Happy Mondays, Radio 4
The Single Life, Radio 4
Idiot MC, pretend pub, feeble band and no jokes. Radio 4 comedy is having a laugh
Sunday 20 April 2008
For those of you who have recently had surgery and do not want to endanger your stitches, may I recommend Radio 4's new night-time comedy slot, Happy Mondays? You have an overloud idiot MC, some entertainers in a very loose sense of the word and a hysterical studio audience that is pretending to be in a pub (but is, in fact, in a room at the BBC). The bad news is that you have to stay up until 11 at night to hear it, but the good news is that you will not laugh once for the entire half hour of its broadcast. Not only that, but the memory of it will erase the very idea of laughter from your mind for the next 24 hours.
You might smile cruelly as you contemplate enacting an elaborate and grisly revenge on the MC, Michael Macintyre – but laughter? No. Even the musical entertainment is ghastly – in the case of last Monday, a wretched band called The Feeling whose music is so feeble that you suspect that everyone in the studio audience who heard them is now sterile.
It takes 12 minutes for the first comedy act of the evening to be introduced – one Stephen K Amos. Seven minutes later you might have smiled weakly at one of his observations about Australians, but you still won't have laughed. I've heard some bad comedy on Radio 4 in my time, but this is something special. And there are 12 more weeks of this.
So I thought I'd cheer myself up by listening to The Single Life, which has been going out at a quarter to four every weekday afternoon. Having rather more of a vested interest in the subject these days than I might have done a few months ago, I thought it might be worth listening to in order to pick up some tips. What we have, though, are the unmediated testimonies of dozens of interviewees, telling us about their experiences of, say, speed dating, single parenthood, and the ticking biological clock. It is very well done if you like this kind of thing – and the problems of being single really should be addressed – but I found myself becoming increasingly depressed on behalf of these people in particular, and the human condition in general. And the only tip I managed to pick up, which I will pass on to you for free, is that if you want to be single and relatively happy, then be a male homosexual. In Manchester.
Meanwhile, my grovelling apologies to Mark Russell and Robert Sandall, who sent me a copy of their new show for Resonance FM, called Where's the Skill in That, which picks up where their old show for Radio 3, Mixing It, left off. (Mixing It featured oddball or experimental music that wouldn't have got played anywhere else, and especially not after the death of John Peel. I have mislaid their CD among the hundreds that get sent to me each week. I was really looking forward to this. Nine o'clock, Wednesday evening. I'll be there next week.
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