The Week in Radio: When even news junkies need a bit of comic relief

There has been an inspired little guerrilla campaign waged on behalf of the short story on Radio 4, under the aegis of the Society of Authors, to which several writers and actors have added their voices. They oppose plans to extend The World at One an extra quarter hour, thus reducing midweek short story slots. According to Bill Nighy, enlarging current affairs output is a mistake. "The idea that we need more news on Radio 4 is bewildering... I can't move for news. What I don't see all around me is the opportunity to listen to new writing, or, indeed, old writing, in short-story form."

The question of whether we "need" more news is an interesting one. There is surely symbiosis between fast-moving events and our sense of urgent "need" to keep up to the minute. The extension of World at One is justified by the need to explain the complex economic situation enveloping us, yet one has to reflect whether extending the time we dwell on that situation drives the fear and alarm that feeds into the situation itself. I crave a news fix as much as the next journalist, but it's often the stories you don't know, and don't need to know, which enlarge your appreciation of the world.

One such was the Fiddler in the Tower, on Radio 3's Twenty Minutes slot – the story of the last hours of a virtuoso violinist, Fernando Buschman, who was shot as a spy in the First World War. Confined to the Tower of London, his final request was the company of his violin, and all through his last night, against the howling of the wind, the exquisite sound of his playing could be heard. Daniel Hope, himself a violinist, played the pieces and told the story. "As a violinist, to see Bach and the sonatas on this list is very telling. If I were in this position then Bach would certainly be on my list, and of all the great masterpieces the Sarabande from the D minor Partita is the one I would want to play in my final hour." On his way to the firing squad, Buschman asked a passing soldier if he had a child who would like the violin. Now there's a story you never knew, and probably won't forget.

It's budget-related cuts, however, which are squeezing comedy on Radio 2. The plan is to "move away from built comedy slots" to "ad hoc" series across the year, including decommissioning The Comedy Hour on Saturday evenings. Last Saturday evening's slot contained Two Episodes of Mash, an offbeat, surreal and occasionally hilarious sketch show from Diane Morgan, a kind of depressive female Larry David with a deadpan Lancashire accent, and Joe Wilkinson. It's the prerogative of sketch shows to be inconsistently funny, and having laughed out throughout the second episode, the third was a little downbeat, but given that downbeat is the signature mood of the show, it seems wrong to complain. The pleasure of the series is the way sketches merge seamlessly into each other, so one moment it's a pair of lobsters in a restaurant tank, "I feel trapped, I'm hyperventilating. Why she's pointing at me?" and then it's a tarot reader with football cards. "The John Fashanu card means at some point you will become invisible. Gordon Strachan – your hair's prone to matting and you may become dormant." A striking thing about this show, and so unusual for topical comedy, is that the sketches are entirely detached from the news agenda and none the worse for it. Meanwhile, the short-story guerrillas have amassed nearly 9,000 signatures to their petition and hope for 10,000 by the time the campaign closes next week. There's a story worth keeping up with.

jane@janethynne.com

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

music
Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
News
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
people
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

    Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

    His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
    'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

    Open letter to David Cameron

    Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
    Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

    You don't say!

    Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
    Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

    So what is Mubi?

    Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
    The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

    The hardest job in theatre?

    How to follow Kevin Spacey
    Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

    Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

    To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
    Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

    'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

    The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
    Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

    This human tragedy has been brewing for years

    EU states can't say they were not warned
    Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

    Women's sportswear

    From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
    Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

    Clinton's clothes

    Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders