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Culture Shock

Marzo 2007
Ospite assiduo di Zelig, John Sloan è un comico che fa satira sulle differenze tra italiani e inglesi. Ma con noi ha parlato seriamente.

di Mark Worden

File audio:

John Sloan
John Sloan

Speaker: Mark Worden (Standard British accent)

Fans of the Italian TV show Zelig will have seen John Sloan in action. In a series of brief monologues this British comedian has presented his thoughts on the differences between Italian and British culture. Such was the positive reaction that Sloan has taken this theme and written a bilingual comedy, Culture Shock, which opens in Milan this month.
Culture Shock follows two young Englishmen who head to Milan while, as a parallel, it chronicles the adventures of two young Italians in London. When John Sloan met with Speak Up we asked him what he liked most about life in Italy:

John Sloan (Standard British accent):

A friend of mine in the first few weeks that I was in Italy, my mentor, because he had been in Italy for a while, said to me that “Italy is like a luna park, like a fairground, because you can have a lot of fun here, if you know where the rides are.” I didn’t know what he meant at first, but I do now, you know. They know life’s short and they live it. I think that we could learn from them definitely here because in England it’s... everything is very punctual and on time and... but I don’t know, we’re missing something. They’ve understood something we haven’t, definitely.


And, as the late John Haycraft observed in his book Italian Labyrinth, the Italians, unlike the British, don’t need alcohol in order to relax:

John Sloan:

Italians, when they drink alcohol become, for the most part, very funny, and very... very good company, you know. Unfortunately, in England a lot of people drink and become extremely negative. I don’t miss that, that’s the number one thing I don’t miss about England because I can go out here, Italians can have a beer... drink wine, whatever, and I’m never worried about getting into a fight or... whereas back in Birmingham, in my city, you’re never really relaxed when you go out because, at a certain time, people drink so much that they get aggressive, even members of my own family, but I don’t miss that about England at all. What I do miss is that if somebody steals my car, that the policemen will find it! I miss that!


Indeed Italy does have some negative aspects:

John Sloan:

The worst thing for me is the sexism in the media. Women are generally portrayed as dumb, I don’t know, the only intelligent people seem to be the men and the women are quite clearly just beautiful objects to be looked at, but not to be listened to... I don’t know, I find the attitudes to women very primitive, you know, the attitudes to women can be primitive and very sexist. And it’s a shame. I have a daughter here in Italy and this is why it kind of worries me a little.
I hope that the women in Italy take a big step forward, like the women in England did.
Some TV shows here, at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, you couldn’t show on British TV at 11 at night, and even then, they would blow up the TV stations in England, if you had a half-naked woman coming out on roller skates with the football scores, like I saw a couple of weeks ago. They would blow up the TV station and rightly so!

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comedian - comico.

who head to - che vanno a.

fairground - luna park.

the rides - le attrazioni.

we’re missing something - ci perdiamo qualcosa.

I don’t miss that - di questo non sento la mancanza.

about getting into a fight - di finire a fare a botte.

dumb - sceme.

it’s a shame - è un peccato.

it kind of worries me a little - un po’ mi preoccupa.

take a big step forward - facciano un grosso passo avanti.

they would blow up - farebbero saltare in aria.

football scores - risultati di calcio.

rightly so - giustamente.