Radio review: Meeting Myself Coming Back - Martin Amis should have ditched his surname, not his friends


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The Independent Culture

Edith Piaf doing "Je ne regrette rien" is the most-chosen non-classical piece on Desert Island Discs, apparently, followed by "My Way". Neither was picked by Martin Amis when he went on in 1996, but he could definitely have had Sinatra. Regrets? He has a few.

These became apparent in Meeting Myself Coming Back in the Saturday-night archive slot, in which notables respond to old clips of themselves. It's not always a calling-to-account, but in the hands of John Wilson this one was.

There was the teeth business, when he changed agents in order to secure a huge advance, partly to finance dental work and causing a long estrangement with his old friend Julian Barnes, husband of the agent he dropped. He was happy to say he regretted that. Then there were his remarks in the wake of 9/11 about the temptation to want Muslims to suffer. It was, he confessed to Wilson, "a tremendously unfortunate thing to say ... I thought differently by that afternoon."

Another thing he'd have changed was that he'd have used a pen name in order to avoid the father/son schtick. Early on, though, they did give a few joint interviews, and he wasn't afraid to take on Kingsley, lamenting, for instance, his abhorrence of experimentation: "Experimental prose is death!" roared Amis père.

I try to steer clear of BBC Radio comedy in this column because I don't like writing horrible things. So it's my happy duty to record that The Show What You Wrote (Radio 4, Thursday ****) is actually funny. I smiled, I chuckled, I even guffawed once or twice.

The sketches, performed by professionals but written by members of the public, weren't ground-breaking, but mostly hit the spot, from the grandad joining al-Qa'ida for something to do now the bowls season's over, to the foul-mouthed laundrette girls berating a young man for his soiled bedsheets ("he's trying to blame it on the cat!"), and the Geordie aliens – it was nice stuff.

My favourite was the miner who tells his daughter that she's not going out dressed like that: "I don't work 30 hours a day, eight days a week down t'mines for you to wear last season's colours!"