The Week In Radio: The careerist comics who are taking the mic

 

Being funny on the radio should be a breeze for comics. You'd think they'd be in their element: on a stage with a microphone, with the added advantage that their listeners, scattered across the country rather than crammed in the back room of a pub, can't see the sweat patches forming under their arms.

In some instances, there might be a studio audience but they are the best crowd of all: forbidden to heckle and required to laugh like they are watching Bill Hicks live at Lollapalooza, rather than being deprived of oxygen in a subterranean studio with the latest casualty from the Edinburgh Fringe. All things considered, it should the easiest gig of their lives. So why do they make it feel like such hard work?

Mark Watson's Live Address to the Nation on Radio 4 was a case in point. We already knew the show was live, since the title told us as much, though just in case we had forgotten, Watson kept shrieking "We're live!" and "This is a shambles!" and remained in a state of heightened panic throughout. His hysteria was slowly transmitted to his co-hosts Tim Key and Tom Basden, whom he kept urging to talk faster, thus removing the wind from their comic sails. Watson had a certain puppyish energy, but he wasn't far off the mark in his hapless assertion: "There's a risk that the show will only be funny for those who are here."

Radio 2's Stand Up 2Day was at least more polished (even if the title put you in mind of a political rally), with Patrick Kielty hosting short performances by assorted stand-ups including Mitch Benn, Russell Kane, Jason Byrne, Barry from Watford (me neither) and an Elvis impersonator. Sending up middle-class radio listeners was a favourite topic, and while Kane achieved a frenzied sort of fluency and raised a brief smile with his description of a woman so posh "she had pheasants hanging from her belt", no one else hit the funny bone with any force.

Why? Well, perhaps you just needed to be there, to join the studio audience in the bowels of the BBC and to see those sweat patches up close. Or maybe it was fact that we could smell the performers' ambition. If you press your ears up against your radio, you will just make out the sound of young comics intoning, "Must get a TV show, must get a TV show" all the way from their dressing rooms.

You'd imagine that Rory Bremner, fresh from his defeat on Strictly, would be able to show the young pups how it's done. His satirical news show Tonight is stand-up of sorts, in that it's performed in front of a live audience, and Bremner, who has been doing radio comedy since time began, could surely do this kind of thing in his sleep. In the event, it's possible that he was asleep. I never tire of his supplicating Tony Blair or his irascible Prince Philip, but then we had to endure lame 'Allo Allo!'-style skits about sexual shenanigans between Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy. Tellingly, the biggest giggle came via his interviewee Michael Williams, the former UN special co-ordinator to the Middle East, who absently remarked: "I've seen more people asleep in the UN Security Council than in the House of Lords library."

Surely things weren't always this bad. Chris Morris, Steve Coogan and Peter Sellers started out on the radio, after all. Now, with a few exceptions, it's treated either as a retirement home for knackered comedians or a stepping stone to the heady world of television (even Just a Minute, Radio 4's most reliable source of belly laughs, is branching out into telly) It's no wonder that the current crop of radio comics sound harried and faintly depressed. They know as well as any of us: radio is where comedy goes to die.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Feeling all at sea: Barbara's 18-year-old son came under the influence of a Canadian libertarian preacher – and she had to fight to win him back
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Living the high life: Anne Robinson enjoys some skip-surfed soup
TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
Doctor Who and Missy in the Doctor Who series 8 finale

TV
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
    Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

    Why are we addicted to theme parks?

    Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
    Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

    Iran is opening up again to tourists

    After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
    10 best PS4 games

    10 best PS4 games

    Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
    Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

    Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

    Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent