Radio sketch show from The BBC, written by and starring John Finnemore of Cabin Pressure, along with Carrie Quinlan, Margaret Cabourn-Smith, Lawry Lewin and Simon Kane.
Well, since you ask me for a list of tropes in John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme, I do have an alphabetised assortment of common narrative elements you may find... egregious:
- All of Them: A potentially divisive poem in the 2016 Christmas Special forces the appearance of "literally every lawyer" at the BBC.
- Ambiguous Syntax: In the Store Detective sketch,
Snowman: Crumbs, sir!
Casterbridge: Are you exclaiming "Crumbs!", or pointing out some crumbs?
Snowman: Both, sir. "Crumbs, sir! Crumbs."
- And I'm the Queen of Sheba: In the Deconstruction of "Good King Wenceslas" in the Christmas episode, the peasant reacts to King Wenceslas introducing himself with "Oh. Nice to meet you, I'm the Pope."
- Artistic License History: One Storyteller sketch has the narrator rescuing Peter Parker, who changes into a spider during the full moon, with a pizza takeaway pamphlet. Peter then points out that he doesn't have a phobia of historical inaccuracy by pointing at the pamphlet.
- The Backstage Sketch: A regular feature, usually poking fun at John or the show, pointing out factual inaccuracies in the sketches, or making meta-jokes about the self-indulgence of the backstage sketches themselves.
- Biting-the-Hand Humour: Verging on metahumour about biting-the-hand humour, as a BBC spokeswoman says John Finnemore should be targeting his jokes at the source of all evil in the world, according to the BBC: The BBC.
- Book-Ends: The final episode of series 7 opens with two robbers planning to raid Mulligan's Milliners, and ends with the Storyteller recounting a story about when he was head of security at Mulligan's Milliners.
- Brand X: "That big sporting competition that's like the Olympics, but isn't the Olympics, but happened at the same time as the Olympics and let's say in this universe the Olympics doesn't exist."
- Brick Joke:
- The entire text of the Storyteller segment in series 4, episode 5 is "Since you ask me for a tale of Time Travel... you will find I have already told you one." He's referring to the Storyteller segment in the next episode. That segment is an even more elaborate example; during the story it becomes clear that while travelling through time, the Storyteller and Dr. Croupenstein passed through several sketches earlier in the episode.
- The Storyteller sketch in series 7 episode 6 similarly reveals that several previous sketches were all part of The Caper planned in the first sketch — and all the silly names of different parts of the plan actually make sense in context.
- But Thou Must!: A variation of this occurs at the start of a Storyteller sketch, when he is asked to pass some biscuits. The biscuits reminds the Storyteller of a biscuit-related story, and he tells the listener that they must listen to the story even though they no longer want the biscuits.
- Very rarely, but the Christmas Episode has the return of the "Most Miserable Time of the Year" singer, who finally gets to sing a Christmas song (sort of), the skit where Margaret complains about John targeting Christianity and not Islam, and the Storyteller, when asked for the greatest story ever told, refers to the Treasure Island story in the first series.
- The Storyteller sketch in series 7 episode 4 (a Western) is a direct sequel to the one in series 5 episode 1 (about being the first person to cross the Atlantic by horse), since it conveniently ends with him in America with a horse.
- After a sketch about how Pachelbel hates performing his Canon in D, he's eventually dragged back and forced to play it, which just turns into a musical sketch about how much he hates it.
- Christmas Episode: In 2016 - John Finnemore's Souvenir Christmas.
- Classically Trained Extra: One Storyteller sketch is disrupted by Carrie complaining that she's a classically-trained actress who's been given two lines as an owl. John attempts to brush past this by saying "Ignoring the owl..." repeatedly, then says he shot the owl.
Carrie: I played Ophelia!
The Devil: Bloody owls.
- Comically Missing the Point: The Storyteller is often prone to this, for instance telling a story of true love and romance which is actually the story of how he got targeted by a con-woman, or the moment when Dr Krupenstein pulls a baize cloth from her machine.
Storyteller: I examined it minutely. "Well," I said, "I must confess it seems to me to be not obviously distinguished from any other baize cloth."
- Continuity Announcement: One of the Since You Asked Me's comes after the credits and describes the time the storyteller met a hideous, wizened old fortune teller who said...
- Could Say It, But...: Subverted. An HR representative tries to get across to his friend that "Of course I can't talk about the upcoming layoffs, but I especially cannot tell you that your job is safe", which his friend mistakes for this trope played straight, despite the HR guy getting more and more explicit about precisely what it is he can't say. The punchline is that the reason he's so confident about his job security is that "I'm one of the best detectives on the force!"
- Cozy Voice for Catastrophes: An actor is hired to read an emergency broadcast which he believes is part of a movie script. Unbeknownst to him, he's actually recording a real emergency announcement, because the government is about to release a biohazard and needs a recording of a soothing voice telling people not to panic.
- Credits Gag:
- Cross-Cast Role: Sometimes a character specifically referred to by male pronouns will be played by one of the female cast members, for example Snowman in the Store Detectives sketch and the rancher in the Tortoise Ranch story.
- Crossover: Two of the more ambitious Since You Asked Me's retroactively cross over with multiple other sketches from that episode;
- The Danza: The Storyteller is himself named Finnemore.
- Dark Reprise: The musical Storyteller sketch ends with a flurry of them: "88 Keys in a Beautiful Smile" becomes "88 Teeth in a Sinister Smile", "Since You Ask Me For a Musical" becomes "Since You Asked To Be More Musical", in which Finnemore learns the terrible price he must pay, "Former Owners" goes from being about the mysterious disappearances to revealing the horrific truth, and finally "I Want to Buy That Piano" becomes " I Want to Leave This Piano".
- Death of the Author: Parodied with an English teacher who gets increasingly frustrated at not being able to correct his class's hopeless - sorry, "interesting" - interpretations of Macbeth (they're convinced he's a badass, and the whole conversation with his wife where he's remorseful and she's scorning him is them both being "sarcastic"). When the lesson ends and he covers the same class's Maths lesson, he's overjoyed at being able to tell them "NO! No, that's wrong, that's the wrong answer and I'm going to tell you the right answer which I know and you should learn! God that felt good!"note
- Did You Die?: "A Story About Me Being Told A Story By Somebody Else"; see Posthumous Narration below.
- Eureka Moment: Parodied in the "Store Detective" sketch:
Casterbridge: You know, all along there's been something nagging me about this case. Something not quite right about it. And it took Snowman here to make me see it. "That's the way the cookie crumbles" he said. Clumsily and for no obvious reason.
- Every Episode Ending: Most episodes end with a story from the, er, Storyteller (in the first series these were mostly ghost stories, later branching out into all sorts of genres) full of wordplay, Lampshade Hanging and Playing With Tropes. Later seasons sometimes mess with the formula in more meta ways, for instance by having the Storyteller sketch be ridiculously short, or in one instance moving it to the Credits Gag.
- Fantastic Racism: A sketch in which a character is called out by his friends for racist remarks about aliens. Little Green Men is apparently a particularly repellent slur, even if they do happen to be little and green.
- Film Noir: The Storyteller sketches in the third series.
- Forgot to Feed the Monster: In a Since You Asked Me parodying heist movies, this is how the crew got past one of the security features: a wolf that hasn't been fed for five weeks, and is constantly being prodded by a robotic arm to keep it annoyed.
Carrie Quinlan: What you have there is a wolf skeleton being poked by an electronic stick. I mean, as modern art it's a provocative statement, but as a security feature...
- Fractured Fairy Tale: The first episode of Season 5 has a version of Snow White in which the Grand Vizier, upon realising the mirror is really magical and the Wicked Queen isn't delusional, uses it to manipulate the stock market and spy on neighbouring countries, until the kingdom becomes the world's dominant superpower. And, as an afterthought, has Snow White killed by a professional assassin to keep the Queen happy.
- Future Imperfect: One sketch in the last episode of Season 4 has a "lovingly restored" Tesco Metro, with a guide who explains that the shelves would have been restocked by small children called "shelf monkeys".
Self-service checkout: Hail, good marketeer! A groovy day to you! I bid you welcome to this Tesco Metro! Approach ye now to checkout number 4, good buddy!
- Gilligan Cut: Parodied in a sketch about a sitcom character trying to get by in real life (who also appeared in a sketch riffing on the trope Right Behind Me). He's asked to do something silly for charity, and outright refuses to do it. He then starts preparing to do it anyway, to the confusion of the other characters who've, naturally, already arranged for someone else to do it.
- Has Two Thumbs and...: In the Edinburgh Festival special, Finnemore tells a spine-chilling Burke and Hare parody about an Edinburgh thimble factory, a supplier of thumbs who claimed to be getting them from a combined distillery and bacon-slicer, and of the terrible choice the factory owner gave him: to allow Pratt and Rabbit to continue in their trade, or to sacrifice his own thumbs.
Finnemore: And that is why my answer to the question "What has two thumbs and a conscience stained black as pitch?" must forever be "This guy!"
- Hitler's Time Travel Exemption Act: Invoked in the Storyteller's tale of twisted science - when shown a time machine in 1908, he immediately seizes upon the possibility of going back in time to kill the one person on whom everything bad in the world can be pinned... but since it's still only 1908, he can't think who that would be.
- Hypocritical Humor: In one sketch, Lawry asks John why he never gets to sing.
- I Know You Know I Know: Are you sitting comfortably?
Bob: Okay. I want you to listen very carefully and tell me if I've got this right. You're angry about what you think I said about what you said about what you thought I said (but we now both agree I didn't say) about what you thought I thought you thought about what I did when you did what you did when I didn't do what you thought I said I would do but what I thought I said I would try to do, is that right?
Bob: Yeah I thought so. Well I didn't say that.
Alice: Yes you did! You said you couldn't believe I said what I said about what I thought you said (but which we do agree you didn't say) because you thought I said I said what I said not because you didn't do what you said you'd do but because you said you'd do it, and that makes me feel that you feel that I feel that you don't feel what I feel.
Bob: You know I feel you feel I feel what you feel.
Alice: Yes but I don't feel you know I know that and that's why I said what I said.
Bob: What did you say?
Alice: That sometimes, I think you're a little over-analytical—
- In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It: As with John Finnemore's Double Acts.
- Lampshaded in a Credits Gag; "I myself wrote and starred in the programme, but modesty precludes me from ever telling you my name, save for one cryptic clue hidden deep within the title..."
- Parodied in a sketch about historian David Starkey, who insists that even his agent refer to all his thus-named books by their full titles.
- Incompatible Orientation: A parody of "Missed Connections", in which the two people have never encountered each other, even briefly, and probably never will, has an Orkney crofter claiming to be perfect soulmates with a dental receptionist in Devon, despite the fact that - in addition to living at opposite ends of the country - "you're 22 and happily married and I'm 84 and gay".
- Inherently Funny Words:
- One of the Storyteller sketches has two characters unable to stop saying "back channels" because of how funny they find it.
- In an "official BBC statement" apologising to Belgium for the gags at its expense:
: It happens that the word 'Belgium', simply by the fact of beginning with a hard, plosive 'b' and ending with an unusual combination of 'j' and 'm' sounds, has a superficially comic sound to the Anglophone ear, and that is the sole reason why lazy, hack comedy writers such as Mr Finnemore
continue to reach for Belgium as a default funny country, decades after Douglas Adams
and Rowan Atkinson
did it far better.
- Invisible Backup Band: In "Since You Ask Me For A Musical", after admitting he has a piano and bursting into an introductory song; "Oh yes, I also have a cello, a flute and a bassoon. And I can play them all at once!"
- "I Want" Song: Parodied with "I Want To Buy This Piano", all the lyrics to which are just variations on that very simple statement.
Finnemore: There was no doubt in my mind about my objective, or the stakes of this story. But just in case, I sang a song about it.
- Judgment of Solomon: Solomon has to figure out what to do when both women object to cutting up the baby. As one of them says, "No, we both like the baby. That's the whole point."
- Just the Introduction to the Opposites: Lampshaded at the end of a sketch where truckers' private lounges on ferries turn out to be sparkling cocktail parties full of catty banter. "My expectations [had been] subverted. A group of people one might stereotypically assume would display one set of attributes, had in fact displayed the stereotypical attributes of another group of people entirely..."
- Knights and Knaves: Parodied in this sketch in the first episode.
- Locked Room Mystery: "The door had been locked from the inside. The windows were barred, locked from the inside, didn't open and were made of brick. All the books were chained to the shelf save one, open on the table at a page entitled 'How to secure a room from the inside'. All the boxes had been ticked. And even the pen used to make the ticks was one of those ones on a little chain you get in banks." Turns out the maid killed him, and then built the locked room around the corpse.
- Mix-and-Match Critters: Polly the Croco-pie, the result of a union between "an unusually docile crocodile and a quite heroically determined magpie".
- Modest Royalty: Aristocracy rather than royalty, but Emily, wife of the Lord of Bouncy Castle, doesn't like people to use the formal title. Because the title is "Lady Bouncy".
- The Mole: One Storyteller sketch is set in the zoo, where the Storyteller has to find out who has been leaking information to their nearest rival, the circus. The sketch constantly lampshades that there's a rather obvious joke about who the mole could be. Then it turns out the mole is a parrot.
- Monochrome Casting: Discussed in one sketch when Simon, upon realising he's playing a character called Ranjit, stops the show to ask John about the sketch.
: I noticed that whenever I name a character in a sketch, I reach for a generic white Anglo-Saxon name like Paul or Sarah, and that doesn't really reflect ... you know, who we are as a society. Simon
: No, but it does sort of reflect who we are as a cast
- MST3K Mantra: A lot of sketches are followed up with behind-the-scenes bits admitting that yes, they know such and such isn't accurate, but it's funny, so please don't write in to point it out. Then eventually a sketch pointing out how unnecessary those sketches are because everyone accepts the Rule of Funny already.
This is a radio sketch show, no-one's mistaking it for the Open University. John:
People do pick you up on this stuff, you know... Simon:
So what! What are you trying to prove? I mean it's not as if you knew the order of the Labours
before you looked them up on Wikipedia, is it? Why don't we just say that with this sketch, we have established that you do
have access to Wikipedia, but sometimes you ignore it for jokes. And that way, you won't have to do any of these paranoid, arse-covering little meta-sketches ever again.
- Musical Episode: In the final episode of season 6, the Storyteller is persuaded to tell his story as a musical.
- The Music Meister: The above story involves a cursed piano which gives its owner a wonderful singing voice while at the same time causing them, and everyone around them, to sing involuntarily. And then eats them.
- Name's the Same: Discussed In-Universe as part of a Credits Gag:
- Nested Stories: One of the "ghost stories" has The Storyteller telling a story about a man at his club telling him a story about a letter he found containing a story about a landlady telling a story about an old drunk who said "I went for a walk, and I saw a ghost." So there you have it! You devout believer (or no less devout skeptic), from henceforth you must find some accommodation in your convictions for the fact that you once met a man who met a man who found a letter from a man who once stayed with a lady who knew a man... who saw a ghost! Except it turns out he actually said he saw a goat.
- Never Heard That One Before:
- A song by the Keeper of Small Mammals at a zoo begging visitors 'When you see a meerkat, don't say "Simples."'
- A sketch featuring a man whose name turns out to be "Kermit", and who defensively heads off all the usual jokes. The woman he's on a date with sympathises, as her name is Lisa. Lisa Simpson.
- No Pronunciation Guide: One of the sketches in series 7 has a talking gnu telling Patsy Straightwoman that the 'g' is silent. This includes a callback to a sketch in the first series where the 'g' was pronounced.
- Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: John's foreign accents are a frequent target of Self-Deprecation.
- Plot Threads: Nearly all the sketches in the final episode of series 7 turns out to be this. The opening sketch features two robbers discussing their plans to raid Mulligan's Milliners. In the Storyteller sketch, the robbers then reveal that they had been working in the background of several other sketches to bypass all the security measures, before the Storyteller makes the final reveal that he had also been in another sketch to foil the robbery.
- Posthumous Narration:
- Parodied and subverted: One of the Storyteller's stories is of being told a story by a man who became a tortoise rancher in Canada, until the day he shot at a bear, missed, and started a tortoise stampede which, a few months later, ended with him being trampled to death over the course of a week. When the Storyteller points out the man telling the story isn't dead, he says maybe it happened to a friend of his. When it's pointed out there were no witnesses, he admits he was just making it up. He's actually the bear.
- The Storyteller musical ends with him eaten by the piano and never seen again. He advises the audience not to think to hard about that bit.
- Pooled Funds: Reality Ensues for the Storyteller in the final episode of Season 4.
Storyteller: It took place in the spring of 1908, a year which found me even more than usually rich. As a result I took time off from diving into my swimming pool full of gold florins to recover from the various head-injuries thus sustained.
- Promoted Fanboy: In-Universe. We hear the life story of a boy whose lifelong dream is to become The Man Who Makes The Noise Of The TARDIS, and he goes to amazing extents to achieve this - even, after Doctor Who's cancellation in 1989, becoming the BBC Director General to get it Un-Cancelled, before stepping down from his post to go and work in BBC Wales's sound design studios. It's a shame that his TARDIS noise is just him going 'bwaaaaooaoooooooowowwwwww' into a microphone.
- A Rare Sentence: A Subverted Trope when the Storyteller describes encountering thumb-sellers who claim they get their thumbs from a combined bacon slicer and distillery.
"The owner of that thumb was no alcoholic bacon slicer!" It was a sentence I'd uttered a thousand times before, but rarely with such meaning.
- Reluctant Mad Scientist: Dr Krupenstein, who is 95% sure her invention isn't evil. Or maybe 90%. She gets down to 51% and then chucks it in the lake.
- Right Behind Me: Parodied, with a guy who launches into a tirade against his new boss, trailing off with "...and he's right behind me, isn't he?" His coworkers respond with "No... of course not, we'd have said something." He then reveals, with the air of a man admitting to a compulsive disorder, that he's a sitcom character, and really needs the "scene" to resolve itself humorously, and gets more and more anxious at the lack of a punchline. However, as the boss is out of the office there's nothing to be done, until;
Colleague: Don't worry, I'll handle this - my brother's a sitcom character too. What's that you say about the new boss, Colin?
Colin: He's ugly and stupid and bald and awful!
Colleague: He's also in charge of who gets a Christmas bonus this year.
- Rule of Three:
- Finnemore has a self-imposed rule that no sketch can return more than three times in an episode. There are a few episodes where a recurring sketch appears four times. But technically, the first time doesn't count as a return.
- In the Musical Episode, the fates of first two victims of the piano are described in detail in their own verses, and then:
- Schmuck Bait: Parodied in the Storyteller's story about how he once stayed for three nights in an inn where he was warned never to open the trapdoor in the floor of his room. So he didn't, and in fact seems perplexed by the whole idea of doing something he's agreed not to do.
- There are numerous jokes to the effect that John isn't as talented an actor or singer as the others and only gets to be on the show because it's his show.
- The Storyteller: "[I am] more inclined to telling long, stupid stories full of puns than listening to them."
- The final episode of series 7 includes a parody of the show itself (similar to the previous parodies of The Archers). Simon interrupts to ask if John is becoming self-indulgent to a potentially fatal level.
- Shallow Parody: Lampshaded; following a sketch about Wolverine and his "adorable little hair-ears" comes an open letter admitting that John doesn't really know anything about Wolverine and didn't get around to watching any of the films in preparation.
- Shout-Out: Three characters in a pub in 2208 discussing racism against aliens order Gargle-Blasters.
- Smoky Gentlemen's Club: The Storyteller's club, of which he is (apparently officially) the Most Boring Member.
- The Storyteller: Well, since you ask me for a story about The Storyteller...
- Straight Man: There is a Running Gag that an interviewer character played by Carrie Quinlan (eventually given the name "Patsy Straightwoman") gets increasingly frustrated each time she shows up at having nothing but feed-lines in her script.
- Straw Character:
- Parodied and lampshaded in a sketch where Margaret criticises the previous sketch for making fun of Christianity. Finnemore explains his reasoning, and she eventually has to concede that he's won this fictional argument he wrote both sides of.
- The "Fahrenheit v Celsius" sketch has Fahrenheit quickly conceding the superiority of Celsius' scale in every respect. However, he gets the last laugh when he points out that Americans are never going to give up on a thing they've already learned just because it's better.
- Summation Gathering: The mystery story has the suspects "gather in the denouement parlour".
- Suspiciously Specific Denial: Done after a sketch about a man panicking that he's technically now older than most of the world's population. One of the cast adds the following:
That sketch was written by a man who is 38 and a half, but he's fine with it. Honestly.
- Thieving Magpie: Polly the Croco-pie combines this stereotype with the "mighty crocodilian jaws" inherited from her mother to make an animal that will happily bite your arm off if you wear a sparkly bracelet.
- Too Soon: One of a series of sketches where famous witticisms are met with a realistic reaction from the person being addressed;
is dead! Dorothy Parker:
How could they tell? Man:
...Jesus, Dorothy, a man just died.
- Translation Convention:
- Jesus' defence when an apostle points out his anachronistic use of the word "off-license"
You know as well as I do that we're both speaking Aramaic, and the word I just used was the informal word for a wine merchant, which I can only assume in whatever language we're being translated into sounds like "off-license".
- Similarly, Victor Hugo's defence when Quasimodo criticises him for naming his book The Hunchback of Notre Dame ("I am not defined by my disability!") is (eventually) to point out that he didn't, that's just the English title. With the argument having become hopelessly Meta, Quasimodo points out Hugo didn't base it on a real person either, and disappears in a Puff of Logic.
- Translator Collar: In one sketch, a scientist invents a device that can translate whalesong. It turns out that this consists entirely of whales telling each other "Hey! I'm a whale! Hey! You're a whale! Hey! We're whales!"
- Unfortunate Names: A sketch based on A Christmas Carol has a main character called Christopher Muscheer. The narrator informs us that Chris' wife "also had a name that was very funny when followed by Muscheer, but which I can't recall at the moment" and that his son Bernard "had a name that was not funny when followed by Muscheer, because his parents didn't want him to be bullied at school."
- Another sketch features a couple at a speed dating event. The man asks to be called "K", and eventually admits with embarrassment that his name is Kermit. The woman sympathises, because her name is Lisa Simpson.
- Wacky Marriage Proposal: Parodied. Two women are heard talking about the various irritating/publicly embarrassing proposals they've received from men (through a megaphone in Trafalgar Square, throwing an expensive ring into a gorge, etc.) when Finnemore's voice breaks in, Public Service Announcement-style:
"MEN! DON'T TRY TO BE CLEVER! The men in these stories were hapless idiots, but SO ARE YOU! They all tried to be original! To think differently! DO NOT DO THIS! Be unoriginal! Think same-ily! The acceptable romantic gestures are in order: Flowers! Dinner! Presents of something she mentioned ages ago and then forgot about! A proposal should be somewhere nice, with a ring, private enough for her to say no if she wants to! Men only get away with any variation on these in Hollywood movies, and that's because the same person gets to write What He Does and What She Thinks About It! You don't get to do that! So stick to the stuff that works! AND ALWAYS KEEP THE RECEIPT!"
- Witch Hunt: "When he couldn't find any witches to burn, the duke widened the definition to any ugly woman who owned a cat. When he couldn't even find any of those, he made the women of the village hold a beauty contest. First prize was a night with the duke, last prize was a cat."
- Wrong Genre Savvy: The first two little pigs in the series' take on The Three Little Pigs seem to know they're in a fairytale, but don't realise what kind. The first little pig thinks it's the kind where the seemingly weakest version turns out to be the best in some ironic way, and the second thinks it's the kind where the middle ground between two extremes is the best path. (The third pig just thinks houses are best made from bricks.)