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Posts Tagged ‘Private Eye

Now let us praise…

In 1961, four young public school friends put together the first issue of Private Eye with typescript (created on a couple of old Selectrics), Letra-set, and cow-gum– the pre-Punk template for the Eye ever since.  It was the sprouting of a thorn that has lodged firmly in the side of the British Establishment ever since… the birth of a British institution.

This new magazine chimed with the so-called satire boom, in which Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, Alan Bennett and Jonathan Miller conquered the world with Beyond the Fringe, and producer Ned Sherrin made a star of David Frost (who Booker later described as a man with “..a peculiar ambition to be world-famous simply for the sake of being world-famous”) on the highly successful That Was The Week That Was—which proved so successful it was canceled after 2 series.

The Eye continued long after both these shows and the satire boom had run out of laughs, in part much aided by the backing of Peter Cook, who helped finance the magazine until his death in 1995.

What makes Private Eye essential is the ephemeral nature of its exceedingly good journalism. As Auberon Waugh once wrote (in the introduction to Another Voice—his essential collection of writing for The Spectator), “Timeless journalism is bad journalism”:

“The essence of journalism is that it should stimulate its readers for a moment, possibly open their minds to some alternative perception of events, and then be thrown away, with all its clever conundrums, its prophecies and comminations, in the great wastepaper basket of history.”

Read more of Private Eye‘s extraordinary story at Dangerous Minds.   And watch this wonderful short documentary:

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As we express our gratitude for Stewart and Colbert, we might recall that it was on this date in 1982 that full-fledged member of the Hollywood nobility (daughter of Henry, two-time Oscar-winning actress, model, and anti-war activist) Jane Fonda released her first exercise tape.

Building on the success of her workout book, published the prior year, the tape helped Fonda popularize workouts for women, workouts in groups, workout videos, and indeed aerobics in general (a family of trends on which Richard Simmons, Judi “Jazzercise” Missett and many others rode).  Fonda invested the proceeds of what became a fitness empire into the Campaign for Economic Democracy, an advocacy group founded by her then-husband Tom Hayden (of Chicago Eight renown).   Fonda and Hayden divorced in 1989, and Fonda retired from the spotlight (if not, given her entanglement with Ted Turner, the gossip rags)… though, of course, she has returned to the movie screen in recent years.

 The ur-tape

Written by (Roughly) Daily

April 24, 2013 at 1:01 am

That’s sick…


…no, I mean actually ill– pathological…

From Chaucer through Shakespeare to Pynchon, puns have amused, even illuminated.  But, as readers will know, too much of a good thing is, well… not so good.

Lest we chastise those who offend, Dan Lewis, of Now I Know fame, reminds us that over-punning is in fact a recognized pathology:

… there are some out there who cannot control themselves. Discussions of livestock result in udder failure. Conversations about geometry always end up going on some sort of tangent. Trips to the bakery are a piece of cake — but camping trips are in tents. These people insist that North Korea is evil (it doesn’t have a Seoul), wonder why Ireland is so small (as its capital is always Dublin), and if you’re Russian, argue that you best not be Stalin.

For these people, puns aren’t just a character trait — they’re a neurological disease called Witzelsucht.

Witzelsucht, as summarized by a team of Taiwanese researchers in a paper (pdf here) published in 2005, is marked by “a tendency to tell inappropriate and poor jokes.” Wikipedia, citing another studynotes that a Witzelsucht patient has an “uncontrollable tendency to pun,” finding the jokes “intensely amusing.” These tendencies are caused by an injury to the person’s brain, specifically in his or her right frontal lobe, often caused by stroke. One neurologist, who told MSNBC that he sees several Witzelsucht-afflicted patients each year, described a particularly “dramatic” case: “[He] appeared to be attracted to my reflex hammer. After I checked his deep tendon reflexes and put my hammer down, he picked up the hammer and started to check my reflexes, while giggling.” The humor, of course, was lost on the doctor — and would be to any outside observer as well.

The Taiwanese study speaks of a 56-year-old stroke victim who punned uncontrollably — using a lot of “witticisms and quips,” as the paper describes. The sheer volume of the jokes also interfered with patient’s physicians’ ability to examine him; as the study notes, the man “was euphoric, outspoken, prankish, and was so talkative that an interruption was usually needed to pull the conversation back to the topic or to complete a test.” But like many with the condition, the man was not responsive to the jokes of others.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for Witzelsucht. Io9 notes that some behavioral therapies may be able to blunt the punning, and various medicines may help calm the afflicted down, but in the end, the allure of another pun will certainly prevail.


As we retreat to more refined raillery, we might recall that it was on this date in 1961 that the first issue of Private Eye was published.  A kind of print forerunner of That Was the Week That Was, The Onion, and The Daily Show, the satirical fortnightly remains Britain’s best-selling current affairs magazine.



Written by (Roughly) Daily

October 25, 2012 at 1:01 am

We stand corrected…

As 2009 draws to a close, and we do our best, with an eye to a better 2010, to learn from our errors, the good folks at Regret the Error have helpfully compiled “Crunks 2009: The Year in Media Errors and Corrections.”

It features such capital corrections as this, from the British Medical Journal:

During the editing of this Review of the Week by Richard Smith (BMJ 2008;337:a2719,doi:10.1136/bmj.a2719), the author’s term “pisshouse” was changed to “pub” in the sentence: “Then, in true British and male style, Hammond met Ian Hislop, editor of Private Eye, in the pub and did a deal.” However, a pisshouse is apparently a gentleman’s toilet, and (in the author’s social circle at least) the phrase “pisshouse deal” is well known. (It alludes to the tendency of men to make deals while standing side by side and urinating.) In the more genteel confines of the BMJ Editorial Office, however, this term was unknown and a mistake was made in translating it into more standard English. We apologise for any misunderstanding this may have caused.

And this, from the Los Angeles Times:

Bear sighting: An item in the National Briefing in Sunday’s Section A said a bear wandered into a grocery story in Hayward, Wis., on Friday and headed for the beer cooler. It was Thursday.

… Such exalted errata (and consequent apologia) as this, from The Sun (UK):

In my column on August 22 I suggested that Sharon Osbourne was an unemployed, drugaddled, unfit mum with a litter of feral kids. This was not intended to be taken literally. I fully accept she is none of these things and sincerely apologise to Sharon and her family for my unacceptable comments. Sorry Sharon…

…Such terrific typos as this, from The Daily Universe, a student paper at BYU:

In printed copies of Monday’s Daily Universe, due to a spelling error in a photo caption, the word “apostles” was replaced with a different word. The Daily Universe apologizes to the Quorum of the Twelve and our readers for the error.

(The spelling error appeared in a photo caption in which the word “apostle” was rendered as “apostate.” In referring to activities at the General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints last weekend, the caption read in part, “Members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostates and other general authorities raise their hands in a sustaining vote…”)

And it features some exquisite headlines of the poorly-chosen sort, like the one at the top of this post and this particularly tasteless use of the First Children:

See more in each of these categories and others (e.g., Sources, Misquotes, Hoax) here.

As we wonder how many of the wounds afflicting the traditional press are self-inflicted, we might recall that it was on this date in 1916 that James Joyce’s semi-autobiographical Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man was published in New York (having been previously serialized in Ezra Pound’s review The Egoist). It was published in the UK the following year.

Cover of the first edition (title in relief)

Your correspondent’s time in the land of consistent snow and occasional power continues; so per earlier alerts, (Roughly) Daily is unlikely to be roughly daily again until early in the New Year…

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