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Magazine / Punch!

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Punch, or the London Charivari was a British magazine focusing on political satire, running from 1841 to 2002. Part of the same tradition as James Gillray, Spitting Image and Private Eye—in fact the creators of Private Eye admired Punch in their youth, and created their own magazine because they believed that Punch had lost its way and become too tame in tone.

The magazine takes its name from Mr Punch of Punch and Judy, who was supposedly the editor. Other members of his family occasionally showed up, such as Judy covering articles to do with more feminine subjects.

Throughout its run Punch was noted for its irreverent approach to politicians and celebrities (both at home and abroad) and its cartoonists, who produced a number of images which have become part of the cultural fabric of the nation. One such cartoon is "Dropping the Pilot", showing Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany dismissing Otto von Bismarck, while at the other end of the seriousness spectrum is a cartoon making the classic "Daleks can't climb stairs" joke. One of these cartoons gave British English the very useful phrase "curate's egg". The famous spoof history work 1066 And All That was originally serialised in Punch.

Fond of The Parody, Parody Names, and National Stereotypes. Some issues from before the 90-year copyright cutoff date are archived on Project Gutenberg.

Contains examples of:

  • Ambiguous Syntax: In one of the earliest issues from October 2, 1841:
    CURIOUS AMBIGUITY. The correspondent of a London paper, writing from Sunderland respecting the report that Lord Howick had been fired at by some ruffian, says, with great naïveté, “a gun was certainly pointed at his lordship’s head, but it is generally believed there was nothing in it.” — We confess we are at a loss to know whether the facetious writer alludes to the gun or the head.
  • American Eagle: The political cartoons often depict the United States in the form of an eagle.
  • Butt-Monkey: The writers had several favourite targets, such as Colonel Sibthorp in the 1840s and Winston Churchill in the 1920s — in both those cases for being colourful, outspoken ultra right wing politicians.
  • Either/Or Title: Stems from the fact that it was acknowledgedly inspired by the French Le Charivari.
  • Elmer Fudd Syndrome: The 1840s issues were fond of mocking Sir Peter Laurie, the then Lord Mayor of London, who apparently pronounced V as W.
  • Expospeak Gag: Used in an 1841 issue as part of a series purporting to be instructions on daily living, in this case lighting a fire:
    Take a small cylindrical aggregation of parallelopedal sections of the ligneous fibre (vulgarly denominated a bundle of fire-wood), and arrange a fractional part of the integral quantity rectilineally along the interior of the igneous receptacle known as a grate, so as to form an acute angle (of, say 25°) with its base; and one (of, say 65°) with the posterior plane that is perpendicular to it; taking care at the same time to leave between each parallelopedal section an insterstice isometrical with the smaller sides of any one of their six quadrilateral superficies, so as to admit of the free circulation of the atmospheric fluid. Superimposed upon this, arrange several moderate-sized concretions of the hydro-carburetted substance (vulgo coal), approximating in figure as nearly as possible to the rhombic dodecahedron, so that the solid angles of each concretion may constitute the different points of contact with those immediately adjacent. Insert into the cavity formed by the imposition of the ligneous fibre upon the inferior transverse ferruginous bar, a sheet of laminated lignin, or paper, compressed by the action of the digits into an irregular spheroid.
    These preliminary operations having been skilfully performed, the process of combustion may be commenced. For this purpose, a smaller woody paralleloped — the extremities of which have been previously dipped in sulphur in a state of liquefaction — must be ignited and applied to the laminated lignin, or waste paper, and so elevate its temperature to a degree required for its combustion, which will be communicated to the ligneous superstructure; this again raises the temperature of the hydro-carburet concretion, and liberates its carburetted hydrogen in the form of gas; which gas, combining with the oxygen of the atmosphere, enters into combustion, and a general ignition ensues. This, in point of fact, constitutes what is popularly termed — “lighting a fire.”
  • Funetik Aksent: Often used in cartoons depicting foreigners or working-class people.
  • Future Imperfect: Sometimes played straight in jokes. A variation in an early issue involves the amateur excavation of part of the mud bank of the Thames and historians confidently claiming what are obviously recent items are Roman or Tudor artefacts, right down to coming up with a fake Latin etymology for an abbreviation on a bottle cap.
  • Know-Nothing Know-It-All: The "Well-Informed Men" from the 1890s-1910s issues.
  • Malaproper: A common gag, usually taking the form of a supposedly overheard quote from an old woman, sometimes the actual Mrs Malaprop herself.
  • National Stereotypes: The French, the Germans and the Americans are the chief targets. In a turnabout, it was also fond of mocking how British tourists dressed and acted when abroad.
  • Nations as People: Helped popularise some of the classic national personifications, as well as using one-offs of their own.
  • One-Word Title: "Punch".
  • Only in Florida: The early issues, from the 1840s, seem to use Kentucky as an earlier "Florida" — almost every bizarre story from the United States involves Kentucky or Kentuckians.
  • Parody Names: For instance, Sir Robert Peel was dubbed "Sir Rhubarb Pill" and Lord Randolph Churchill (Winston Churchill's dad) was called "Grandolph" for his egotism.
  • The Parody: To take one example, issues from The Gay '90s have a Sherlock Holmes parody called "Picklock Holes", which pre-empts most of the jokes used in later parodies, with a lot of Bat Deduction.
  • Pungeon Master: Colonel Sibthorp was portrayed as being obsessed with puns.
  • Stuck on Band-Aid Brand: In Japan Punch became a loanword for single panel cartoons when it was first brought to the country during the Meiji Restoration.
  • Take That!: In later years, tended to aim these at Private Eye. For example, a table of how to rate celebrities' fame placed "Appeared on Have I Got News for You (Paul Merton's team)" one place above "Appeared on Have I Got News for You (Ian Hislop's team)".
  • Transatlantic Equivalent: The USA had Puck magazine, which ran from 1871 to 1918. Punch was itself inspired by the French magazine Le Charivari (hence the Either/Or Title). Le Charivari, however, was soon forced to abandon its political satire after it was banned by the French government, reinventing itself as a lifestyle piece.