The great British comedy catchphrase


To continue our focus and conversation about the writers, our friends over at the British Comedy Guide in a recent c4-logoprogramming alert about an upcoming special on Channel 4 in London, remind us that buried in the brilliant writing of our favorite British comedy shows are some priceless and timeless catchphrases. As they point out, the nature of the catchphrase is that, by themselves, they aren’t funny at all. However, the classic ones find a way to enter into everyday vocabulary. Many times, you aren’t even aware of it. Interestingly, a catchphrase may be only uttered once in a series, but it’s so classic it remains forever.

Here are some of my favorites in no particular order. Anyone else?

  • Don’t Mention the War – Basil Fawlty in Fawlty Towers
  • I’m Free – Wilberforce Clayborne Humphries in Are You Being Served?
  • And Now for Something Completely Different – John Cleese in Monty Python’s Flying Circus
  • Are You Being Served? – Captain Peacock in, what else, Are You Being Served?
  • It’s BOUQUET! – Hyacinth Bucket in Keeping Up Appearances
  • He’s from Barcelona – almost everyone in Fawlty Towers
  • Listen very carefully, I shall say this only once – Michelle Dubois in ‘Allo ‘ Allo

That’s all I got from here. Anyone else have a favorite?

Interview with Bob Larbey, writer of The Good Life, Mulberry and As Time Goes By early, early in the AM. Will report back asap.

  • Len

    “My Sheridan would be appalled”

    The biggest disappointment, to me, is that we never got to meet Sheridan on Keeping Up Appearances. He is, though, one of the strongest characters in the Britcom world that was never seen.

    • Len: Absolutely. You have to be strong to be able to rebuild Romania with his friend, Tarquin. Thanks for the phrase.

  • “Oh nice!”
    Onslow in “Keeping Up Appearances.”

    “He could be lying.”
    Clegg and Truly in “Last of the Summer Wine”

    “Drink your coffee!”
    Edie to Glenda in “Last of the Summer Wine”

  • AliR

    Yes….Minister

    and

    Yes…Prime Minister

  • “Thank you very much (Jerry)!” from Margo on The Good Life/Good Neighbors

    “Rock on!” from Rocky (and Madge) on As Time Goes By

    “My sister Violet, the one with sauna and room for a pony” from Hyacinth on Keeping Up Appearances

    “No, no, no, no, yes” from Jim on The Vicar of Dibley

    • Jessica: Love Jim’s announcement that there was no no no no no parking on the grass during DibleyFest. FYI, we’re interviewing Trevor Peacock (Jim) tomorrow. Anything you want us to ask him?

  • “Rodney, you plonker!” – Only Fools and Horses

    “Are you ‘avin a laugh? Is he ‘avin a laugh?” – This may be my favorite, as it was Ricky Gervais’s direct skewering of the institution of catchphrases in British comedies in Extras.

  • Cora Latta

    Could you ask Mr. Peacock whatever happened to Jim’s wife (who we met in only 1 episode and said “yes, yes, yes, yes?” Seriously, just knowing we’ll have this special coming next year is wonderful news.
    Thanks Mr. Young, KERA and all Britcom fans.

    Another favorite line:
    I am unanimous in that! – Mrs. Slocombe in Are you Being Served

  • Diane

    Catchphrases make you giggle! 🙂

  • I’m sure I can’t come up with anything you probably haven’t already thought of Bill!

    • Jessica: Counting on you. You’re always good for that one comment, show or series that I haven’t thought of. No pressure now! 🙂

  • William

    You forgot the most important one…The Bouquet Residence…the lady of the house speaking

  • Chase

    I have to love Alice’s mini-ramble about I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, which makes my friends and I crack up every time she says “butterrr.”

    My two favorite KUA lines come from the QE2 episode; where Hyacinth calls Sheridan to remind him of how to get hold of the rescue team “in case Mummy sinks,” and the man who helped carry all their luggage to the airport. “He appears to have -one- piece of baggage too many!”

    I’ve been watching That Mitchell and Webb Look on Netflix, and I can’t talk about it with my friends without twirling my finger and saying “Let’s rotate the board!” I’ve Numberwanged about three times during this post. Just to let you know.