Teaching Johnny Clarke

I spend a fair bit of time running workshops for teenagers. I’m in Neath and Port Talbot this week, working in a different school each day. I was at Cwrt Sart and I had a really good time with a lovely bunch from Year 8. One of my favourite exercises is based around John Cooper Clarke’s Are You The Business? It’s a poem he wrote in 1990 and was a staple of his live set when I first started watching him in the late 90s. These days it’s very rare.

The poem is a classic example of his AAA/Chorus Line format. Each line is a rhetorical question, the obvious answer is yes; a ‘stretching-to-breaking-point’ reworking of the old adage “Is the Pope Catholic?” The rhyming lines are all in a rough iambic tetrametre, which means the poem is great for teaching rhyme, metre and a heavy dose of pop culture. It’s nearly always goes down well with the students and after we have discussed it they write their own stanzas. While they do that I often have a go myself. I’ve amassed a fair few verses over the past year or so, here are my favourite ones, a remix, if you will.

NB: my last line is a reference to new(ish) JCC poem I’ve Fallen In Love With My Wife.


Are You The Business?
a modern rendition of the JCC classic, remixed by Luke Wright


Does skag get sold in dead-end towns?
Do Tory boys hate Gordon Brown?
Was Kurt Cobain a little down?
Are you the business?

Are Greece’s coffers in poor health?
Is Widdecombe still on the shelf?
Does Jeremy Clarkson like himself?
Are you the business?

Are Yanks reliant on their shrinks?
Do Essex men know what they think?
Did Amy Winehouse like a drink?
Are you the business?

Are you the bastard business?
Are bankers partial to money?
Is Snoop Doggy Dog the shiz niz?
Does Winnie the Pooh like honey?

Did Muddy Waters sing the blues?
Does Sophie Reyworth read the news?
Is Donald looking for his trews?
Are you the business?

Is Murdoch fond of Jeremy Hunt?
Are tabloid op-eds somewhat blunt?
Is Michael McIntyre a cunt?
Are you the business?

Did Emmeline Pankhurst want the vote?
Are students keen on Python quotes?
Did Lord Nelson have a boat?
Are you the business?

Is Cheryl Cole just Ashley’s beard?
Are wrestling matches engineered?
Is Morris dancing wrong and weird?
Are you the business?

Are you the Goddamn business?
Was Blair’s book full of lies?
Do fellas when piss miss?
Was Buddha fond of pies?

Is Banky’s writing on the wall?
Do stroppy teens roam shopping malls?
Is “rien” French for bugger all?
Are you the business?

Do old boys potter in their sheds?
Was Red Rum a thoroughbred?
Is OJ Simpson’s missus dead?
Are you the business?

Did Jacko love the surgeon’s knife?
Do perverts go on Second Life?
Has Johnny Clarke fallen in love with his wife?
Are you the business?


  • K October 11, 2011 at 2:33 pm


    This is a really witty poem and lead me to discover the original aswell. Looks fun so I thought I would have a go:

    Is Mila Kunis kinda fit?
    Does Barton tweet complete bullshit?
    Does Jordan show a bit of tit?
    Are you the business?

    Does Luke Wright know how to rhyme?
    Did Ronnie Biggs commit a crime?
    Is “the big society” a waste of time
    Are you the business?

    Do Clegg and Cameron share a bed?
    Is Bin Laden full of lead?
    Are Kate and Willy finally Wed?
    Are you the business?

    Are you the goddamn business?
    Are England good at cricket?
    Does nothing rhyme with business?
    Have I got an Olympic ticket?

    Were the riots just an excuse to loot?
    Did Raul Maut convince the cops to shoot?
    Did Gazza turn up pissed as a newt?
    Are you the business?

    Does Boris Johnson talk from his ass?
    Do prisoners dislike a grass?
    Do the spanish team know how to pass?
    Are you the business?

  • john smith May 8, 2012 at 9:58 am

    raul moat was a good man, long live raul moat u did right my frend u won in the end cos that copper admitted defeat n topped is sen the coward we all lv u raul maul see in heaven or hell


Leave a Reply