Bitesize Episode 40 - The Diary of a British Comedian

Charlie Baxter

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What's this episode about?

In this bitesize episode, Charlie gives you a sample of a book that he has recently read by a British comedian called James Acaster. This book covers all bases. It includes loads of intermediate to advanced British English phrases, references to British culture and given that a huge part of British culture is comedy then why not expose you to the work of a famous comedian. 
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Transcript of Bitesize Ep 040 - Transcript

Hello and welcome to the British English podcast. My name is Charlie Baxter and I have a serious filter on at the moment. Hang on. Let me just. Welcome back, guys. This is a bite sized episode. Whoa, whoa, whoa. That's a little too far. Mm hmm. I thought I would give you a sample of a book that I have recently read by a British comedian called James Acaster. I actually listened to the audiobook version as he voiced it himself, which I found highly entertaining. So I'd recommend that if you like this sample that you're about to hear me attempt to read out loud to you. But the real reason I want to share it with you today is because, well, it covers all bases. His book includes loads of intermediate to advanced British English phrases, references to British culture, and a huge part of British culture is comedy. I'd say a good sense of humour is a priority for most Brits. I'm aware that many of you listening also value humour and your nation might indeed value it as much as the Brits do. So I'm not saying it's a value that is only associated with British culture, but it is very much a part of who we are. In fact, I'm going to read a quote I just found online and it says, Brits love to laugh and cannot be in conversation for more than 5 minutes without sharing and laughing at something funny. The humour is different in different parts of the UK, some highbrow and subtle, some much less so, some dry, some very robustly not.

Watch two Americans talking, two French, two Germans, and they can go hours without a laugh, especially middle class Americans who can drone on in mock scientific expertise mode until all around them have lost the will to live. Humour in the UK is like tea. It's on offer minutes, sometimes seconds into any conversation between friends, family or strangers. Okay. Proof: A quote found on the internet written by someone. There was a bit in there that was a bit nasty, wasn't it? Poking at the the Yanks, the Frenchies and the sauerkraut lovers. I'm not going to swear by this quote about how those nations might not include humour in their conversations, because I have met very amusing people from all of these nations. But there is this undeniable feeling when Brits are communicating together: A joke is always, always on the cards. So yes, comedy is a big part of life for a lot of us, and so I am here to give you a taster of a book written by one of our comedians called James Acaster. My dialect would encourage me to say Acaster, but he is from the Midlands and he pronounces his name with an 'a' sound and not an 'ah'. So he pronounces things like grass or glass as glass and grass. So that's why he says his name is James Acaster, because it's a name I feel like I need to imitate that. So yes, it's a bit unusual for me to say 'a', but there we go.

His name is Acaster - James Acaster, and the book is all about his own life and the sticky situations he has managed to find himself in. There are over 40 hilarious short stories in this book that he has called James Acaster's Classic Scrapes. Now, the word scrape can be used as a verb or a noun and has a few meanings. But the one he is alluding to here is the informal noun, meaning a difficult or slightly dangerous situation that you cause by your own silly behaviour. And this suits him. He has gotten into a lot of scrapes during his years of being on this planet. So let's get stuck into one of James Acaster's difficult or slightly dangerous situations that was caused by his own silly behaviour. [Mind the gap, please]. So this chapter is called Shame and I'm going to go through it, maybe stop to add a few notes because you haven't listened to the other chapters that he references occasionally. And if there's anything that comes up that I think is worthy to explain. Okay, so here we go. The next story is something I still feel bad about. Whenever I do something I'm not proud of, I tend to carry it with me for a long time. For example, the thing I feel most guilty about in my entire life happened when I was 12 years old and involves eating some wild strawberries. My mother, who is the nicest person in the world, had been growing wild strawberries in the garden for months and months.

Wild strawberries are much smaller than regular strawberries, not much bigger than a blueberry. And from what I can tell, they're not easy to grow. After dinner one day my mom served me and my dad our desserts, and then she smiled proudly and said, "I know what I'm finally having for pudding today." "Is it time for the wild strawberries?" asked my dad, and she nodded excitedly. She then disappeared into the garden and returned, cupping a small pile of strawberries in both hands. She washed them and put them into a bowl. She had barely got half a bowlful, but the work that had gone into them had been immense. She put a little yoghurt on them and sat down with a spoon. She got a spoonful, leaving only three strawberries in the bowl. Do you want to try them? She asked my dad. He leaned in and pretended to eat the whole spoonful as a joke, and they both laughed. Then he politely took two from the spoon and ate them. Would you like to try some, James? My mum asked. I had watched my dad's joke and I thought it was funny, but it could have been funnier. I knew what it needed. With humour, you need to push boundaries and go as far as you can. That's the secret to a great joke. I knew it. I leaned in and just went for the big laugh.

As soon as my lips met around the strawberries and I was past the point of no return. I knew I'd messed up. My mouth was clamped over the spoon. All the wild strawberries were in my mouth now. I looked up at my mother, who was still holding the handle of the spoon, and she looked horrified. I realised what I'd done. I had destroyed something she'd worked hard for. I had taken a simple pleasure in her life and thrown it away. It still feels like the worst thing I've ever done, and I can't even remember what the wild strawberries tasted like. But I feel worse about the wild strawberries than I do about the next story. Which is weird because many of you will think this next story is much, much worse. Three Line Whip - Ah, guys, this is a band that James was part of and Three Line Whip split up when I was 20. Graham and I then formed a new band, a band that would shatter all music that had ever come before it. A new sound for a new age of the human race. The band was called The Wow, and the band members were me and Graham. Because there were only two of us, we had a slight problem. We desperately wanted to be in a band with Sweet Beach Boys-esque vocal harmonies. Graham had sung in Three Line Whip, but I had still not gotten over my phobia of singing in public, thanks to the woodcutter and the Christmas dove and la la la la humpty and the failed karaoke night.

Okay, so, guys, he's just mentioned three things that you won't know about: the woodcutter, the Christmas dove and la la la humpty. So ignore them. They're just stories that he told in the past. So basically, he's got a phobia about singing. He doesn't think he can sing. Okay. However, we were tired of recruiting new people to join our bands. I realised that if we were going to drive this band forward in the direction we wanted to go in, then it was up to me to get over my phobia and learn how to sing from scratch. I knew I wouldn't be able to teach myself, so I found a singing teacher who taught from her home in Kettering. Guys, Kettering. This is a place in the UK. It's in the Midlands. So it's. It's near Northampton. It's in Northamptonshire. It's on the same kind of latitude as Birmingham. So it's directly east of Birmingham. But yeah, this is where James is from. Okay. ...who taught from her home in Kettering. And she ended up teaching me to sing every week for three years. Oh, and spoiler alert, to this day, I still can't sing. My singing teacher was a lady called Melissa. And please don't let my lack of talent reflect badly on her. She did a sterling job. I was just a lost cause. The first lesson I had with her, I remember having to sing along to her playing some scales on the piano, and she actually turned to me and said, I can't teach you.

That was within 5 minutes of my first lesson. I was determined, though, and said, Give me a load of stuff to practise, and if I come back next week and I've not improved at all, then we can stop the lessons. I did 2 hours singing practice a day over the next week and returned to Melissa's house, having marginally improved. So she agreed to keep teaching me. It took her three years to teach me to sing as well as the average person can sing along to the radio in the car. That was ten years ago though, so I'm probably back to square one now as I haven't practised in a long old time. I got to know Melissa pretty well. Once when she went abroad to visit friends, she asked me to house-sit for her and I said yes. House-sitting was fairly easy. The only responsibility I had was to look after the cat - a rather fussy creature named Misha. Misha was a neurotic creature who was always worried. She wasn't about to get exactly what she wanted, so never, ever stopped mewing. The noise in the house was constant as she walked around relentlessly, trying to get her own way. Melissa told me that when I went for a wee, I should never lock the bathroom door as Misha liked to drink from the bidet whilst you are urinating. Now, I wasn't sure if I was meant to operate the bidet while I went for a wee.

Or did Misha do that herself with her own paws? Apparently I was meant to operate it, so that wasn't going to happen. So every day when I went for a wee in that house, I would receive some louder than usual mewing at the door because little old Misha wanted to get in on the bathroom party. Once the house sitting was over, Melissa told me to keep the keys because she would be needing me to house-sit again at some point. And so I did as I was told. Now, here are a couple of boring, important details you need to know at this stage. Melissa lived near the town centre and I lived just over an hour's walk away from her. And back then I not only had a phobia of singing in public, but I also had a phobia of taking a dump in a public toilet. My worst nightmare would have been having a dump in a public toilet while singing to mask the sound of my own bowels. So naturally, one afternoon I was in the town centre and all of a sudden I had to go urgently. I didn't know what to do. There was no way I was using a public toilet and the walk back to my house would take an hour. The only person I knew who lived nearby was Melissa. I rang Melissa's doorbell, hoping that she would let me in to use her toilet, but no one answered.

No one was home. And so I made a split second decision and let myself into somebody else's house without them knowing when they weren't there. I know. I know. I ran straight to the downstairs bathroom, closed the door, and immediately did the biggest dump of my life so far. Naturally, Misha came along to investigate, mewing at the damn door. But to be fair, I wasn't supposed to be in her house today, so really she could behave any way she pleased. I finished, breathed a sigh of relief, then looked to my left and nightmare of all nightmares. No toilet paper if you've ever done a big dump and then turned to the toilet roll holder to find it bare, you'll know there is no panic quite like it. Well, imagine doing that when you're currently intruding in someone else's house. It was terrifying. I was so scared, I nearly did a second dump out of pure panic. I had to think fast. There was only one thing I could do. I knew there was a second toilet upstairs so I could go there and use the toilet paper from the upstairs toilet or use the bidet up there as the downstairs toilet was annoyingly bidet free. Even if you agree with the first part of this plan, you probably won't agree with my next decision. I chose to leave my shoes, trousers and boxer shorts behind in the downstairs toilet, disregarding them because I thought they would only slow me down.

I didn't want to pull them back up for obvious reasons. I didn't want them round my ankles and for some insane reason it didn't even occur to me that I could have carried them upstairs with me. What followed was a real low point in the old life, as I slowly ascended the stairs naked from the waist down with a dirty butt in someone else's house without their knowledge, all I could think was, 'Please don't let anyone come home right now', because the staircase was directly in front of the front door. If anybody opened that front door, they would be greeted by my sullied rear end, staring down at them from above. I was so nervous, I was shaking. And to make matters worse, Misha was following me the entire way, mewing her head off directly behind me, pretty much mewing at my butt, learning the hard way what a bidet is actually meant to be used for. Luckily for me, I made it to the bathroom without anybody coming home and luckier still, there was toilet paper there. I took care of business and felt relieved until I flushed. And then it dawned on me why leaving my trousers and pants in the downstairs toilet wasn't such a smart idea after all. I now had to descend the stairs while cupping myself, once again praying that no one... Praying that no one arrived home right at that very moment. It would be bad if Melissa got home now, but it would be even worse if her husband, who I didn't know well enough, arrived home because he may have killed me right there and then.

Because I was so worried, all I could do was look at the door as I walked down the stairs. So if someone did come home, I would have been st... I would have been staring at them while covering my modesty, a small black cat making a racket at my ankles, And when I explained myself, well, I imagine that would only make matters worse. That's true. That's true. Yeah. You know, explaining. 'Oh, sorry. I just came in to do a dump in your house without your consent.' Yeah, that's not... That's not going to improve things. All right. I ran into the downstairs bathroom and hurriedly put on my boxers and trousers. I put my shoes on, but didn't tie them up as I wanted to get out as soon as possible. I ran out of the bathroom across the hallway and just as I was about to leave the house, I realised I had forgotten to flush the downstairs toilet. Don't worry, I ran back, flushed and then left. But imagine if I hadn't realised in time. If I had made it all the way home before realising I had not flushed the downstairs toilet, and Melissa's husband had come home to discover an entire poo sitting in his downstairs toilet. But no toilet paper in the bowl. Like someone had snuck into his house and done nothing but floaters and then left.

I sort of wish that happened because as it stands, I never got my comeuppance for what I did that day. I just got away with it. I deserved to forget to flush and leave evidence behind, and then Melissa would have had to deduce that it was someone with a key, as there was no sign of a break in. Maybe they'd send the contents of the toilet to a lab for testing and figure out it was me that way. And I'd have been stripped of my keys and never be allowed in their house again. But no, I carried on having singing lessons and carried on house-sitting and never told her. Obviously I will have to tell her now that I've written this book and I'm not looking forward to that. In fact, I'll add another paragraph after this story so you know how that panned out. In fact, here it is below. In April 2017, I emailed Melissa a full confession about what happened that fateful day in Kettering. I also sent her the chapter that you have just read in full so that she could approve it for inclusion in these fine memoirs. Her response was not what I expected. It reads, I did not get what you did with the strawberries. Did you gulp them? Did you throw them away? Did you take hers or the remainders? So just to clear everything up, I gulped them. I gulped my mother's spoonful of wild strawberries and left her with just the remainders.

I also let myself into Melissa's house when no one was in and took a secret crap in the toilet, then walked upstairs half naked to clean myself up, then walked back downstairs, still semi-nude, got dressed, let myself out, and never told her about it. But she had no questions about that whatsoever. Just the wild strawberries, which we've established I did indeed gulp. Wow. So there we go. The chapter Shame from the comedian named James Acaster. And this is from the book Classic Scrapes or James Acaster's Classic Scrapes. And if you are sensitive to toilet stories, don't worry, that was... I think that was the only one. There might be a couple, but yeah, there's a variety of classic scrapes in there for you to enjoy. I will include a link to the book or the audiobook in the show notes. So do have a look at that if you if you like what you heard. But yeah. A funny old story. When I read that the first time, I was really sure that somebody was going to come home and see him half naked, either on the way up the stairs, or the way down. But lucky that he wasn't caught. But yeah. Imagine that though. Imagine. I'm not sure what's worse, whether being interrupted going up the stairs is worse than going down. I suppose going up the stairs would be worse because you've still got a dirty arse. So, you know, if the husband came home, he would then be like, "I'm really sorry, I've still go to clean my arse". Oh, God, that would be so embarrassing. What would I do if I was the husband and I came home then? So it's a stranger - No, no, I know of him. I've met him a couple of times. He's a student of my partner's. I don't know where my partner is right there. So, yeah, I would immediately get suspicious that he might have been fooling around with my missus, but then maybe if he's got a dirty arse, I might not think that. Yeah, maybe if he's walking up. Yeah, walking up. That would be less suspicious of having an affair. Why would you be walking up with a dirty arse? But you might be walking down holding your privates. Yeah. And you don't have a dirty arse. So maybe better to be caught with a dirty bottom. Because you've got evidence. You've got evidence of doing a poo. Look in the toilet. I'm not lying. I'm not having an affair with your missus. Don't beat me up and don't steal my trousers. I need them. It's an hour's walk home, isn't it? Right. We will leave that bite sized episode there. Thank you very much for listening to the end of this episode. My name is Charlie and I hope that you've never gotten yourself into such a sticky situation. But if you have, it does make for a great story. Anyway, we'll leave it there. Have a lovely week. See you next time on the British English podcast.

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Podcast host: Charlie:
This will be quite a bit harder for you to understand, as there are a number of accents in the conversation, some poorly delivered at times, as you will notice.

Podcast host: Charlie:
But the aim is to give you a variety of dialects in one conversation and some dialogue to give you native expressions in context. So enter, if you will, to Charlie's pub and his imaginary world.

Character: Mike:
Alright geezer, how's it going?

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Yes, I'm well thanks. How about you? Have you had a good day?

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Can't say good mate. No my old man he's been giving me a right old earful for what happened on site last week.

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Oh that's a pity. Are you back on your dad's building project again?

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Sad to say mate, but yeah, I am. Couldn't resist this one though. Cash in hand, you know.

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Oh fair play, hard to resist those I imagine. Oh, here she is.

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Oh, hi.

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I was wondering if you're ever going to join us tonight.

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