Arts and Entertainment On the cutting edge: Johnny Vegas, from the Face of Satire exhibition at the BFI

On 26 February, Spitting Image will celebrate its 30 birthday. BBC Four will mark the occasion with a special episode of Arena which promises to tell the “vexed and frequently hilarious story” of the sketch show which ran for 21 series between 1984 and 1996 and marked a high point in British satire.

The executive with a talent for raising the most laughs

It is not hard to see why the BBC was so keen to hire Geoffrey Perkins - virtually nobody else in television or radio can match his comedy pedigree and talent for making hit shows.

TELEVISION Paul Merton in... (ITV)

Jasper Rees propounds the novel theory that comedy is, in fact, the new opera

Media: Serious about funny business

Is BBC comedy stale? No, says its new head, Geoffrey Perkins. Well, he would, wouldn't he? By James Rampton

TELEVISION Heroes of Comedy (C4) He's dead brilliant that Arthur Haynes. Brilliant but, alas, dead. By Jasper Rees

Heroes of Comedy is an essay on the fickle nature of posthumous fame. While posterity has been kind to Tommy Cooper and Joyce Grenfell, it has danced on the grave of Arthur Haynes. Arthur who? I hear you ask, and indeed - though a reviewer of television courts unemployment to admit it - you hear me ask.

Boys' night out

If it's Sunday it must be the Comedy Store. Mark Wareham tagged along with Merton, Mullarkey, Sweeney and company

How to improvise

Do you like to speak in strange accents, or sometimes complete gibberish? Fancy telling the story of King Arthur in the style of Raymond Chandler? Feel the urge to stick your arms through someone else's sleeves, and pick their noses for them? If so, impro may be your only hope.

Young (and old) pretenders

One noteworthy thing about the Tory leadership contest is that the declared contestants are not half so interesting as the undeclared contestants, so today I am ignoring the two men already with their hats in the ring and bringing you a list of some of those who will be slugging it out in the second ballot.

But seriously, Bob

Bob Monkhouse said he thought it might be 14 years since he last played Cheltenham Town Hall, but he couldn't be sure. "I do remember one thing, though," he added. "I died on my arse."

Heard the one about the drainage system?

Raoul Heertje is Holland's 'best circumcised' comedian. That may be so, says James Rampton, but what is he doing here and what does he want with our politicians?

Have we got news for Deayton?

The problem with quiz shows is that they tend to hang around. Once settled on a winning formula, the quiz show clings to it for dear life, refusing to alter the smallest detail. If Frank Muir had ever switched his bow tie for a cravat, Call My Bluff would have been doomed at a stroke. If Question of Sport went out without David Coleman making a complete hash of a question, the BBC would be forced to flash up the "Do Not Adjust Your Set caption".

THEATRE It's cold in bed

Live Bed Show Garrick, London

REVIEW : Spoofing me, spoofing him... with Mrs Merton

After the chat show came the chat-show spoof, in which bland, lazy sofa opera was mercilessly ridiculed. Now there are no more chat shows left, and the only competition the spoof faces is from its own kind. We can shortly expect the chat-show-spoof spoof, in which those who mercilessly ridicule bland, lazy sofa opera are themselves mercilessly ridiculed.
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<p>
<b>Kathryn Williams</b>
</p>
<p>
When I was supporting Ray La Montagne I was six months pregnant. He had been touring for a year and he was exhausted and full of the cold. I was feeling motherly, so I would leave presents for him and his band: Tunnock's Tea Cakes, cold remedies and proper tea. Ray seemed painfully shy. He hardly spoke, hardly looked at you in the face. I felt like a dick speaking to him, but said "hi" every day. </p>
<p>
He was being courted by the same record company who had signed me and subsequently let me go, and I wanted him to know that there were people around who didn't want anything from him. At the Shepherds Bush Empire in London, on the last night of the tour, Ray stopped in his set to thank me for doing the support. He said I was a really good songwriter and people should buy my stuff. I was taken aback and felt emotionally overwhelmed. Later that year, just before I had my boy Louis, I was l asleep in bed with Radio 4 on when Louis moved around in my belly and woke me up. Ray was doing a session on the World Service. </p>
<p>
I really believe that Louis recognised the music from the tour, and when I gave birth to him at home I played Ray's record as something that he would recognise to come into the world with. </p>
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