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.

THEATRE / Fine old mess: Paul Taylor reviews Paul Merton at the London Palladium

The revolve at the London Palladium - ah, what misty black-and-white memories light the corners of your mind (those eponymous letters swirling by with Brucie, pre- wig, stationed behind one of them, and look] Pearl Carr & Teddy Johnson . . .)

The anti-ad and the very, very cheap pitch

FOR A profession that specialises in selling and persuading, the advertising industry has done a famously terrible job on itself. Ad agencies are rather like a hugely successful dating agency run by someone with halitosis who has made no friends.

Long Runners: No 19: Jackanory

Age: 28. Actor Lee Montague, parked uneasily on a wrought-iron garden bench, read the first story, Cap of Rushes, just before Christmas 1965.

COMEDY / The joke's on us: Comedy is more popular than ever, but exposure has its dangers. Ben Thompson explains

WHAT MUST it feel like to be a comedian on national television telling a joke which you know that not all, but a good proportion of, the audience will have heard before? Not just because it's an old joke - after all, jokes, like tunes, are something there can only be a certain number of - but because you yourself told it on a different show a couple of weeks before. Maybe twice.

COMEDY / Laughing them out of court: The Comedy Store has got bigger and better. But it's not the same, cry the comedians who knew it as it was. Report by Owen Slot

Paul Merton received two nominations for the British Comedy Awards which went out live on ITV on Sunday night, but he wasn't at the London Television Centre venue. Josie Lawrence was invited to present an award, but she wasn't there either. And nor were any of the Comedy Store Players. For Sunday night was the last night that crowds would ever go to the Comedy Store in Leicester Square, and the Players had all agreed that they and their impro comedy would be there to see the place out in style.

ROCK & JAZZ / Acquired taste or vintage performance?

THE COVER of the new Kate Bush album is awash with overripe fruit. Heady, bruised and oozing syrup - maybe that's how we expect the contents to be. As is Kate's custom, The Red Shoes (EMI, CD/LP/tape, out now) was a long time on the vine - nearly four years have passed since her last record, the breathily opulent The Sensual World - but comes off fresh and zesty, and leaves a sweet taste.

COMEDY / Mr Saturday Night: Mark Wareham on Paul Merton in Guildford

Paul Merton turned up for his show in Guildford this week. But which Paul Merton was it? Was it the quick-draw Merton from Have I Got News for You, the impro-Merton from Whose Line Is it Anyway?, the surreal sketch show Merton from Paul Merton the Series or the pithy writer Merton from Paul Merton's History of the Twentieth Century?

COMEDY / Not the funniest man in Britain

A MAN dressed as a chicken sang 'I Will Survive' in Russian. A squadron of glove-puppet rabbits went through a formation-flying routine to the music of the Dambusters. In other words, a perfectly normal Paul Merton show.

Edinburgh Festival Day 11: Portrait of a neraly man: Paul Merton, Tony Slattery, Josie Lawrence, Neil Mullarkey: Neil Mullarkey? Who? Very close to being somebbody, that's who. Tristan Davies met him

This town is full of would-be-goods, should-be-goods and once-were-goods making their annual play for the big time. The most optimistic players in the fame game (Light Entertainment Division) are the Nearly Men, those who who have served their apprenticeships in the arts centres, the comedy clubs and the festivals, who have done their bit parts in television and radio and who are stars in all but name.

Mr Big Ears and his brown bags: He is John Lloyd and they do not wish to be identified. Together they are plotting to fill the radio waves with non-stop laughter

THE PEOPLE in this picture are working to change the daily habits of millions of Britons. So commercially sensitive is their operation that when they gathered this week for a strategy meeting, many of them preferred to cover their heads at the sight of a camera. 'We still haven't decided on a name. So what shall we call ourselves?' said one of them.

ARTS / Show People: Off the cuff and on the spot: 74. Josie Lawrence

WHEN HER own series was broadcast two years ago Josie Lawrence was filming in Italy. 'I remember the day it came out. I was in the airport and I looked at all the papers, and the previews were saying 'pick of the week - Josie's new show' and I thought, oh, oh, lovely.' The next day the reviews came out. 'Suddenly, crunch. Real, real vitriol, some of them. People said the most terrible things.'

RADIO / Filling the unforgiving minute: Martin Kelner on the durable success of a radio programme that just goes on and on and on and on

'HELLO, as the Minute Waltz fades away once again, it's my pleasure to welcome you to Just A Minute, perhaps the most deceptively simple, enduring, popular, and much-copied comedy game on radio. And the subject is: why the longest-running game-show on radio, dismissed by some people 10 - even 20 - years ago as a clapped-out Victorian parlour game, should suddenly have become fashionable. Can you speak on that subject for just one minute without hesitation, repetition, or deviating from the subject on the card, Jonathan James-Moore, Head of BBC Radio Light Entertainment?'

TELEVISION / BREIFING: Doctoring the past

Drama on the new ITV network continues to be about as risky as a chastity belt. There's nothing exactly wrong with STV'S DOCTOR FINLAY (9pm ITV), it's just that it's so predictable: a charming period setting (with enough steam engines to satisfy the most ardent gricer), a bit of Casualty-style medical jargon and all those nostalgic associations with the Casebook of the 1960s. The original series has been updated from the 1920s to 1946. In 'The Return', Bill Craig's screenplay based on A J Cronin's characters, Finlay (David Rintoul) returns to Tannochbrae from the war to be ditched by his fiancee (Margo Gunn). To add to his woes, his partner, Dr Cameron (Ian Bannen), is losing his grip, and Finlay has been saddled with an upstart locum (Jason Flemyng). Only the ever-reliable Janet (Annette Crosbie, temporarily spared the grouches of Victor Meldrew) holds everything together.

RADIO / Only toffs or cockneys need apply

YOU DON'T have to know that Just a Minute (R4) was inspired by a public school punishment to see it as an upper-class parlour game. The hostile levity, the nonchalant way in which the precise score is never given ('Clement Freud is in the lead, just ahead of Derek Nimmo . . .'), the sports day whistle, the clubman's innuendo: all suggest a loosened black tie. The best contestants have been either toffs or cockneys.

ARTS / When parting was such sweet sorrow: TV Programme of the Year

PEOPLE kept telling me there was nothing on. I couldn't believe their eyes. The bigger picture looked glum - the BBC preparing to hold the scalpel at its emasculation, the ITV franchise fiasco ushering in the age of the ratings cowboy - but the small picture brimmed with pleasures.
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