Background to MP "Bruce" sketch (and other Britcom you might need explained)

Britcom sometimes depends on cultural knowledge and assumptions well familiar to a British audience but not to Yanks. E.g., the classic Monty Python skit at the Philosophy Department, University of Wollamalloo. The main thrust of the sketch is clear enough – Australians, even if intellectuals, are rough frontier types. But some details puzzle me:

  1. What’s this “Bruce” business? Is Bruce such a common name in Australia that they make jokes about it in Britain?

  2. Why is the new British prof called a “Pommie bastard”?

  3. Why do they say he is “free to teach all the great Marxist philosophers provided he makes it very clear that they were wrong”? Has Australia been remarkably hostile to Marxism, compared to other Commonwealth countries?
    Also – fellow Yanks and other colonists – have you ever seen anything in a Britcom for which you would appreciate an explanation? Anything that made you go, “Whaa . . . ?”

#2 - Pommy bastard. :smiley:

Some British comics seem to think so. It’s just a humorous stereotype. It isn’t an especially common name in reality.

Well, that’s just what they’re called. It can be anything from a term of affection to an insult.

Not especially I’d have thought. In fact, in my university experience you’re more likely than not to have Marxism shoved down your throat without any particular attempt at describing it as “wrong”.

Que? What version has that in it? :confused:

I’m going from memory, but I seem to remember words to that effect. In the TV sketch.

Here’s another one – the episode of The Goodies, where Bill shows off his prowess in the Lancastrian martial art of Eckee-Thump. Just what about Lancashire was he making fun of? Do Lancastrians wear suspenders? Eat black puddings? Fight a lot?

  1. The Pythons have always claimed that they got the idea of giving them all the name of “Bruce” from the fact that (according to them) every Australian they had ever met was named Bruce.

  2. At the time the sketch was written (around 1970, I believe), Australia was heading towards the end of a 23-year period (1949-1972) when they had been governed by a coalition of conservative parties (Liberals and Country in government and the DLP out of government). I’ve always thought that that line and this fact are related somehow.

I think they were just poking fun at the martial arts fad of the early 70s. All that ju-jitsu, aikido and kendo seemed slightly exotic at the time, and yet simultaneously ridiculous. So they combined it with something that was mundane and ridiculous, the stereotypical grim northern factory worker, with his flat cap, whippet, and fondness for delicacies such as the black pudding.

The Python boys did pretty much the same joke in their Papperbok, in the item about the Welsh martial art of Lapp Goch. I don’t know who thought of it first.

Two out of three ain’t bad :smiley:

Which, as I understand it, is actually a form of [urk] blood sausage.

You actually watched that and lived?

Yes. One of the more amazing episodes of Australian history, and one which most Australians seem to wish to renmmain ignorant of, was the anti-Socialist referendum of 1951 and the back-door methods that followed its rejection.

In simple terms the government of the day sought to amend the constitution to make it a criminal offence be a member of left leaning political groups, and to make it illegal for people holding sympatheic views to stand for election or even publicly comment on political matters. When the referendum failed (narrowly) the government then set about achiviveing the same means by backdoor methods. Throughout the 50s and 60s Australia was being held up by the political left of Europe as an example of the use of the Communist bogeyman to impose totalitarian controls.

Although the effect within Australia had largely disspated by the tiemof MPFC the Python team would have been well aware of the history, having been educated in British universities in the 50s and 60s.

Basically it was a swipe at the popular view of Australia at the time as place where even commenting on Communist material in universities was a criminal offence, even though the failure of the referendum meant that things never got that quite that bad.

For the record:

Third Bruce: What does New Bruce teach?
Fourth Bruce: New Bruce will be teaching political science - Machiavelli, Bentham, Locke, Hobbes, Sutcliffe, Bradman, Lidwall, Miller, Hassett, and Benaud.
Second Bruce: Those are cricketers, Bruce.
Fourth Bruce: Oh, spit.
Third Bruce: Howls of derisive laughter, Bruce.
Fourth Bruce: In addition, as he’s going to be teaching politics I’ve told him he’s welcome to teach any of the great socialist thinkers, provided he makes it clear that they were wrong.
All: Australia, Australia, Australia, Australia, we love you. Amen.

From Monty Python’s Flying Circus: The Complete Unexpurgated Scripts of the Original TV Series (except for the animation bits)

Soon after this sketch was broadcast, I was part of a chess team that went to Eastern Europe.
I’d never been abroad before, so was grateful that our captain was a middle-aged, wise, serious, sensible chap who handily spoke German too.
He guided us through customs (this was during the Cold War), made a suitably bland speech of welcome and politely warned us about our behaviour.
All quite correct.

However, when we were introduced to our interpreter, our captain indicated me and said “This is Bruce…” (that’s not my name :confused: ), then pointed to the next player and repeated “This is Bruce…” (not his name either :eek: ) and went on like that throughout the whole team! :smiley:
The interpreter looked bemused. “Bruce - this is a common English name, yes?”
“Oh, certainly.” replied our captain. “Just like Josef in your country.” :cool:

We had a great time!

I dunno, Dick Darlington worked at “Bruce’s Bar and Grill”, London’s only Australian bar. ;j


What’s a custard tart? (As Time Goes By)

Rhyming slang: custard tart = fart

Err, not in this context. Lionel was always eating them from the cupboard.

It’s pretty much self-explanatory. They’re small pastry tarts with a custard filling.

This tells you what custard is if you’re not sure.

Personally I don’t like them because I loathe custard. My father however scoffs them like there’s no tomorrow. The parallel to Lionel is uncanny.

Actually, I’ve always wondered what’s up with the “Prejudice” sketch. It always seemed so bizarre.