MY VIRTUAL DAUGHTER recently posted on Facebook a definition of the word ‘snob’ and this set my mind racing to the sketch originally broadcast on ‘The Frost Report’ (but since rebroadcast many times) featuring John Cleese, Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett.
The three men talking about class has bubbled to the surface of my consciousness on a number of occasions as a result of conversations in which I have been involved recently, snippets of the satire suggesting themselves as exemplars and descriptors of current issues.
We do appear to be living in one of those periods where the British obsession with class, status and socio-economic labels are under discussion, undergoing analysis and are being heavily employed, by some, as explanators of the ills, misfortunes and injustices perceived in ‘society’ – by many as the reason for those negativities, while others will insist they describe much that is good in society and reflect qualities which will be our salvation.
People can – will – argue until the cows come home about this, there is nothing new in that activity. The British class system proves remarkably resistant to change, although I feel we may be near to a tipping point where, not for the first time in British history, the zeitgeist for those who are well-off tends to call time on some of the more blatantly unfair and exploitative practices of certain of their more embarrassing peers.
Look back in 10 years’ time and see if I am right.
For those who like British social satire at its best, I reproduce below the text of the sketch, with acknowledgement to the estates of the late John Law, the late Marty Feldman, and to the late Ronnie Barker, John Cleese and Ronnie Corbett.
(image reproduced with acknowledgement to the BBC.)
Class Sketch (The Frost Report, 1966)
(In bowler hat, black jacket and pinstriped trousers) I look down on him (Indicates Barker) because I am upper-class.
(Pork-pie hat and raincoat) I look up to him (Cleese) because he is upper-class; but I look down on him (Corbett) because he is lower-class. I am middle-class.
(Cloth cap and muffler) I know my place. I look up to them both. But I don’t look up to him (Barker) as much as I look up to him (Cleese), because he has got innate breeding.
I have got innate breeding, but I have not got any money. So sometimes I look up (bends knees, does so) to him (Barker).
I still look up to him (Cleese) because although I have money, I am vulgar. But I am not as vulgar as him (Corbett) so I still look down on him (Corbett).
I know my place. I look up to them both; but while I am poor, I am honest, industrious and trustworthy. Had I the inclination, I could look down on them. But I don’t.
We all know our place, but what do we get out of it?
I get a feeling of superiority over them.
I get a feeling of inferiority from him, (Cleese), but a feeling of superiority over him (Corbett).
I get a pain in the back of my neck.
I sourced the script from http://www.epicure.demon.co.uk/3men.html to whom I am grateful.
A raft of BBC comedy sketches on the subject of class, including the above, may be viewed here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/comedy/collections/p00gs4vy#p00hhrwl