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Source of "newspaper readers" joke

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1277230.  Mon Mar 12, 2018 10:43 am Reply with quote

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, the scriptwriters of Yes Minister and YPM, 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: Thinking about it, I'm pretty sure I heard a version on Dave Allen at Large (1971-9) as well.

1277240.  Mon Mar 12, 2018 11:52 am Reply with quote

I can imagine the newspaper joke starting soon after the Sun started Page Three.

Spud McLaren
1277251.  Mon Mar 12, 2018 12:37 pm Reply with quote

I remember Dave Allen recounting it a few years before YPM.

1277391.  Tue Mar 13, 2018 11:53 am Reply with quote

I posted this question to an archive TV forum and got the following answer:

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 McCann 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'.

So there you are! It was suggested that Jasper Carrott might have used it at one point as well.

1379532.  Thu Apr 15, 2021 1:37 pm Reply with quote

Further detailed investigation of the issue here (referencing the above thread). It seems to date from July 1976 or earlier, but the original authorship still isn't certain.

UPDATE (16/4/21): Yesterday's article has already been updated. It appears to have been written in 1973 by a journalist called Kevin Grant, based on a idea by the late Brian Redhead - although the well-known punchline comes from a later, anonymous author. (The original line about The Sun was "Murdoch has found a gap in the market - the oldest gap in the world".)


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