IT’S NOT been an easy year to be funny. However, in a 2020 filled with farmer-unfriendly weather, pandemics and turning 60, Jeremy Clarkson has managed to maintain the streak of humour that makes him the world’s most famous motoring journalist.
And due to the fact that press deliveries of cars were halted for a number of months during the coronavirus lockdown, he’s been talking about a lot more than horsepower, his hatred electric cars and how Vauxhall is the most boring car maker in the world. Indeed, with his farming column in The Sunday Times Magazine we’ve been introduced to a whole new genre of Clarkson witticisms.
Here’s a round up of Jeremy Clarkson’s funniest quotes from 2020.
1. Clarkson on the diesel Mercedes G-class
“The only reason you’d buy a G-wagen is its full-fatness, and you don’t get that from a diesel. What are you saying about yourself: that you care about the planet? Really? So you’ve bought a 2½-ton tank that runs on a fuel that kills old ladies in their beds? You might as well try to win hearts and minds by hosting a world turtle-strangling competition.”
Mercedes-Benz G350d AMG Line review, January 19
2. Clarkson on Newquay (and posh students)
“Until quite recently, public-school kids who wished to practise the art of being sick while simultaneously catching chlamydia would finish their final A-levels and head immediately to the Cornish fishing port of Newquay.
“This meant that every summer the town became a brawling mass of floppy-haired Humphreys and tottering young Humphreyettas, emerging from their underwear into the dizzyingly complicated world of being a drink-obsessed northern European adult.”
BMW M8 Competition Coupé review , January 26
3. Clarkson on lateness
“If I am delayed by forces beyond my control — by which I mean my girlfriend, Lisa — then I start to shudder. I have panic attacks. I stand by the front door, with sweat pouring down my forehead, begging her to please hurry up. She will try to explain that when people hosting a dinner party say eight o’clock, they mean 20 past. But I don’t get that. If they’d meant 20 past, they’d have said 20 past. One of these days, the pressure is going to make me faint.”
Kia XCeed review, February 9
4. Clarkson on smart motorways (and the environment)
“To try to make the plan look modern and woke, they told us that journeys would be completed more quickly if the hard shoulder were used when traffic was heavy, and that this would be good for the environment. And naturally everyone bought into that because anything that’s good for the environment is good, full stop. If they told us murdering was good for the environment, we’d all pop round to our neighbour’s house with a baseball bat.”
Skoda Kamiq review, February 16
5. Clarkson on his early days at (old, old) Top Gear
“Without permission, I decided instead to review the new Lamborghini Diablo. I therefore booked the luxurious Lucknam Park hotel near Bath to use as a backdrop and the nearby Castle Coombe racetrack to use as a location. For props, I got hold of a Miura and two Countachs, and for a soundtrack I brought along my collection of Bad Company albums.
“I can still recall the editor’s face when he saw what I’d done. Horror didn’t even begin to cover it. As he sat watching the wacky camera angles, which had been achieved by fixing newfangled Pulnix minicameras to poles, it was as though he were watching someone murder his dog.”
Mazda CX-30 review, February 23
6. Clarkson on cookery
“I have a similar global quest to find a better eggs Benedict than the one I was given at the then Regent Hotel in Hong Kong, back in 1988. So far, it’s no dice. No one gets the simplicity right. Simplicity is always the key to my enjoyment of food. It’s why, when I cook, I never use cheese unless what I’m making is cheese on toast or a cheese sandwich. This is because cheese is a powerful flavour that sits in the pan like the Russian president sits in a room full of diplomats from former Soviet states. It’s the same story with bacon. Pop that into the mix and what you always end up with is something that tastes of bacon
“Are you not getting the delicate hints of pomegranate?”
“Nope. Just bacon.””
Cooking with Jeremy Clarkson, February 29
7. Clarkson on Sat Navs
“I used a sat-nav system the other day that, for reasons known only to the idiot who programmed it, reckoned I’d be better off avoiding the M4 and traveling through the 14th century instead. After an hour of backing up to let oncoming ox carts past, I knew it was talking nonsense.”
Hyundai i10 review, March 8
8. Clarkson on motor sport
“It’s been argued since the dawn of automotive time that if a car manufacturer wins at the track on a Sunday afternoon, its sales will increase in the showrooms on Monday morning. Fair enough. So who won the 12-hour Bathurst race in Australia recently?
“You don’t know, do you? I tried the other day to work out how many types of motor sport there are around the world, and it’s just about impossible. Certainly there are thousands, and each one comes with its own set of rules and regulations. No one could possibly be expected to follow all of them. Most of us, in fact, follow just one: Formula One. Which, I guess, is why we all drive to work every day in our Red Bulls.
“Occasionally a new ‘thing’ roars into our consciousness, such as the British Touring Car Championship in the 1990s. That was tremendous. And these days an increasing number of people who want to watch milk floats whizzing about in city centre car parks are drawn to Formula E.”
Bentley Flying Spur review, March 15
9. Clarkson on classic Lamborghinis
“This was an idea Ferruccio developed well with the car that replaced the Miura: the Countach.
“Designed so that no human being could fit inside, it had steering set in concrete, the sort of clutch God uses to start galaxies and the all-round visibility of a postbox. But in 1971 it came into the world with the impact an Apache gunship would have had at the Battle of Hastings. It was the ultimate poster car, a trailblazer for Farrah Fawcett-Majors’s right nipple and the Athena tennis girl.”
Lamborghini Aventador SVJ review, March 30
10. Clarkson on French cars
“The Citroën CX was a comfortable, spacious and very good-looking car. But it was bonkers. And you just knew that it had been hurled together in a factory with 101 lavatory facilities and a floor carpeted in bits of car that hadn’t been screwed on properly. That’s why you bought a Volvo instead.
“Other French cars I didn’t want but liked nevertheless include the Peugeot 504 convertible, the Peugeot 205 GTI, the Renault Fuego turbo and the mid-engined Renault Clio, even though that was even more bonkers than the big Citroën. It had a turning circle so vast that you needed all of Canada to do a U-turn.
“All the other thousands and thousands of cars they’ve made were school-field-trip dull, designed for French motorists who really only needed something that could be used to create a parking space. They were just bumpers with engines.”
Renault Clio review, April 05
11. Clarkson on Vauxhall
“Cars must have a sense of place. You need to know where they were made, because then you can understand why they’re the way they are. A Ferrari is obviously Italian. A Honda is obviously Japanese. A Vauxhall is obviously. . . nothing at all. It’s automotive wallpaper paste.
“. . . And, oh my God, the people who drive them. Whenever someone comes up the drive to my farm in a pick-up truck, I know he or she will be arriving to do a job of work. Shepherding. Fencing. Bulldozing. Tractoring. And whenever someone comes up the drive in a Vauxhall, I know it will be someone from the government to stop them.
“I’m not kidding. When I see an Insignia coming into the yard, I dive into a vat of slurry to escape, because it’s always someone with a clipboard and an expenses chit and an encyclopedic knowledge of the obscure rule I’ve just bent. I can’t remember what my teachers drove, but I bet all the annoying ones who enforced the rule on top buttons being done up had Vivas.”
Vauxhall Corsa review, April 12
12. Clarkson on coronavirus
In February, which was of course a different aeon, I spent a morning at the accountant’s and decided afterwards that I’d like a new car. I spent the next day with a man from Bentley, choosing options and holding swatches of leather up to the light. It was very exciting. But now I’ve got other, bigger things to think about, such as: will I be dead soon?
I used to be mildly asthmatic, I’ve smoked three-quarters of a million cigarettes and I’ve had pneumonia. Plus, by the time you read this, I’ll be 60, so if I catch the virus and have to go to hospital, I’ll be wheeled straight past the ventilators and put in the bin.
Ford Puma review, April 19
13. Clarkson on electric car tech
“You certainly get a lot of tech. It has the same “hybrid synchronous” motor as BMW fits to the i3. This means — pay attention — that within the rotor design you get the effect of permanent magnets combined with something called “reluctance”. This cuts down the need for rare-earth neodymium, which means the rotor can spin faster. I can see why James May likes electric cars so much. To him this kind of talk is way beyond erotica. It’s filth.”
Mini Electric review, May 3
14. Clarkson on his Lamborghini tractor
“It’s huge. Even the front tyres are taller than me. You have to climb up a four-rung ladder to reach the door handle and then you climb up some more to get into the cab, and then up again to get into the seat. It’s so vast, in fact, that it wouldn’t fit into my barn. I therefore had to build a new one. Every single farmer type who’s seen it says the same thing.
“’That,’ they intone with a rural tug on the flat cap, ‘is too big.’ But in my mind tractors are like penises. They cannot be too big.”
Farmer Clarkson, May 10
15. Clarkson on immigrant farm workers
“There was a brouhaha recently about a planeload of Romanians who had arrived here to pick vegetables. ‘We don’t want their diseases,’ said people in tracksuits. ‘And why can’t the jobs be given to proper English people?’
“Hmm. Farmers have been screaming for weeks about how their vegetables will die unless an army can be raised to pick them. They’ve been begging ‘proper’ English people to get off their flabby arses and help out, but apart from a few middle-class parents who’ve signed up Giles for a week on his hands and knees, the response has been pathetic.”
Farmer Clarkson, May 24
16. Clarkson on sheep
“My sheeps clocked me immediately as a chap who’s eaten too many biscuits, so when I had to move them out of one field into another, they’d do exactly as they were told. Then they’d wait for me to close the gate and walk home, before jumping over the wall, back into the first field. Did you know they can jump? Well, trust me on this: if a sheep wanted to annoy you, it could win the Grand National.
“. . . They constantly probe for any weakness in the fences. They keep tabs on my routines. And I’m bloody sure they are imperceptibly turning one of the cross-country fences into a rudimentary vaulting horse. And it’s not because they want to get out. They’re in the best field with the best grass. They just want to get on to the road so they can be hit by a bus, and burst.”
Farmer Clarkson, May 31
17. Clarkson on walking in the countryside
“People who walk in the countryside have got it into their heads that it’s a sport, like deep-sea diving and ice hockey, so they reckon it needs specialist clothing. But it isn’t a sport. It’s a pastime, like cricket or Scrabble. Which means you can do it in a suit or swimming trunks. You don’t need ski poles or materials that make a noise when you walk, and you definitely don’t need to tuck your trousers into your socks.”
“. . . Soon I saw some wildlife. It was a fat ginger youth in an anorak, walking right through the middle of a field of spring barley.
“‘Please don’t do that,’ I said as he came close. ‘What are you going to do about it?’ he replied. We discussed the options of shooting him or smashing in his face with a spade and, pretty soon, it all got rather heated.”
Farmer Clarkson, June 7
18. Clarkson on red tape
“Whenever you enter a small and unimportant country, you are expected to complete a selection of extremely detailed customs and immigration forms. And never, not once, in 30 years of travelling, have I ever filled one in properly.
“. . . Over the years I’ve been Roger Daltrey, the king of Norway, Mickey Mouse and every single one of the Mercury astronauts. My place of birth has been all of the towns in Kent and, once, Buckingham Palace. I’ve been three, 17 and 149 years old. I’ve even been a woman. And not once have I ever been caught out.
“However, when it comes to filling out British government farming forms, there can be no messing about. You have to do it properly, which is why while you were in the garden, enjoying the sunshine, I was in my office, dreaming up new and interesting ways of peeling the minister of agriculture.”
Farmer Clarkson, June 14
19. Clarkson on chainsaws
“If you have a chainsaw in your hands, you are the most powerful person in the room. Politely ask Elon Musk to sell you a majority shareholding in Tesla and he’ll tell you to go away. Ask him while revving a chainsaw and the company will be yours in a matter of moments.”
Farmer Clarkson, June 21
20. Clarkson on the importance of bees
“We have it in our heads that honeybees are important. And we are right. Being kind to bees is even more important than not throwing a plastic bottle into the sea, or not buying a Range Rover.
“. . . If [the honeybee] becomes extinct, pretty soon you’ll be killing your neighbour for a half-eaten tin of cat food and licking the moss in your cellar to stay alive.”
Farmer Clarkson, July 12
21. Clarkson on red tape (again) and Vauxhalls (again)
“Obviously, though, the government has strong views on what you can and can’t do with water that flows through, or bubbles up on, your farm. You can’t divert a watercourse any more than you can divert a footpath. And while you are allowed to use a bit of the water for irrigation, the amount is strictly controlled.
“You also need permission from a man in a Vauxhall — all government officials have Vauxhalls — if you want to change the bank, dredge, build a culvert, change a mooring, build a dam, create a weir, take a fish or park a boat.”
Farmer Clarkson, July 19
22. Clarkson on electric cars (again)
“I’ll never buy an electric car. You can drone on as much as you like about how yours does a million miles between charges and how nothing but baby hedgehogs come out of its rear end, but when you put your foot down in a carb-fed straight-six, and that long bonnet rears up slightly, you know what’s missing from your motorised vacuum cleaner. The soundtrack. And when you lift your foot up again and you get all those little crackles and pops — ooh, it does things to your hair.
“The only way you could achieve something similar with your Tesla or your Taycan is if you put your tongue on the battery terminal.”
Eagle Lightweight GT review, July 26
23. Clarkson on sheep (again)
“I decided recently that my sheep are like woolly teenage boys. They take absurd risks and feign a lack of interest in everything, while deliberately being obstructive, stubborn, rude and prone to acts of eye-rolling vandalism. I understand this. Between the ages of 15 and 17 I could not walk past a fire extinguisher without setting it off. That’s a very sheep thing to do.”
Farmer Clarkson, August 2
24. Clarkson on classic cars
“You might think that a BMW 3.0 CSL drives in much the same way as a modern-day BMW M8. It doesn’t. It drives in much the same way as your ride-on mower. If you can get it up to any kind of speed, you will find that it takes several years to slow down again. And when you get to a corner, you will notice, if you are paying attention, that you are being overtaken by your own tail-lights.”
Aston Martin DB5 review, August 9
25. Clarkson on WWTBAM
“It’s been said that, to make ends meet, farmers must diversify, and I have: later on I shall be recording the first in a new series of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?.”
Farmer Clarkson, August 16
26. Clarkson on farm clothing
“The farmer doesn’t care what you think of his shoes, which is why he wears big plastic boots with metal toecaps. He wears overalls that make him look fat. He cuts his hair by dipping it annually into his combine harvester and he continues to wear an oily tie that he found, 15 years ago, holding the leaf springs on his trailer together.”
Farmer Clarkson, September 13
27. Clarkson on grand touring
“It’s a lovely idea. All Chanel and headscarves and stopping off at the Villa d’Este hotel. But no one actually does it any more. If you want to go to Lake Como now, you charter a jet and then get some Italian Herbert in a Mercedes S-class to meet you in the general aviation terminal.”
McLaren GT review, September 20
28. Clarkson on torque steer
“There’s no getting round the fact that when you open the taps in a powerful front-wheel-drive car, the front wheels will squirm this way and that, causing what’s known as torque steer. Sometimes it’s annoying. Sometimes it’s alarming. And sometimes you’ve no idea what it is because you’ve speared head first into a tree and now you’re dead.”
Mini John Cooper Works GP review, October 11
29. Clarkson on the reality of farming
“In my mind, then, farming would mostly involve leaning on a gate while munching pensively on a delicious Dagwood Bumstead sandwich, or enjoying a late-summer sundowner from behind the wheel of an air-conditioned tractor. It’d all be a festival of crusty bread, lemonade, fresh air and cider with Rosie. Followed by a cheery harvest festival and a big fat cheque from the EU.
“I’ve learnt, however, that all of it is back-breaking and difficult, that there’s never time for a ploughman’s in the sunshine, that there’s no cupholder in my tractor for sundowners or anything else and that to be a farmer you must be an agronomist, a meteorologist, a mechanic, a vet, an entrepreneur, a gambler, a workaholic, a politician, a marksman, a midwife, a tractor driver, a tree surgeon and an insomniac.”
Farmer Clarkson, October 24
30. Clarkson on electric cars (again)
“A fridge freezer is not powered by internal combustion, which is why you have not given yours a name. There are no magazines called What Fridge Freezer? or Performance Fridge Freezer. There is no sadness when you have to throw your fridge freezer away and buy a new one. You do not talk with friends in the pub about the latest innovations in the world of fridge freezers, and no one meets on a Sunday morning to reminisce about classic fridge freezers of yesteryear.”
Peugeot e-208 review, November 1
31. Clarkson on owning a supercar
“On a normal road you cannot keep your foot down in first, second or third for more than a second because it’s like trying to fly a jet fighter through a shopping centre. And this means you are putting up with all the discomfort and all the shortcomings of that racing-car layout and then not being able to enjoy — or even use — the supercar’s raison d’être. Its power.
“Plus, if you arrive at someone’s house in a bright orange, 8ft-wide, mid-engine two-seater, they will assume they are being visited by an eight-year-old Saudi Arabian who has spent all night driving round Harrods.”
Alfaholics GTA-R review, November 8
32. Clarkson on fine dining (and Vauxhall drivers again)
“I was at my quite expensive local when one such family sat down for lunch. And straight away they were unhappy because one of the items on offer was wild Scottish langoustine with burnt lime. None of them could understand why you’d want to eat something that had been burnt. Or why the owner would want to advertise his chef’s incompetence on the menu.
“[…] When the food arrived they were even more cross because the steak was still bleeding, the chunky chips were nothing like the ‘proper’ chips they got from McDonald’s and there were leaves on the plate. Actual bloody leaves.
“Eventually the father exploded. He did a lot of shouting, explained that he wouldn’t be paying even his reduced share of the cost and drove away so vigorously that I half-expected the ladders to fall off the roof of his Vauxhall.”
Farmer Clarkson, November 15
33. Clarkson on luxury SUVs
“The Audi Q5. The BMW X3. The Lexus UX. The Porsche Cayenne. I pretty much loathe them all. They’re just saloons in platform shoes, pointlessly tall, pointlessly heavy and, as often as not, equipped with pointless off-road abilities that will never be used.
“They are, to the world of cars, what those £19.99 gardening trousers you see advertised at the back of The Daily Telegraph are to the world of fashion. Or what a petrol station pork pie is to the world of cuisine.”
Mercedes-AMG GLE review, November 23
34. Clarkson on the 2020 Land Rover Defender
“It has been designed by the company’s chief stylist, Gerry McGovern, to look like the old Defender, and I can’t see why. When Apple was designing its phone, it didn’t say: “It must be red and 8ft tall, and it must smell of urine and be full of ladies’ phone numbers.” It went ahead and did something different.”
Land Rover Defender review, November 30
35. Clarkson on speed cameras
“Now, even if you know where all the fixed cameras are, you still can’t be sure, when you come round a blind bend, that on the other side of it there won’t be a civil servant sitting in a van watching YouPorn while his camera racks up the cash faster than a charity telethon.”
Lexus LC500 review, December 13
36. Clarkson on the reality of farming (again)
“This is what neither of the people who read lefty newspapers understands: that some farmers have Range Rovers and spend half the year spraying their subsidy cheques into Val d’Isère’s cheese fondues, but the vast majority have to hold their trousers up with baler twine and burn their children at night to keep warm.”
Farmer Clarkson, December 20