Goodness Gracious Me
is a BBC English language sketch comedy
show originally on BBC Radio 4
and later televised on BBC Two
(the radio series from 1996-1998 and the TV series from 1998-2001) based on four British Asian
actors: Sanjeev Bhaskar
, Kulvinder Ghir
, Meera Syal
and Nina Wadia
. In the television version most of the "white" parts are played by Dave Lamb
and Fiona Allen
, while in the radio version the white parts were played by the cast themselves.
The title and theme tune are based on a hit comedy song of the same title sung by Peter Sellers and Sophia Loren, in which they reprise their characters from the 1960 film The Millionairess in which Sellers played an Indian doctor and Loren his Italian patient (contrary to popular belief the song does not appear in the film). The show's signature tune is a bhangra arrangement of the song. The show's original working title was "Peter Sellers is Dead", but was changed because the cast generally liked Peter Sellers. (The character Sellers plays, although in itself a fairly crude and broad parody of an Indian man, is actually portrayed as an intelligent, diligent, professional person). In her 1996 novel Anita and Me, Syal had referred to British parodies of Asian speech as "a goodness-gracious-me accent".
Many of the sketches explored the conflict and integration between traditional Indian culture and modern British life. Some reversed the roles to view the British from an Indian perspective while others poked fun at Indian stereotypes.
One of the more famous sketches featured the cast "going out for an English" after a few lassis. They mispronounce the waiter's name, order the blandest thing from the menu (apart from one of them, who opts for the safer option of a curry) and ask for 24 plates of chips. This parodies the often-drunk English people "going out for an Indian", ordering chicken phall and too many papadums. This sketch was recently voted the 6th Greatest Comedy Sketch.
The cast casually drop Punjabi and Hindi/Urdu slang phrases into their speech, in the manner of many British Asians living in the UK.
Parodies and references in the show
Other parodies are based on shows such as Animal Hospital (where members of lower castes take the place of the pets) and Rough Guide (where tourists from India visit and make unpleasant remarks about England).
The "going for an English" sketch is often highlighted as the first time a British audience saw a parody of its own behaviour from a British Asian perspective. However some elements had been done before, including by Rowan Atkinson in his early 1980's stage show "Indian Waiter" monologue, which directly mocked such behaviour, whilst Alexei Sayle in his late 1980's TV show Stuff made a very brief hypothesis that residents of New Delhi enjoy alcoholic Friday nights out with English food.
- "Cheque Please" - A man who is frequently seen taking different women out to dinner, but he always says something so tactless or offensive that his date walks out on him, leaving him asking for the "Cheque please!" He has been criticized as a copy of the "I'll get me coat ..." character from fellow British sketch show The Fast Show.
- The competitive mothers - Two women who constantly argue about the respective accomplishments of their sons, becoming more and more exaggerated as they go along. Their discussions always end with one of them using their catchphrase, "Yes, but how big is his danda?" (slang for penis)
- Mr "Everything Comes From India" - A man who insists that just about everything comes from India or was invented by Indians, including William Shakespeare, Cliff Richard (who was actually born in India and is of Indian descent), Leonardo da Vinci, most English words: (veranda, shampoo, conditioner), the British Royal Family (all except Prince Charles, whom he claims to be African, due to the size of his ears), and Superman (who is apparently Indian as he has two jobs, a bad haircut and can run faster than a train). In one short sketch, he was found in a bookshop, transferring books from the English and Chinese Literature sections to the Indian Literature section.
- The Coopers (Kapoors) and Robinsons (Rabindaraths) - Two snobbish nouveau riche couples who claim to be entirely English with no Indian blood whatsoever, but often give themselves away by using each other's real names, mispronouncing words or silly mistakes such as serving guests some lemonade with sliced courgettes in it. They refuse to acknowledge their real ethnic background under any circumstances, and become very upset whenever anyone refers to them as foreigners.
- "Skipinder, The Punjabi Kangaroo" - Redubbed footage of the old television show about Skippy the Bush Kangaroo, with the kangaroo being "voiced over" so that he can talk. Skippy, who now calls himself Skipinder, is always drunk, speaks in a Punjabi accent and frequently insults the other characters.
- The Bhangra Muffins - Two teenage boys who are always trying to be "cool" and attract girls, but failing miserably. In their sketches, they seem to be having an intelligent discussion, albeit in their own "street" language, but it is then shown that they are doing something nonsensical or are in the wrong place (example: in one episode they are waiting in the audience of what they think is a taping of The Oprah Winfrey Show, leading to a conversation about the purpose of television and talk shows in society, but then the show starts and they find out they have in fact gone to an opera performance by mistake.) Their catchphrase is "kiss my chuddies, man!" - "chuddies" a reference to underwear.
- Chunky Lafanga ("lafanga" means "hooligan") - A Bollywood superstar (probably based on Bollywood actor Chunky Pandey) who is now trying to make his name in Western cinema, but manages to turn every production he appears in, from an adaptation of a Jane Austen novel to an Australian soap opera, into a Bollywood musical.
- Mrs "I can make it at home for nothing!" - A mother who is shown going out and about with her family and repeatedly decries various things as wasteful, saying "I can make it at home for nothing!" For some reason she always seems to need "a small aubergine" to be able to do so. She was inspired by Nina Wadia's mother.
- Meena and Beena, the Minx Twins - Two teenage chav girls who complain about unwanted male attention and shout out rude comments at the men who walk past them, with the camera then pulling back to reveal why the men are there (e.g. in one sketch the girls are shown to have gone to a gay bar, in another they are standing outside a men's public toilet.) During one episode they actually managed to get dates, but insisted on leaving because the men did not offer to buy them a drink. Their catchphrase is, "In your dreams, buddy!". This can be varied, for example, in a Christmas sketch, when acting as santa's assistants, they say to a little boy, "In your dreams, very small buddy!" Nina Wadia said on the BBC Documentary Comedy Connections that Meera Syal was behind the creation of these characters and is one of Nina's favourites on the series.
- Guru Maharishi Yogi (based on Maharishi Mahesh Yogi) - A man who in different sketches is either shown giving completely made up lectures about Hinduism, or going door to door saying silly things to the people who answer. During his symposia, he claims to be translate words of wisdom from original Sanskrit, but they are actually random gibberish in English. In one sketch he resorts to handing out flyers for a double glazing company when a householder doesn't want to hear him talk about religion. He also has two similarly dodgy guru friends, with whom he likes to play board games.
- Smita Smitten, Showbiz Kitten (from series 2, her name becomes 'Smeeta Smitten') - A reporter who claims to be at a movie premiere or showbiz party, but turns out to be somewhere very ordinary, like queueing outside a video shop or public bathroom. She is then refused entrance, so to distract the viewers, she finishes by saying "Look, there goes Art Malik!" and running out of the picture. She was once in a chip shop, and Art Malik was there, but she didn't recognise him. After making a fool of herself, she tried to get out of the situation by pointing to Art outside the shop, and 'running after him'. Fellow character Chunky Lafunga is the only "celebrity" she has ever managed to interview. In Series 2 she loses her job and resorts to presenting her TV show from different rooms of her mother's house, then in Series 3 produces a variety of pilot shows for a possible new TV series, with disastrous results.
- Uncle Fixer - A man who shows up to greet different family members in unexpected places, such as at a funeral or during a kidney transplant operation, and then asks why they didn't come to him for help with the arrangements, because "I could have got it for you much cheaper!". He often says "Don't Worry" or "Don't Insult me!" when people decline his help. He usually destroys what was the topic of conversation i.e. Cash from a Cash Machine and Kidney.
- The Sindi Dolls - Two wealthy young women who act like Valley Girl stereotypes, forever showing off about the number of credit cards they have and how much their fathers have spent on them. The are nearly always seen in an expensive clothes shop, which may or may not be Harvey Nichols and are forever berating and physically assaulting the sales assistants who are attending to them. In series three, they have (reluctantly) gotten themselves jobs as air stewardesses, and reveal to the flight passengers during the emergency procedure instructions that they only took the jobs because of the glamour factor. In one notable sketch they state their opinion that a friend of theirs should make more effort with her appearance, "leprosy or no leprosy".
- "Will I, bollocks!" (Ironic Granny) - This sketch follows an old woman who is continually causing trouble for her family, then when she is asked to do something to help with the situation, she replies "Will I, bollocks!" In the last of her sketches, she collapses at home and her son-in-law offers to perform mouth to mouth resuscitation but when his wife asks him if he will really do it, he says "Will I bollocks".
- The Delhi Students - These sketches are about four Indian village young adults who go to England and describe their experiences. They parody the way westerners act when they visit India (in one sketch, they remark on the number of beggars on the streets, they say that you can't eat meat off the street, in reference to a McDonalds burger, and they say that you must drink water from a bottle, as others could be dangerous).
- Bhangraman - A parody of superheroes in general, he always saves the day using his "uncanny bhangra powers", which usually consist of bhangra dance moves. While he speaks entirely in Punjabi, every other character understands him perfectly. His battle cry is "chaakde phaate", meaning 'raise the floorboards'. His arch rival and super villan is the Morris Dancer.
- The Reporter - A reporter constantly tries to do "exposés" on British Asians. He often runs into Mr. Ishaq, a Muslim man whom the reporter interviews. The reporter assumes that Mr. Ishaq is "up to something", ultimately being disappointed when Mr. Ishaq reveals that he is doing something quite ordinary.
- The Buddhist Exterminator - A Buddhist monk that is often hired in jobs that will force him to kill living beings, as an exterminator, a mafia murderer and even as surgeon (where he found how to kill cancer cells), which conflicts with his religion and enables him to do the job, being surprised that people would want him to kill. As an exterminator, he was determined to make the mice reflect upon their actions until they reach Nirvana. He has an "exterminator" friend that would make the mice to reincarnate as pebbles, "which are much easier to catch". His catchline is "Kill?! No, we mustn't kill".
- 1996 June/July (4 eps)
- 1997 July/August (4 eps)
- 1998 May/June (6 eps)
- 1998 Jan/Feb - Series 1 (6 eps)
- 1998 Nov/Dec - Series 2 (6 eps)
- 1998 December - Christmas Special
- 1999 Theatre Tour
- 2000 Feb/Mar - Series 3 (6 eps)
- 2001 February - "Back Where They Came From" (Parts filmed in India)
Cast & Crew
Directors & Producers
- Gareth Carrivick (director)
- Nick Wood (director)
- Christine Gernon (director)
- Anil Gupta (producer)
- Jon Plowman (executive producer)
- Sanjeev Bhaskar
- Anil Gupta
- Sanjeev Kohli
- Richard Pinto
- Sharat Sardana
- Meera Syal
- Nina Wadia