Thom Tuck Goes Straight to DVD, Radio 4, Tuesday The Art of Monarchy, Radio 4, Saturday

To laugh at the radio, you need a punchline not a gesture

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

There's comedy on the radio, and there's comedy for the radio – they're two different things.

One just happens to be on the radio; the other is devised for a non-visual medium. When the audience is laughing, and you don't know what they're laughing about, that's comedy on the radio. Sometimes, as funny as a programme is, I feel as if I'm standing at the stage door listening to the laughs.

There was an element of that in the otherwise excellent Thom Tuck Goes Straight to DVD, which is based on his show at last year's Edinburgh Festival. I say "based on" – in fact, it clearly is his show, simply recorded and transmitted, unmediated for radio. Several times there'd be a laugh provoked by something he'd said followed by another laugh, clearly provoked by something he'd done. This isn't to scapegoat Tuck – it's common in radio comedy – but it was irritating.

The show is a neat idea, all the same – Tuck set himself to watch all 54 straight-to-DVD films made by Disney, while exploring the issue of "why I fall in love at the drop of a hat – and why people drop so many hats near me". He had plenty of raw material, with movies such as Aladdin: The Return of Jafar, with Iago the parrot and the comedy sidekick Ab-Ismal, as well as obvious gems such as Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp's Adventure, and Beauty and the Beast III: Belle's Magical World. And there was a nice running joke about ex-girlfriends' names: "My first love was a girl called Shanah – I can't tell you her surname: it's genuinely still my password for everything." And later, there was Beth: "I'm not going to tell you her surname because she's seen the show and politely requests that I don't."

It seemed a bit scattershot – I'd imagined something more systematic: the films dealt with one by one, with the life lessons following on. Instead there seemed to be two shows, one about the films and one about Tuck's romantic tribulations, intercut more or less at random. It was enjoyable, though – and I'd have enjoyed it even more if I'd been there.

The Art of Monarchy, the eight-part series exploring the Royal Collection, presented by the BBC's arts correspondent Will Gompertz, is very much in the tradition of A History of the World in 100 Objects – to which it feels rather in thrall with its tippy-toe, white-gloved, reverential hush.

Yesterday's second part dealt with the royals and war, looking at artefacts ranging from a 6ft 8in ceremonial sword belonging to Edward III through to a press photo of the then Princess Elizabeth doing her wartime bit for the ATS, replacing spark plugs on a military truck.

It needed more experts like the history lecturer Anna Whitelock, who bigged up the painting Field of Cloth of Gold, which recorded the Pas-de-Calais love-in between Henry VIII and Francis I: "It's Tudor bling, it's French bling on such a big scale," she said. "They both want to be seen as the warrior-king ... they want to do what young men want to do, which is wrestle and drink and fight and hang out together." Her enthusiasm made me want to get over to Hampton Court and see it for myself – which is, I'd say, a result.