Hotels have long been the butt of jokes. From the inn in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, via Regency romps, any number of Victorian hotels and boarding houses, through the seaside landlady, to modern corporate luxury hotels, the accommodations and hospitality industries have been an easy target for jokes. That’s because most of us stay in hotels at some time or other.
I’m from England and I was brought up in the 1960s. Back then,the family holiday of choice would be a week by the seaside. Somewhere like Blackpool, Scarborough or Tenby. Bucket and spade, rain, soggy chips and saucy postcards. In these modern times, we stay in hotel accommodation much more often than our ancestors. Even our Moms and Pops. No wonder we find things to laugh at.
I have stayed in hotels that would make anyone laugh. There was one in the west of Ireland during the 1970s that was billed as “the most modern building in these islands” or some such. Everything was custom-built and the media lauded it as the height of cutting edge hospitality.
Even so, the soup in the restaurant was from a packet and still crunchy, the dessert was frozen solid and inedible, and no one was able to work the charging system. When we mentioned these slight problems to the waiter, a cartoon chef emerged from the kitchen, complete with big bushy moustache and Â meat cleaver. Worst even than the food (and I won’t even mention the rock-hard egg and uncooked bacon at breakfast), Â was the fact that the heating was stuck on “full” all night, with the windows welded shut. The next morning, the manager was in reception, dressed in his frock coat, receiving complaints from a line of guests and handing out free stay vouchers.
“Yes, I know, it’s terrible,” he kept saying. “I really do apologise. We’ve only just opened, and there are one or two teething problems to iron out,” and so onâ€¦
The very best series about hotel mistakes and errors must be John Cleese’s excellent Fawlty Towers, which first aired on the BBC in the 1970s. Although only 12 episodes were ever made, it has long been seen as a comedy classic. The reason those of us in the hotel business find it so funny is that it’s so close to real life. For example, the manager may not be a snob and a bigot, but chances are the rest of the staff will consider him stuffy and ridiculous. If not, they’re almost certainly being kind.
Here is a brief section from an episode from the first series, first broadcast on 10th October, 1975. Episode 4 is titled The Hotel Inspectors and is one of the funniest extracts ever. It has been said that if you don’t find the series funny, then either you have never stayed in a hotel or else you’ve got no sense of humour.