Friday, January 14, 2005

The Next Question......... from the nutter in the second row

On last night's Question Time a girl said that all burglars and petty criminals should be shot. We'd be better off without them.
The panel and audience, who had just been waxing indignant about Prince Harry's fancy dress, roared with laughter at this. Not one person pointed out to her that this was pretty much the Nazi policy on crime. I found this odd.
Perhaps they thought her view was so extreme as to be laughable but do your own 'vox pop' in the local pub and you'll find it's a view that many people share, although most go no further than the old 'throw away the key' line.

I've never been able to take Question Time too seriously since I was a member of the audience. Although it's recorded 'as live' and isn't usually edited, it still feels very artificial when you are there. On arrival, you're given free coffee and sandwiches and encouraged to read piles of that day's papers and watch endless loops of the day's news programmes, rather as though you'd just arrived from another galaxy and had no prior knowledge of what was happening on Planet Earth.
Then there's a long session with a warm-up man, just like you get on a comedy show. Then another warm up speech from the presenter who at that time was Peter Sissons. He told us the programme was a revered national institution and, in effect, one of the most significant contributions to British democracy since Magna Carta and the Great Reform Act. I thought this was slightly over-egging the pudding. (I had earlier stood next to Mr Sissons at the urinals and had managed not to say "so this is where all the big knobs hang out"). Then there's a short dummy run of the programme which isn't recorded, to warm up the panel and act as a technical run-through. By the time recording started I was almost in a state of rigor mortis.

What people don't realise is that when Question Time arrives in town it's a magnet for every nutter in the area and there's no way the postal application system can weed them out. When I attended, a well-known local fantasist was chosen to ask one of the questions. I almost laughed out loud when Peter Sissons read out the occupation he had written down since it bore no relation to the truth.
The same thing used to happen in those far off days of public election meetings. The town's sole member of the National Front would always ask a question but other people would jump up and shout at the Minister: "Ignore her, she's a fascist, she's a nutter." You can't do that in the Question Time audience or Mr Dimbleby would smack your bottom.

Last night the said Dimbleby, of the Dynasty of Pomposity, took one final comment from a man in the front row, an intellectual-looking cove in a smart suit. The man came out with some incomprehensible gibberish about the next election being decided by the relative masculinity or femininity of the party leaders until Dimbleby cut him short, no doubt reflecting that he'd been caught out yet again.
But that's one of the few reasons to watch. It's always good to see one of the Dimblebys with egg on his smug face.


At 1:40 AM, Blogger Steve said...

I tell you what, where I live I'm surrounded by "intellctual-looking-coves" and they all give me a hard time.

Mind you, they only open their mouths after at least 15 Malibu and Lemonades.

At 8:13 AM, Blogger peter said...

What's a cove?

At 9:00 AM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

Peter, 'cove' is early 20th century slang for a man or chap and will be familiar to all Wodehouse fans. Usually always qualified by an adjective: e.g., 'a decent cove' or 'a queer-looking cove'.
And, you'll love this, it comes from the Romany word 'kova' - a thing or person.

At 12:43 PM, Blogger peter said...

Ty for that. So what about the origin of "good egg"? (I've never read any Wodehouse. Is he any good?)

At 3:11 PM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

I think the origin of 'good egg' is pretty straightforward and literal although it comes from a time when there was less quality control and many of the eggs you bought were 'bad eggs'. That also explains the 'curate's egg' expression (good in parts) which comes from a Punch cartoon.
Wodehouse is The Master and a huge influence on English humourous writing. Not to everyone's taste though. Some people have a problem with the section of society he wrote about - a bit like the Prince Harry set - although he portrayed most of them as complete imbeciles so I suppose you could almost call him a satirist.


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