Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Creature Comforts - Pet Hates

The Sketch Show UK - Phobias Workshop

Friday, March 23, 2012

Ding Dong Denny's History of Ireland

A tourist walks into a Dublin pub looking for directions and encounters Ding Dong Denny O'Reilly at the bar. Ding Dong insists on telling him the "real" history of Ireland over a number of pints. From the Normans to the Famine to 1916 and the sex shops of O'Connell Street, we hear Ding Dong Denny's delusional take of events that shaped Ireland. Ding Dong is a comic creation of comedian Paul Woodful, and is his first adventure into animation. 

Winner Best Digital Film Digital Media Awards 2008, Winner Grand Prix Award, Digital Media Awards 2008. 
Produced by Brian Gilmore 
Directed by Cathal Gaffney 
Written and narrated by Paul Woodful

Tourist: Excuse me; is this the rendezvous point for the Heritage Tour?

Ding Dong Denny: Ah, tourists. How’s it going?
‘Suppose you’ve been traipsing around old local areas of interest. Well you wouldn’t want to be mindin’ any of the shite that they be talking in them places. Propaganda’s all that stuff is. Now park your arse there, I’ll tell you the real history of Dublin.

Ah, fair play to you.

Well it all more or less started in the 9th century when the Vikings arrived. They used Dublin as a place to chill out after they’d raped and pillaged the cultures of the surrounding areas. They had these horny helmets, longboats, battle axes and blondie hair. Course, these blondes had too much fun and were buttered out by a shower called Normans. Scared? Well it’s not exactly the scariest name for an invading army is it? But it turned out the Normans were well hard and gave everybody an awful kicking. See, they had these longbows, which made shite of the Danes’ battle axes and the Irish hands. The Normans though build grand wooden walls around the city; then the English arrived, didn’t like them and rebuilt them in stone, you know, just to show off. You know, everything with them was in stone. Except, of course, the agreements they had with us, which they broke whenever they bloody well felt like it.

Anyway, I know we can laugh at the famine now, but it was dreadful at the time; so many of our beautiful buildings and books were eaten during the famine. Ah, but that was years ago.

Now, the 20th century, in 1916, we had a rising, where we took over a post office and a biscuit factory. If we had taken over the breweries, we would have controlled the whole country. And least when we were caught the next morning, we’d have had the excuse of ‘we did what?’. Eventually, the English did a legger in 1922. It was ours, what are we going to do with it?

The church set up concentration camps for unmarried mothers known as Magdalene laundries. Mind you, our dream of not having to work was realised when industry after industry collapsed. I’m afraid the swinging ‘60s deborturous lifestyle in Ireland was mainly confined to church institutions and so, today, would you look at the place. I tell you, once you’d have woken up in Dublin in a drunken stupor and thought you’d had died and gone to heaven. But now, the English have bought us over. A fancy sex shop overlooks where the declaration of independence was read out. There was no sex in 1916, I’ll tell you. We were only interested in getting out of bondage in them days.

So there you are.

Hey, where d’ya think you’re going? Sit down there and I’ll tell you the real story of the Middle East.

Better make that a double, it’ll take a while.

Well we start way back in the Garden of Eden when Adam and his pet dinosaur were going for a nice stroll…

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Stephen Fry: Irish Language

There are around 7,000 languages spoken on this planet and many more thousands of dialects, but it's estimated by some that by the end of the century there'll barely be a thousand left. I would argue that linguicide, the death of language, poses as great a threat to our culture and history as species extinction. And why is this rich linguistic stew of ours being threatened? Well, it's to do with globalisation and the rise of the lingua franca, those national and transnational languages like English and Mandarin Chinese, which gobble up every language in their path. 

The fortunes of small and struggling languages ebb and flow with the tides of history. I'm off now to find out about one that survives not far from our own shores.


I'm here in the beautiful, bracing and chilly Connemara on the west coast of Ireland. This is what they call the, um, I'll try and get this right... the Gaeltacht Curraghrua, one of the central areas for the speaking of the ancient language of Ireland - Irish. They don't call it Gaelic very often - just Irish. About 80,000 people still speak this language. It's taught in school and they have very proud Irish speakers all around us and in Donegal and in Cork. But it's here in Connemara, Galway, that we find probably the majority of Irish speakers.

Irish, being a very old language, it doesn't have as many words as the English language, but its descriptions are very good. There's a thing called a smugairle roin. A smugairle roin is a jellyfish. And jellyfish is, direct translation smugairle roin into English, is a seal's spit. 

Oh, very good. 

So you can imagine somebody comes... "What are these things all "over the...they must be seal spits." You know, "We'll call them smugairle roins," and that is one of the beauties of the Irish language is that it has this. And it would be such a shame to lose. 

Would you say you're optimistic for his future as an Irish speaker? 

I would be very optimistic for the future of the Irish language. There was a spell there where it fell out of favour mainly due to the way it was taught in schools. It wasn't given the excitement. Yeah. And nowadays, it's become much more fashionable to speak Irish. You'll hear, especially if you go to the pubs, you'll hear people speaking Irish, young people on the streets speaking Irish, and it's very important as well because it is our heritage. 


The English ruled Ireland for centuries. At the height of their colonial ambitions, they attempted to suppress Irish culture and identity entirely. An 1831 act forbade the teaching of Irish in schools. 'This coincided with An Gorta Mor, the Irish potato famine 'of the mid-19th century that killed over a million of the population.' It was very nearly the death knell of the Irish language. Thankfully, all that has changed now. The schools that were the site of linguistic oppression in Ireland are now the place of the language's revival. 


Nowadays at the Connemara Golf Course, every one of the golfers speaks Irish... 


As well as negotiating the perilous task of keeping their language alive, they are also dealing with what must be one of the world's hardest courses... the holes are literally on different islands! This is a heck of a place to have a golf course, isn't it? Incredible. You must just blink your eyes on long June days when you can be playing till ten at night... 

'Imperialist Brit that I am, 'they are kind enough to speak English to me, 'which, given the history, is quite an ask. 'This part of Connemara suffered as much as any, 'but its utter remoteness helped preserve the language. 'History is never forgotten in Ireland 'and this sense of storytelling, be it national or personal, 'the gift of the gab, I suppose you could say, 'is one of the things I love about the country.' 

Are there things you could say in Irish that you couldn't really say in English and vice versa? 

Absolutely. I think everybody here thinks through Irish. 

And do you find Irish more accurate? It hits the nail on the head more often, you use fewer words, it's cleaner, more poetic? Is there some qualities to it that... 

Far more ways of saying the same thing. 

There are more ways? 

It depends who you're addressing... Oh, so it has a social... Oh, it has. Your interlocutor... ..Or undressing. 

Oh, right! 

Because you can say it's a fine day in about four different ways depending on who you're... Four? ..even more. Depending on whether you're like, "I hope to God it rains on that fucker." You know. Or, "she's a lovely girl". You know, "I hope the sun shines". You know? But it depends totally on who you're addressing. 

So you find when you switch to English, you're slightly more... 

Oh, you have to say, "Well, it's raining. "It's going to rain," or, you know, "there's rain on the way". That's about the three way... You know, if it's raining, it's raining. You know? But there's rain on the way as well. 

But there's 50 different types of rain, John, and you can describe every one of them. And that description, that wealth of description, that descriptive quality of the language is something that we would treasure here particularly. 

On behalf of the club here and its manager and director of the company, we offer you life membership in this golf club. 

Oh, what an honour! Thank you so... You haven't seen me play! You've seen me swing or try to! That's so kind. You offer me... Oh, that is a fabulous thing. Thank you so much. This is a truly great honour. This is one of the most remarkable golf clubs in the world.

It is, it's an amazing place. 

Going to cost me a lot of balls, because not many of them will hit land, but it's still fantastic! We'll follow you closely to see if we can pick up a few! 

Thank you so much! 

Oh, dear!

I think I've lost my moment now! I don't want to waste any more balls! 

Agus, action! 

How better to get inside a language than to act in its favourite soap opera? 



Like the Welsh, Ireland has a TV station in its own language. The most popular soap is called Ros na Run, a Connemara version of Coronation Street. 

'So I'm about to embark on a daunting task... 'speaking in Irish...' 

HE SPEAKS IRISH look hungry. 


It's here, it's here somewhere. Nil aon ocras orm! Er...racaigh me go Gallimh. Huh? Go raibh maith agat agus slan go fail... 

Go foil! 

That's right! I always get that bit wrong! 


'Our brief is to be as popular as possible.' We are probably quite important in terms of drawing in the hesitant Irish speaker as well as the fluent Irish speaker. 


To some people, the creation of TG4 was a kind of a white elephant. A sop to the Irish language community. But if you can imagine that when I was growing up, the only cultural resources in the Irish language that were available to me was Victorian literature which was about peasant life on the Aran Islands. 

Yes, quite. 

Now for my children, they tune in and they can watch cartoons dubbed into Irish, they can grow up and watch a variety of programmes, which are about Ireland today. And we've embraced the internet as a way of trying to draw in a new audience. That's why we've created a Facebook site and a Twitter site, and we're going to do webisodes next season, which will be all about a younger generation in the town of Ros na Run and they will gradually interact in the broadcast programme and try to draw them across. 

Irish might well survive here, but these children and their children will always need a global language. 

So you just change between the two very happily? Yes. But you think of yourself as an Irish speaker first? Yeah. Is that true of everybody? 

ALL: Yes. Goodness. If you erm, if you text each other, do... do you do it in Irish or in English? 

ALL: English. 

Ah, that's interesting, so things like the internet or whatever, are you on Facebook and things like that? 

ALL: Yes. And do you do that in English? 

ALL: Yes. 

So do you think of English as the language of the internet, but Irish the language of the playground and talking and friendship and things, when you're with people? 

ALL: Yes. 

You couldn't imagine yourselves only speaking Irish? 

ALL: No. 

You wouldn't cope in the world if you didn't speak English? 

ALL: Yes. Yeah. 

Thank goodness you do speak English, or we would be having an embarrassing time when I... 

Well, thank you very much. Mustn't disturb any more of your lessons, thank you. Was that...go raibh... thank you? 

ALL: Go raibh maith agat. 

I can't get the pronunciation right! Thank you very much.