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!
    • In The Vile Victorians, teacher William Shaw openly admits that he abuses his students, but he doesn't care about their human rights because he's rich.
      William Shaw: I'm William Shaw, and I run my own school. I treat my boys so badly, some of them have gone blind. Who cares? As long as I make money.
    • A school inspector from The Terrible Tudors speaks in an interview about some teachers he knew.
      School inspector: I remember one teacher, who — on a cold winter's morning — would whip his boys just so he could warm himself up. Another one beat them for swearing, and all the time he was beating them, he was swearing horrible oaths!
  • Screw the Rules, I Make Them!: Henry VIII has the law changed after the Bishop of Rochester's guests are poisoned. For the next five years after, being caught poisoning is punished by boiling alive.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: At the beginning of The Vicious Vikings, the voiceover is interrupted by a technician who claims that Mel Gibson and Jennifer Lopez — who were scheduled to portray "Eric the Red" and "Erica, the Bright Shade of Pink" — have suddenly refused to star in the special because the script was too disgusting for them to deal with. When the announcer takes a look for himself, he decides to leave too.
  • Show Within a Show: The history class scenes are constantly interrupted by award shows, a This Is Your Life parody with a historical figure, a diary account from a bystander that could've been around at the time of an event, a musical number, a poem, a competition between a student and a teacher ... the list goes on and on!
  • Shout-Out:
    • The Stormin' Normans featured the 1980s' presenter of Through The Keyhole inspecting Glastonbury and giving the monks tips about how to improve it.
    • Normans also had the kazoo players playing songs such as the French National Anthem, Waltzing Matilda, the Match of the Day theme, and what sounds like the William Tell Overture, before being stopped an angry William the Conqueror.
    • The replacement comedian on the The Vile Victorians finishes a joke by shrieking "Boom boom!"
      • This was used again when a game show host was reciting poems about the Tudor monarchs and he finished some of them in the same in the same manner. It was followed by a crowd of boos.
    • Henry VIII is nicknamed "Horrible Henry" by Deary. They probably wanted to name him "Horrid Henry", but that was already taken.
    • When the American soldiers join the First World War, one of them says, "This is one small step for man, but a giant leap for mankind."
    • The Vicious Vikings wanted Mel Gibson to play Eric the Red, which could be an Actor Allusion to another famous warrior he's portrayed.
  • Simpleton Voice
    • The executioner in the Terrible Tudors who fails to behead the Countess of Pole, and eventually saws into her neck like he's slicing bread, after chopping her several times in the back of her head (as well as the hands of the men holding her down).
    • The Viking Giant Gilling. He is murdered by the dwarves, Galla and Fjalla, that invited him and his wife to dinner by not being suspicious over the dwarves begging him to look out to the sea near their boat:
      Fjalla: If you look around, you see to the bottom of the sea, see?
  • Smurfing: In a dinner scene in a Viking house, the word "Viking" is used as the parents argue as if the word censors a multitude of colorful language:
    Son: What's for tea tonight, Mum?
    Mother: [grumpily] Fish.
    Son: [groaning] Oh, not again.
    Mother: Blame your Viking dad.
    Father: [sarcastically] Yes, blame me!
    • Then:
      Mother: D'you know what happens to your father's land when he dies?
      Father: It goes to his Viking son.
      Mother: It goes to his eldest son, and you are a youngest son. What did you get when your father died?
      Father: VIKING NOTHING!!!
    • Also:
      Mother: GOLD, you bacon-headed Viking!!
  • Snake Oil Salesman: Two of these types of con men feature in The Measly Middle Ages and The Terrible Tudors. The one from the former episode is avenged by the Grim Reaper.
  • Song Parody:
    • The Frightful First World War features this. When the soldiers in the trenches were bored, they made song parodies to keep themselves entertained.
      • The song "We're Here Because" was a parody of Auld Lang Syne which implied the soldiers' confusion over why they were in the war.
      • "When This Lousy War Is Over" is a parody of What a Friend We Have In Jesus.
      • In The Terrible Tudors, a cleaner is singing to herself as she does her job to the tune of Greensleeves:
      Alas, my love, you are looking bad
      It must be the moldy old peas you had
      I used to love your white dress — it's sad
      Because since you've been sick
      It's got Greensleeves!
  • Sound-Effect Bleep: In the Measly Middle Ages, young trainee soldiers are told to woo a girl their age by asking them to lay in each other's arms by the fireside. Deary's cheeky schoolboy Expy has an unfortunate encounter.
    Girl at the door: Yeah? What choo want then?!
    Terry Deary the Trainee Knight: [nervously] I, uh... wanna talk with you by the fireside.
    Male voice inside Girl's house: WHO'S THAT THERE, MATILDA??!
    Girl at the door: Some squire 'ere want to talk to me!
    Male voice inside Girl's house: TELL HIM TO [fart sound] OFF!!!
    Girl at the door: [to Deary] Me dad says "[fart sound] off".
  • Station Ident: In-universe. At the end (or beginning) of a chapter, a repeated segment of sound effects are played (mostly gruesome) followed by a deep throaty voice saying "Horrible Histories" and a door slams. They change every time.
  • Stealth Pun: The Audio Announcer in the Groovy Greeks gushes to Deary about how much his family loves his books, and that they have a good few stacked in the toilet, for a "little light reading."
  • Stock "Yuck!": School dinners.
  • Teacher's Pet: Felicity in all of Terry Deary's history classes.
    • And then her replacement Freddy.
  • Tempting Fate:
    • In the Rotten Romans, Terry Deary points out that Emperor Augustus wore a special coat because he believed it protected him from lightning.
      Emperor Augustus: [after hearing Deary's explanation] So? It worked, didn't it?! I was never hit by lightning once!
      [sound of lightning and Augustus yelping]
    • Whenever a character says, "Stone me." Then it's revealed they'll be stoned to death.
    • In the Frightful First World War, Jon Price telling his friend in 1917 that he's amazed how long they've both been alive since the war began in 1914.
  • That Poor Cat: The tapes had their own version that was a stock sound effect that was just a male voice making a patronizing "Ouch" as if he was emphasising a mild pain from a pinch.
  • The Reveal: In the Vicious Vikings, the casting agents (and Deary) hire mediocre actors that they don't want to pay, promising them a "blood eagle" when the filming's over. The actors spend the entire episode between filming to ask when they were going to get their prize, and Deary promises that they'll get it soon, leaving them (and the audience) in the dark of what a "blood eagle" could be. Until during the recording, everyone finds out from the script that a blood eagle is (when a person's body is ripped apart, being called an honor by Vikings. This scares the actors away, as well as another crew member who also demands to be paid.).
  • Those Two Guys:
    • Romulus and Remus — the orphaned brothers who fought over the conquering of Rome.
    • Augustus Caesar and his nephew that is defeated at (thunder) Teutoburg Forest.
    • The two BBC Sport reporters that treat the wars like a game of soccer/football.
    • The night soil men from The Vile Victorians.
    • Child Soldiers Tommy, and George Price from The Frightful First World War.
    • Terry and Felicity, mostly for being the only students that talk in class (there are brief moments when we hear from other students, however. This is usually when the teacher asks them a direct question.)
    • Terry Deary and the announcer, whose name is revealed to be Humphrey in The Vicious Vikings.
  • Toilet Humor:
    • In Felicity's Middle Ages poem:
      In the days of old
      When the knights were bold
      And the toilet lights were dim
      You'd hear a crash and then a splash
      My God! He's fallen in!
    • The constant farting sound effects.
    • The Bishop of Rochester's cook using laxatives on his dinner guests, killing them all due to extreme diarrhoea.
  • Too Dumb to Live
    • A mass murderer nicknamed the Blackout Ripper in The Woeful Second World War, who managed to murder five people. He was eventually caught after the police found his gas-mask with his name and address inside, and was hanged in prison.
    • Many of the members of Dad's Army who either died or was seriously injured from mundane accidents, such as slicing fingers off from strapping on helmet, breaking a leg from a table collapsing on their foot, accidentally being shot by colleague who confused you for being a rabbit to eat, and breaking jaw after tripping over a gym mat.
    • The people of Troy in The Groovy Greeks, who don't think it's suspicious that the Greek enemies have suddenly surrendered by giving them a gift of a massive wooden horse that's big enough to fit people inside.
    • A few members of the audience at a secret meeting at the local theater in The Frightful First World War, who were told not to whistle for a taxi after dark because the enemy is listening in fighter planes above.
      Man in charge of meeting: I'll just get you home. [whistles for taxi]
      (bombs fall, and man is blown up)
      Male Member of the audience: Oh dear. He shouldn't've whistled. Come on, let's get down the pub. I'll call for that taxi. [whistles for taxi]
      (bombs fall, and man is blown up)
      Female Member of the audience: Oh dear.
  • Unfortunate Names: The discussion on the development of weapons in a Frightful First World War meeting decide to call the army tanks "little willies".
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Most characters didn't react whenever they, or a loved one, was killed by the enemy. An English border guard from The Vicious Vikings is very annoyed that his body is sliced from head to foot by a Viking, and Thora is very passive-aggressive that Bjarni decapitated her husband Ijalf, to the point of leading the herd of sheep back to the family barn, instead of mourning.
  • Who's on First?: In The Measly Middle Ages, the peasant revolts are led by a man named Wat Tylor. The middle class cannot stop confusing themselves.
  • Wham Line: A couple of times.
    • In The Vicious Vikings, it had been sold to the listener as a No Fourth Wall/Medium Awareness episode, meaning none of the characters were real people, nothing was real, and everyone on screen was being portrayed by actors. However, during the credits, a sword fight takes place, in which two people were killed. Then you hear the director's voice say, "Will someone clean the blood off the microphone?"
  • What the Hell Is That Accent?: Mary of Scotland spends most of her time in France, to the point of gaining a hybrid of a Scottish and French dialect. In the words of the BBC reporter that presents her execution, "Hence that ridiculous French accent."
  • World of Ham: Some sketches are played dangerously close to Chewing the Scenery, possibly for laughs.
  • Verbal Backspace
    • The monk that writes the Diary of 1066 says this about the chief monk:
    Chief Monk: Yes, "stuffing my face"... what?
    Monk: I said, "the whole human race".
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: The Frightful First World War does this. Even though there are the usual sketches like in the other audio tapes, the main story is the story of two teenagers that lie about their age to join the army and face the horrible times of the trenches. One of them is named Jon Price, who was known months after the war as the last British soldier ever to die on November 11 1918, two minutes before it was scheduled to finish.
  • The Vicar: One will occasionally make a cameo in an episode whenever the topic changes to religion. Vicars that appear are either backstabbers, uppity, and/or just very genre blind.
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