The 10 funniest ever Yes Minister moments

Derek Foulds, Paul Eddington and Nigel Hawthorne in Yes Minister - Rex/Shutterstock
Derek Foulds, Paul Eddington and Nigel Hawthorne in Yes Minister - Rex/Shutterstock

Following the news of Yes Minister writer Antony Jay's death at the age of 86, we look back at ten of the most memorable moments from the series

1 Jim Hacker takes office

In the political sitcom’s first ever episode, Jim Hacker (Paul Eddington) is made Minister for Administrative Affairs and meets his Principal Private Secretary, Bernard Woolley (Derek Fowlds), and Permanent Secretary, Sir Humphrey Appleby (Nigel Hawthorne).

Bernard shows the Minister round his office: “It used to be said there were two kinds of chairs to go with two kinds of ministers: one sort that folds up instantly and the other sort that goes round and round in circles.”

2 Political animals

Hacker meets animal rights protesters.

Activist: “There is nothing special about man, Mr Hacker. We’re not above nature. We’re all part of it. Men are animals too, you know.”

Hacker: “I know that, I’ve just come from the House of Commons.”

Yes, Minister - BBC
Yes, Minister - BBC

3 Negative discrimination

Inspired by his wife, the Minister decides to do something about the number of women in the Civil Service.

Sir Humphrey: “Surely there aren’t all that many?”

Bernard: “The Minister thinks we need more.”

Sir Humphrey: “But we’re up to quota on typists, cleaners and tea ladies.”

Hacker: “I’m talking about senior civil servants. We need female mandarins.”

Bernard: “Sort of satsumas?”

4 Drinks Cabinet

The Home Secretary is arrested for drink-driving after causing a lorry loaded with nuclear waste to crash.

Hacker: “He’ll have to resign.”

Sir Humphrey: “Alas, yes.”

Hacker: “What on earth will happen to him?”

Sir Humphrey: “Well, I gather he was as drunk as a lord, so after a discreet interval, they’ll probably make him one.”

5 A matter of honours

Bernard explains the abbreviations for various Foreign Office honours.

Bernard: “Of course, in the service, CMG stands for Call Me God. And KCMG for Kindly Call Me God.”

Hacker: “What about GCMG?”

Bernard: “God Calls Me God.”

6 Lies, damned lies…

The Minister is interviewed by the BBC.

Hacker: “This government believes in reducing bureaucracy.”

Ludovic Kennedy: “Well, figures that I have here say that your department’s staff has risen by 10 per cent.”

Hacker: “Certainly not. I believe the figure is much more like 9.97.”

Kennedy: “How are you going to meet the challenge of reform?”

Hacker: “It’s far too early to give detailed proposals. After all, I have just come here direct from Number 10.”

Kennedy: “From Number 9.97, perhaps?”

7 Briefs encounter

Hacker is about to face a Select Committee hearing. Sir Humphrey has prepared copious briefing notes for him.

Hacker: “Why can’t ministers go anywhere without briefs?”

Bernard: “It’s in case they get caught with their trousers down.”

8 Industrial language

Sir Humphrey secretly encourages health workers to go on strike.

Union official: “But what about the Minister?”

Sir Humphrey: “The Minister doesn’t know his ACAS from his NALGO.”

9 Better out-tray than in-tray

When the Minister is inundated with correspondence, Bernard offers to take it off his hands by sending “official replies”.

Bernard: “I’ll just say, ‘The Minister has asked me to thank you for your letter’ and something like ‘The matter is under consideration’, or even ‘under active consideration’.”

Hacker: “What’s the difference?”

Bernard: “Well, ‘under consideration’ means we’ve lost the file, ‘under active consideration’ means we’re trying to find it.”

10 The Euro-sausage

The Minister has been in talks with the European Commissioner about standardising the names of foodstuffs.

Bernard: “They can’t stop us eating the British sausage, can they?”

Hacker: “No, but they can stop us calling it a sausage. Apparently it’s got to be called the Emulsified High-Fat Offal Tube.”

Bernard: “And you swallowed it?”