Comedian Rob Brydon explores Welsh identity and tries to discover what makes his patriotic countrymen so defensive. He also constructs a stand-up routine of Welsh-based material.
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This programme contains some strong language.
I was born in Wales and my first work was there.
Whenever I'm introduced it's always, "Welsh comedian Rob Brydon..."
"Welsh actor, Rob..." Always the Welsh in front of it.
But to me, Welsh seemed really pessimistic, very gloomy, very depressive,
always on a prescription for some illness or other.
Bizarre antagonism towards the English, sort of bordering on hatred
and a lot of them speak a language that I just don't understand.
But I've lived in London, you see, for almost 20 years now,
so am I Welsh?
Or am I English?
It's an identity crisis.
An identity crisis, you know?
A crisis of identity is what it is.
The Welsh against...
Look at my hands.
They have very thin skins in Wales.
"Loquacious dissemblers, immoral liars, stunted, bigoted,
"dark, ugly, pugnacious little trolls."
You look like a tit.
-Good God, Robert, yes.
-What the hell are you doing?
There's a long tradition of really good humour except we've kept it very quiet.
Mr Rob Brydon... HE TALKS MOCK WELSH
-That's Welsh, isn't it?
-Now you look appalled, the girl at the back, you see? I'm going to have a go!
Diane, guess who's dead...
Oh, this is the worst feeling in the world.
It's like a feeling like you just want be somewhere else, or...
The country that likes to say yes. Yes, yes, yes!
Well, I'm about to set off on a wonderful journey back to Wales.
I'm going to speak to some friends.
I've lined up some experts. I'm gonna speak to people on the street.
The reason I'm a little worried and I might seem a little edgy,
is that I've booked a theatre to do an evening of stand-up comedy all about Wales.
Now you may say, "Why am I nervous?"
I've played to lots of people. Yeah but I've always done it in character as Keith Barrett. What is your name?
All right, don't be aggressive!
You're not going to jump up on the stage and happy slap me, are you?
I'm sorry, Lowrie, I'm very sorry.
I'm under a lot of pressure on this stage...
And also the Keith material isn't all about Wales. I want this to be entirely about Wales.
So I'm hoping that as I go around, as I travel around,
that I pick up enough inspiration and enough ideas to do an hour of material on stage.
The first stop is to go and visit a friend of mine,
who's a stand-up comedian, who works loads in Wales, so he should know what's what.
His name is Chris Corcoran.
So are you going to set some new Welsh Zeitgeist?
I'm not completely confident about it.
I'm not like if I was doing Keith...
I'd be, "Hey, I know this." This is a bit new.
My worry is I've got 10 minutes of good,
strong stuff, maybe 12 minutes, but after that I just go blank.
I still have moments like that, where you...
that feeling of that didn't go quite as...
and then you know what's coming up and if they didn't go with that...
and you play the rest of the set through your head...
They're never going to go with the rest of this stuff. Oh no, panic!
-Yeah, well, but excited nervousness, is it?
Yeah, yeah, it is excited.
I er... It's, you know, what's the worst thing that can happen?
Yeah, panic and then walk off, I suppose.
-And then everyone going...
all the Guardian writers, all the journalists, going Brydon's all right as Keith Barrett,
however when it comes to himself, he's clearly very limited.
That's the worst that can happen.
Ten minutes isn't enough. I mean, ten minutes is nothing.
It's actually billed on the poster as "An Evening with Rob Brydon",
so ideally I'd be looking at over and above 10 minutes.
But it's finding that material, you know, where do you...
find the material?
I'm going to meet some students at Pyle to talk to them,
get their views on humour and the Welsh
and to steal their jokes, basically.
If somebody comes out with a good joke I'll have it.
You could argue that we're a bit of a joke in the British Isles.
What's more of a joke, Scotland or Wales?
Wales would win that. Are we more of a joke than England? Definitely.
Are we more of a joke than Ireland? Probably are, yeah, we are.
Stephen Fry did a thing once where he said there's something inherently funny about saying "the Welsh".
He said, "You can say, 'da dum da dum the Welsh.'"
-I know, but you know, it's Stephen Fry, it must be right.
-People think of Wales as quite common,
-What, people think of the Welsh people as quite common?
Yeah, like... No! I mean like they're all mi...
If you go somewhere else they're like, "Oh, they're all miners and things like that."
DEEP VOICE: They think Welsh people are a bit like that, a bit stupid.
Well I do stuff like that, see, in my act.
I do a character, who sort of talks like this...
Where I say, you couldn't have a Welsh Spiderman, because he'd be like, all right, Peter Parker...
My name is... Sorry I'm late, I've been down the laboratory.
Well, Superdrug it was.
I've been bitten by a spider...
It was only radioactive.
It's turned my life around.
I'm shooting webs, climbin' up walls...
swinging on buildings...
Rightly or wrongly the only downside of being imbued with the powers of a spider is...
I am finding it very difficult getting out of the bath.
Now, that's Welsh.
I think the Welsh have an immense capacity for self-deprecation,
but I'm not sure about laughing at themselves very much.
However, I think we often think the Welsh have no humour and that's not true.
I think the number of jokes that are made about the Welsh,
like in terms of shagging sheep, or sort of being a bit strange in some ways,
are pretty much welcomed with open arms.
Most of the jokes about sheep have been made by Welsh people, I think.
The Welsh particularly
have very little sense of humour about themselves.
Very funny people, in a lot of ways.
Absolutely not about being Welsh.
I notice you now, this demeanour of you.
You're famous for being incredibly funny, you're being incredibly serious now about Wales.
Well I have to because...
I'm consorting with the enemy at the moment
and I'm fighting any inclination to agree with anything you say.
To play to a Welsh audience
there's nothing wrong about laughing at who the Welsh are,
laughing at the way they take their nationality too seriously,
laughing at the way the language is a sacrosanct topic
and it's only when we actually confront some of our demons
and actually confront why we are so defensive about our nationality,
and why are we unwilling to have external people laugh at us?
Until we actually talk about those issues then we'll never move on.
We shouldn't be pompous about it.
The fact you're doing these jokes, you do comedy,
and you do Welsh comedy which is wonderfully funny
and people shouldn't be saying "I resent that from Rob,"
-because if you can't do it who the hell can?
-Girl at the back?
In Wales we've got the highest rate of teen pregnancy,
the highest binge drinking and there's nothing to feel proud of.
There's nothing to be proud of.
You don't hear in America, you don't hear in Ireland, only in Wales.
-Why is that?
-Is that definitely fact?
-We've definitely got the highest teenage pregnancies?
Right, some of you guys is putting it about, like it's good.
People say we're a small country but we're leading the way in many ways.
We have the highest teenage pregnancies of anywhere!
You know, the country that likes to say yes! Yes...yes...yes...yes!
I think it's because there's nothing else to do.
man at the back there, is that why you've contributed to these figures?
No! That's... I think there's plenty to do.
It's just there's lots of people hanging about on streets.
But that's everywhere, I think. It's just we're more...hands-on!
-We're more organised!
-More organised, yeah!
They've got binge drinking and teenage pregnancy all over the UK.
I will say in Wales we are more organised.
Thank you very much for that, that's great and I'm going to use the material about binge drinking
and teenage pregnancies so thank you for that and your line of er... that's going in, definitely.
My first gig is on Friday at the Glee Club in Cardiff.
-I've never played there. You must have.
-Quite a lot.
-What's it like?
Brilliant. The best club in the world.
Welsh audiences, very giving, very happy to play along,
but at the same time kind of very respectful of the performers
so you don't get any nasty heckling.
They're all very up for it and they love seeing a Welsh bloke on stage.
Can I get a hot chocolate to take away? What are you going to have?
Coffee please, Americano.
-My Welsh radar has never been more active because I know I've got to find material for these shows.
So I'm constantly...any thing that comes to me, I'm jotting it down.
-And how's it going?
Rob, do you know what you're starting with?
I don't know, I don't know.
I suppose it depends on the response.
I don't know if that's a good idea - if it should depend on the response,
so I think I'll probably do er... I don't know, I don't know. I want to see what happens.
Take a chance.
That's my intention!
See, in the back of my head there's a voice going,
"Oh, you'll just probably do Ronnie Corbett impressions!"
-Do you think you will?
AS RONNIE CORBETT: I hope not!
DISTANT CROWD NOISE
Oh, this is the worst feeling in the world.
It's like a feeling like you want to be somewhere else...
LOUD APPLAUSE AND WHISTLING
Well, bloody hell. Hello.
How are you?
-Are you all right?
-CROWD SHOUT OUT
I've been sort of doing some new material and I want to try it out...
on you. Do you mind if I have a bit of paper? You don't mind, do you?
No, no. No. No...
-We've got the highest binge drinking in Europe.
I was with a group of students the other day. I said, "Bloody hell, is that true?" They said, "Yes."
It's higher than anywhere else in the UK in Wales. I said, "Why?
"How is it?" He said, "I don't know, we're just more hands-on."
And more teenage pregnancies. We get stuck in.
Don't attack me! He's going.
It's OK. I've given him a psychological trick.
He's gone the wrong way.
What it is - I'm going to wait for him outside.
I'm gonna call my mates and we're gonna throw...
Oh, no - where's he going?
He's furious. He's livid.
He's gone to the ladies. Fair enough.
The next morning, he'll come in there,
he'll see the big ones on the floor,
he won't have a clue where they're from!
There's no end to that story but that's what happened.
Any loud questions?
Who's Steve Moss?
What? Who needed therapy?
Oh, bloody hell.
The main thing was...
I think I came across as quite mean at times.
I was aware of that. Um...
What, the Ely bit?
Anybody from Ely?
Oh, it's a rough part, isn't it?
Bloody hell, it's rough.
Were you there? You're going to come out of this story really badly!
-That's quite a cynical...
..way of looking at things.
It didn't seem to go quite so well and sometimes I felt
-I was being very judgmental.
Most of the crew are English.
They'd never been to Ely before.
-They'd been to a safari park...
There's things to learn from it, that worked and build on those and things that didn't work.
-You only learn by doing it.
-And off to Pontardawe.
-Yes, we've got that to come.
It's going to need work. This is like being on Celebrity Fame Academy. This is dreadful.
That's very much a Welsh audience reaction, I think.
You know, hang on a minute, what are you doing now?
Are you having a go at us? That was like when I went on Jeremy Clarkson's chat-show years ago,
doing Welsh material and my best friend switched it off,
which I couldn't believe! This is David.
-Right, let's meet a taff, shall we?
-At the time
it was like seeing your best mate sell his Welsh soul
to the arrogant middle-class English Jeremy Clarkson.
Yeah, we don't have to carry on!
If you've ever stayed in Wales you should watch the Welsh version of Countdown!
It would be a great show. I mean, you'd have contestants on there...
I'll have...a consonant...
and a consonant...
-Consonant please, Carol and a consonant.
I don't like it, I must be honest.
I really don't like gags about the language, to a point.
Some of it's funny, to a point. It's something that I don't enjoy.
Switched me off midway through my set. I can't...
I found that at the time unbelievable.
Your brother... your brother and all the family?!
I can understand why he switched it off, but on the other hand he's a bit of a pompous bastard, isn't he?
They have very thin skins in Wales about the idea that you could,
even if you're Welsh, the opposite...
when we talk about it being similar to Jewish humour...
Jewish people mock themselves continually
but the Welsh do not like to be mocked. They want to be reassured.
I'm very fond of the story that the first Welsh man said to God,
"How very kind of you to have given us this beautiful land,
"those wonderful mountains, full of coal and iron and steel and a golden slate."
He said, "Why have you singled us out to be so fortunate?"
And God says, "I haven't singled you out. You haven't seen your neighbours yet."
I've always called it the Braveheart syndrome. Forever England,
Wales, that sort of Braveheart syndrome kicks in and it brings out the...
I'd understand if it's when they're playing Wales you want them to lose,
but you want England to lose with a violent passion.
They could be playing the Third Reich...
and you'd want Hitler's boys to win, wouldn't you?
I'm ashamed to say it, yes.
I find the Welsh hatred of the English depressing.
It's not just a sort of a mild intolerance, it's an actual hatred.
Maybe we should feel that way about them. Wales was oppressed.
Yes, but when, Rob?! When was it oppressed? Centuries ago.
You see I feel...
I'm wholly Welsh but I was brought up in England
so I can't share any conscious
aspirations to base it on disliking or hating another group of people.
I mean, I associate there's a sort of Welsh way of getting angry,
which is thumbs in waistcoat pockets
-and it's drawing yourself up your full 5 ft 7...
-That's how tall I am!
And going, and then using every long word you know.
It's very How Green Is My Valley...
and it's very intellectually chippy.
AA Gill, the celebrated critic... he doesn't like us.
I'm almost sure he said that...
and forgive me, Mr Gill if I quote you wrong, but I think you said,
"in their glove-shaped valleys
"the Welsh have spawned a life grimmer than that of any rock pool."
-It's pretty damning, isn't it?
-Yes, but it's great...
-I love glove-shaped valleys.
-You see, he's a good writer.
-That's the problem. It's just WHAT he writes.
-But he writes for effect.
So you don't think he means it?
Yeah, I did mean it.
-I meant it!
-In his heart, he doesn't.
He'd say anything. Words are easily spoken. What's in his heart counts.
Max, I meant it.
I kind of agree with him, you see, on this glove-shaped valley thing,
because when I think of my friends
and I think which ones are the gloomy ones and which ones are not,
the gloomy ones will be the Welsh ones.
Well I think we're a bit of a contradiction because
we're also intrinsically optimistic as well as being...
I think our benchmark is bleakness...
-Yeah, a default setting...
-Default setting is a bit bleak, yeah.
The comedy, I've sort of dwelt on the gloom aspect but I do see it
seriously as a characteristic of the Welsh. Why?
Living next to England, I suppose.
And some inherent racism as well, then?
-Why is it...
-It's a romantic gloom. It's a drama queen gloom.
It's not misery...
I think it's dramatic.
Yeah, we revel in it, we enjoy it...
-We relish the pain.
My mother always wants to talk about death.
The first thing she says is, "You'll never guess who's died. "
And she likes looking in the newspaper.
-"Oh, so an so's died."
The idea that people relish suffering...
I remember the story of a great aunt of mine
complaining about when she opened the coffin to show her dead husband to neighbours,
the coffin hinges squeaked, and she went to put oil on then, and then she realised, "I'm not going to
do this for more than another day, so why bother?" and took the oil back and demanded her money.
That's a very Welsh story, too.
And what about the one about the husband who's gonna die and says,
"Not long now, Gwyn." He says, "No." "Is there anything you'd like?"
"I'd love some salmon."
"You'd like some salmon?" "I'd love some fresh salmon."
She says, "All right," and she goes away and comes back and spoons it,
"But that's not salmon, is it?"
He goes, "That's tuna."
And she says, "Yes, we're keeping the salmon for the funeral."
My dad goes to funerals of people I think he doesn't actually know very well.
That's quite a Welsh thing, isn't it?
-I do think there's that, "Well, I could've seen that coming.
"We were foolish to get our hopes up."
-"I don't know what to say about that."
-"What's the point?"
-"You've put me in a gloomy mood now."
"There's a lot to be gloomy about if you look around the world."
What's the point?
-Do you ever think that?
-Yeah, quite often.
Quite often, yeah. Yeah, yeah.
Do you glimpse the futility of life?
-Yeah. Absolutely. Absolutely.
-Do you feel, "What's the bloody point?"
Yeah? Or young - you'd probably say, "What's the fucking point?"
-Yeah. "You cock!"
Something like that?
I remember when If You Tolerate This went to number one
and we beat Steps to get to number one, and it was just a joy!
-A joyous occasion.
Within 20 minutes we were all on the bus, and you could just feel it coming over us.
-The three of us... "What do we do next?
"It sold 20,000 less than we thought it would." You know?
It's just inbuilt in us.
Is there a word for "enjoy" in the language?
We don't allow a word for "enjoy".
We thought of having a word for "enjoy",
-Adrian, but in the end we thought, "How often are we going to use it?"
There is a certain pessimism that came from Puritanism,
which was a great backbone to people under serious difficulties in poverty,
but on the other hand does make for a certain dourness.
You do see some of the gloomy Welsh, but I've only seen them on television.
-By TV companies. I suppose this...
-Which is what I'm doing! OK, right!
You see the... "Hey, man..."
You see that sort of character being portrayed, over and over again.
-I don't know why.
-But it has no root in reality?
Absolutely no root in any reality I know.
But there was no part of you then, during your incarceration,
that gave into that Welsh gloominess, which I still insist exists.
I'm not being deliberately perverse here, but I'm really not sure what you mean, Welsh gloominess!
Not in you, but you must be aware
of a...an impression of Wales as being a rather gloomy nation.
-Are you not even aware of that?
I'm not being deliberately perverse.
I'm surprised this is the result of your research.
This is interesting cos I would have characterised us as just gloomy, right,
but lots of people saying what you're saying, "We're gloomy but we love it."
Rather than just being miserable,
secretly inside you have a good time being miserable.
Happy to be sad.
Chapel communities have lost their grip on Wales,
so as a consequence it's almost created a gap where other
things can move in, like television, possibly like humour.
Politics, to some extent, has moved into that gap as well,
and all those components make for a greater confidence.
How would you describe the Welsh people?
Friendly, open, easy to get along with.
-You're on a roll now. I don't want to stop you!
Your character in Gavin And Stacey, though, is a good...
Nicky, you are a lovely-looking boy.
-He's a genuinely nice man, isn't he?
-Yes, he is.
-Trying to do the best in the world.
-Yes, he is.
I'm having a whale of a time.
The kind of decent man, he's a bit lost,
but is trying to do his best.
That's me, basically.
That us all. But I think that's more positive.
It seems like I've been very, very wrong, doesn't it?
Because all I'm getting now is, "No, no, we're not miserable, we're not gloomy."
All the things I thought,
I was taking for granted, this is how it is, it seems are not the case.
It seems like the country's changed, which is lovely, that's great, well done.
On the down side, I've got to play to about 200 people in Pontardawe.
From my point of view, it's actually bad news.
So, what are we doing here, Rob?
We've come here because I think that...
-I think I'm being quite negative about Wales.
So I wanted to come to somewhere positive because...
I'm starting to think...
that I've got it wrong.
-In what sense?
-In the sense I've come to this with my very sort of...
You know a lot of my comedy is quite dark,
I think I've come to it with that sort of attitude,
and the people I'm meeting and interviewing, so many of them are going,
-"What are you talking about?"
-So not recognising your own first perception?
-Which was a bit dour.
-It wasn't dour.
Pessimistic and depressive.
And the more time I'm spending here, I have to say, the less I'm feeling that.
So are you coming round to thinking you might do more positive stuff, then, with this gig coming up?
I want to, yeah. So I'm gonna smile a bit more, be a bit friendlier,
and I'm going to be wary of making the Welsh character in my jokes the victim.
-Or the butt of the joke.
I should change, "We couldn't have a Welsh rapper,"
to, "We've got everything.
"We've got Welsh rappers," to make it positive.
-I'd be interested in doing that, almost like an experiment.
"What a great country, we've got this, we've got that.
"We've even got serial killers."
I don't know if there have been, doesn't really matter.
-There must have been a Welsh serial killer by now.
Surely we're not lagging that far behind the rest of Britain.
There you go, the mavericks are in.
I'd like to present someone.
Mr Rob Brydon!
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
Hello, Pontardawe Arts Centre!
It's lovely, lovely, lovely to be here this evening. How are you?
I'm feeling lovely.
It's a lovely building.
If you had to find a word to sum up the evening, it would be..."fantastic".
What a fantastic country we are.
What wonderful people we are, we are world leaders.
We have everything that the rest of Britain has.
There's nothing they've got that we don't have.
Serial killers? We've got serial killers. Oh, yeah.
"I'll be honest with you, the first time was an accident."
"I fell on her."
"After that, I just got a taste for it, to be honest with you."
The best pilots are Welsh pilots.
Oh, bloody hell.
I'm not being funny,
I haven't got a clue what I'm doing.
It's just buttons and lights and switches. But you know what?
I'm going to have a go!
I'm going to try!
I mean, what's the worst thing that could happen?!
I recently...had to be driven.
I did a show in Birmingham, and I got driven back to London, which is where I live.
-What can I do?
LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE
You are going to have to stop this.
Because it's hard for me to remember my act with an erection.
Like, what you is saying to me, man, it is like turning me on, you know.
What was I saying? What were we talking about?
What was I saying?
What? London. I was being driven back from Birmingham to London.
It was late, I was tired, I wanted to go home.
And we get in and he tries to find...
He's got satnav on, OK.
The satnav said, "Bear left.
He looked at the satnav and he said, "Aye, then what?"
I think he should have a Welsh satnav.
I think a Welsh satnav would be fantastic.
"Take the next left.
"Coming up now, pretty soon, get ready for it."
"Watch out for that joker there.
"Jesus Christ, he's almost up your arse. Look out."
You've been a lovely audience, Pontardawe, thank you very much indeed. Good night.
That was much better from my point of view.
I felt a big difference in terms of the kind of atmosphere
with being positive and putting an upbeat thing on it.
Because it's essentially the same material.
It was the same material but with a different attitude, coming from a different place.
And I thought...
I didn't feel bad about doing it.
Whereas on stage at the Glee Club, I felt...
Especially when I watched it, when I saw it, I really felt that.
Howard Marks is good.
Howard Marks is funny.
I have a gag about you being in jail which is so removed from the truth.
"I'm Howard Marks. I'm in jail. Things couldn't get any worse."
You go to the bars and go, "Bloody hell, it's raining.
"Bloody typical, it would have to be raining, wouldn't it?"
Which, of course, probably was not how you were at all.
It's true, I wasn't.
No, there we are. I'm still going to try the gag, and see how it goes.
I met Howard Marks the other day.
How did he cope with seven years of jail, hey?
I don't think we Welsh would cope with jail.
I think there should be a law that we can never go to jail, we should just pay fines.
-As I was doing it, I was going, "This is going to get nothing."
I was thinking that as I was doing it.
Howard has got a very deep voice.
You can imagine going to the cell and going,
"Oh, good God, seven years for smuggling dope, I don't believe it."
I got to the end and I got this laugh
-and I thought, "Oh, great!"
-That was good.
Oh, it's raining and all. Bloody typical!
-You're not going to sue me for misrepresentation.
Standing at the back of the club, "I did not say that. I said how well made the cell was.
"The bars were very uniform and straight. It was bloody wonderful."
It makes such sense now that if I am stood there,
constantly berating the Welsh things,
-then naturally people are going to go at some point, "Hang on a minute."
It foolishly hadn't occurred to me that that might be the reaction.
You can still do the gag, just come at it from a different angle.
Inclusively and happily and positively.
I expected it to be different because I went into it with a very different attitude.
I was really determined to... um, be more positive.
To not do what I did at the Glee, which was to be quite...
hard on the Welsh. So I wanted to put a positive spin on things.
And it felt really good, being on stage with a different attitude, with a more positive approach.
And it shows
what you can do if you just change the attitude to it.
You can sort of say anything, really.
Roll on Aberdare, eh?
So now we've got like the final show, Aberdare.
And after that one,
after how Pontardawe went, I feel with Aberdare that I can...
have a go at the language, which is the big thing.
"You mustn't make jokes about the language.
"You cannot make jokes about the language."
I feel like I want to go along and do something to give David a heart attack.
I grew up when there was no S4C.
There were Welsh programmes on what was English-language Welsh television.
And that turned me against it on the very simple level
that as a young boy I was missing out on Star Trek,
because you'd get to Star Trek and we wouldn't get it in Wales.
We'd get the Welsh News.
So I would associate it with a feeling of resentment.
I'd be wanting to see Captain Kirk and I'd be hearing...
Yeah, that's true.
Now when I hear the Welsh language it sounds lyrical.
I went to this concert last night, the Super Furry Animals were there.
They were around the tea-making machine.
And all of a sudden they started talking in Welsh about how many sugars they wanted in their tea.
You think they're having a secret conversation about you. They're not.
I feel ripped off that we weren't involved in the Welsh language.
It's an odd thing, isn't it? This is your country and yet you can't understand what they're saying.
When I was arriving a while back, just coming over the Severn Bridge,
and we all know that you pay to get in and you don't have to pay to leave.
And we're coming to the Severn Bridge and I said to my wife
in all seriousness, "I wonder what that means?"
She said, "What?" I said, "That bit of Welsh up there.
"How do you pronounce that? M-A-N-N-E-D...
It was a manned toll booth.
But the reason you're like that is because you allowed the English
to come in and stop you, or stop your ancestors,
from learning Welsh as a first language.
And so therefore, English took over and you lost your language.
Exactly. And that's why I'm not as clear-cut as I used to be.
And now I'm questioning a lot of my beliefs.
I do like the language, particularly all the little towns or villages
across Wales, the Welsh place names.
It's very important, of course, for me to pronounce them correctly
when I'm doing the weather. Otherwise people complain.
One of the first things I ever did was present a panel show on BBC Wales.
Welcome to Invasion, another edition
in which two teams trek through Wales, conquering counties as they go.
I used to have terrible trouble with all the place names.
It wasn't part of my upbringing.
I had to be able to pronounce Swansea, Neath, Port Talbot.
And there's a floor manager, who I'm sure didn't like me.
You can see him in these outtakes, he comes up to me, saying, "Rob, it's...
-Is that how you pronounce it?
-I'm going, "OK, tell us... "
-I think you're saying it wrong. HE SAYS WELSH NAME
-How do you pronounce it?
-You can do it in two sections....
-HE SAYS WELSH NAME
So there we are. So I still haven't improved.
Which famous Welshman was born at Glen-de-vudoy. No. Wrong.
HE SAYS WELSH NAME
I think the R is silent.
HE SAYS WELSH NAME
-I said it wrong on radio once and somebody rang to complain.
-Which famous Welshman was born in...?
The point is, in terms of how you feel about your country,
at that time I was getting cheesed off with this floor manager.
-Faster than that?
-Yeah. As fast as you can.
-Which famous Welshman was born in...?
'I thought, why's this such a big deal?'
I'm trying to do it right. Now, as I get older, I think he was right.
Of course you should say these things properly.
FLOOR MANAGER SAYS WELSH NAME
HE MISPRONOUNCES NAME
-OK. Right, we're ready now.
-OK, once again.
And you should be able to pronounce them.
-Which famous Welshman was born in...?
-I did it!
I think that Welsh people are often overly dramatic in their use of language.
Yeah, but it's a dramatic tone of speaking as well.
This is what comes, I imagine,
from having part your own language,
and then part having to accept its failure to have caught on.
-Which is the only way...
-Failure to have caught on?!
It's the only way I can describe it.
The language has failed to catch on.
Hasn't it? Well it has, hasn't it? There's no other way of putting it.
Where do you want it to go? We don't speak Danish in England, but we don't say...
Yeah, but you don't go to Denmark and the signs are printed in Danish and English.
They're not that polite, are they? In this country we go to the trouble of putting them in English as well.
Are you fluent Welsh?
-Is Ruth fluent Welsh?
-She says no, but I think she's pretty good.
Well she's not, and she never uses it.
I've yet to meet a Frenchman who isn't fluent in French, right?
Just face it, it's a fact.
The language hasn't caught on.
My father and mother were both Welsh speaking,
but my mother wouldn't speak Welsh to me
because she perceived it to be the language of the poor.
My mother had to have cardboard round her neck
when the kids spoke Welsh,
because the English owned... They were the bosses.
They had to put a notice up saying, "You will come to work..."
So they had to have English in order to work with these people.
But at the same time, I'm not fervent about it.
I love it deeply. I mean, I could fuck it, it's so beautiful.
And I applaud it.
I stroke it, I caress it, I love it.
But I'm not gonna do this for it.
The position regarding the Welsh language has come full circle.
It used to be that Welsh held you back,
today Welsh opens doors for you.
It's taught in schools and people are very strongly behind that.
They feel that speaking Welsh opens doors in the public sector, in the media, in education.
So it's seen as having some real social status attached to it.
And people associate it in particular
with a mobile middle class trying to get their kids to go on.
Just over a hundred years ago there's an awful lot of evidence, wearing
-that Welsh knot that the kids had to in school.
-I don't know about this.
It was something called a Welsh knot, which was a lump of wood. OK?
And, you know...
if anyone spoke in Welsh, they were given one of these
and ended up with a Welsh knot. At the end of the day you were punished in some way.
The Welsh knot is shrouded in myth.
It's taken on a status where people assume it was responsible for crushing the Welsh language.
It's far more complicated than that. It was never very widely used.
It was only based in certain parts of Wales. And Welsh teachers implemented it.
Certainly once education becomes compulsory
at the end of the 19th century, it was never official policy.
People think it's one of the reasons why the Welsh language declined.
But it wasn't the policy of some evil English government trying to stamp out the Welsh language.
In many schools, if they spoke English
they got a mark on the board,
and they get a smiling face if they haven't spoken English all day.
What? That's true. It's absolutely true.
-You get a smiling face...
-It's like a star when we were in school in our days.
You'd get a star for doing something good.
The concept of the school is it's a Welsh-speaking school.
People say that because of having the road signs in two languages,
it has helped a resurgence of the language,
which, you would dare say, has helped to keep the Welsh culture distinct.
Has it helped with traffic accidents?
You mean people go, "What the hell?! Oh shit, look out!" It's probably happened,
much to the delight of comedians everywhere.
But there's no difference between the Welsh and the English.
And it's by having these road signs, for example...
I'm sorry, if you've got to go and have a sign painter
go round the country saying, "This is just to remind you that you're actually Welsh,"
you've probably already lost the fight.
I think the struggle to maintain and develop
the Welsh language and keep that distinctiveness,
has sometimes made people over protective.
And I think that sensitivity is something we do have to address.
At the end of the day, a country that can show it can stand up to any kind of joke, any kind of criticism,
is a very mature country. And I'm confident Wales can do that.
The Welsh language, with me, it's almost like a no-go area.
I'm so passionate about the Welsh language and its existence and its development.
-So any laughter about it is just not on?
-Any laughter is not on.
Not that far, but I mean, I don't enjoy it.
But you are saying that. It is that far for you, isn't it?
Yeah, absolutely, yeah.
So don't do it again.
See, I didn't grow up immersed in Welsh culture, Welsh language culture. It was always there.
But I...I never really looked at it.
It's like being reminded of something that's in your peripheral vision
that you never really looked at.
Now I'm wishing I had.
Do you know when I started this?
Well, both of us, our take was that we are this dramatic, sort of gloomy nation. Do you go with that?
Yeah, I think so, yeah, yeah.
Well, 9 out of 10 of the interviews I've been doing, nobody agrees.
And I have been made to look like a gloom-monger.
Seriously, I speak to loads of people and they go,
"I know, I don't recognise it, I think we're very self deprecating.
"We look on the positive side of things.
All right, Rob?
I've not found what I thought I was going to find on this.
-No! Has that ruined the programme?
-No, hopefully, it's made it more interesting.
But it's been strange for me. I've also found myself
becoming far more patriotic... I've spent much more time in Wales.
I've been going to different parts of Wales, playing different crowds
and I'm actually feeling quite, you know...
-Yeah, I am, yeah.
It might surprise you, but I love Wales as well.
And I'm very proud of being Welsh, but just in a different way to you.
I believe you.
I'm looking forward to it, yeah.
Yeah, it's always that feeling...
Don't you get it before you go on, where you think, is this going to be the disastrous one?
Yeah, of course. Yeah.
It sounds like this has been life changing for you.
It's been... It's been much bigger than I thought it would be, yeah.
It's put me back in touch.
-It's made me feel much more Welsh and proud of being Welsh.
-So it's really made you look at your identity then?
Yeah. It makes you examine what you take for granted.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
What a lovely welcome. Thank you so much. Thank you.
And it is, if I may say,
a beautiful audience.
It is a very aesthetically pleasing audience for me.
I get to look and see some real, real stunners.
Well, I suppose shocking more than stunning.
All right, upsetting.
We're making a documentary and it's all about being Welsh.
We're not a healthy nation, are we?
"It's all across my shoulders.
"It's down my arm.
"My left hand is a permanent claw.
"Oh, this damp, you see. It's very damp.
"I shouldn't have come out tonight really."
Thank you for that. Just on cue.
So I'm making this documentary called Rob Brydon's Identity Crisis.
All about Wales and Welshness and what it is to be Welsh.
-It's not easy, is it?
No! Thank you.
Think of tonight as a sort of pantomime for grown ups.
I think we have it very hard.
We're not... How can I put it?
We're not as suave as the English.
< Oh, yes we are!
Oh no, you're not! >
When I said, "Think of it as a pantomime..."
No, I would say generally we're not as suave as the English.
Think of the way the English say hello to each other. It's very posh.
"Hello." "Oh, I say, hello."
We don't say hello like that, do we?
We say hello like this.
Generally we're not as suave as the English.
And we're not as fierce as the Scots. Very fierce people.
"You can take our land but you'll never take our freedom."
We're not like that!
"You can take our land!"
Don't forget our freedom now before you go!
Thanks for coming!
Oh, they were a lovely invading country, weren't they?
There's a side of us, of being Welsh, that is relaxed, it's chilled out.
We don't get too worked up about things, do we?
You know, look at Jonathan Davies, the great Jonathan Davies, the great rugby player.
I love it when you see him giving the half-time analysis.
Now, say England-Wales are playing, it's at Twickenham.
We go for the analysis at half-time.
We'll start off with some English player, probably called Rory something.
Rory Undergraduate, something like that.
So, Rory, it's been quite a good first half for England there.
They've got a 300-point lead, um... how do you think they're playing?
"Yes, our chaps have been playing rather well, a lot of good play,
"forwards gathering the ball..."
-"..giving a lot of support to the backs.
"I think if we keep this up... I played with a lot of them at university,
"some of those buggers are bloody great fun.
"I think we're on course for victory."
Right, Jonathan Davies, what do you think?
"We're just happy to be here, really!"
It's the way we are, we look for the best in everything.
I don't speak Welsh, I wish I could. Who can speak Welsh here?
HANDFUL OF CHEERS
Just going, "Wahey", is not Welsh.
I would love to speak it, because I'd love to be one of those men
who says something in English and then says it again in Welsh.
Good evening, ladies and gentlemen,
and welcome to the Coliseum at Aberdare for an evening of comedy.
-Coliseum... evening of laughter.
-Thank you, thank you.
You know, as I came here this evening, a thought occurred to me.
HE PARODIES WELSH LANGUAGE
Wouldn't it be wonderful if everyone in the world could live as one?
PARODIES WELSH, AUDIENCE LAUGHS
But then I thought to myself, no...
PARODIES WELSH LANGUAGE
-It could never be.
-PARODIES WELSH LANGUAGE
If I could speak Welsh, I'd use my powers for bad things.
I'd go to nightclubs, I'd find non-Welsh speaking girls and chat them up in Welsh.
PARODIES WELSH LANGUAGE
-PARODIES WELSH LANGUAGE
PARODIES WELSH LANGUAGE
Do any of you...? A lot of people do now, they don't speak Welsh,
but their kids are learning it in school.
Any of you send your kids to Welsh-language schools? One.
And her husband then put his hand up in support at the last minute.
Don't hit her about it.
"You bloody fool, why have you drawn attention to us?!
"I told you about this at home, I've hit you many times about it! Don't make me slap you again!"
Domestic abuse is a terrible thing, ladies and gentlemen,
and we've stumbled upon it here in Aberdare tonight.
A man wearing a Billabong sweatshirt...
You're too old for it!
-How old are you?
You can't wear surfing sweatshirts, you idiot! Those days are gone!
-Are you a surfer?
-Then you shouldn't be wearing it!
So your kids are going to Welsh-language schools, but you don't speak Welsh.
Oh, wow! Are they fluent now?
Brilliant, fantastic. Cos it means that you're more able
to learn other languages as well, cos it gets that part of the brain going.
They're probably at home now on Welsh chat lines.
PARODIES WELSH LANGUAGE
But how do you know... what they're saying to you?
You can say, "Go to your room cos I'm about to hit your mother!
-"So go to your room..."
"I'm going to give her a right bloody belting,
"go to your room!" And they can go off going,
PARODIES WELSH LANGUAGE
And you've no idea whether they're saying,
"Fair enough, Dad, you're a figure of authority that we respect," or...
"Bugger off, you're too old to be a surfer, you look an idiot!"
There's no way of knowing, is there?
Thank you, good night!
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
-Nice to see you.
-Here he is, Mr Williams...
Yes, I know, I know. Well, I've never done so much Welsh language.
-It was just for me, I think.
-Yeah, it was.
-I thought so.
I was doing them with more of a warmth, I felt, than usual. Did you think that?
-No, not really.
-Did you really not? You still find that...?
It was excellent, did laugh, did smile,
but I can't say I was rolling with laughter.
The rest of it, fantastic, but not that bit.
-Still sensitive about that?
-Still found it difficult to smile.
But on the whole, though, given that you didn't have to pay for your ticket...
What more can I say? Fantastic.
-It went very well.
-It was fantastic, brilliant,
And doing new stuff, like all the Welsh language stuff...
I'd had a little notion that it would be quite funny to do stuff about being able to speak Welsh.
This whole thing of putting a positive slant on stuff, so I came up with the idea of saying...
cos I would, I'd love to be able to speak Welsh. I genuinely would.
So saying that gives me the opportunity to do the Welsh-language stuff, which went down a storm.
Whether you support it or don't, or take issue with it, like David, with the Welsh-language thing.
You'll never please everybody, but I looked out there and saw great laughs.
So the show's called Rob Brydon's Identity Crisis.
Have you still got one?
No, I don't think I have, really, um...
I was saying onstage to the audience that I am undoubtedly feeling much more Welsh, much more proud of it
and feeling, "Yeah, that's my identity, that's kind of
who I am," and I think, moving, I'm getting...
But moving away for so long, you lose sight of it, you don't realise,
and I'd sort of forgotten that was in me, you know, it's reminded me that's me, it's been...
It really has been...surprisingly revelatory for me, it really has.
It's brought a smile to your face, hasn't it? It's brought you a smile from your soul.
It's who I am, this is my country, so it's been...
I didn't expect that, I really didn't expect that at all, and that's been lovely.
On behalf of the Welsh nation, welcome home.
Thank you very much.
-Do I still have to pay at the bridge?
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
Comedian Rob Brydon explores Welsh identity and tries to discover what makes his patriotic countrymen so defensive.
Along the way, he talks to a host of Welsh celebrities, including Griff Rhys Jones, Goldie Lookin' Chain and actress Ruth Jones, as he examines the national psyche, in particular questioning his own belief that the Welsh have a natural leaning toward pessimism.
Rob also constructs a stand-up routine of Welsh-based material which he tries out in surprise appearances at comedy clubs around Wales.