The schlock of the new
Talk Radio UK promises Britain's first `shockjocks'. They don't know the meaning of the word, says Chris Morris, anchorman of the spoof radio show `On the Hour'. Move over Jeremy Beadle...
Monday 13 February 1995
A lot of absolute bilge has been talked about shockjocks in the last fortnight. Pavlovian media-types, dutifully yapping over the tit-bits from Talk Radio UK's PR machine, have behaved as if we're about to get our ears bashed. They clatter on about the gang of US-style presenters who will rip us out of our complacency or prove we're irredeemably sophisticated. But don't tune in tomorrow and expect to hear the airwaves run red with the blood of slaughtered callers and blue with verbal chimp porn. There's more chance of Jimmy Knapp presenting the Big Breakfast.
For a start, the term "shockjock" misses the point. It was coined to describe a fashionable brand of US talk-radio host. It stuck because even Terry Christian can say it on a second attempt. It is, however, misleading. Talk has risen to prominence in the States not by shocking its audience but by giving it what it wants. SJs are no more shocking than most Gangsta- rappers are gangsters (yo Ice - wanna see my newjack newjack newjac-Uzi?). Practitioners are successful because, like Rush Limbaugh, they pander to the right-wing backlash or, just occasionally, like Howard Stern, they are genuinely funny. The real shock about Howard Stern's show is that it is warm, approachable and intelligent. While the promise of outrageous sex-talk (he regularly gets male and female guests to undress on air) is never a turn-off, it is Stern's chuckle and the maternal ribbing of female co-host Robin that keeps the listeners tuned in.
In this country there are no shockjocks - unless you count Jimmy Savile who needs about 20,000 volts to get him to the mike. We've had renegades in the past. Kenny Everett said "pubes", Alan Beswick tells callers to "go boil your face" and Roger Moffat caused a riot in 1977 by inviting his Radio Hallam listeners to see the stuffed corpse of Elvis Presley on display in reception. Yet somehow Talk Radio UK has been allowed to bandy the term about while offering us little more than Jeremy Beadle and Vanessa Feltz. We the fooled salute you.
Once sui-Sid is safe inside, I give him my Suicide Is Stupid talk. He agrees. "So why did you dance so dangerously on the window ledge just now?" "Er..." "Deep down it shows you really don't value your life at all, right?" I fade in the M*A*S*H theme. "You might as well kill yourself after all." "Yeah." And I know the best way. I talk him out to the garage. "Forget the monoxide - if you want the quick route to Stifford, just inflate the airbag in your mouth." He believes me. My listeners are gaping like freeze dried pokers.
So what have TRUK test transmissions offered so far? Jeremy Beadle saying "I'm an ideas man". Here's an idea: let's nick that great TV format from the States and present it with lashings of excruciating cheese. He says his irrepressible pranks stem from his withered hand. Hey, everybody - a big hand for Jeremy Beadle. Terry Christian promises to be irritating. Surely not? He says he can't help it. Radios switch off. Caesar the Wheezer (who sounds so congested his catchphrase should be "adenoid-ya!") says he'd rather be a prat than a git. A lowly ambition he realises immediately by triumphantly trotting out a re-working of the old playground definition of a prat as "a wet goldfish". Shockjock? No. White-sock-jock? Probably.
Then there's David Starkey - "the rudest man in England on The Moral Maze sometimes" whose aim is "to spin off what people say and put a different spin on to it". As he trots out such tosh, his voice is already saying "I've made a mistake here - get me out". In the absence of a Michael Buerk "shut up David" tape, you can only wish the poor man merciful asphyxiation beneath a careless Vanessa Feltz. Frock jock.
Then there's "Wild" Al Kelly and "Mad" Mike Hanson - need I go on? The station's idents proclaim "You've never heard talk like it". Right. Except at the Safeway checkout. Oh, and there's a real Yank in there too called Dan Ehrlich. He was the one who was out-shocked on Friday's Newsnight by David Jacobs.
Sui-Sid is still buying the air bag gag. He prizes the top off the steering column, gets punched out by the blast and wakes up in hospital. The ambulance knew where to go coz I got Sid's number traced. I saved his life and got myself two hours of 50 gigawatt radio... I am a shocking man. I am the shockmeister of Jocksford. I want hot underage lesbian nymphos in here right now. I am the uno and solo homo-titting shockjock in the UK man - and the only gig I can get is in my bedroom.
The fact is that until someone else takes the plunge and proves that fearless, pomp-pricking buffoonery will pull audiences here, Talk Radio UK are the last people you'll hear trying it. More's the pity. Shirk-jerks.
n Chris Morris wrote `Why Bother?' featuring Peter Cook (Saturday evenings Radio 3) and has not broadcast on Radio 1 since Boxing Day. Talk Radio starts broadcasting tomorrow
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