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Badasses in History: Winston Churchill

Badasses in History: Winston Churchill

The study of history is, in many ways, the study of humanity. From kings and heroes to slaves and cowards, history provides us with an unrivaled view into the inner workings of the human mind. But never has any historical figure kicked quite as much ass as Winston Churchill.

Let’s start off by investigating what the man had to work with. On the pros side, he was born the grandson of the seventh Duke of Marlborough. Aristocratic blood? Check. He was enrolled in the best schools. Education? Check. He was a brilliant politician. Acumen? Check. Oh, he also beat the Nazis. Awesomeness? Check.

Now for the cons. That school he was in? He hated it and got bad grades. Good GPA? Not check. He was fat…and rude…and a bit of a drunk. Winning personality? Not check. At the time of his political achievements, he faced a weak parliament and a weaker aristocracy. Strong support system for confronting foreign difficulties and interacting with the power-hungry, vicious Nazis? Not check.

So to recap: Winston Churchill was born rich, but balked at any attempts to civilize him beyond what was required to find and light cigars, and—who could forget?— jimmy open the liquor cabinet. He then went off to the Royal Military College where he had the option of enrolling in either the cavalry or the infantry. He chose the cavalry. Why? Because it had a lower grade requirement and he hated math. Here was a man who had his priorities straight.

At that point, his father asked that he transfer to the infantry, to which I can only presume Winston replied: “Suck it.” Whatever his exact words, he stayed in the cavalry for some time until he got bored—again I can only assume because he was too bitching at everything for his regiment to handle—at which point he became a journalist and war-correspondent. Even more awesome (if such a thing could be possible) Churchill then went to Cuba to follow a conflict between Spain and the Cuban rebels, where he learned about cigars. His response was reportedly to blow smoke in the face of the Spanish General Ramon de Not-As-Mind-Blowing-as-Churchill. As history has taught us, this ended the war then and there.

But while his early life was too grandiose for words, it was Churchill’s later life that cemented his place as history’s greatest badass. You see, Churchill’s greatest quality was this: he was fucking hilarious. Yes, Churchill played a central role in the defeat of the Axis powers and the preservation of Great Britain beyond the bombing of London. But all of that nonsense pales in comparison to his rollicking contributions to insult comedy.

Though Churchill’s insults can -- and do -- fill entire books, some of them stick as even more groin-grabbingly funny than others. When asked about his opinion of Neville Chamberlain (who some of you may remember as the dickwad who tried appeasing the Nazis as British Prime Minister before Churchill), Old Winston had this to say: “He looked at foreign affairs through the wrong end of a municipal drainpipe.” In other words: “That dude is a shitface.”

On cultured people, tubby had this to say: “Cultured people are merely the glittering scum which floats upon the deep river of production.” What a baller.

Still, as funny as Churchill was in general, he had two particular adversaries with whom he had supreme moments of insulting hilarity: Lady Nancy Astor, member of Parliament and second-class comic, and playwright George Bernard Shaw.

We’ll start with Shaw. Both intellectuals (Shaw of the kind that actually does things of artistic and literary merit, and Churchill of the kind that makes fun of those things), the two often enjoyed exchanging witticisms. Shaw, no real fan of Churchill’s, thought it might be funny to send Winston a pair of tickets to Shaw’s newest play, Major Barbara. Accompanying the tickets was a short note: "Have reserved two tickets for opening night. Bring a friend, if you have one."

Now, at this point, any lesser man would have accepted the truly hilarious burn at face value. Not Chubby Churchill. He wired back—in a moment where even God himself spit out his top ramen in laughter—"Cannot possibly come first night, will attend second, if there is one."

Awesome.

Onto adversary number two: Lady Astor. The two had a long legacy of mocking one another, Astor for Churchill’s rampant alcoholism and obesity, Churchill for Astor’s general bitchiness. Who can forget this exchange:

Astor: If you were my husband, I’d poison your tea. Churchill: Madam, if you were my wife, I’d drink it.

Again, awesome. But these clashes of wits pale in comparison to a later insult. One particular evening, Churchill came to a party visibly drunk and irate, so much so that a Mrs. Bessie Braddock quite publicly remarked, “Mr. Churchill, you are drunk!” But Winston, drunk or not, knew a challenge when he heard one. After shouting “Challenge Accepted!” he looked the offending woman in the eye (or chest, as Churchill was not one for manners) and said: "Yes, and you, Madam, are ugly but tomorrow I shall be sober and you will still be ugly."

So yeah, no one rocked the house like Winston.

Some more Churchill insults for your consideration:

  • Young man (after seeing Churchill leave the bathroom without washing his hands): At Eton they taught us to wash our hands after using the toilet. Churchill: At Harrow they taught us not to piss on our hands.
  • [Referring to Arthur Balfour] If you wanted nothing done at all, Balfour was the man for the job.
  • Churchill: Madam, would you sleep with me for five million pounds? Woman: My goodness, Mr. Churchill… Well, I suppose… we would have to discuss terms, of course… Churchill: Would you sleep with me for five pounds? Woman: Mr. Churchill, what kind of woman do you think I am?! Churchill: Madam, we’ve already established that. Now we are haggling about the price.

And now for the winner:

  • [Referring to Charles De Gaulle] He looks like a female llama who has been surprised in the bath.

-Josh Kopel

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