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It's tempting to read Private Eye as your sole source of news. Such is the quality of reporting, but most importantly, the entertainment factor of this magazine. To me, there is an odd paradox with Private Eye; it brings joy and laughter by pointing out all that is wrong with society, but regardless as to whether satire can change this society to me is superfluous. At the core of the magazine is humour, provided by many a great column and cartoonist, but also small mini-columns, containing witticisms, quotes and 'brown nosing'. Personal favourites include HP Sauce and Weird and Dumb Britain.
It's now been running for over 50 years, and in no way is it getting old, I still wait expectantly and hopeful for when it comes through the letterbox (I'd recommend getting a subscription!). It can be read by almost any age, so with Christmas coming up, could make a good present for "gobby" teenagers to miserable misanthropic grandparents.
For £1.50 (even less with a subscription), you pay for superb entertainment and a few scandals. My only negative is that it seems to be printed on the cheapest paper ever made; but you can't have everything, and the quality of the written word is far superior to this minor issue.
The fiftieth anniversary issue of Private Eye has just landed through my letter-box, prompting me to reflect on this venerable - and valuable - institution. Having been a regular reader more or less throughout its history, and a subscriber for the past forty years or more, I feel I am as in as good a position as anyone to do so.
~ Eye to Eye ~
Fifty years after its launch, Private Eye is not, of course, what it was, which may be just as well. A magazine of its kind could ill afford to become ossified, and even as I applied words like "venerable" and "institution" to it in the preceding paragraph, I did so with a slight shudder. Venerable institutions tend to lose their edge and eventually their raison d'etre, and in this respect Private Eye's predecessor Punch provides a cautionary example. Launched as a vehicle for sharp anti-establishment satire, Punch gradually retreated into a reliance on inoffensive conventional humour before entering a long decline and ultimate closure. Mind you, Punch lasted over 150 years; if Private Eye can emulate that longevity it will be quite an achievement. But I for one hope it will do so while maintaining its challenging character rather than by lapsing into a comfortable old age.
~ Eye'm all right, Jack ~
At present, Private Eye is unquestionably faring rather well. The latest figures show a circulation of 206,000 copies per fortnightly issue*, down a touch from a highpoint last year, but still higher than for most of the past two decades, higher than more conventional current affairs magazines like The Week, The Spectator or The New Statesman, and higher, incidentally, than was ever achieved by Punch. In an era when print media are generally having a hard time, this is remarkable. Adult readership, meanwhile, totals 729,000**, so an average copy is read by three and a half people, a healthy ratio. The readership is predominantly up-market (87% ABC1, to use the customary socio-economic jargon), male (69%) and middle-aged or older (61% over 45). You'd expect this demographic profile to be very attractive to certain types of advertiser (e.g. those selling cars, travel, financial products, wines and spirits), but Private Eye carries very little advertising, generally 6-8 pages of display per issue, plus a page or two of classified. Conceivably the publishers deliberately restrict ad space to maintain the appearance and feel of their product. Or perhaps potential advertisers are worried about being seen in such a controversial editorial environment. Probably the quality of colour reproduction on its off-white matt paper is no great incentive either, but here again the publishers probably feel that that's part of the down-to-earth look they want. Typography and layout are similarly unsophisticated, even makeshift, presumably by design - or anti-design, perhaps.
Editorially, Private Eye is routinely characterised as a 'satirical' magazine, and the word fits well enough, though strictly much of the content is not so much satire as exposure, which is another thing. Satire works by representing people in a distorted or exaggerated form to draw attention to their inherent absurdity, dishonesty or hypocrisy. Exposure simply tells it like it is. Private Eye does both, and does both well, but one of the ways in which it has changed over the years is that it has come to rely for its substance more on exposés and less on pure satire. And less on humour for the sake of humour too. Although the exposés are sometimes wittily presented the resultant tone is more serious than it once was; hence perhaps an impression that it is less funny now than it used to be. Or maybe that impression is simply nostalgia. I can, after all, remember from my youth people saying the same of Punch.
~ Has Eye got news for you? ~
So how much satire, exposure and humour do readers receive for their money (which amounts, incidentally, to £1.50 per copy, or £28 for a year's subscription)? It would be unrepresentative to analyse the current, celebratory offering alone, so I have looked back through half a dozen recent issues plucked at random from the pile heaped up in a corner of my lair. Characteristically, a 40 page issue includes about 32 pages of editorial and, unless the magazine is splashing a special story, the make-up and running order are remarkably consistent issue by issue. Let's see how they run:
The Front Cover always consists of a photo chosen to illustrate a topical news story, captioned with a satirical headline and usually speech bubble to hammer home the point. For example, a picture of the London riots was captioned "Olympic Rehearsal" with a bystander commenting "This is the worst opening ceremony ever". Echoes here of a front cover published during the riots of July 1981, which featured a looter appearing to say "I blame my parents". Some covers have been controversial; bad taste has never been an obstacle, nor has giving offence. Indeed, one suspects Private Eye would feel it had failed if it didn't receive a few letters of complaint and threats to cancel subscriptions every fortnight - they frequently appear on the Letters Page. At one point (I think it may have been after the death of Princess Diana) they even included a printed form for the convenience of subscribers wishing to cancel in protest at the nature of their coverage.
If you fail to be outraged by the cover and choose to delve inside, you will find the first eight to ten pages devoted to exposés, or at least news stories illustrating the dishonesty, cupidity or stupidity of those in the public eye. For many years the first of these pages was headed by a cod-editorial leader purporting to be written on behalf of Lord Gnome, the fictitious proprietor, but this practice, and the character of Gnome, seems to have been quietly dropped of late. Now the opening page focuses predominantly on politicians, with usually half a dozen piquant items to savour and to act as an appetiser to what follows. Subsequent stories are grouped under topic headings: 'Street of Shame' covers the press, 'TV Eye' and 'Media News' the broadcast media, 'HP Sauce' parliament (with a sub-section 'The New Boys and Girls' focussing on the recent intake), 'Rotten Boroughs' on local government, 'TUC News' on the unions, 'Ad Nauseam' on advertising, 'Medicine Balls' on the NHS, 'Educashun News' on schools, 'Signal Failures' on the railways, and so on.
~ Eye'll be damned ~
This may sound heavy going, but is lightened up by the individual items being kept as sharp and snappy as is compatible with the libel laws - no easy task, given that Private Eye probably has to take a lot of its information on trust from undisclosed sources. Some high-profile libel cases have in the past brought the magazine to the brink of bankruptcy, when it has been hounded by the rich and powerful, Robert Maxwell and Sir James Goldsmith notable among them. Both of these subsequently succumbed to "The Curse of Gnome", the early demise that seems often to befall those who pursue vendettas against the magazine. Despite this deterrent, there is always a danger that Private Eye will publish on the strength of insufficiently substantiated rumours, or even be maliciously misinformed at the instigation of those eager to discredit it, and to sue if it takes the bait. Although Private Eye does sometimes find itself caught out, on the whole it is remarkable how seldom that happens. Apart from which, intelligent victims know that their reputations may benefit more if they write a good-humoured letter asking for, and receiving, a retraction than if their lawyers start wielding heavy-handed writs.
The dense nature of the opening sections is also alleviated by peppering the page with other visual items, which indeed continue to run through the whole magazine: insets, more humorous pics with speech bubbles, and cartoons including some regular strips. It would, I think, be fair to say that the graphic quality of the cartoons is not always the highest, but this may again be a deliberate policy to maintain the rough-and-ready style of the whole. I have to admit that I'm not a great fan of any of the current regular strips: 'Supermodels', which guys the anorexic world of haute couture; 'Young British Artists', which guys the greed of that breed, 'Dave Snooty and His Pals', a remake of the Beano cartoon with Cameron cast as Snooty; 'The Adventures of Mr Milibean', with Milliband cast as Mr Bean; 'Celeb', mocking the aging rock star lifestyle; 'The Premiersh*ts', mocking footballers; 'Yobs' (or sometimes 'Yobettes'), mocking the belligerently uncouth; and 'It's Grim up North London', mocking the effetely couth from that neck of the woods. In the latter case there may lurk some implicit self-mockery, in that the magazine is sometimes accused of being too London-oriented and too little aware of life outside the capital. In much the same spirit, Private Eye's editor Ian Hislop in a recent appearance on the television show 'Have I Got News for You?' countered a reference to "somewhere in the north" with "What, Islington?"
Gosh, this is proving a very long catalogue of contents, and I'm not yet half way through. It all goes to show how much can be crammed into 32 pages. Next comes the Letters Page(s), including a sub-column entitled Pedantry Corner, to which excessively nit-picking letters are consigned. This is just one of several items that are effectively contributed by readers, the others being: 'Commentatorballs', to which you can send in examples of gobbledegook emanating from commentators on TV or radio (e.g. "He's seized this game by the scruff of his teeth" or "Correct me if I'm not mistaken"), and receive £10 if they are published; and 'Pseud's Corner', to which you can send in examples of pretentious posturing (e.g. "This new staircase questions the nature of power and production in Britain today" or "His voice is an emotional hologram of my soul"). Finally, before we reach the truly satirical section, I must mention Funny Old World, a compilation of reports of human folly and eccentricity compiled from news media around the world. I defy anyone to read it without raising at least an eyebrow.
~ One in the Eye ~
Ah, so now it gets satirical, starting with the regular newsletter from the New Coalition Academy (formerly Brown's Comprehensive), Headmaster David Cameron, which portrays the cabinet as the staff of a school. Telling stuff, and maintaining a long tradition of columns lampooning the prime minister of the day: one remembers Blair presented as a breezy, bumptious vicar, the 'Secret Diary of John Major aged 47¾', and the 'Dear Bill' letters purportedly written by Denis Thatcher commenting on life with his domineering spouse. Next, up to half a dozen pages of miscellaneous pieces presented in the style of the press, sometimes specific titles, sometimes non-specific archetypes, designed to bring out not only the misdeeds of those in public life but the inconsistent and tendentious style of those who comment on them. The Murdoch and Desmond titles are frequent targets, as is the Daily Mail. We find frequent contributions from Glenda Slagg (shrill, judgemental, mental, and self-contradictory), Polly Filler (vacuous, self-centred, trivial), Dave Spart (strident, red-flag-waving, dogmatic) and Lunchtime O'Booze (post-prandial). As a gesture to the online community, we also find 'From the Message Boards', which makes a valiant attempt to outdo the real thing for prejudice, belligerence and incoherence both logical and grammatical. This section culminates in the excellent Diary column, written by Craig Brown (no, not the former Scottish football manager, the other one) in the assumed manner of a celebrity or public figure; recent targets have included Joan Collins, Harold Pinter, Lee Child and Michelle Bachman, with the parody right on the button in every case.
Next comes a page or two about the world of literature, including a book review, usually utterly scathing: e.g. "hardcore prose porn with the occasional reference to Martin Chuzzlewit or quantum physics to maintain the pretence that a proper writer is at work here", or "some of the lamest faux-academic chatter ever committed to print". If you were an author this is not where you'd want to see your brainchild dissected.
'In the Back', which follows, is the meatiest part of the paper. We are back to exposés, but here more substantial and, one suspects, more thoroughly researched pieces drawing attention to corruption and injustice wherever they arise. Private Eye has made the running in numerous cases over the years, and has often, though not always, been vindicated. The current, souvenir issue catalogues 50 high profile cases from Profumo onwards in which Private Eye has been instrumental in casting light on wrong-doing, incompetence and corruption in high places, often having to fight costly legal actions or stave off attempts to smear it in the process. This is an impressive list, and makes one wonder how much sleaze would have stayed swept under the carpet if it hadn't been for the Eye's searching scrutiny. The magazine has also been vigorous in support of whistle-blowers wherever they arise, particularly in the NHS. And so we finally come to 'In the City', which turns its mordant eye on the financial sector, which has of course been a richer source of scandal than ever in recent years.
Oh, and there's a cryptic crossword, with clues as salacious as some of their solutions.
~ The Eye of the beholder ~
So there we have Private Eye: scurrilous, irrepressible, irreverent and stiletto-sharp in puncturing pomposity . Invaluable too. Every free society needs an unofficial watchdog of this kind or it will cease to be free. If Private Eye didn't exist something very like it would have to be invented. But we are fortunate in Britain in that it does exist, and has survived for fifty years. I hope it lasts at least another hundred, adapting to changing times perhaps, but never compromising its essential character.
Over its five decades to date, and particularly under the editorship of Hislop - now twenty-five years into the job and only the third ever editor - Private Eye has changed, or at least evolved. It is now much less like a student rag magazine than it was in its earliest days, and though the in-jokes and running gags persist, it is less frivolous and arguably less funny. Instead, it carries more serious, investigative analysis of the dark underside of the anatomy of power. "News," as Rubin Frank of NBC once famously said, "is what someone wants to suppress. Everything else is advertising." In this regard Private Eye is not just an entertaining read, but a great newspaper.
© Also published under the name torr on Ciao UK 2011
Source*: Audit Bureau of Circulations, Jan-June 2011.
Source**: National Readership Survey, Jan-June 2011.
Private Eye is a fortnightly magazine (readily available via subscription) and it's current editor is Ian Hislop (who's name many will probably recognise from his frequent appearances on various panel shows). In a hark back to various satirical magazines of the past, so far, Private Eye has avoided any serious lawsuits and maintains it's position as the top selling current affairs magazine in the UK.
This is with good reason, as the humour inside it is very capable of making you laugh out loud during the times you read it (a brief warning~this may be a little embarrassing on a train/plane, to be careful).
Private Eye prides itself on it's unbiased nature, which makes it a breath of fresh air from the completely biased opinions of regular magazines and (even worse) newspapers. The magazine is printed for the most part in black and white, although there are various cartoons the whole way through, which make it appealing to younger audiences as well.
I would recommend this magazine to anyone of any age, who is clued up on the latest political news etc. Although, younger readers cannot really be expected to read through the indepth articles, I'm sure many would still find the comics inside well worth the money.
Private Eye is a fortnightly British satirical magazine that costs £1.50. It was founded in 1961 and is currently edited by Ian Hislop who is better known to many as one of the long standing (sitting) team captains on TV's BBC2 satirical panel show "Have I Got News For You".
One of the main aspirations and functions of Private Eye is to poke fun at and criticize the political and ruling establishment as well as to uncover what it feels are any dishonest, corrupt or wrong doings by it or by individual business people or large corporations.
It does this in a satirical way which can take the form of direct accusations or by using cleverly written innuendo. Over the years this has often resulted in "The Eye" being sued for libel.
The magazine is not all about taking the establishment and big business down a peg or too, it also focuses heavily on the goings on of individuals in "Fleet Street" or Wapping as it now is, which is where much of the print media is produced. This section for me is utterly boring and would only be of any interest to people involved in the print media.
One of my favourite parts of the magazine is "Colemanballs" (named after the sometimes bumbling ex-BBC sports presenter David Coleman) where amusing quotes are printed of sports commentary gaffes made in the preceding fortnight.
Two examples from a recent issue are:
"There are a lot of tired legs in those white shirts." ANDY GRAY Sky Sports "... and Stewie Downing will look at this with his left foot." GARY GILL Radio Tees
I distinctly remember David Coleman once commentating on the great middle distance runner Steve Cram. As Cram started moving away from the field down the back straight Coleman said "and Steve Cram opens his legs and shows his class".
They also have a famous lookalikes section; last weeks were Bernard Madoff (crooked financier) and George Washington U.S. President).
There are a few cartoon sections, with or without themes, that convey satirical comedy plus there are various other regular sections such as "Rotten Boroughs" which deals with local government and "Dumb Britain" which prints some dumb things that members of the public have said on television or radio recently.
As with a lot of comedy much of it falls flat so you have to be prepared to find only some of the content of the magazine to be funny.
Usually very funny is the front cover of the magazine which has a large topical news photograph on it with a satirical style caption added to it.
There are very few adverts embedded within the main body of the magazine but there is a classified ads. section at the back which in itself can be amusing as some of the ads. are for strange of wacky things.
I like Private Eye because it is brave in its journalistic style and objectives and because a lot of it makes me laugh out loud.
My criticism of it is that it can be too highbrow and have too much of an intellectually superior feeling about itself. There is possibly also too much emphasis on writings about the print media and local councils and not enough about popular culture.
In my opinion it is a great publication that serves a niche market very well.
There is an on line version too which is released after the print version and gives a taster of what you get.
You can find the online version at http://www.private-eye.co.uk/ and if you look now (on 28th March 2009) you will find a pretty funny satirical look at Banking Logos in the Cartoon section. An example of which is Bradford & Bingley's logo being changed to Badfund & Bungley!
Due to current events, personally I don't think that there can be any other time in its 47 year history when Private Eye was more relevant.
However, if you have a particular fondness for a political party, can't bear to hear the establishment badmouthed, or generally think the 'powers that be,' can do no wrong - then this magazine isn't for you - it wouldn't take long before you were muttering 'doom-mongers,' and 'conspiracy theorists,' to yourself!
Private Eye is satire ... at its very best, and like all good satire it has one foot firmly founded in fact, but for some such truths are too uncomfortable to bear. Also, it must be noted that it does have the occasional swear word spattered about, so those who would be offended should also not proffer cash to the newsagent.
That aside, recent political and economic events have made many want to investigate further into the decline of our society and try to establish just where the rot lies. PE will give you a very good idea.
As a fortnightly publication it is also 'up to speed' on most current events, in fact it usually trumps other publications by suggesting such problems may arise, so none of the 'by the time it gets into the media it's too late,' that usually litters mainstream press.
You are though, going to be disappointed if you are expecting a shiny ad filled coffee table tome - Although its 40 pages are generally packed with information from cover to cover, PE is rough paper and A4 sized.
Price wise - well, if you pop into your local newsagents it will cost you £1.50 at the counter, but you can subscribe on-line and have it delivered straight to your door at the current price of £14 for six months (13 issues) or £28 for one year (26 issues). I also managed to get in on their Christmas offer and got a pack of twelve Christmas cards thrown in for good measure!
So if you have an inquiring mind or just want to know what is going on around you and have a good laugh into the bargain, then this magazine is definitely for you - and it isn't going to break the bank. (Unintentional irony in my final comment!)
Thank goodness for Private Eye which helps to expose the corruption in our institutions. It was a Special report from Private Eye - Lockerbie, The Flight from Justice- which pointed out the extent to which we may have a 'problem' with justice. "Mr Jim Wilson, a (Lockerbie) farmer (found) his fields were littered with...debris. The mess included a suitcase, neatly packed with a powdery substance....A suitcase belonging to Major Charles McKee, a senior CIA agent....had been mysteriously carried away from the piles of wreckage...." So, the CIA may have been involved with drugs? In these days when one can no longer trust the mainstream media, it is essential to read Private Eye. For example, when investigating anthrax, The BBC's Panorama and the Sunday Telegraph seem to simply accept the handouts from James Woolsey of the CIA; and James Woolsey, so it is alleged, is a very close ally of Israel. Private Eye's greatest days were in the 1970's when they tried to find out whether or not the Prime Minister was a spy for Israel (or the KGB.) Harold Wilson was President of the Board of Trade (a government minister) from 1947-51. The few people who could get permission from the Board of Trade to import heavily rationed raw materials or finished goods were in a good position to become vastly rich. Among the lucky few who got licenses were Montague Meyer, Joe Kagan and Rudy Sternberg. (Kagan and Sternberg) later became peers. Meyer gave Wilson a consultancy which took him on frequent trips to Moscow and Eastern Europe. After the 'mysterious' death of Hugh Gaitskell, Wilson became Labour leader and eventually Prime Minister. Harold Wilson's 'private office' was funded in secret by a wealthy group which included Lord Goodman, Sir Samuel Fisher, and Rudy Sternberg. In the 1970's, Private Eye began to receive information of a possible link betwee
n Wilson and the Israeli secret service and the KGB. Much of this information may have come from people within MI5. In connection with alleged plots, the names of various people were handed to Private Eye. Labour MP Ian Mikardo had at one time partnered Leslie Paisner in a business that traded with East Germany. Mikardo's pair in the House of Commons was Barnaby Drayson who worked for Rudy Sternberg, as did Wilfred Owen MP who had resigned after being revealed as a spy for Czechoslovakia. Montague Meyer, it turned out, was the man who had bought up much of the timber felled in Tanganyika during Labour's ill-fated groundnut scheme. Then there was Labour MP Edward Short 'who had been in the habit of receiving bundles of banknotes from T Dan Smith', the city boss of Newcastle and one time partner of Eric Levine. Kagan was a frequent visitor to Downing Street. He was also on friendly terms with the station chief of the Russian KGB. After being questioneded by the police about tax and currency offences he eventually 'fled' to Israel, where perhaps his real allegiance lay. Sir Rudy Sternberg was also under investigation by the security services. Private Eye, with its limited resources, found it difficult to investigate the large quantity of material coming its way. But, what may have stopped Private Eye from finally getting at the truth was the intervention of the Jewish businessman James Goldsmith, a friend of PM Wilson's personal secretary, Marcia Williams. Marcia was also a friend of Kagan. Private Eye had mistakenly claimed that Goldsmith had been present at a lunch given by John Aspinall, on the day after the disappearance of Lord Lucan. Goldsmith began criminal libel proceedings against Private Eye. Patrick Marnham, in his brilliant book "Trail of Havoc: In the Steps of Lord Lucan", writes that Goldsmith was "effectively silencing the only newspaper which migh
t have made headway with the ....allegations." Goldsmith later became a lord. Sir Joseph Kagan was later imprisoned. Marcia Williams became Lady Falkender and her sister Peggy got an OBE. Wilson eventually resigned. Private Eye survived. But the possible links between Labour and Israel's secret service may not have ended with Wilson. Private Eye began to take an interest in Robert Maxwell, the chief fund raiser for Labour. Maxwell received a peerage, mysteriously disappeared, and 'his body' was buried with great honour in Israel. It was assumed by many that he was a top Israeli spy. And what of Tony Blair. Private Eye has pointed out that Blair's chief fund raiser is Lord Levy, a man with strong links to Israel. Blair's chief foreign policy adviser is Sir David Manning........ Private Eye is lots of things: cartoons, funny stories, clever satire, adverts, and more. But, the most valuable service provided by this hardy little organ is that it exposes the lies told to us by the rich and powerful elites.
It’s a relief to see the Private Eye break the humor ice after this weeks’ cataclysmic events. They did this before when the country (not me matey) were swept up in the delirious grief of Princess Diana with a very risky cover. I remember at the time thinking im not the only one who thinks Diana was a waste of time and nothing special. Later after the hype we discovered that three quarters of the nation felt like that and were glad to finally have their say. New York is far more serious and effects the whole world. But The Eye leaves no stone unturned in their satirical hunt and threw a swipe at Bush junior on this month’s cover. Theres a pic of Bush at that primary school in Florida just before the attack receiving a whispered message from his right hand man. One speech bubble said “sir its Armageddon”. Bushes bubble says “Im Armageddon out of here”. We know that Bush junior, as commandeering chief was right to get into a bunker before the attack. When the terror outrage was assessed correctly he came up for air. But it was quite funny and a moment of relief in the mounting tension. Im not a big purchaser of the magazine but like to buy it when theres a momentum media event on where these guys will go against the grain and for the cynic (me). It often exposes alarming facts and truths after events like this. The last tragic shocking terrorist Anglo-American in Lockerbie was investigated thoroughly in here and pointed out that it probably wasn’t the Libyans who were jailed. Even in this weeks issue it highlighted a story where a vital piece of evidence that would point away from the then pariahs Libya was “lost”. Magazines need to uncover the truth like those or the TV and unscrupulous politicians will keep leading us down their agendas. Five years from now we will have evidence that perhaps points away from Bin Laden and more towards a friend. B
ut politicians need to reassure voters and world economies quickly after an event to avoid anarchy. An article in last month’s issue pointed out the erroneous nature of arms sales and the way the supposed bad guys end up with our weapons. They are having an arms trade fare in The Docklands who invited four countries that were supposedly the ones Bushes Star Wars program was gong to protect us from. We are actually selling them our high tech warfare stuff so they can counter the shield, the crazy world of profit and politics is a very uncomfortable and hypocritical one indeed. The magazine is light hearted enough in other places with cartoons, snippets and the Pseudos Corner are among the types of fare on offer here. It’s not just long staid articles (although there are some) that these mags can get bogged down with. You really need to be news and current affairs junkies to get the most from it, and perhaps a bit of a opinionated cynic to. The magazines real power is being able to print opening first class cutting paragraphs like this one. It’s called The Gnome and it sums up the hypocrisy of this week’s big news series. “Whilst of course we are all deeply shocked and saddened by the tragic events of last Tuesday, we should not be blinked to the fact that this was an attack on everything that we in the civilized world hold most dear…. money. In the immediate aftermath of the attack it was terrifying to think that in a few brief moments that all our money could be lost. As I write, we still do not know the full extent of our losses-in some cases they are almost impossible to calculate. But surely what is important now is to demonstrate now that we will not be cowed or bowed, and that we are determined to reaffirm in the eternal virtues of money. So I say to you-go out and spend your money as if there is no tomorrow. Only that way there will be one!” Now t
hat is quite a cutting passage but it’s essentially true as we are grieving the images and not the people. Its been said and read by the harmless away from mainstream media. The opening few pages are current affairs and new stories with an alternate and more realistic slant on new issues. Then we have a small section called “Dumb Britain”. Basically its quotes from the week that are quite simply dumb. Theres a letters page for readers gossip and sillies plus the excellent Coleman balls. These are the bloopers from sport and TV…Michael Owen isn’t the tallest of lads, but his height more than makes up for that”…..Mark Lawrenson BBC1. Theres more photo bubble funnies inside. The prominent images of the war so far dominate the page, One of Arafat giving blood with Yassers bubble saying”Careful, I wouldn’t want to spill any”that’s sublime to me in the context of the regions hypocrisy. Another catchy one is off Blair in his”bomber jacket”and the best has to be Bush junior at a press conference surrounded by his advisors. Bush’s bubble says “Im relying on intelligence”. Colin Powels bubble says uh oh!. Oh and Bin Laden saying im going to Belfast,I will be safe their. It’s a great read at a time of unblikered reporting with the media trying to make you do and think what they are pedaling. It gives you an insight into what may really be going on in power and you are being told a lie over these attacks. It’s also sharply funny and critical in the slant of Have I got news for YOU on BBC2.Hislop being the magazines editor now.I think I might just get a subscription at 1 pound-20 a month.
I've been a subscriber to Private Eye for quite a few years now. I became a convert entirely by accident, when there wasn't much else available in the newsagents before a long train journey. What I love about PE is that it isn't afraid to take risks. I suppose it's a bit like the Emperor's new clothes. We can all see what's going on but we don't want to say what's going on. PE not only says what's going on, but takes the mickey out of those who are doing it. As a staunch anti-monarchist I just love the references to 'Brenda', and think it's about time the editorial team thought up some names for all the hangers on!! St.Albion's Parish News is really hilarious, in it's depiction of Tony Blair as a cool, right on vicar. On many occasions I have cut out some of the cartoons before PE goes for recycling, and they still raise a smile months later. And if all that doesn't appeal then go to the small ads at the back. People looking for everything from discreet flings to surveillance equipment to £30,000 to pay off their debts.....does anyone ever help these folk out I wonder?? If you buy no other magazine this year, I would urge you to buy PE. It's totally irreverent humour brightens up my life!!
I have a been a long-time devotee of the esteemed organ that is Private Eye, not just for the sheer depth of satirical amusement that lurks copiously and nonchalantly under its cover, but also for the wonderful manner in which it takes the current affairs of the present day and manages to present them in such a manner that the salient points are distilled and explained in order to eradicate, or at least lessen the ‘spin’. The magazine is almost the brakes on the wheels of the political and social comfortable elite, frequently turning those wheels and the car that it represents into a nice, satisfying skid. Particularly satisfying when that happens to be Lord Archer’s car that careers its way into the inevitable ravine of the High Court and Belmarsh Prison. The main strength of Private Eye lies in its longevity…as a fortnightly organ it has run to no less than 1034 editions as of the 6th of September 2001. It was there when many of the defining political events of the last four decades were perpetrated. It was there when Thatcher entered, and when she left No. 10 Downing Street, there when Blair won in 1997, there when BSE first sprouted and then returning of course for the gloriously dire repercussions for the “foot-‘n-mouth” government (and that middle word could be ‘in’ or ‘and’, it’s equally amusing either way... It is currently run by Ian Hislop, he of Have I Got News for You Fame…and the tone of the magazine is consequently bitingly satirical, but often intellectually so, relying on clever puns and keen analysis of the news…he is ably assisted by researchers who obviously know their stuff – many cross references go back years and years to rather obscure events – often ones that politicians rather wish that they HADN’T found! To give you an idea of what it contains, here is an analysis of what this week’s issue contained –
it was a particularly good week. THE FRONT COVER – is one of the most important parts, as it always has a tabloid style cartoon with the obligatory photo and speech bubbles…but one that is always VERY funny indeed. For example, this one was – “PIG FLIES SENSATION!” under which was printed a picture of a pig jumping a few feet from the ground with the speech bubble emanating from its mouth saying “And the Hamiltons are innocent!’ – with ‘incredible silly season continues!’ written at the footer of the page. Absolutely hilarious – has to be seen to be appreciated. INSIDE There are a few regulars that appear every week. These include the opening column, ‘Gnome’…which always lambasts the socially comfortable elite…normally a fat-cat or the head of a corporation. It appears in the form of a press release from a fictitious Lord with a name bearing an uncanny resemblance to the target of the lambasting – eg. “GnomerCollins plc (part of the Screws International Group Wapping Advance London EC4” – as the address under a press release about Lord Archer’s ‘latest novel… Also on this page appeared a cartoon depicting Lady Archer with a caption ‘Lady Archer’s new theory on solar power’. The caption from her mouth reads – ‘The sun shines out of Jeffrey’s bottom’… That’s the type of humour that they use – it often seems puerile to start with, but as you think about it you realise just how clever it is! It is also utterly merciless…and often in the face of very strong opinions on each side of an argument. Other regular as clockwork columns include STREET OF SHAME – about Fleet Street – i.e the newspaper medias…the current topic it is screwing for all it’s worth is ‘Porn King’ Richard Desmond wh
o owns the Daily Express (‘the Daily Sexpress’) as well as a few ‘art’ magazines… HACKWATCH – again about the printed press, but focusing on those freeloading journalists it so abhors as an organ… HP SAUCE – issues about parliament and the like, general political amusements and scandals revealed EYE TV – a scathingly funny analysis of current television – that is generally incredibly nasty (in the Anne Robinson sense of the word) about the drivel that we are forced to watch on the box DUMB BRITAIN – all the incredibly stupid answers given on quiz shows collected for general amusement (and whilst this may sound like intellectual snobbery, we are talking REALLY dumb things – for example “Who is the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party?” “Geri Halliwell” (a real answer given on the Grant Stott Show, Radio Forth) or from the weakest link reality tv special “What is botany the study of?” “Bottoms” continuing on DOING THE ROUNDS – issues related to scandals in the NHS and the health service in general ROTTEN BOROUGHS – issues about local government worthy of more exposure than the politicians would like… FUNNY OLD WORLD – outrageous stories that really did appear in newspapers around the world ST ALBION PARISH NEWS – a hilarious regular that is written in the style of a parish magazine, just that the vicar is one Rev. A. Blair… a particularly inspired one this… And then a few pages written in the style of a tabloid newspaper which is always worth a laugh (but often not the funniest section of the paper) – but that’s compared to the whole which is excruciatingly hilarious. Recent inclusions – ‘A Level Records as passes reach 110%!’… ‘Did the Hamiltons kill Jill Dando?! – Police investi
gate new claim’, or the wonderful “BELFAST LATEST – Peace to be decommissioned” (‘in a major breakthrough, six parties in Northern Ireland have agreed to bury the peace process, and put it permanently “beyond use”’) The last three pages include literary articles and business related articles which although exposing similar outrageous scandals and frauds often are less interesting because they are longer and harder to comprehend without a working knowledge of aforesaid subjects…however they often yield absolute gems. Often the most fascinating part though is the LETTERS page…which often receives letters from prominent politicians and celebrities who have been drawn through the dirt and are rather annoyed. These are often wonderfully undermined by clever titles or inserts by the editorial team…also, this page is the source of the ‘lookalikes’ – where people send in pictures of otherwise unconnected celebrities who are prominent in the media at that moment which resemble each other. This months included – a picture of Charles Clarke MP alongside a picture of Fungus the Bogeyman, and a picture of Danny from Hear’Say next to a picture of Shrek from the animated film, each bearing an uncanny resemblance – and the names under each picture are also swapped for added comic amusement. The letter from the person sending the photos almost always ends ‘I think we should be told’ – which has become one of the Eye’s catchphrases. Anyway – that’s what it contains – plus a whole load of brilliantly drawn cartoons and numerous little articles that just make you smile and feel incredibly knowledgeable. CONCLUSION That’s the strength of Private Eye; you feel like you’re being told something incredibly important, like a secret, that you yourself become important because
you are ‘in the know’. It’s the same as when you were in school and in a club which was very exclusive – and all the other kids envied you for it… it plays on that Bond-esque feeling of being a bit ‘dangerous’ and combines that with being utterly hilarious and wonderfully satirical – and scaring the shite out of certain politicians. That said, it isn’t without downsides. Occasionally the news is dull and the magazine seems weak…it always perks up again, but it is reliant on famous people doing things they shouldn’t, or a ‘silly season’ to waltz along. It is also often a little smug in tone – making out that it is somehow all seeing, omnipresent…when it occasionally drops to the level of the tabloids it lambasts in terms of ‘exposing’ stories for maximum reader potential, albeit in a very intellectual and cleverly written way. And also, they have once or twice written complete and utter bollocks about a story (although that is pretty rare now) which has meant they’ve been sued a fair number of times…of which they’ve won a few more than they’ve lost, but only just. That aside, it is one of the most intelligent, analytical, satirical, and important publications that you will find on your newsagent’s shelf. And it only costs a pound, which is hardly breaking the bank once a fortnight. Subscriptions are easy to take out, costing 19 quid for a year (26 issues) (I’ve subscribed for 5 years and never had a single problem with the direct debit or the billing, or issues turning up late etc…plus you get it a day before it appears in the shops). Not bad. They also publish books of the cartoons (some of which are very famous) and have the occasional event which you can go to, like signings by Hislop etc. If you want to sample what it has to offer, visit www.private-eye.co.uk - which should give you a flavour of what to exp
ect (it has most of the major cartoons and columns for free online pleasure). And after all that, you get to spend at least an hour of your fortnight with a smile on your face, for a pound. That’s not bad at all, now, is it? So, what are you waiting for? Go buy!
At one time at least the covers were good. I’m sure I’ve forgotten better ones, but this is what commemorated the shooting of three IRA members in Gibraltar, accompanying a picture of two crouched and masked soldiers: “Why did you shoot him six times?” “I ran out of bullets.” The cover of the latest issue (#1034) has a picture of Cherie Blair pink and glistening in the Italian sun, with a speech bubble reading: “It’s been a real test for Tony’s sweat problem.” Very satirical, as Private Eye itself might put it, because flat, unimaginative sarcasm is one of its chief weapons nowadays. But in fact, no, that’s not very satirical and it’s not very funny either. In further fact, it’s not funny or satirical at all, so it’s a good advert for a lot of what you find in the magazine it adorns. The laurels that Private Eye won for its relentless and very expensive pursuit of Robert Maxwell (First Israeli mourner: “Do you come here often?” Second Israeli mourner: “Neither did he.”) have slipped considerably in the past few years. You can learn a lot from it (and learn later that some of what you learnt wasn’t trustworthy) and it sees and portrays Blair as the slimy, shallow hypocrite he really is, but unless you enjoy sarcasm and pointless malice, you won’t enjoy everything else. One of its most famous features, Craig Brown’s parodies of the rich and famous, is usually bad enough to be as dull as the real thing, for example, and a lot of the gossip can’t be very interesting even to those actually in politics or the London media. On the positive side, Craig Brown occasionally finds an amusing way of attacking a worthy target, Victor Lewis-Smith’s fortnightly collection of quirky or queasy press-clippings usually proves that it is indeed a “Funny Old World”, and the cartoons maintain
some of the old standards, often displaying genuine wit and invention rather than the elephantine sarcasm familiar from the editor Ian Hislop’s appearances on that television program whose name escapes me for the moment. Like a football team whose history is far more glorious than its present, I’d be sad to see Private Eye die and I’m glad it’s still here, but the chances of it signing another striker as good as the late Peter Cook seem to be dwindling by the year.
A bastion of curmudgeonly cynicism and fearless investigation, Private Eye has been exposing hyprocisy and incompetence in high places since the 1960s, and is still the only UK satirical magazine worth reading. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the magazine, it is basically divided into 2 sections - the "news" section, which uncovers scandal, wrongdoing and hyprocrisy in the worlds of politics, the media and business, and the "humour" section, consisting of spoof news items and consistently hilarious. I rely on the Eye to give me the kind of news that never makes it into the papers, and they've been particularly good on the recent Lockerbie and Jill Dando trials, informing us of evidence and facts which were glossed over or totally ignored by the mainstream press. If I have one criticism of the Eye, it's that it is a little cliquey, full of in-jokes which can make it impenetrable to new readers. It's clearly the work of the Oxbridge brigade and, for all its fearless exposes, seems to have little in the way of a social conscience and generally has an increasingly right-wing bent. Whilst it was pretty hard on the Tories, it's really come down on the Labour administration with a ton of bricks and clearly has nothing but contempt for Blair and his cronies. That said, I'll continue to buy the Eye for as long as it exists. It's always entertaining and informative, if occasionally infuriating, and will hopefully continue to be a thorn in the side of the grey suits in the corridors of power for many years to come.
I've been a regular reader of 'Private Eye' magazine for over seven years now, and have seen numerous price hikes over that time. However, at £1.20 for each fortnightly issue, 'Private Eye' still provides probably the most laughs per pound of any magazine, or indeed newspaper, on news shelves anywhere in the country. Founded in the early 1960s, kept alive by funds from Peter Cook (of Pete and Dud fame) and Richard Ingrams, and still carrying with it something of the air of that time, 'Private Eye' is undoubtedly the journalistic home of contemporary British satire. This doesn't always mean that its contents are always funny, in fact, some of the most compelling pieces of writing in the magazine, consist almost entirely of damning criticism of politicians and business people. 'Private Eye' does carry about it something of the public schoolboy comedy feel, which is unsurprising considering that the editorial team has almost continually, throughout the magazine's existence, consisted entirely of ex-public schoolboys. Peter Cook went to Cambridge, and both Richard Ingrams and the magazine's current editor, Ian Hislop, went to Oxford. The criticism could be levelled, and indeed frequently is, that the magazine is merely a voice for public schoolboys to make jibes at the expense of others. However, to say this is to somewhat miss the point. As a recent Guardian (or as the Eye would have it, Grauniad) article pointed out, "you might just as well take exception to the fact that the Voice is dominated by black people or that Gay Times employed homosexuals". Satire is a form of comedy that comes from within the establishment and pokes fun at it, generally in a tone of knowing, and not necessarily smug, superiority. Needless to say, this attitude has won 'Private Eye' something of a reputation for court cases. Famously, in the 1970s, the magazine was virtually brought to its knees by repeated l
egal actions by the late James Goldsmith, and the pressure was continued throughout the 1980s by the late Robert Maxwell. Interestingly, some of the most protracted and hard fought libel actions that 'Private Eye' has defended itself against have not come from politicians or businessmen, but from journalists. One of the most famed of these was when then-diarist of the magazine, Auberon Waugh, said of the late Nora Beloff, one-time Guardian political correspondent, that she had been to bed with every member of Harold Wilson's cabinet, before adding, "No impropriety occurred." 'Private Eye' has attracted an impressive range of British comedians to write for it over the years, not least of which are Cook, Ingrams and Hislop themselves, who were responsible for virtually all of the hilarious cover illustrations that have graced the magazine's 1,000+ issues. Auberon Waugh wrote a regular diary column for the Eye, and Willie Rushton, John Wells, John Bird and Barry Fantoni were all regular writers for the magazine at some time. The cover image of 'Private Eye' has, from the start, consisted of a photograph of figures in the public eye, with superimposed speech bubbles. These are often incredibly amusing, and are always based on extremely recent news. Starting reading 'Private Eye' is not an easy task. There are a great many running jokes, that a new reader won't be party to. I'm aware of several friends who haven't read more than a few issues of the magazine because they felt frustrated by the in-jokes, and because so many figures in the news are referred to by nicknames in the magazine. To be honest, the magazine's quite readable without being aware of the jokes, and after reading it for a few weeks, you do begin to get used to the nicknames. For example, the Queen is often referred to as 'Brenda' by the magazine, Rupert Murdoch bears the nickname 'the Dirty Digger&
#39;, and one-time editor of the Sunday Times, Andrew Neill, is frequently referred to as 'Brillo Pad' (due to his unusual hairstyle). CONTENTS The front page of the magazine always contains a commentary from the magazine's founder, 'Lord Gnome'. Lord Gnome's column used to be written by the late Peter Cook, and remains one of the most satirical columns in the magazine, generally unreservedly criticising the nation's newspapers, particularly Maxwell titles, such as the Mirror. Alongside Gnome's column are a series of major news stories comprising what used to be called up until 2000, the magazine's 'Colour Section' ? a reference to the fact that the magazine used to be cheaply printed in black and white throughout. Nowadays, the magazine does often have a couple of colour pages, rendering the title somewhat less ironic. Generally, items in this section of the magazine refer to major national and international stories, revealing some of the stories behind the stories, and some of the hypocritical statements that people in the public eye have made. Regular columns in the magazine include; - STREET OF SHAME A series of stories about the comings and goings in the nation's newspapers. Something about the 'Street of Shame' column makes it seem like a bit of an anachronism, reading as though we were still in the gossip-filled heyday of Fleet Street, despite the fact that so many newspapers have now moved out to the Docklands area and Canary Wharf. It's also interesting that the 'Street of Shame' column occupies such a prominent position in the magazine, generally occupying page 6, reflecting the waning public interest in politics, and the shift towards an interest in public and television figures. Current frequent targets in the 'Street of Shame' column are Piers Morgan (or rather, Moron) editor of the Mirror, and Richard Desmond, the n
otorious porn baron that recently acquires the Express Group of newspapers. - HACKWATCH Following on from 'Street of Shame', 'Hackwatch' is probably one of my favourite sections of the magazine. Basically, the Eye has closely monitored newspaper editorials, looking out for impressively hypocritical or contradictory passages. For example, in the week that Piers Morgan announced that he was considering submitting a complaint to the press complaints commission (PCC) because so many untrue stories had been written about him in the national press, the Eye produced a round-up of some of the successful complaints made to the PCC about inaccuracies in Morgan's paper, the Mirror. In another recent column, the Eye provided a list of self-promoting quotes from Deborah Ross's unrelentingly tedious interview column in the Independent. - HP SAUCE The magazine's column examining the proceedings in the Houses of Parliament, and the various governmental organisations. - NOOKS AND CORNERS A section of the magazine examining architecture and the associated planning permission. To be honest, I generally skip the 'Nooks and Corners' column, however, recently there have be some entertaining passages discussing Sir Norman Foster's many designs, such as the Millennium Bridge, the Millennium Dome, and the proposed "Millennium Tower" to stand on the site of the Baltic Exchange. "Piloti", the column's writer, frequently make comments on how it would seem, in the eyes of the government, that Foster and Partners can do no wrong, despite the apparent failures of these structures. - EYE TV 'Eye TV' is another of my favourite columns, written by "Square Eyes", the column reviews several of the fortnight's new television programmes, and examines trends in television programme making, such as the recent demand for so-called 'reality' te
levision. When the 'Eye TV' column criticises programmes, it generally doesn't hold back ? a recent review of David Baddiel's 'Baddiel's Syndrome' was one of the most damning reviews I have ever read. 'Eye TV' often also frequently criticises so-called 'Birtspeak', incoherent, jargon-heavy phrases used in internal BBC documents. Although John Birt is no longer chairman of the BBC, his legacy lives on, to judge from recent quotes reproduced in the Eye, and so does the term 'Birtspeak'. - PSEUDS CORNER A collection of confusing and pretentious quotes from newspapers, magazines or company newsletters, selected from those sent to the magazine by readers. - DOING THE ROUNDS Commentary on the National Health Service, which is currently filled with discussions about the recent organ retention scandal. - SIGNAL FAILURES Not yet up to the level of a regular column (they haven't done a graphic for it yet!), 'Signal Failures' has appeared with distressing frequency in recent issues of the magazine, examining problems with the UK train network. - DOWN ON THE FARM Currently written by "Even Newer Muckspreader", who predictably succeeded "New Muckspreader" and "Old Muckspreader", 'Down on the Farm' looks at issues in farming the UK. To be honest, I don't often read the column, but there's often a lot of comments about GM food and the Food Standards Agency. - ROTTEN BOROUGHS One of the longest running columns, 'Rotten Boroughs' examines the disturbing amount of corruption in local government. It takes its name from the Reform Bill of 1832, and refers to boroughs which although only containing a few voters, still retained the privilege of sending a member to Parliament. 'Rotten Boroughs' frequently stirs up controversy, and seems to be one of the most influenti
al columns in the magazine, occasionally precipitating real change! - HIGH PRINCIPALS An infrequent column examining corruption among university, college and school staff. - LETTERS The letters' page of 'Private Eye' remains one of the most entertaining parts of the magazine. Every issue includes at least one "lookalike", where a reader has sent in two pictures of people in the public eye who look similar to each other, and imply that the two might be related. There are also often-amusing clippings from magazines from around the world, and "That's Life"-style photographs of signs in other countries bearing in appropriate English words. The letters' page also provides an interesting forum for those criticised in the magazine to respond to the criticisms. Frequently, these letters are written in an equally entertaining fashion. It's also at this point that I should mention that frequently, the magazine's sense of humour might not appeal to all. The Eye was one of the few magazines to actually poke fun at the inexplicable sense of national mourning that surrounded the admittedly tragic and shocking death of Princess Diana, which brought it considerable criticism from its readers. At one point in the mid-1990s, the Eye would include an "unsubscribe of the week" and print a letter from a disgruntled or disgusted reader who would be cancelling their subscription due to what they felt was insulting or offensive material included in the magazine. Even in the current issue there's a cartoon on the Valentines' page making tacit reference to the Alder Hey organ scandal, which is certainly in questionable taste. I guess the lesson is to be pretty thick-skinned when reading the magazine, but if you think you'd take offence at material like this, you'd probably be better advised to stay away. - READERS' CONTRIBUTIONS There are sever
al columns throughout the magazine, which are reliant on the readers. Probably the most popular of these is 'Colemanballs', named after David Coleman, which collects together idiotic statements that interviewers and sports commentators have made on television or radio. A new addition to this is 'Dumb Britain' collecting together inane answers that members of the public have made on quiz shows or, more commonly, in the Midday Money part of 'This Morning' with Richard and Judy. Other columns reliant on readers' input include 'Luvvies', which reproduces pretentious and ill-informed remarks made by actors and actresses, 'Ceefux' which celebrates misprints on Teletext services, and 'Going Live' which lists occasions on which reporters have been pointlessly positioned in front of buildings relevant to news stories, but which play no part in them (such as when the BBC's political correspondent was positioned outside Number 10 on the night of the birth Leo Blair, despite the fact that neither mother nor father were at the house). 'OBN' (the Order of the Brown Nose) is awarded to examples of hideous sycophancy sent into the organ. There are also several newspaper cuttings per issue, highlighting entertaining misprints or occasions when the wrong picture has been reproduced. - FUNNY OLD WORLD 'Funny Old World' is another of my favourite sections of the Eye. Compiled from reader contributions by Victor Lewis-Smith, it consists of three amusing stories culled from the world's newspaper. - ST ALBION PARISH NEWS The St Albion Parish News is a regular column written by the Reverend Tony Blair. It consists of a newsletter written by a pastiche of the Prime Minister, imagining that he were a fawning and overly enthusiastic vicar, overseeing the parish of St Albion, with the aid of the trusty Book of Common Blair. St Albion is populated by characters including Secr
etary of the Working Men's Club John Prescott, former Churchwarden, and ex-missioner to St Gerry's in Northern Island, Peter Mandelson. The St Albion Parish News column was the inspiration for a short-lived series of five-minute programmes made by ITV, starring Harry Enfield as Rev Blair and all the parishioners. A similar column has appeared since Thatcher's time as Prime Minister, which consisted of letters from her husband Denis, entitled the "Dear Bill" letters. During John Major's time in power, the page carried "The Secret Diary of John Major aged 47 3/4", which lightly lampooned the then PM in a style not dissimilar to a certain popular series of books by Sue Townsend. - POLLY FILLER Polly Filler's column is another of the irregular columns in the magazine, and is an entertaining dig at the tedious and self-indulgent columnists such as Zoe Heller that bore newspaper readers with tiresomely detailed descriptions of their mundane lives. - DIARY The diary column at the back of 'Private Eye' is another must-read. Written each week by Craig Brown, the diary consists of a week in the life of someone in the public eye, in their style. Recent figures featured in the diary include Victoria Beckham (in conversation with Michael Parkinson), Frank McCourt, and Baddiel and Skinner Unplanned. - LITERARY REVIEW The Eye's 'Literary Review' consists of reviews of a couple of books, followed by a few brief news stories about the publishing industry. The reviews are generally pretty reliable, and "Bookworm" (the Eye's reviewer) is not afraid to give harsh and damning reviews where deserved. In the most recent issue, "Bookworm" sinks his teeth, in more ways than one, into Dave Pelzer's poorly-written and self-indulgent 'A Man Named Dave'. - IN THE CITY The Eye's column on comings and goings in the Cit
y of London. - COMIC STRIPS The Eye's regular comic strips are generally of a pretty high standard. These include ? 'Yobs' by Hubbard, 'The Directors' by Dredge and Rigg, 'Celeb' by Ligger, 'Young British Artists' by Birch, 'Supermodels' by Kerber, 'It's Grim Up North London' by Knife and Packer, 'Hom Sap' by Austin, 'Heath's Private View' and 'Snipcock and Tweed'. Of these, only 'Hom Sap' is not consistently funny, but the rest can be relied upon for regular amusement. - CLASSIFIEDS There aren't many magazines in which it's worth reading the classified advertisements, but Private Eye is certainly one in which it is. Typically, in an issue of Private Eye, there'll be at least one television company researcher looking for folks to appear in a Channel 4 documentary on threesomes, or a BBC2 documentary on lost love, so if you're looking for your 15 minutes of fame, this would be a truly appalling place to start. The 'Eye Love' lonely hearts column of the Private Eye classifieds is truly one of the most eye-opening things out there. Most worrying, however, is that many of the people advertising actually meet other people through the magazine, despite the wording of their advertisements! "FERRARI DRIVER seeks 25/30 year old female navigator for cross country exploration and weekend rallies in deepest Yorkshire. Must be equipped for speed with photograph and full service history." Oh please. CONCLUSIONS Despite being printed on cheap newspaper-style paper, and only being 36 pages long (11 of which usually carry advertisements), 'Private Eye' is well worth the £1.20 price tag. It's consistently funny, though new readers should be warned to expect several regular in-jokes, which might take some time to get used to. Also, some might find the magazine's sense of humour to be
unnecessarily vulgar and insensitive at times, so be prepared for some politically incorrect comedy. Some 1,000 issues in, 'Private Eye' looks set to stay on newsagent shelves for years to come!
With a four hour train journey ahead of me I reached into my bag to retrieve my CD player fro some soothing tunes to ease the boredom, then TRAGEDY, bugger, bugger and double bugger! I'd left the bloody thing at home. I had a huge selection of CD's but nothing to play them on, making them about as useful as, well, CD's with no CD player I suppose. The prospect of a four hour train journey without any music wasn't a very enticing prospect, especially as I was travelling by Virgin Trains, so the probability of the journey extending beyond four hours was pretty high! There was nothing else for it, I went for the next best option, a quick trip to the station's WHSmith. I thought I would live life on the edge and try something new, and after perusing the shelves for a while my eyes were drawn to Private Eye. This was mainly due to a very witty front cover, which had a picture of Tony Blair and Peter Mandleson, with Blair saying 'I'm very, very sorry' and Mandleson replying 'You will be!' which I found quite amusing. Although I've never bought Private Eye I used to work in a newsagent and always read the front cover cartoon as they were usually very witty and entertaining. I've occasionally flicked through the pages but was never too impressed with the content. Even though, as it was only £1.20 and I was feeling adventurous I thought I'd give it a go. Apart from that witty front cover, first impressions were disappointing. The print and paper quality really are quite poor for a well known, national magazine. Some might say it is part of the character of it, but it doesn't do much to encourage new readers to look further. The magazine looks and feels like a University Rag Mag, though this is probably doing Rag Mags an injustice as they are usually better quality than Private Eye! Maybe it's time for Ian Hislop to stop spending money on flash suits for Have I Got News Fo
r You, and out more into upgrading his printing press. Anyway, in the big scheme of things it's not the print quality or paper that's important, so I read on. And that's the next thing I noticed, there really is an awful lot to read in Private Eye. Most magazines I buy are usually full of full page adverts, with lot's of glossy photographs, leaving little space for actual editorial content. Private Eye differs as there really is a lot of content. Admittedly the magazine only has 36 pages, so we're not talking an epic novel here, but with a small typeface and only 12 full pages of adverts (it sounds a lot but doesn't seem that much when you flick through the mag) there really is a lot of room for articles, reviews and features. Considering the magazine only costs £1.20, you seem to get quite a lot for your money. Having said this, it is only god value if the content is up to scratch, and I'm pleased to say for the most part it is. With any satirical publication or programme, the content can be a bit hit and miss, but overall the writing in Private Eye is very witty, sarcastic and entertaining. As well as amusing me through my rather boring train journey, some of the articles are quite well researched and fact-filled, a rather scathing attack on the redevelopment of the British Museum springing to mind. There are various cartoons and sketches sprinkled throughout the magazine, providing a humorous take on recent news events. My pick of the bunch, apart from the front cover was a cartoon of people surrounding an injured person who's just been run over, and someone commenting about an approaching person 'Don't let him through, he's a doctor!' OK, it doesn't sound funny written out, but it made me laugh! The magazine is largely based around satirical comment on recent political events, and in this particular issue Peter Mandleson was taking a pretty good hammering. I'm n
ot going to go through the magazine reviewing each section because, quite frankly, I find writing and reading stuff like that boring, but if you do buy a copy, be sure to read some stories in the 'Rotten Boroughs' section, some of the antics and sheer incompetence of our local government departments have to be read to be believed! There are some truly startling and revealing stories about the antics of various companies such as Marie Clare (the magazine), Matrix Chambers (of Cherie Booth QC fame) and even the police, although I'm not going to tell you exactly what was revealed, if I had to spend £1.20 on the magazine, you lot can too! I should direct your attention to 'Funny Old World' which feature some bizarre articles from the world's press, one about lactating mothers' squirting breast milk in a bar being particularly surreal! There are also various other stories and some spoof articles. There are some regular columns, such as 'St Albion Parish News' loosely based on the news of New Labour. I also recognised the well known and popular 'Colemanballs', which if you've never heard of them is a selection of nonsensical quotes, a gem from Suzy Quattro being.. 'In this age of mobile phones, faxes and e-mails, we just don't communicate anymore' very astute, I think you'll agree. Oh, I forgot to mention a section in the classifieds I found. No, it's not some dodgy escort service, it's a section called 'Eye Need.' There are adverts asking for people to send money, with no goods or services offered in return, one reads 'Lazy Man seeks unearned cash, anything welcome' I mean, the cheek! I don't know if it works, but I'm placing an ad in the next issue to find out! And if you've got any spare cash you wish to contribute, feel free to start the ball rolling! Overall I must admit to being very impressed by Private Eye. Although of poor quali
ty and only 36 pages, it is packed with content that kept me amused throughout my train journey. I know Ian Hislop can be an annoying and pompous little prat on Have I Got News For You, but he does seem to put together a very good magazine, which is excellent value at only £1.20 every fortnight, If you're not a reader, give it a go, you might find something you like. Incidentally, if you're interested my train arrived 40 minutes late. Thanks Virgin!
At the age of seven I learnt about sarcasm and how to apply it in the classroom toward my unsuspecting teachers (to their surprise and horror). Ten years later at 17 years old I started reading Private Eye became a cynic. The 'Eye' is written by a team of professional cynics who earn a salary by taking the p**s out of every politician, journalist, author, director... in the public eye. Every personal flaw of any notable person is picked up and used to whap them where it hurts most. The number of liable cases the editors have lost in the past few years demonstrates this. I now read the 'Eye' cover to cover every week and have even found myself referring to the eyes regular 'Guests' by the uncharming cruel-comic (is that an oxymoron?) names that have been allocated to them by the eye editors such as:. Tony Blair - The Vicar Mohammed Fayed - Fugger Richard Branson - Beardie John Prescott - Fat Northern Bastard Pierre-Yves Gerbeau - PY Gerbil Indeed it was the eye that first called the former LibDem leader Tarzan. As a kid, we used to read the Beano and Dandy (obviously Beano was far superior). The adult equivalent of these has to be either "Viz" or "Private Eye". I'm almost certain that the type of people who grow up to read "Viz" which is nothing more than a comic for morons, probably buy to by The Sun as well, although I have no doubt at all that it's because they find the articles 'interesting' as long as the editors don’t use any words that contain more than three syllables. In contrast, I’m very tempted to say that the more educated probably tend to read "Private Eye" simply because it requires a fairly knowledge of politics, economics and current-affairs to understand the humour - but then again, to say that wouldn't be very politically correct would it now? Phaah... who cares! The fact that so many idiots like Fayed continue to sue the editors of the "Ey
e" for deformation of character makes it worth reading and for £1.20 it's a steal and a subscription would make a perfect Birthday present for the disheartened voter. Take the sophistication of the Daily Telegraph; add a pinch of euro-scepticism, the accuracy of Hansard, the comic genius of Ian Hislop and what you have is a masterpiece. Try this link for the latest Eye Cover: http://www.private-eye.co.uk/