Gary Littman


Garry Littman is the owner and director of The Language House in Geneva which organises English language training for professional people, companies and students. He was a radio and newspaper journalist in his native Australia and ran a restaurant in Kathmandu in his younger days. He is an English language trainer and an aficionado of pétanque.

Will the real Swiss Toni please stand-up

If you stood in the middle of Piccadilly Circus and asked Londoners to name a famous Swiss, undoubtedly tennisman and master of merchandising, RF, would once again be seeded number one.

The second seed might be a major upset.

Would it be Martina Hingis, William (Guillaume) Tell, Philippe Senderos (ex-Arsenal), Heidi or even Stanislas Wawrinka? I bet my fondu forks that Swiss Toni would take the honors.

Qui? Quoi? I hear you say. Never heard of him? Well, probably neither had Phil Senderos until he arrived at Arsenal Football Club. That didn’t stop the Gunners fans immediately re-naming him; not Fabulous Phil or even Swiss Senderos. Overnight he was dubbed Swiss Toni. And the name stuck.

So who is this SwissToni: the Rosbifs’ Swiss everyman? First, he is a he. (The name Toni in English is most commonly a female name). Second, he’s not Swiss. Third, he’s not a real person. And to really confuse you, he has as much in common with Phil Senderos, as a crossbow has with Belgian chocolates

See if you can spot the real Swiss Toni below.


Not too difficult, although one over-eager Arsenal fan came up with this nightmarish photo-fit which probably still keeps Philippe Senderos awake at night.

Swiss Toni with the ‘big hair’ is a one of the fabulous characters from the British comedy series The Fast Show which ran on BBC television from 1994 to 1997. The cult show is to be resurrected by the BBC this year.

Swiss Toni, played by Charlie Higson, sells used cars, or at least, used to sell cars from his struggling showrooms. Despite his big smile, big swagger and outrageously big hair, he is undergoing a never-ending mid-life crisis.

According to Swiss Toni, selling cars (and answering the phone, making a coffee and even putting up a tent) is 'like making love to a beautiful woman'. In fact, there isn't much that Swiss Toni can't somehow manage to compare to making love to a beautiful woman.

He is forever giving advice to his young apprentice Paul. It’s saucy double entendre British humour; Benny Hill meets Walter Mitty, with a tinge of tragedy.

- Yes Paul, washing a car is very much like making love to a beautiful woman. You've got to caress the bodywork. Breathe softly and gently. And give every inch of it your loving attention. And make sure you've got a nice wet sponge.

- Yes Paul, making a cup of coffee is like making love to a beautiful woman. It's got to be hot. You've got to take your time. You've got to stir... gently and firmly. You've got to grind your beans until they squeak. And then you put in the milk…

In one episode Swiss Toni is asked why he is called ‘Swiss’. He replies:

- Yes, it’s partly because I am reliable and also because I am built like an Alp, and ridged (muscular) like a Toblerone.

A video compilation of Swiss Toni’s best parables

Don’t despair or feel Switzerland has been maligned. There is another Swiss Toni that should warm the hearts of all Swiss, in fact all citizens on planet Earth. He is known and respected by hundreds of thousands of people as Toni El Suizo.

And the good news is that he is Swiss and he is a real person and that he’s not a football player or a face on television. He is a bridge builder.

Toni Rüttimann, an engineer and ‘self taught’ bridge builder, has helped hundreds of thousands of people in Latin America and Asia. He and his team have built more than more 600 bridges in remote communities affected by natural disasters. He works independently and for free.

If you don’t find bridge building that sexy I am sure the other Swiss Toni can help. After all, building bridges is like making love to a beautiful woman. First you’ve got to erect a rigid structure and plant in firmly into the body of land so that life can move freely from one to another. Or something like that… I think I will stop here.

More video:

The Fast Show, which features Swiss Toni, is much admired by actor Johnny Depp who joined the show for this one off comedy skit.

One of Toni El Suizo’s bridge projects in Indonesia.


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