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The Fast Show is etched on people’s memories as being the catchphrase-centric mid 90’s sketch show that spawned unforgettable characters such as Ted and Ralph, Swiss Toni and Colin Hunt.
The programme’s influence on the British public was huge and the catchphrases are still used today – who doesn’t know someone who has mumbled they were ‘very, very drunk’ at the time? What can we really learn from the popular BBC program? Would the characters personality traits help or hinder your business?
Swiss Toni was the stereotypical car salesman: stinking rich, sharp suit and a lousy attitude to women. His signature rapport with long-suffering (and often disgusted) colleague Paul was to subtly brag about his sexual exploits, often likening his experience to that of whatever the conversation happened to be about.
“Making a cup of coffee is like making love to a beautiful woman. It’s got to be hot. You’ve got to take your time. You’ve got to stir… gently and firmly. You’ve got to grind your beans until they squeak. And then you put in the milk.”
Lesson learned – the only place sexual innuendo is even remotely acceptable is a Carry On film. Sex-laden musings and thoughts should be kept firmly to the confines of your depraved – or in many cases deprived – brain, and have no place being spouted in an office environment.
Spraying a scent on passers-by then commenting on their looks and appearance was the ‘no offence’ woman’s tactic to engage customers, often to their shock and disgust. Always insulting, the phrase ‘no offence’ became the word du jour for attempting to cover up bitchy comments.
“I’m guessing you’re divorced, if you’ve let yourself lapse in the feminine hygiene department… no offence.”
Lesson learned – don’t be rude to your customers, don’t make assumptions and don’t judge books by covers. Take the time to engage with your customer, preferably not by spritzing them with your favourite fragrance.
Possibly the most recognisable of the Fast Show’s characters, Ken and Kenneth owned a high-end, bespoke tailors in which they often felt “radiant”. Their customers were usually casual browsers and always subjected to Ken and Kenneth’s highly inquisitive and often innuendo laden nature.
“Were you out with a lady last night, Sir?” “Did she want it, Sir?” “Ooh suit you, Sir!” Lesson learned – know your audience and understand your approach may not be the right tact. Badgering and pestering a client is also a big no-no, and will undoubtedly not lead to any repeat business.
The story of 30-something painfully shy aristocrat Ralph and his love for his 50-something Irish housekeeper Ted warmed hearts across the nation. Unable to fully articulate his burning desire, Ralph would nervously approach Ted and monologue before reaching the subject he actually wanted to talk to Ted about.
Often these ramblings would be to find out about Ted’s interests or invite him to events, for example “Do you like, umm, do you like Tina Turner at all, Ted”.
Conversations often ended with Ted – also shy and repressing his true feelings – only able to say “I wouldn’t know about that, Sir” or make excuses about tending to the “drainage in the lower field”.
Lesson learned – don’t be afraid to speak your mind and express yourself. If you choose to bumble along in the business world too scared to voice your inner-most thoughts, you’ll get nowhere.
Presenter of mid-afternoon countryside show ‘Country Matters’, Bob Fleming was unaware of his hacking cough and how it affected his presenting style. Whilst his television program had longevity, executives soon tired of the predictable “Cough Excuse me, cough, it’s cough Bob Fleming here…” scenario and axed poor Bob’s show.
Lesson learned – plain and simple: do not go to work if you are unwell. There’s nothing worse than coughing and spluttering over colleagues. They won’t thank you for it.
Colin Hunt is the office joker, known for his relentlessly unfunny chatter and conversation. Colin – like many office dwellers who focus solely on jokes or ‘banter’ – lacks social awareness and an ability to communicate properly.
Often mocked and teased, Colin desperately wanted to fit in and be liked by his peers. He even went as far as to colour his penis in fluorescent marker and wiggle it about in the dark – all in the name of making people laugh. Poor Colin.
Lesson learned – there are two things to think about here: one, never get your sexual anatomy out in the workplace and two, be yourself. People will like you a lot more for it.
Fast Show characters Simon and Lindsay are extremely passionate offroaders with one major downfall: they’re not very good at it. An example being their car (nicknamed The Beast) won’t start or gets stuck in mud whenever they’re ready to hit the road. Their false starts don’t deter the inspired duo and Simon and Lindsay are always feeling ‘gripped!’ and ‘sorted!’ for their next offroading adventure.
Lesson learned – if you have a passion for something follow it until you physically can’t do it anymore. You might be the worst offroader/knitter/baker/computer programmer in the world but if that’s the one thing you feel you’re meant to do, keep at it. It’s an amazing feeling to find something you’re passionate about so don’t let others put you off your journey.
Those who don't learn from history are condemned to repeat it. If you don’t have an understanding of why businesses fail, your startup is doomed.
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