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"Newspaper readers" joke in Yes Prime Minister

Posted: Mon Mar 12, 2018 3:52 pm
by Brock
On Radio 4's Brain of Britain this afternoon, the following quote from a 1987 episode of Yes, Prime Minister was referred to (source):
Jim Hacker: Don't tell me about the Press. I know *exactly* who reads the papers. The Daily Mirror is read by the people who think they run the country. The Guardian is read by people who think they *ought* to run the country. The Times is read by the people who actually *do* run the country. The Daily Mail is read by the wives of the people who run the country. The Financial Times is read by people who *own* the country. The Morning Star is read by people who think the country ought to be run by *another* country. The Daily Telegraph is read by the people who think it is.

Sir Humphrey: Prime Minister, what about the people who read The Sun?

Bernard Woolley: Sun readers don't care *who* runs the country - as long as she's got big tits.
But I don't think that's original to YPM - I think a version of it had been circulating well before that. I'm sure I remember my grandfather bringing it home from work some time in the 1970s on a badly photocopied sheet (the predecessor of today's workplace email jokes, presumably), but I've no idea where it came from. Certainly when I first heard it on YPM I instantly recognized it.

I know that Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn did this sort of thing from time to time - there was a joke in series two of Yes Minister which had been doing the rounds in the civil service since at least the 1960s:
Woolley: In the [civil] service, CMG stands for "Call Me God". And KCMG for "Kindly Call Me God".
Hacker: What does GCMG stand for?
Woolley (deadpan): "God Calls Me God".
Does anyone else recall hearing the joke about newspaper readers before it was broadcast on YPM? Any ideas about the source?

EDIT: I'm pretty certain that I also heard it in an episode of Dave Allen at Large, which would date it to the 1970s. I don't know whether it was original to that programme though.

Re: "Newspaper readers" joke in Yes Prime Minister

Posted: Mon Mar 12, 2018 4:58 pm
by cosmo1
According to Graham McCann's 'A Very Courageous Decision,' it is as you say a contentious topic, and certainly it was used by Dave Allen on TV and his stage show in the mid-1970s, but McCnn wrote that 'authorship has also been attributed (without any specific date or place) to the former TUC President Cyril Plant, who is reported to have come up with the basic list and descriptions in 1976'. Apparently Jay and Lynn discovered it by reading the quote in a book by Denis Macshane called 'Using the Media'.

Re: "Newspaper readers" joke in Yes Prime Minister

Posted: Mon Mar 12, 2018 5:29 pm
by Nick Cooper 625
I'm pretty sure Jasper Carrott read it from the fabled "office photocopy" at some point. It certainly predates Yes, Prime Minister.

Re: "Newspaper readers" joke in Yes Prime Minister

Posted: Tue Mar 13, 2018 12:12 pm
by Simon Coward
Nick Cooper 625 wrote:I'm pretty sure Jasper Carrott read it from the fabled "office photocopy" at some point. It certainly predates Yes, Prime Minister.
That rings a bell with me too, more so than Dave Allen. I'd certainly heard it somewhere else before Yes, Prime Minister.

Re: "Newspaper readers" joke in Yes Prime Minister

Posted: Tue Mar 13, 2018 1:49 pm
by Spiny Norman
In settings where paperwork would be present, did they secretly have the scripts in front of them? I just watched the sketch and the PM seems to be glancing at his desk halfway through, then continuing again.

Re: "Newspaper readers" joke in Yes Prime Minister

Posted: Tue Mar 13, 2018 2:48 pm
by wittoner
I thought the Telegraph was read by people who used to run the country and it was Express readers who think it is (run by another country). A jibe once aimed at those who saw reds under the bed but now equally valid for the papers Brexit stance.

Re: "Newspaper readers" joke in Yes Prime Minister

Posted: Tue Mar 13, 2018 4:59 pm
by Brock
Yes, I think that's how I remember it.

It's got to be a 70s joke, surely. After Rupert Murdoch bought The Times, could it still be described as "read by the people who run the country"?

Re: "Newspaper readers" joke in Yes Prime Minister

Posted: Tue Mar 13, 2018 9:39 pm
by Mark Wright
Sir Uppity Frost recites pretty much the same thing in a pre-launch TV-AM broadcast to advertisers in 1983 (which can be found at the usual place 4:41 in). I'd always presumed it was a bit of Tony Jay business that had been recycled since the Video Arts days... who knows?

Re: "Newspaper readers" joke in Yes Prime Minister

Posted: Fri Mar 16, 2018 10:30 am
by cosmo1
Brock wrote:Yes, I think that's how I remember it.

It's got to be a 70s joke, surely. After Rupert Murdoch bought The Times, could it still be described as "read by the people who run the country"?
Well the Macshane book was published in the late 70s and as I said above the routine is in it, so that's surely proof.

Re: "Newspaper readers" joke in Yes Prime Minister

Posted: Fri Mar 16, 2018 12:39 pm
by Brock
I wasn't doubting that - I was remarking on how out-of-date it had become by 1987.

I'm a little surprised that Jay and Lynn resorted to recycling old jokes in this way - it's hardly as though they couldn't come up with their own original material.

Re: "Newspaper readers" joke in Yes Prime Minister

Posted: Sun Mar 18, 2018 10:13 pm
by marsey
Brock wrote:I wasn't doubting that - I was remarking on how out-of-date it had become by 1987.

I'm a little surprised that Jay and Lynn resorted to recycling old jokes in this way - it's hardly as though they couldn't come up with their own original material.
But it was still incredibly funny; and that's what really mattters?

Re: "Newspaper readers" joke in Yes Prime Minister

Posted: Mon Mar 19, 2018 6:19 am
by paul.austin
Because it's like having a 1996 joke about crazy squealing modem noises in 2006.