It's 15 years since the last edition of The Fast Show aired on BBC2, and still its characters live on, none more so than those created by the wonderful Simon Day.
The south London comic may not have emerged from the series with quite the profile of fellow stars Charlie Higson and Paul Whitehouse, but his stature has continued to grow and he has maybe never shone so brightly as he does now.
Last year, Day published a memoir of his rackety upbringing – Comedy and Error – and it's one of the funniest and most eye-popping showbiz autobiographies of recent times. He also got his own show on Radio 4 – The Simon Day Show – and the second series is under way.
As the man himself used to be, The Simon Day Show is a bit all over the place. Each week one of Day's characters arrives to perform at The Mallard, a small provincial theatre somewhere in the UK. So the show is partly a satire on that world – there's a ludicrous theatre owner and a testy stage manager – and partly a showcase for whichever of Day's comic creations is treading the boards. Last week it was The Fast Show's much-cherished Billy Bleach – “Mr Middle Class”. But there are also passages that seem to be Day just being himself.
But the show's really worth sticking with, because Day's take on life in 2012 is so bracingly offbeat and because he hits his targets so unerringly. The passage in which he described how pub arguments used to remain unresolved and then iPhones came along and now there's always someone who smugly looks everything up on it was genius. Day makes you laugh but he also makes you shudder.
Simon Day apart, there were two other lines last week that really stuck in my mind. The first was from a woman called Nicky, who featured in Jackie Clune's A Straight Question – a touching inquiry into people who, like her, had been gay for many years before, well, not being gay. Nicky, incontrovertibly lesbian, was working in a café when a man walked in to order a sandwich. It was love at first sight. She married him, they had children, but then he died. She is now lesbian again. “He was a freak wave that came out of nowhere and soaked the entire beach.” Marvellous.
As was something the novelist Linda Grant said when she presented Saturday Classics on Radio 3. Grant explained how, as with many people, the first piece of classical music she discovered that spoke deeply to her was the soundtrack to Brief Encounter - Rachmaninov’s 2nd piano concerto. Then she came to London from her native Liverpool and met someone at a party who asked loftily if she didn’t think it a bit hackneyed. The comment hung over her for 20 years before, eventually, she recounted, “I decided just to play what I liked”.
And play what she liked she did – from the Rachmaninov to Delius, from Bach to Franck – in a lovely programme that was like a deeper and more expansive version of Private Passions. In the second of her programmes next Saturday Grant will be featuring only women composers - which may well be a Radio 3 first. Strongly recommended.
Chris Maume returns next week
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