Private EyePrivate Eye is a British satirical magazine, founded in 1961 by Christopher Booker, Peter Cook, Richard Ingrams and Willie Rushton during the 1960s UK Satire Boom.
Private Eye specialises in gossip, often of a scurrilous nature, about the misdeeds of the powerful and famous.
The magazine has a number of running jokes and jokes accessible only to those in the know. The phrase "Ugandan relations", for example, is a Private Eye euphemism for extra-marital sex, Queen Elizabeth II is always referred to as "Brenda", and "tired and emotional" was a phrase used to describe the drunken stupor in which 1960s Labour party Cabinet Minister George Brown was discovered one night, and which has now entered common parlance. Some running jokes are more understandable, for example any fictional quotations from the police are attributed to "Inspector Knacker of the Yard", a clear reference to knackers yards, where old horses would go to be turned into fertiliser. The magazine itself is frequently referred to as an "organ", providing endless possibilities for sexual innuendo.
Running jokes in the magazine include such staples as St Cake's school, the notoriously underperforming football club Neasden F.C, the solicitors Sue, Grabbit and Runne, and Lord Gnome who is purported to be the proprietor of the magazine and is modelled on an amalgam of newspaper magnates.
The magazine also collects (under the title Colemanballs, after the BBC commentator David Coleman) the famous gaffes of media commentators, an example of which being the test match meeting between the cricketers Peter Willey and Michael Holding, famously announced by Brian Johnston as "The batsman's Holding, the bowler's Willey". Since the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attacks Private Eye has also had an occasional "Warballs" column for gaffes relating to the "war on terrorism" and the 2003 Iraq war. See also: damaging quotation.
A photograph of journalist, broadcaster and publisher Andrew Neil, dressed in a vest and baseball cap, embracing a much younger woman, ran over several consecutive editions, after it became known that he found the picture embarrassing. It still surfaces from time to tiem, on the flimsiest of excuses.
The director and satirist Jonathan Miller, once described the Eye's editorial conference as like watching naked, anti-semitic public schoolboys in a changing room, flicking wet towels at defenceless victims.
Besides the jokes and gossip, it also has a section of investigative journalism, much of it provided in recent years by Paul Foot, and has been responsible for uncovering a number of major political scandals in the UK; it was the first outlet to actually name the Kray twins as the gang leaders terrorising the London underworld in the 1960s. It has been repeatedly sued for libel by the rich and powerful, and lost on several occasions: the magazine was only kept running by appealing to readers for money to pay the legal costs and damages awarded against them.
The current editor is Ian Hislop.
Targets of the Eye's satire have included:
The original, and still commonest, use of the term private eye is to mean private investigator; the magazine's name derives from this. See Crime fiction and Detective fiction for details.