In this one-off special, Frank Skinner is joined by comedians Micky Flanagan, Roisin Conaty and Miles Jupp to assess whether class is still relevant in the 21st century.
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'This programme contains some strong language.'
If you find this normal,
you belong to the upper middle class or higher.
Or is this your kind of party?
Balancing your plate on your knee?
If so, your background is probably working class.
My friends, the class war is over.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
I'm Frank Skinner and tonight I'll be discussing
the subject of class with a panel of distinguished guests.
Roisin Conaty, Micky Flanagan and Miles Jupp.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
A lot of people feel the concept of class is no longer relevant
and that class differences have ceased to exist.
I th... Hold it...
No, Tarquin. I know you say "clarse" but I...
-No, I always say "class".
I know he would, but Stephen Fry is not presenting it, is he?
Yeah, well. Fair enough.
Actually, I'd say "off" rather than "orff"!
LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE
So firstly, the big question.
Is class still relevant in the 21st century?
I think it is relevant but not as relevant as it was,
or I would be hosting this.
You're right. The world as upside-down, isn't it?
For example, did you know that in the last three years,
48% of working-class people in this country,
if we may call them that, have been on a foreign holiday.
When I was a kid, it's absolutely true,
the only people I knew who had been abroad
had only done so in the context of World War II.
They did a massive survey in March 2011,
just 24% of people classed themselves as working class.
In 1988, when they asked the same question, it was 67%.
So 40% of them have either got credit cards...
Or are working class people more apathetic to voting now?
My opinion on class is this, it used to be a big thing
in, say, the '60s and '70s,
but in the discrimination league table, it slipped badly.
If I was trying to put together an unfair dismissal tribunal,
if they said I was racially discriminated against,
I'd say, "We can't lose."
If it was sexual, "We're going to win this."
If it was class I'd say, "Forget it. You're 40 years too late."
It's according to whether you're at the end of it or not.
When I was growing up, I always felt that being working class
was something that, you know, you could be proud of.
Now it's, sort of,
people want to reject it a little bit,
because it's associated with someone who is not trying hard enough.
The word chav and stuff like that. That's demonisation of the working classes.
I think there's quite a lot of class war. People not being viewed right.
-I've got a quote from Cheryl Cole.
On that very subject.
This is what Cheryl Cole says, I find this very interesting.
Well, no. I don't mean that, though, by "chav".
And neither does anyone else who has ever said chav!
They mean really bad working class rubbish, is what they mean.
It seems to have replaced the word pleb, hasn't it?
I think people are quietly saying, "Hm, plebs..."
-That's from ancient Rome, isn't it? The plebs.
So it's replaced it but plebs had a bloody good run!
So all three of you have been exploring your own class struggles.
Miles, what was the nature of your class struggle?
Well, I do think, if you are middle class,
as I am, sometimes you get very trapped within that.
What I find myself genuinely being very envious of is someone like Mickey,
you can call an old lady "sweetheart"
and it would look sort of relaxed and normal.
Look what happened when Wayne Rooney did that!
I would say, this voice, I sound posher than I am.
I sound sort of landed, and indeed loaded,
but it's not actually what I am.
And also my natural tendency is to mumble
and so if I don't speak like this,
people don't understand what I'm saying.
So there's a sort of trade-off.
People can understand what I'm saying but they just assume that I'm a bit of an arse.
I've had, you know, I have to weigh that up before I join a conversation.
Do I want them to understand me or do I want them to like me?
You went to meet accent coach Morwenna Rowe.
She prepared you for a job on a market.
Interestingly, you actually had this session in the same room
that they filmed the speech sessions in The King's Speech movie.
Yeah, yes. We did the whole thing on a similar budget.
Let's have a look.
Are there things about me that suggest that I'm not...
Not someone who sells fruit, or indeed vegetables,
-in the East End?
What you're doing at the moment is you're sitting
in a way that's very polite and not even remotely invading my space.
What I'd say is, take up this sofa as if it's yours.
-The whole thing.
-Right. So, erm...
But without moving your feet up. That's it. Yeah, yeah.
Even more. At now you want to just project to energy out a little bit.
So instead of that feeling of withdrawing in, just think, "Hey!"
Just that sense of, "I'm going to give it out."
-Ha-ha! Kind of, yeah.
Now, down here you've got this...
Well, in your head, massive manhood that you actually need to really present to the world,
so I want you to just say, "'Ere we are!"
-'Ere we are!
Make sure that goes first. You're behind.
You're the charioteer, that's the horse.
It goes where it wants to, I am just followin' it.
My dick's the planet, I'm just livin' on it.
'Ere y'are, sweetheart, call it a pound.
Pleased with that.
-So I sort of feel pretty ready.
-OK, and so you've got the voice?
-Happy with the cries?
-Happy with the cries, I shout out.
Stand out like that.
And then what are you wearing?
You're in that?
That's all right, isn't it?
Pound a box, pound a box. Have a taster, darling.
-Whatever y'like, whatever y'fancy!
-Give me five cherries, mate.
Pound a box, pound a bowl!
-The noise is unbelievable.
-Pound a box!
Have I given you too much change? Too little? Thanks for the bangers.
Getting a bit better. He's beginning to talk and serve customers at the same time.
I ain't seen nuffin'! I ain't seen nuffin'!
What's a matter with you all?
Four avocados, courtesy of Juppy. Lovely.
Pound a bowl! POUND A BOWL!
See you later, sweetheart.
-You look a bit knackered there, mate.
-I am tired.
You've only been here half-an-hour!
I'm sure it seems like half-an-hour to you.
-It was half-an-hour, I promise you.
-It's just I find the...
It's the sheer being out there, the shouting bit.
I'm naturally really like that. And you guys, "Woah!"
-You'd be no good to me.
Do cockneys like you speak like that all of the time?
What, you think I go home and put on another voice?
-It's just, it's exhausting.
-I'm not an actor, I'm a greengrocer.
This is me.
-Micky Flanagan, is he putting it on?
-Who's Micky Flanagan?
LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE
I did call an old lady "sweetheart" at one point.
I felt really excited about that,
like when I was an 11-year-old and scored a half-century
in a cricket match at prep school...
If you take accent, right, Brian Sewell said,
"One could never make love to a woman with a glottal stop."
I should explain what that is.
If you say, "the lottery", you say "the lo-ery".
So the Ts are replaced by a glottal stop.
-Oh, good. He's not after me then.
-We've got a picture of Brian.
He has got a bit of a chip on his shoulder.
Is that a chip?
I wouldn't want to sleep with anyone, some people are so posh they don't move their top lip.
It's not mumbling, it's like, "I don't think I'm going to go round there."
It's just like, well, if you're not bothered to move your top lip,
I'm not bothered to talk to you, to be honest.
I've never noticed that before. That is absolutely spot-on.
My friend introduced me to a girlfriend and she talked to me for ten minutes.
I said to him, "That's unacceptable.
"I can't speak to her again until she's learnt to move her face".
I make a lot of effort, really move my face a lot, so you know I am talking.
And she's like, "Yes so we're going to have a drink, have a drink. Really nice to meet you."
What are you doing?
If you are posh, I think the way forward is to be a bit foolish.
Working-class people like posh people if they are a bit silly.
Ping-pong was invented on the dining tables of England,
ladies and gentlemen, in the 19th century, it was.
And it was called whiff-whaff.
And there I think you have the essential difference between us and the rest of the world.
Other nations, the French looked at a dining table and saw an opportunity to have dinner.
We looked at a dining table and saw an opportunity to play whiff-whaff.
I say to the world, ping-pong is coming home!
LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE
You know, exactly. We kind of like him, though.
He has embraced his poshness.
Isn't ecstacy a terrible drug?
I bet Steve Ovett watches that clip over and over again on YouTube
with Sebastian Coe, going, "Look how fucking uncomfortable you look now!"
You very rarely meet people who speak really well.
You can't immediately tell if someone
is well educated because they'll drop their accent down a bit,
especially if they're round working class people.
And the same with working class people. They'll try a bit harder, maybe.
You know this estuary English thing in London,
where everybody sort of sounds the same, don't they?
So you think it's sort of moulding into an amorphous mass?
One famous person who sort of did that route
of going from a bit posh to a bit working class was Nigel Kennedy.
This is Nigel Kennedy when he was a young man and as he is now.
It's a bit frightening thinking about it sometimes
but I think it's the best place for me.
We've got all night of Vivaldi and stuff, like...
Vivaldi, You've got to have a break away from this geezer, you know.
I think that's a deliberate move, isn't it?
He was in that area at the time of trying to make
classical music slightly more popular.
That was the perfect way to do it.
A little bit, you know, football shirt and start to talk
like that a little bit.
But it worked for him, didn't it?
Unless they took him straight from that interview of him as a child to a football ground
and he didn't get out until that day.
This is a picture of him at a premier.
That can't be right, can it?
It looks like a special premiere for the homeless.
He'll never get run over, that is for sure.
That thing about the walk, see, I've seen guys walking around
with that very open, "Here's my manhood."
-Do you walk like that, Mick?
-I can do.
-If I want to.
-The Cockney tradition,
he has got quite a bow, especially Friday night,
going down the pub, put a nice shirt on, I'm going to have a walk about.
"I'm 'ere. Awight, ladies! What's 'appening?"
Everyone's thinking, by the way, "Arsehole".
When working class men come into the house, you can always tell
because they empty all of their pockets and put their keys, everything goes on the table.
Maybe that's because they need groin space.
I was wondering, because the walk is all about swinging your knees and showing your genitals,
if that's where the word Cockney actually came from.
I'm interested in this idea that you can even tell someone's class
by the way they move about, what they look like.
In the 1950s, people used to go out and they used to watch people
in the street and work out what class they were.
-I think that by the way they're carrying their luggage...
No taxi and all stuffed in the bags like that.
I think the lady possible sets her own hair,
which is always an indication.
-Do we agree then?
-A skilled worker, I would say so.
Do you reckon if we looked at someone in the audience
we could have a rough idea of what their sort of social status was, just by the look of them?
Can we just pick someone, just put them up on the monitors? Here we go.
Ah, I thought middle class and then I saw that gap between the two front teeth.
And I thought, "That's been formed by years of Woodbines!"
-I think she's posh.
-You think she's posh?
-I don't think she's that posh.
-I think she's posh posh.
-No, I don't think she's posh.
-She looks like she's in the caring profession.
-She could possibly be a nurse or something.
-What's your name?
OK... Do you think that's posh?
-That's not not posh.
-OK. And what do you do, Helen?
-I'm a student.
-What's she studying though?
-What do you think of yourself as?
-Lower middle, OK. I'm interested in the man next to you, in the spectacles.
I think he could be a minor royal.
Um... What do you think?
I think when he's in town, he likes to be urban and groovy but at the weekends, quite a lot of falconry.
-What class would you say you were?
-Lower middle, high working.
Anyway, we'd better stop doing this cos there's an element of cruelty in it.
I felt terribly ill at ease there. I can only say silly things.
If I say anything, it will look appalling. You were able to just say it and it seemed all right.
I was that close to saying to Helen, "Show us your tits."
I wanted to say that, but I just didn't have the nerve.
-So, Roisin, what was the nature of your class investigation?
I don't think that people from extreme different classes
can fall in love, that they can make it work.
The reason for this is I met a very posh man, he's lovely, and we were chatting for quite a while
and I mentioned a fish finger and he had no idea what they were.
He had no concept of what a fish finger was. I knew then, this is never going to work.
I'm going to have to explain everything. Clacton, bumper cars, you can't explain a lifetime.
I haven't got all that time.
Do you honestly think that barrier couldn't be broken down?
I don't think many people marry outside their class.
No matter how high you rise or how low you fall, people tend to marry...
It's a sort of comfort feeling, people can understand your background and frame of reference.
Interracial marriage is probably more common than inter-class marriage.
So you went on a date with a different posh bloke and let's see how that went.
-What's that? Thank you very much.
-You look lovely.
-Thank you very much. So do you.
It's like a meadow...of spring flowers, you're wearing there,
-that I might pick in May.
-Do you know what a fish finger is?
-Yes, I do know what a fish finger is.
-Have you eaten one?
I've had them in a sandwich just recently.
Mmm... That puts some butter on the spinach.
-I mean, that's very good.
-That puts some butter on the spinach? Is that what you say?
-Do you ever say, "Now we're cooking on gas"?
-Why would you say that?
-Cos it cooks faster with gas?
Say we were really getting on, imagine this is our 80th date...
-We would have been intimate by then?
-All right, calm down.
-What would that be like?
-What? Being intimate?
-Yes. I mean...
-I think that's classless. We don't need to discuss that.
That's broken down the barriers. Oh, yeah. No-one's worried about class when you're naked.
-Is this normal chat that you would have at the table? Sex talk?
I have tried to be rather well behaved, but at the same time,
I'm getting the feeling that I've got a little bit more leeway
than perhaps I would...were you...from a different background.
-Oh! You see, there...
-Right. OK. Now, does that offend you?
You've basically just said, "She looks like a goer!"
I have to say, if I was on a first date with someone
and they said to me, "Are you aware of the concept of a fish finger?"
I'd be a little ill at ease.
Where is this going?
Is it dogging terminology?
To be fair to Joshi, he is in the audience tonight.
Maybe we should give him a chance to defend himself.
What were you getting at when you said,
"If I was with someone from your class, I'd expect a certain..."?
-It's that fish finger statement. That might have thrown me a bit.
-It sent you into a randy frenzy?!
I think generally I was referring to these perceptions,
real or otherwise, about class barriers.
Some fellow said to me, "I'm working class, so I make love
"to my girl in a working class manner and you must take her up her...upper class!"
SPEECH DROWNED OUT BY LAUGHTER
-I think we've cleared that up, that you didn't mean anything sexist at all.
-Good Lord, no.
On the sexual side of things...
The assumption that working class girls are easy, let me assure you they're not!
You really have got to charm them and woo them and be a nice guy.
Yeah. Pay them sometimes.
There's that idea amongst men that somewhere, there's a group of women who are easier,
so working class fellas think middle class women are... Men do this cos they're so simple.
They think, "Maybe in Switzerland, it's easier.
"Oh, maybe I should go to Africa! In Africa, it is!"
There's only one place, Thailand.
-That's the only place it's really easy to get sex.
I suppose a lot of the things that people dress up as are more working class jobs,
like maids' outfits or nurses uniforms.
No-one dresses as an investment banker. Or a judge.
-None of the sort of high up jobs.
-No, you're right.
-"You sexy judge!
"Am I guilty? Am I guilty?"
"Send me down! Go on, send me down!"
Anyway, Micky, you are a man who has experienced embourgeoisement.
-Yes, I have.
-So you were working class and now you've developed many middle class attributes.
But you went to look at one thing that you just can't embrace.
-What is that?
-This is modern art.
-You think this is a class thing.
I always feel if I go to a modern art gallery,
I'm sort of having the pee taken out of me.
I'd like to try and understand if it is.
Whether or not working class people walk into these places and think, "What a lot of old cobblers?"
Or middle class walk in there and think, "I'm not allowed to say that. "I have to say I sort of get it."
We've got Will Gompertz, who is the BBC Arts Editor, to show you around a gallery,
so a man who really knows about modern art. This is what happened.
This is what makes people a little bit angry cos this looks like a geezer has emptied his brush.
I can see no genuine skill here. How talented is this man?
I think I could get close to that with a bit of practice.
Do you know what? I don't think you'd get anywhere near.
This is a slash in a canvas and someone is telling me this is art.
-I don't think it is art.
-I like this.
What I like is the idea that he's destroyed something and at the same time, he's created something.
-Ah! See, that's your sort of get out of jail card.
I just think it's clever. I think it's a nice idea.
I could go home and go to my sofa and go... And then Cath will say, "Why have you slashed the settee?"
-I think she'd be right to say that.
-I'd say, "I had this terrible set of emotions I needed to express.
-"It's slashed. Deal with it."
-It's not a work of art.
-Why is it not?
Because you've slashed your settee. It's not a work of art. It's a bloke who's slashed a settee.
SPEECH DROWNED OUT BY MICKY LAUGHING
You've done really well so far on a few of the cases,
but I'm telling you now, this is a mirror. This is not art.
Otherwise, in every toilet in the country,
every bathroom in the country, there's art on the wall, apparently. So, come on.
I think this is a comment on art and art making and people's relationship with art.
I am so tempted to just draw a cock in the corner because I think that would make it funnier.
-Do you really think it would make it...?
-I think people would come from miles around to see the cock on the mirror.
It would be my interpretation of this person's very weak criticism of art.
I'll give a criticism of art and I'll draw a cock on it.
I'm worried by that laughter because I think this is the people saying, "Yes, it's all rubbish.
"These artists, they don't know," and we celebrate the fact that we see through it.
-This is one of Andy Warhol's soup cans, right? What do you think of that, Mick?
I'm not hungry at the moment, so... I don't know.
-What's it supposed to make me think?
-I don't know.
Why is it if I dismissed that, I'm ignorant?
Yet if someone, a really upper class person watches football and goes,
"Load of old nonsense," they don't really get challenged on it.
Well, I don't like middle class people at football very much.
But when I was at school, we used to do this thing
that if one of the kids in our gang started doing a bit of homework,
or getting interested, we used to give them a lot of stick cos we'd think, "Who do you think you are?"
And we were basically celebrating the fact,
we were anti-learning and anti-knowledge and all that.
I think looking back, I sort of feel bad about that.
-Yeah, you should.
I think the tin of soup, it's almost a class statement.
It's saying you don't have to go to a big posh fancy gallery
to see beautiful things cos those things in your kitchen cupboard have their own beauty.
That's why some working class would find it so hard. It's about the time you have to contemplate.
The working classes haven't got that time to contemplate an urinal.
They have a wee and go back to the factory.
-Would you say you're a working class man, Mick?
I think money and education, they can't get in the way of the fact
that I'm still essentially a working class bloke, who now has got a little bit of money.
No, it's a lot actually. I can't deny it.
OK. So you've never thought to yourself, "I'm becoming middle class, I've noticed a change"?
Yeah, I think there are moments when you catch yourself wondering where the hummus is in the fridge.
I suppose it's where your loyalties end up.
If I'm watching a debate on the TV about the transport system
and the fact that the Tube strikers are going out again, my affiliation is with the Tube strikers.
"Yeah, go out on strike. Get as money as you can. You're down a hole, 12 hour shifts."
I'm not someone who'd go, "Some of these people are on £40,000 a year for driving a train!"
I'm always siding with the working class man.
Miles, I imagine you're thinking, "Public transport? What's that?"
I'm confused by much of what Micky says.
Just plastering on this smile and hoping he doesn't bite.
I've been studying the whole notion of class and how you define class for years
and I've asked some very important people how to do it.
Some of them, they just don't really want to join in.
The one badge of working class-ness, I always thought,
was...having a bucket in the bedroom.
-For what purpose?
-No, I get it.
-If you have an outside toilet, you don't want to get up in the night.
I used to think, if people didn't grow up with a bucket of urine in the bedroom,
they weren't truly working class. Honestly. This is my badge.
The registrar general comes up with education and... but I think this is more foolproof.
They talk about working class kids going to sleep with tears in their eyes, that was the ammonia.
Look at that expression.
Now that is, "I don't know where to go with this.
"Slightly worried. I've never heard the word urine on TV before. What is a bucket?"
The old bucket of wee in the room has, I'm sad to say, died out.
-It has died out.
-Not in my house, it ain't.
There's nothing quite like having a piss in a bucket in the night.
It's my house, if I want to piss in a bucket, I will.
-I had to share a room with two brothers, both of whom were heavy drinkers.
If I got up at four, I couldn't lift the bucket.
And I did it once and the handle... Well, it wasn't the driest.
I got it two foot and it dropped.
It landed on its base and there was sort of
what I would call a piss ball rose up and hit me full in the face.
The same physics... as a tequila slammer.
Thanks very much, guys, for coming.
It's been a wondrous journey through the whole subject of class.
Thank you, Miles, Micky and Roisin.
So, um, presenting this programme has caused me
to look very closely at my own views on class and I suppose I can best sum them up like this...
# He was poor but she was honest
# Victim of a squire's whim
# First he loved her, then he left her
# But she had a child by him... #
# It's the same the whole world over
# It's the poor what gets the blame
# It's the rich that gets all the pleasure
# Ain't it all a bloomin' shame? #
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
It's official; class is back! Riots on the street, old-Etonians in government, a workforce on strike, Downton Abbey, The King's Speech, the royal wedding and vajazzling...
In this one-off special, Frank Skinner is joined by comedians Micky Flanagan, Roisin Conaty and Miles Jupp to assess whether class is still relevant in the 21st century. Probing analysis meets comedy chat, as our comics become intrepid reporters, examining the subject through their own unorthodox reports.
The well-heeled Miles attempts to turn himself into a working-class hero. Newly bourgeois Micky asks why he still hates modern art. Salt-of-the-earth Roisin seeks love across the class divide. Frank and the team dissect their findings in front of a studio audience as they explore the funny side of class.