The other night on the Frotcast, we played clips from a Swedish television show that had us cackling harder than just about anything else that’s ever made us cackle really hard like jackasses. So many people asked me about it that I thought I’d explain. Long story short, the clips came from a Swedish sketch comedy show called Grotesco, and the clip in question was from a sketch called “The Trial,” which you can watch below. It’s a full-length parody of a southern court show (think In the Heat of the Night or Matlock) performed entirely in semi-mock English that has the characters spouting lines like:
“I gibba-la-gibb the Microsoft Word to district attorney Poland Barker.”
“Thank you, your onion. Ladies gentleman and uh extras on the curby.”
“Why are we here today? Why aren’t we at home with our mammals watching razeball?”
The Swedish actors of course all know English and the mistranslations are kind of the point, and that makes it even better, or at least, more brilliant. It’s some of the most high-level absurdist humor I’ve ever seen. The closest analogy I can think of is that it’s kind of for us what “Bee Man” on The Simpsons must be for Mexicans — a parody of us in a parody of our language. Except a lot more brilliant. And with more blackface. SCUZE ME, YOUR ONIONS, JUST MAKIN’ SHITCHAT.
The actual show starts at the 34-second mark.
“They say a man can walk a thousand miles and still don’t know his butt from behind. Well I say a man can walk two yards and find the crown la-crue, and that’s a fruit.”
The entire thing is insanely quotable, but some of my favorite lines included:
“I ain’t talkin’ to you, Billy Bob! I’m talkin’ to this here Danny Glover.” [2:10]
“Mr. Lumbert! Do you wear a night gown?” “Well right now I don’t but sometimes I do!” [3:32]
And of course:
“Erection, Your Onion! He’s bonding with the wit knees!” [3:59]
Even if they had the same idea, I don’t think a native speaker would be able to produce gibberish this glorious. I’m sure the Grotesco guys all know English as well as most Americans, but I think it takes a certain cognitive distance from the material where you can still hear the words as sounds divorced from their meanings to produce nonsense this lovely. Someone who spoke English as a first language could write something like this, but I think we’d be going for the huge laugh turns of phrase the whole time, like “sh*thouse lumberjack”, without putting the time in on the less overt stuff, and it’d feel contrived. And no one likes contrived gibberish, not even kangaroos. Click on for part 2.
Some of my favorites from this one:
“Gentlemen? If you don’t mind, I’m gonna take my snap.” [1:03]
“Are you ready to make your final stains?” “Yes, we are, Your Onion.” (*farts*) [1:45]
“Mr. Barker, you forked this district attorney’s orifice, connect?”[2:28]
“Doesn’t it? Or does it in fact prove that the band stand of the men bran has taken the stand, of Mr. Poland Barker, Judge Rainal Carvil, Sh*thouse Lumberjack…” [4:00]
“No furry restions.” [5:23]
“We find the defendant, Not Filthy.”
I know I shouldn’t be as amused by gibberish as I am, but I’m pretty sure I could watch 10 straight hours of this.
Additional Trivia: Henrik Dorsin, the actor who plays Attorney Hackencrack, is set to play the Gervais/Carell role on the Swedish adaptation of The Office.
Next, it’s a short parody of Seinfeld.
“A food court is not a place for kangaroos! Think about it.”
Unfortunately, that seems to be about all we’ve got for gibberish-English parodies. They have a few other sketches with English parts, but as far as I can tell, no other ones with gibberishized English. And that is a shame. Grotesco’s other claim to fame is performing at the 2009 Eurovision song contest, with Micheal Lindgren playing a Sacha Cohen-esque, Croatian-Russian techno DJ called “DJ Trexx.” A Google-translated wiki page describes the event thusly:
This was followed by a performance by a Russian remix of Tinker Bell (Russian Bass Lovers Remix) with several Russian clichés, such as an army corps, Russian dolls, kosackdansare and Tetris , the Hymn to the Soviet Union and Korobejniki (Tetris melody) woven into it. The text contained fictional Russian-sounding phrases like “Do svidanija Putin,” which means “goodbye Putin “and” Na zdorovje Lenin “which means” bowl Lenin “.
“Bowl Lenin?” YOU TAKE THAT BACK!
Finale Tingaliin prompted protests by Anatoly Kargapolov at the Russian embassy in Stockholm , who said “It is inconceivable to us that Sweden can show such ignorance and distorted picture of Russia”. “The portrayal is disgusting.” The statement was made in an interview with newspaper The Local . The following days highlighted the controversy in television news, radio broadcasts and evening and morgonpress.
Melodifestivalen Project Manager Ronnie Lans Minister later apologized and sent flowers to the embassy, but the Swedish Television withdrew the apology.
That sounds like it would be awesome if I understood half of what was going on. Especially the part about Swedish Television rescinding their apology. Officially rescinding an official apology is a pretty gangster move. Tiger Woods should’ve done that. “If I’ve bought one thing with that $500 million I paid in alimony, it’s honesty, so guess what, I’m not sorry I banged all those sluts.”
Here’s a short clip of DJ Trexx. I know nothing of Croatians. Still kinda funny.
Here’s another one in English, called “Marines.” Unfortunately, it doesn’t have as much gibberish English and isn’t quite as funny. It does, however, have some more aggressive blackface and a Michelle Rodriguez-esque character named “Fajita,” which I enjoyed.
There’s another, less-funny Grotesco clip about learning English here, but that’s more or less it for sketches non-Swedes would understand.
Are you Swedish? Do you know more about Grotesco than me, or where we can find more gibberish sketches? If so, please email us. I need more Swedish gibberish English in my life.