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Driver of a Black Cab

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Note the green badge. This is the real deal.

"String 'em up! It's the only language they understand..."

Although in the US, taxi drivers often have a Funny Foreigner stereotype, it's quite different (in a sense, the antithesis) in England. Often ex-police, the drivers of black cabs (or to be technical, Hackney Carriages) are known for being very open with their views on what's wrong with society today (immigrants, the youth, etc.) and their proposed solutions (public hangings and floggings). Not to be confused with black people who drive cabs, toward whom this character might not be congenial,note  or with Uber drivers who offer the company's luxury service in black-on-black sedans.

Another stereotype is that cab drivers like to drop the names of celebrity passengers, as in "I 'ad that Liam Gallagher in the back of my cab last Friday".

The test taken to qualify as a Black Cab driver in London is called "The Knowledge,"note  takes at least three years to study for, and requires a ridiculously intuitive knowledge of London geography - which is all the more remarkable since London is what happens when one city spends two thousand years growing, absorbing smaller surrounding villages, towns, and cities, while being intermittently flooded, burned to the ground, and bombed into oblivion, resulting in a form of urban kudzu that sometimes defies physics - in places, it is entirely possible to get back where you started while going in what seems like an entirely straight line. It gets to the point where the memory centres of a cabby's brain are recognisably larger than those of a normal person. As Bill Bryson put it, "[London cabbies] would sooner entrust their teenage daughters to Alan Clark for a weekend than admit they've never heard of your destination," but chances are they have. Once they receive their "req" and pass, they earn the right to wear the coveted green badge.

A made-for-TV comedy The Knowledge about those aspiring to be London cabbies and their attempts to pass "The Knowledge" exam was made in 1979.


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    Comic Books 
  • One Hellblazer story focused on two young cabbies-in-training. Apparently the Knowledge was also a demon-sealing ritual.
  • A Viz strip had Cockney Wanker taking the Knowledge, which included directions from two arbitrary points for Londoners (a straightforward journey) and out-of-towners (Up the M1 to Dundee, and back down again), and being able to do a stream-of-consciousness speech from any topic to "Enoch Powell, send them all back" (known as "The Ignorance").


    Film — Animated 
  • Anthropomorphic British taxis can be seen during the last third of Cars 2, which takes place in London, England.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • A Deleted Scene in 28 Days Later shows Selena, Jim and Hannah taking turns driving the black cab and doing their best London cabbie impersonation, much to the annoyance of actual cab driver Frank. The DVD commentary mentions that you can't drive a black cab without experiencing an irresistible urge to do this.
  • It is a cabbie's rather melodramatic account of the previous night's events which makes David realise the reality of his situation in An American Werewolf in London.
  • Carry On Cabby is based around this. A couple of workaholic taxi drivers try to make a rival company go out of business.
  • The taxi driver in The Football Factory, who moans about controversial topics, such as immigration in London.
  • The Knowledge is a comedy about the "Knowledge boys", who aspire to be London cabbies with Nigel Hawthorne as their eccentric examiner. He acts strangely on purpose, in order to see how the candidates will deal with the equally strange General Public.
  • The cabbie in Paddington (2014), full stop.
  • The second stereotype occurs in Shakespeare in Love, where the black cab is replaced by a Thames ferry boat. "I had Christopher Marlowe in my boat once."
  • Ray in When I'm Sixty-Four, although he's not an especially gabby cabbie.

  • The Book Of Dave by Will Self is about the diary of a London cab driver accidentally becoming the basis of an Intellectual Property Religion 500 years into the future.
  • From Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency:
    "They should all be deported," said the taxi driver as they drew to a halt.
    "Er, who should?" said Richard, who realized he hadn't been listening to a word the driver said.
    "Er-" said the driver, who suddenly realized he hadn't been listening either, "er, the whole lot of them. Get rid of the whole bloody lot, that's what I say. And their bloody newts," he added for good measure.
  • Alluded to in the novel Neverwhere, when after Richard returns to "London Above," the first thing he does when hailing a cab is to express interest in hearing all of the driver's geopolitical opinions. He is so eager about it that the guy thinks Richard is mocking him.

    Live Action TV 
  • The Armstrong and Miller Show:
    • There's a sketch in which it is revealed black cab drivers have to do two tests - the standard "The Knowledge" one everyone knows about, and another, secret, one where they must segue between a harmless topic and a rabidly right-wing one without the passenger getting annoyed.
    • And another one in which a sat-nav starts making right-wing comments (this joke has been done in other media).
  • One of the characters from the vox pops on A Bit of Fry and Laurie is Stephen Fry (who drives a cab in real life, but not as a job) as a stereotypical long-winded cab driver: "If you've got a jar of marmalade in a cupboard, right? And you take the marmalade out of the cupboard, right? You've still got the marmalade. It's not in the cupboard, but you've got the marmalade. You've got to put the marmalade somewhere else haven't you? Course you have, stands to reason. There's the cupboard; no marmalade. But you've still got the marmalade. It's the same with sex and violence on television. You can take sex and violence off television, but where are you going to put them?"
  • Derren Brown made one of them forget where the London Eye was. This is tricky, as it's 400 feet tall and visible from just about everywhere.
    • And at the time they were literally circling around the base of it.
  • The 2004 series of The Chaser Decides has an ad for the "Great Cabbie Debate" between two opinionated taxi drivers, as an alternative to the traditional Leaders Debate.
  • The character of Charlie Slater in EastEnders was a black-cab driver, but in his ten-year stint on the show, he averted the trope; he was generally good-natured and was portrayed as apolitical.
  • Although involving a New York cabbie, there's a scene in The Equalizer that has a stereotypical cabbie griping to Robert McCall about crime and Police Are Useless. It's not until the cab is stopped by some thugs running a shakedown racket on unlicensed cab drivers that the audience realises it's actually exposition on why he's called the Equalizer for help.
  • Have I Got News for You discussed Guy Goma, the guy who showed up at a BBC news studio looking for an IT job, but was mistaken for the tech writer Guy Kewney and Pushed in Front of the Audience. Andy Hamilton said that it had been initially reported that Goma was a taxi driver by trade, but he knew that was false because "a taxi driver would have talked much more authoritatively about something he knew nothing about."
    • Another time it came up was when the caption competition at the end of the episode pictured the queen sitting in the driver's side of some kind of black vehicle, which Paul interpreted as the city having to take on more part-time drivers during the Christmas season: [posh accent] "I'm not going south of the river this time of night. You must be jokin'."
    • Another example was when it was revealed that Prince Philip owned a black cab, which was a particularly good fit as he is known for making gaffes about other countries' peoples.
    Ian (as Prince Philip): "Bloody Chinese, guv? Slit-eyed bastards! Where you going, Buckingham Palace? That'll be ten quid."
  • School of Comedy has one, who gives us everything.
  • The British 1997 gangster black comedy Underworld had a taxi-driver hitman who drove a (plot-significantly) white cab, complete with constant moaning about the state of the country to his passengers, whether a Bound and Gagged kidnapped victim or someone whose throat he'd just cut.

  • Private Eye often has its "A Taxi Driver Writes" like this, mocking any given public figure who happens to have said or done something crudely right wing. Usually involves the catchphrase "I had that [X] in the back of my cab the other day, very clever man..."
    • Frequently the driver also uses the phrase "They should be strung up, it's the only language they understand". In one piece the driver was talking about preventing prisoners from "cheating justice" by hanging themselves.
    • When the right-wing comments come from radical Islamic preachers, they sometimes change it to "A Camel Driver Writes".

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

    Stand-Up Comedy 
  • Kevin Bridges remarked on the resemblance of a prominent political figure to a Glaswegian taxi driver, showing the English stereotype also applies in Scotland.
    "Everything Donald Trump has said I have heard before from a Glasgow taxi driver!"
  • Jasper Carrott, while talking about unexpected people he found running the London Marathon:
    "Loads of London cabbies. I didn't know they could walk, never mind run. You could tell 'em easily, they were the ones turning around and going "Ere, 'ow you doing, mate?" It took 'em all ages, 'cause they went via Bristol."
  • Peter Kay recounts that he was once paid to do stand-up for the annual gathering of the cab driver's union, and he started off by making the audience turn their chairs around so they were facing away from him, and then opening with: "Been busy? What time are you on till?" (The two questions he claims it is physically impossible for a passenger to avoid saying to a cabbie).
  • Ron White reports in one routine that, with a Scottish separatist as a driver, one can see all of London in about 10 minutes.
    "Buckingham Palace? I wouldn't go there if you paid me!"

    Western Animation 
  • Rocko's Modern Life: In "Commuted Sentence", Rocko has his car impounded and has to rely on public transportation to get to work. The first way he tries is via taxi, which has a driver with a vaguely Eastern European accent and a very smelly backseat. (The sign on the cab specifically says "No barfing".) As he is driving Rocko, the driver says he reminds him of a relative of his who has money. But then Rocko asks how much ten dollars would take him, and the driver stops, but then Rocko says "with tip" and the driver backs a couple of blocks.

    Real Life 
  • Cabbies in training may be seen beetling around London on scooters with maps attached to the windscreen, getting a feel for various routes. London is an extremely large city with an unbelievably random and complicated road system (being 2000 years old and made up of a good couple of dozen of other villages/towns will have this effect. Having been periodically flooded, burned down, and bombed flat has, surprisingly, not helped) and one study found that successfully memorizing all these damn routes actually rewires the drivers' brainsnote . They're also required to demonstrate a high standard of spoken English and take some first aid training. In return, they have the right to drive in bus lanes and certain other privileges.
  • In his Red Dwarf memoir, The Man in the Rubber Mask, Robert Llewellyn confirms the second stereotype (with a dash of the first) by saying he has only once been in a black cab where the driver didn't refer to having had "that coloured geezer, the Scouse one, Craig Charles" as a passenger. And that driver was a novice.
  • In his comic book based on real events The Quest For The Big Woof, black British comedian Lenny Henry describes how his (white) then-wife went past the Notting Hill Festival in a cab, and the driver started going on about how "darkies" should go back where they came from if they wanted to have festivals. Furious, Dawn French (a British comedian of considerable note herself) angrily told him who her husband was, and he replied "Lenny Henry? Really? You couldn't get me a ticket, could you, love?"
  • Averted by Stephen Fry who owns a black cab, if only because of the fact that he isn't a real cabbie. Although strangers have been known to get into the back seat while he's stopped at a red light and ask him to drive them to Waterloo Station.
    • In the TV series of Notes From A Small Island he is interviewed by Bill Bryson while driving his cab; at the end of their interview, he quotes an exorbitant price for the fare.
  • The Up Series includes Tony, who became a cab driver (who was in the middle of the Knowledge at 21) and also played one in several TV shows.
  • T. S. Eliot used to tell the story of how he was picked up by a cabbie with "an eye for a celebrity" who told him "Only the other evening I picked up Bertrand Russell and I said to him 'Well, Lord Russell, what's it all about then?' And do you know, he couldn't tell me."

I 'ad that Fast Eddie in the back of my cab the other day! Very important gentleman...

Alternative Title(s): Gabby Cabbie, London Cabbie