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Magazine / Private Eye

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This is about the magazine. For the blokes in trenchcoats and fedoras, see Private Detective or Hardboiled Detective.
The very first edition, layout and cartooning by Willie Rushton.

"The best comedy is when you attack the strong, not the weak."
Ian Hislop, editor.

A British fortnightly magazine of current affairs and satirical humour, running since 1961. Founders included its first editor Richard Ingrams, and comedians Peter Cook and Willie Rushton, who had all been contemporaries at Shrewsbury School and later at Oxbridge.

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", (defunct) which featured the Brown camp of the now former Labour government and who all spoke in exaggerated Scottish accents- even the English ones. This was 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.
    • For Prime Minister Boris Johnson, this took the form of a transcript from a Facebook-style video where he answers questions from the public, parodying the "People's Prime Minister's Questions", which he launched upon becoming the PM in 2019. This was changed in 2021 to messages between MPs in a WhatsApp-style group, which continued throughout Liz Truss's record-breakingly short tenure (of just three issues!) and into Rishi Sunak's tenure. The parodies for previous PMs are as follows:
      • "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. Following the 2015 General Election and the Lib Dem's departure from the Government, it became the "Cameron Free School", with the Lib Dem bird poorly cut out of the previous logo (which combined it with the Conservative tree).
      • This basic style was continued when Theresa May replaced David Cameron as Prime Minister in 2016, but renamed "St. Theresa's Independent State Grammar School for Girls (and Boys)", due to her policies of reintroducing grammar schools, with a logo of a badge taped together featuring a pair of leopard-print kitten heels.
      • After the 2017 General Election resulted in the Conservatives needing to create a confidence and supply agreement with the Democratic Unionist Party, the "school" incorporated the William III Orange Academy, with one of the kitten heels being replaced by an orange.
      • "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.
      • Former parodies have been known to return elsewhere on the joke pages: any resurgence of Thatcher or Major to public life would inevitably lead to a new letter to Bill or diary entry, and Tony Blair's position as Middle East Peace Envoy was satirised with occasional missives from the former Vicar in his new role with the ecumenical organisation Drawing All Faiths Together.
  • "Dave Snooty and his New Pals" - (defunct) 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. Itself replaced by Andy Capp-in-Ring, about Andy Burnham's bid for Labour leadership, then by a text piece which was simply "Jeremy Corbyn Writes" (after a brief experiment with a strip portraying Corbyn as Obi-Wan Kenobi).
  • "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 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 artsy-pretentious friends of the new age liberal type. Replaced a long-running strip The Gays that was drawing complaints over perceived homophobia. Readers of IGUNL suspect this strip is still "The Gays" with a slant on affluent arty Islington pretentiousness.
  • "Apparently"
  • "Scene And Heard", a regular cartoon journalism feature which depicts and quotes random members of the public attending some political or cultural event. Initially attracted some bemusement from readers who couldn't understand the idea of a non-gag cartoon. Understandably put on hold when the COVID-19 Pandemic caused its source material to be cancelled, but has yet to return once its source material returned.
  • "Pseuds Corner", a column which highlights particularly pompous and pretentious quotes from that week's media.
  • "Commentatorballs", which records ridiculous, accidentally suggestive, 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. Originally named "Colemanballs" after the notoriously gaffe-prone sports commentator David Coleman, renamed after his death. 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. Discontinued in 2023 following the cartoonist's death.
  • 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 the then 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 woman broadsheet columnist angle is also likely a dig at The Guardian's Polly Toynbee.
  • 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).
    • Since Jeremy Corbyn's election as Leader of the Labour Party in 2015 (and the subsequent appointment of Milne to Corbyn's media team), Spart has been steadily replaced with the column "Jeremy Corbyn Writes".
    • The "Jeremy Corbyn Writes" was subsequently replaced by "Keir Starmer Writes", in which the new Labour leader tells readers about his plans for the future, which mostly involve doing nothing and being as bland as possible while the Conservative Party commits suicide with increasingly worse Primer Ministers, all of that while Deputy Labour Leader Angela Rayner conspires to take his job.
  • 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.
    • During the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the column became "A Tank Driver Writes", in which Vladimir Putin complains about the regular Russian defeats.
  • 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 in the early 1970s (when else?) 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 Sun (and formerly the Mirror) has been designated a "Glen".
  • The Grauniad = The Guardian (a newspaper known for its spelling mistakes and other typographical errors, including allegedly their own name in their masthead).
    • The success of this nickname can be seen by the fact that 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)
  • Er..
  • 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 a baillienote  whose name was Vass)
    • 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.
    • In fact, this nickname has gotten prevalent enough that The Other Wiki automatically redirects you to Douglas-Home's page if you type in Baillie Vass in the search bar.
  • 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 his known religiosity and a perceived similarity to trendy clergymen. He passed on the "Dear Leader" title to Gordon Brown.
  • "Brenda" = Queen Elizabeth II
  • "Brian" = Long-time Prince, now King Charles III
  • 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, the Daily Hitler or the Doolally Mail.
  • The Evening Standard is called "The Evening Boris" for its support of Boris Johnson (starting during his stint as Mayor of London but continuing thereafter).
  • The Daily Telegraph is sometimes referred to as "The Daily Hellograph", due to its perceived shift downmarket into celebrity fluff (Hello being a notoriously vapid British celebrity-gossip mag.)
  • 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.)
  • Daily Mail columnist Sarah Vine becomes Sarah Vain since she uses her column to talk about herself and that she's married to prominent Conservative politician Michael Gove.
  • Evening Standard owner Evgeny 'Two-Beards' Lebedev.
  • 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".
  • 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.

The magazine was notable in the early 21st-century for rejecting the choice of many newspapers to make the full content of the print edition freely available on the website, with the Street of Shame column frequently (and, as it turned out, correctly) mocking the belief that relying on online advertising revenue would be a sustainable business model. The website has been used only to provide samples of the humorous content, and sometimes to make available detailed data files resulting from investigative journalism. Although there is still no digital edition, there is a podcast, Page 94, which reveals behind-the-scenes stuff about how the journalists research their stories and where the jokewriters get their ideas.

This work provides examples of:

  • Amusingly Short List: A Running Gag is to blatantly pad the lists by making the last two entries "Er..." and "That's it".
  • Anachronism Stew: Always Played for Laughs in many Retraux-style parodies. For example, current events will often be covered in a Victorian or mediaeval style, sometimes with reasonable contemporary equivalents (like the Sudoku craze being mirrored by the crossword craze in the nineteenth century) but sometimes just incongruously using modern technologies or values in the past. And there will always be Identical Grandson-type ancestors of current celebrities and politicians.
    • One common variant, which is being scaled back since his death, was to have the ancient Bill Deedes, editor of the Daily Telegraph, be the editor of the various historical publications, such as the Daily Chain Mail, or the "first ever issue" of Haaretz (which is usually one portraying the birth of Christ").
  • Arch-Enemy: At varying times this role has been filled by James Goldsmith, Robert Maxwell, Jeffrey Archer, Rupert Murdoch, Piers Morgan and Mohammed Al Fayed among others. Of these, Maxwell and Archer are the most infamous. Hislop mentions that Maxwell and Archer were the longest-term enemies; Archer was the longest, whilst Maxwell was the biggest, with his numerous libel writs. It took the Eye 40 years before Jeffrey was put away. Hislop mentions Jeffrey as being their most satisfying scalp; Maxwell's trickery was only exposed after he died whilst Jeffrey, who, to Hislop, embodied the "vice, folly, and humbug" of the modern politician, could know he was beaten from his prison cell:
    Hislop, on Parkinson in 2002: "'Vice folly and humbug'...and in Jeffrey's case a supreme vanity, that meant he believed he should take centre stage in the country, and he wouldn't be put off by the fact that he had no talent, ability, or moral character"
  • Arc Number: 94. This derives from a common gag where a long run-on list or article will end in "cont. page 94", the joke being that the Eye is obviously nowhere near thick enough to actually have a page 94. While this joke is still used straight, the number has become iconic and representative of the Eye itself, so is now found in other context—any parody of a topical media that involves numbers will use it (e.g. The Number 23 is parodied as The Number 94). As noted above, it also appears in the name of their podcast.
  • Asian Speekee Engrish: Evely singre time Wendi "Deng" Dung, rife of Austrarian newpape tycoon Lupert Muldoch is poltlayed in de megezene.
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: Private Eye's owner and longtime contributing editor Peter Cook was a master of this trope. His finest hour was leading a raid on the Mirror offices at a time when Maxwell had tried to force the magazine off the newsstands (and succeeded with WH Smith, a large British newsagents chain). He and some cohorts, including current editor Ian Hislop, convinced the doorman and security at the Mirror offices that they were there to see Robert Maxwell. They used this to vandalize Maxwell's office, steal the master copy of a planned spoof Not Private Eye smear-job piece Maxwell had been producing (they had previously sent the journalists involved with the project a case of whisky, with predictable results), order a champagne lunch to be delivered at Maxwell's expense, and, finally, very drunk, phoning Maxwell personally in New York and saying "guess where we are".
  • British Rockstar: Gary Bloke of the Celeb strip, and Spiggy Topes (later "Sir Spigismond Topes") of Spiggy Topes and the Turds. The latter is unusual in that the joke started contemporaneously with The British Invasion and has continued in real-time, with his career paralleling that of Real Life musicians. This also makes Spiggy Topes a Composite Character, as he is basically used as a stand-in for any has-been rock star who's been in the news, from Paul McCartney to Rod Stewart and more.
    • Following the Pædo Hunt in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal, in which several musicians from The '70s were implicated, the Eye has also introduced the character of "Dave Rock", a seventies British Rockstar who always seems to have a connection with the latest musician to be arrested and accidentally reveals his own paedophilic or non-consensual sexual offenses.
  • Boyfriend-Blocking Dad: Taken to ridiculous extremes by "Family_man", one of the commenters in From The Messageboards, whose catchphrase is "Any of these (subject of news) come near my girls and I swear I'll do time".
  • Bulungi: The fictional African country of "Rumbabwe, formerly British Rumbabaland". (It’s also a pun on rum baba, a dessert featuring cake soaked in a rum sauce with cream.)
  • The Christmas Annual: Which collects the best and least date-specific of the year's comedy material.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Polly Filler's husband "The Useless Simon", normally The Ghost, took over her column in the wake of her reading Fifty Shades of Grey and becoming a sexual submissive.
  • Driver of a Black Cab: The "A Cab Driver Writes" segment, which portray any recent celebrity or politician who's said something intolerant as such a cabbie. Occasional variations appear, e.g. Islamic extremists being portrayed as "A Camel Driver Writes".
  • Executive Meddling: Strictly and doggedly averted by Peter Cook throughout his 32 years as majority shareholder - he contributed jokes (and money) but never interfered editorially (and even bought out at least one minority shareholder who tried to do so) which surely makes him unique among proprietors of any sort of current affairs journal since the early 20th century. Paul Foot, a long-serving Eye journalist, called him "the essence of the non-interfering proprietor".
  • Fauxlosophic Narration: The subject of the "Pseuds Corner" column which gathers up uses of such phrases in the arts (and latterly the corporate world).
  • Flame War: The "From the Messageboards" column is set in a fictional forum where one seems to be permanently ongoing. Time to end the disastrous democratic experiment.
  • Former Bigot: the change in editorial direction in the magazine when Richard Ingrams retired and handed over editorship to Ian Hislop. Under Ingrams, a valid criticism of the magazine was that it was hostile to minorities note  and especially manifested a streak of homophobia.note  Hislop quietly but firmly changed the direction of the magazine, arguing that jokes made about gay people purely because they were gay didn't really belong. A long-running cartoon strip called "The Gays" - usually only a collection of homophobic stereotypes - was retired. its replacement. "It's Grim Up North London", centres on an Ambiguously Gay couple called Jez and Quinn - but the focus of the humour is not on their being gay, it skewers the fads, pretentiousness and superficiality of life among the trendy hipster set of affluent Hipsterville London.
    • In the 2020s the magazine has been accused of reverting due to a series of stories and cartoons sympathetic to "gender critical" transphobic feminists.
  • Funny Spoon: The "Me and My Spoon" column, a parody of celebrity lifestyle columns.
  • Girlboss Feminist: Polly Filler is a parody of women who think and act like this. Ms Filler is to be read as a successful well-rewarded newspaper columnist who uses the vocabulary of feminism and female empowerment, decries misogyny, demands the same pay and recognition as her male counterparts, and boasts of being an empowered woman. And in the next paragraph when boasting about her perfect home life, reveals this female solidarity does not extend to lowly people like her nanny or her cleaner. She complains the cleaner is too lazy for the £5 an hour she gets paid, and about her nanny's reluctance to be on call 24/7 when she is being given a generous opportunity to work unpaid in London, improve her awful English for free, and not to be in her native Slovenia.
  • Gold Digger: Wendi Deng is always portrayed this way:
    The Digger: Strewth Wendy, my heart is bursting with pride.
    Wendi Deng:NO HEALT BULST YET ORD MAN You save company first!
  • Historical Longevity Joke: Jokes of this type were constantly made about ancient journalists Bill Deedes and Alistair Cooke prior to their deaths (and Deedes jokes still occasionally show up).
  • Insistent Terminology: Referring to Alec Douglas-Home as "Baillie Vass" and Andrew Neil as Andrew Neill with two Ls (apparently purely because it annoys him). Mohammed Al Fayed is always referred to simply as Mohammed Fayed, on the grounds that he added the 'al' himself. Piers Morgan is always referred to as Piers Moron, though recently the "Moron" title has passed to Dominic Mohan, editor of The Sun.
  • In the Style of: Much of the humour in the second half is based on this, such as the "Book of (Insert Current Israeli Leader Here)" bits which present contemporary Middle East events in the style of the King James Bible.
    -The Book of Net-An-Yahoo: And Barack, son of Obama, may not looketh so kindly upon our smiting as did Dubya, that is called the Burning Bush.
  • Inversion: A very common joke format in the second half of the Eye. For example, if the Conservative Party has a debate over whether they support gay couples adopting children, the Eye will report it as gay couples having a debate over whether they support adopting the Conservative Party. A historian saying that the Battle of Britain was won by the Royal Navy not the RAF is reported by the Eye saying the Battle of Trafalgar was won by the RAF (somehow) rather than the Royal Navy. And so on.
  • Is the Answer to This Question "Yes"?: When a newspaper leads with a story about a study that has proved something that was obvious to begin with (e.g. students enjoy drinking), the Eye does a segment with the same headline followed by additional stories like 'Pope admits he may have Catholic tendencies' and 'Bear accused of woodland defecation'.
    • A related joke is reporting banal celebrity or royal news in a generic way stripped of all names to show how Captain Obvious it is, such as reporting on Prince Harry having a scandal as "Nineteen-year-old boy goes out, gets drunk, does ill-advised things; nation stunned". The ultimate example of this was the cover on the birth of Prince George, which just consisted of the huge headline "WOMAN HAS BABY".
  • Long List: Usually subverted, with a ten-point (or more) list being promised but it petering out around point 6 with "Er...That's it."
  • Malaproper and Metaphorgotten: The Colemanballs column.
  • Medal of Dishonor: The Eye bestows the Order of the Brown Nose (OBN) upon people who engage in egregious sycophantic praise. There are also three annual awards or sets thereof announced at Christmas or New Year:
    • The Nooks and Corners architecture columnist "Piloti" awards the Sir Hugh Casson Medal for the Worst New Building of the year. (It's named after an architect whom Piloti despised because in his later years he routinely took a fee to give evidence in favour of demolishing worthwhile buildings.)
    • Rotten Boroughs, the local government column, presents a set of awards to local councillors, senior council staff etc. that it has reported on throughout the year. The categories vary from year to year but have included e.g. "Tory Bigot of the Year", "Jailbird of the Year" and "Nepotism Award".
    • The Literary Review column presents the Christmas Log-Rolling Awards for the most blatant examples of log-rolling (i.e. writers trading favours by praising each other's books) and other such disreputable practices in newspapers' and magazines' "book of the year" pieces.
  • Mood-Swinger: Glenda Slagg, a parody of female columnists like Lynda Lee-Potter and other columnists of the same stamp, who swing between gushingly effusive and poisonously biting opinions of the same celebrity between columns—Glenda is an exaggeration, switching from one pole to the other in alternating paragraphs.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: The Sizzler (see below).
  • New Media Are Evil: The Eye is usually at least somewhat guilty of this, although it changes over time. On the other hand, they are also fond of mocking newspapers' (especially the Guardian and the Telegraph) belief that they can get bloggers to do their jobs for them for free by encouraging them to "Join the debate!"
  • The Nicknamer: See above.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Gary Bloke from "Celeb" has obvious physical similarities to Pete Townshend. However, he also has similarities to Bob Geldof (publicity-hungry famous-for-being-famous wife, daughter with bizarre name) and the strip occasionally parodies high-profile events involving other real-life elderly rock stars.
  • Note from Ed.: Usually to say the columnist is fired.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Sometimes people or institutions are only ever referred to by their nickname, which can create a Continuity Lockout for new readers. More commonly though the real name is used at the beginning before shifting to the nickname for the rest of the segment.
  • People's Republic of Tyranny: The "Prime Ministerial Decrees" spoof of Gordon Brown had him constantly spouting Communist jargon adapted to the here and now, such as referring to David Cameron's politics as "neo-Bullingdonite-Etonist deviationist backsliding". Also sometimes appears in the Dave Spart segments.
  • Precision F-Strike: The Eye's unapologetic editorial stance tends to draw threats of litigation fairly frequently. In the case of Arkell vs Pressdram they responded to such a threat with quite possibly one of the finest F-Strikes in history.
  • Romance Novel: The "Dame Sylvie Krin" segments are parodies of this, with subjects such as Prince Charles and Camilla or Rupert Murdoch and Wendi Deng.
  • Running Gag: Hundreds. A notable one is printing a picture of Andrew Neill cuddling an attractive young lady because it pisses him off whenever it appears. The standard formula is for a reader to write in asking the editor if he has any photographs related to some topic in the news, but by unfortunate Double Entendre it can be construed as a request for this photo, which is duly published alongside the letter.
    Reader: I read with great interest the details of Mr Clinton's peccadilloes in the press. Does the Eye have any photographs that could illustrate a relationship between an older man in a position of power and influence and a younger, attractive woman?
    • Sexual encounters will always be referred to as Ugandan Discussions, or simply Ugandan. This is because of an incident at a party hosted by journalist Neal Ascherson and his first wife, at which fellow journalist Mary Kenny had a "meaningful confrontation" with a former cabinet minister in the government of Milton Obote. The two later (implausibly) claimed that they were "upstairs discussing Uganda".
    • Any illegal drug that can be smoked will be referred to as an Exotic Cheroot.
    • Tired and emotional = Drunk.
    • Trebles all round is a phrase used when someone has made money with no effort, frequently applied to lawyers. If the phrase concerns a foreign "junket", then it will be given a regional spin, for instance, a Cabinet minister' China was announced with "treble mao-tai's all round." (By the way, drinking a treble maotai is a silly thing to do—even CPC officials down them one at a time, with plenty of chaser.)
    • Neasden, a suburb of London, is portrayed as a bizarre Place Worse Than Death indicating everything that is most dull and boring about modern British urban life.
    • Messages from the editor, either saying that the journalist in question is fired or slurring considerably, representing his speech following the famous Fleet Street "liquid lunch".
    • Ena is a forename used frequently by the magazine. Usually with the middle initial "B." It is generally used to indicate a person's mother or wife, as in Ena B. Clinton.
    • A recent one is Prince Charles in his bath overhearing half a story on the radio and jumping out in excitement because he's mistook it for news that the Queen is abdicating - due to the fact that several other monarchs and a Pope did indeed abdicate over the course of several weeks.
    • Referring to the perceived resemblance of Nicola Sturgeon, former leader of the Scottish National Party, to the Scottish comedy character Wee Jimmy Krankie (comedian Janette Tough cross-dressing as a schoolboy).
  • Troll: The contributors to the magazine's "from the message boards" feature. More generally, the magazine itself. Hislop admits to doing a lot of their running gags purely because they annoy the people on the receiving end. To whit:
    • Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger is referred to as "Alan Rubbisher", because this is apparently a nickname some Guardian staff have for him, which he hates.
    • Piers Morgan is referred to as Piers Moron again because it annoys him, although also because consensus in both Britain and America is that he is a bit dim-witted.
    • Former BBC 1 controller Alan Yentob is referred to as Alan Botney (Yentob spelled backwards), and the magazine has a long-running fake-conspiracy theory that he changed his name from the prosaic Botney in order to appear Jewish and sophisticated.
    • The infamous picture of Andrew Neil cuddling a young womannote  is reprinted for this reason. The magazine also started spelling his surname with two Ls, because it annoys him.
    • The magazine used to print Robert Maxwell's home address and encourage readers to contact him. Maxwell was also referred to as Cap'n Bob and, later, "The Bouncing Czech" (a name coined by none other than Harold Wilson). In fact, any mention of Maxwell; even if he hadn't been a crook, his utter hatred towards the magazine made mocking him a worthwhile end in itself.
    • During court cases, Peter Cook used to sit in the public gallery and wave his chequebook at Robert Maxwell, to let him know he couldn't kill Private Eye.
  • Selective Stupidity:
    • There's a regular feature called "Dumb Britain", which lists wrong answers given to supposedly simple questions by quiz show contestants.
    • Often criticised in the letters pages. One 'dumb answer' was to the question 'Where do Panama hats come from" which was answered with 'Luton'.note  A letter pointed out that this was a perfectly reasonable response since the answer was obviously not 'Panama'.
  • Single-Issue Wonk: Several newspapers are presented as being unhealthily obsessed with one or two issues, such as Diana's death (the Daily Express), house prices and things giving you cancer (the Daily Mail) and Liz Hurley and 'fruity girls' in general (the Daily Telegraph).
    • For a while, Private Eye itself was a Single-Issue Wonk on the idea that the MMR vaccine was to blame for a spike in U.K. autism rates, at one point running a 32-page "special report" that was denounced as dangerous scaremongering by the mainstream scientific community. After the MMR-autism link was exposed as a hoax, Eye columnist Phil Hammond admitted that the paper "got it wrong" and inappropriately stuck with the story even after conflicting factors had emerged.
    • A now vanished Running Gag involved a discussion being sidetracked at the first mention of The Sizzler, an exorbitantly expensive breakfast available on long train journeys, with the article wandering off into singing The Sizzler's praises.
    • The "From the Messageboards" column is set in a fictional internet forum made up almost entirely of trolls of this type.
      • Some of the more amusing ones are "justice_4_maddie" and "rot_in_hell_myra", two usernames obsessed with murderers. "Edgar" is a leftist conspiracy theorist unaware that his costume (a "giant finger" representing the wagging finger of the nanny state) looks like a penis. "Aethelstan" is a "true Englishman with a thousand years of Angelfolc blood" who hates the "mongrel British". "Bogbrush" is a naive but well-meaning soul who usually ends a thread with "great stuff guys" and is often physically injured by others, and there are several right wing psychos with elaborate Punny Names, such as the irrepressible "Last_Taxpayer_Standing_in_Harrietharmanistan_in_the_E.U.S.S.R". The creator of the column said in the Page 94 podcast that one of his favourites is brown_out, a man who based his username on a Single Issue that hasn't been relevant for nearly a decade, but has never bothered learning how to change it.
  • Strawman Political: Many.
    • Dave Spart, and occasionally his Distaff Counterpart Deirdre Spart and gay version Cedric Spart: stereotypical far left wing politics.
    • Sir Hubert Gussett: ultraconservative rural Tory politics. The older character of "Sir Bufton Tufton", who predates the Eye, is also sometimes mentioned.
  • Strongly Worded Letter: A frequent feature is a spoof Split Screen of the letters pages of the Guardian and Telegraph, with two writers each having written a Strongly Worded Letter about a topical news story, but being outraged for opposite reasons.
  • Transatlantic Equivalent: The second half of the Eye is similar to America's The Onion in content.
  • Trend Covers: The recent "Bookalikes" column is about this.
  • Unusual Euphemism: Has added several to the language, mostly deriving from weedy excuses or alibis given by politicians embroiled in scandals:
    • "Discussing Uganda" / "Ugandan discussions" = having sex
    • "Tired and emotional" = drunk
    • "Exotic cheroot" = cannabis
  • The Vicar: Tony Blair was presented as one in the 'Vicar of St Albion's' parody, inspired by a comparison that had been made by many in the media who had compared his style when making speeches to that of a trendy Anglican vicar giving a sermon. (Hilarious in Hindsight, now that Blair is a Catholic.)
  • Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe: In the "Book of (Insert Current Israeli Leader Here)" segments and sometimes some of the Retraux newspaper segments which compare current events to historical ones.
(That's enough Tropes. Ed)

The "Dear Bill" letters additionally provide examples of:

  • Celebrity Paradox: One letter has Denis apologising for not being able to meet Bill, because he'd "had to entertain a man called Deedes who has just got the boot from the Hot Seat at the Telegraph".
  • Compressed Vice: A Running Gag in one letter has Denis addicted to playing Space Invaders.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Denis, being elderly and reactionary, frequently uses racist language to describe the dignitaries he meets abroad.
  • Full-Circle Revolution: Discussed by Denis, when the French voted out Valéry Giscard d'Estaing:
    In my experience any Frog in office for more than a couple of years starts to think he's Napoleon or Louis the Whatever It Was, at which point the lower orders winkle out the cobblestones and create havoc. Then they bring in someone new and all go back to sipping their evil-smelling liqueurs in their pavement cafes. At which point the whole process begins all over again.
  • Herr Doktor: Doctor Bosendorfer, a fellow guest on one of the Thatchers' infrequent holidays at the Schloss Bangelstein in Switzerland.
  • Honest John: Maurice Picarda, one of Denis's friends who can forever be found trying to sell dubious shares or double glazing.
  • Incredibly Obvious Bug: At one point Boris, the butler at Number Ten, brings in a vase of daffodils and plugs it into the wall.
  • Mighty Whitey: Prosser-Cluff, a former colleague of Denis's whom he remembers fondly for the hard line he took with the local workers.
  • The Mole: It's abundantly clear that Boris is the Russians' man in Number Ten.
  • Multiple-Choice Past: Exactly how "poor old Podmore" died changes each time Denis recalls it.
  • No Name Given: Denis invariably refers to Maurice's mistress only as "[his] Air Malta girl". Her name is finally revealed in 1987 to be Mrs Bernadette Mifsud.
  • Not in My Backyard!: Denis is horrified to find that the Channel Tunnel rail link (or 'Frog Conveyor Belt' as he calls it) will pass through the suburb of Dulwich, where he has bought a house in the hope of retiring.
  • Right Way/Wrong Way Pair: Denis complains of being handed a religious pamphlet that contrasted a 'decrepit wino' staggering down the Primrose Path to Hell with a smug stockbroker ascending the straight and narrow way to the Celestial City.
  • Screw Politeness, I'm a Senior!: At a dinner to celebrate Harold Macmillan's ninetieth birthday, attended by Alec Douglas-Home, Edward Heath and Margaret Thatcher, Macmillan spends the dinner telling his successors how terrible they are. Afterwards, Mrs Thatcher suggests that the old man's mind is going, but Denis is more inclined to think this trope is in play.
  • Sdrawkcab Name: Denis is inclined to reverse Robert Mugabe's surname so that, read aloud, it sounds like 'ee ba gum'.
  • Strange Minds Think Alike: One minor arc has Denis make a fake Valentine card for the Chancellor of the Exchequer's wife, asking Bill to have it posted in the tiny Sussex village of Frant. In the following letters, he finds that the Chancellor sent a similar card to Mrs Thatcher, and had it posted in the neighbouring village of Eridge.
  • Truth in Television: Denis Thatcher did regularly correspond with Bill Deedes, though in real life his letters were handwritten rather than typed.
  • Unsuspectingly Soused: When Mrs Thatcher is due to be interviewed by Robin Day, Denis meets Day beforehand and spikes his drink so that he's drunk by the time of the interview.

However, the truly unparalleled touch of genius about Private Eye is widely thought to be its famous (cont. p.94).