Radio Memories – Little Britain.

Little Britain (BBC Radio 4, 2000-2002)

The double-act Lucas and Walliams had worked on several comedy shows over the years, including Rock Profile. But when they launched a sketch show on the radio, they must’ve been hoping for this to do well of course. In Little Britain, we were invited to meet the people of Britain, and it didn’t take long to realise what a remarkable bunch they really are.

All of the sketches featured an introduction from the booming voice of Tom Baker. I imagine that they had ambitions to eventually transfer this to TV, but the success must’ve exceeded even their expectations. I must admit that I didn’t hear too much of this first time round, and yet again, a repeat run on BBC7/BBC Radio 4 Extra let me finally catch up.

The characters who would soon become rather familiar included Marjorie Dawes and Vicky Pollard. Of course, having lots of catchphrases definitely helped catch the attention of listeners. And when I finally heard the first series, I was surprised by how many sketches were recycled for the TV version, and that’s probably why that series managed to hit the ground running.

It would be because all of the characters had already been established and they knew how to play them. I imagine that it would’ve also been rather fun for them to work on what these characters would look like, and create the right image for them. The supporting cast was rather good too, and managed to help them out with the sketches.

But little did they realise that not only would there be a TV version, but this would also lead to the tours, the games, the dolls, the keyrings, they really did milk the merchandise, but then people did want to buy them. Well who wouldn’t want a Vicky all of their own to fondle. There were two series of the radio version of Little Britain, Lucas and Walliams would soon be among the biggest names in comedy, how nice. Goodbay!

Radio Memories – Chewin’ The Fat.

Chewin’ The Fat (BBC Radio Scotland, 1997-1998)

This is a radio comedy show that was rather popular north of the border in the late-90s. There went on to be some successful TV spin-offs from this, which is where I came across this for the first time. Having enjoyed this, I was pleased when some episodes from the original series were repeated on BBC7/BBC Radio 4 Extra, although I can’t remember this being repeated on that station within the past decade or so.

Chewin’ The Fat starred the comedy duo Ford Kiernan and Greg Hemphill. The first series was an hour long and went out on BBC Radio Scotland in a summer Saturday Afternoon slot when there was no football. The second and third series were shortened to half-an-hour, and Karen Dunbar joined the cast. Some episodes from these later series were the ones that were repeated.

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I recognised the opening theme, I’m sure that it wasn’t made for the show because I’d heard it used on one or two other TV shows before this, but I did enjoy the way that Ford and Greg liked to begin by humming along to it. The idea was that they would discuss what was happening in the news, along with anything else that was on their minds (this idea continued into the first series of the TV version, but then it was dropped, meaning that the show’s title for the later series made no sense).

I remember one edition from the summer of ’98 where they discussed Scotland’s disappointing performance at that year’s World Cup, and expressed their frustration that unlike all of the other home nations, they have never been able to progress past the first round of the tournament. They also performed a few sketches. I remember that at least one of two of these were recycled for some of the early episodes of the TV version which were rather amusing.

Unfortunately, I don’t remember if the radio version featured Jack and Victor, who would turn out to be their most popular characters. They featured in the TV version before going off to the long-running spin-off sitcom Still Game. I was pleased to finally hear some of the radio episodes of Chewin’ The Fat for myself, although there don’t seem to be many clips online from them.

Radio Memories – The Boosh.

The Boosh (BBC London Live, 2001)

Noel Fielding and Julian Barratt are a comedy double-act who have done some rather unusual things both together and individually since the mid-90s. I had barely heard of them before the first series of The Mighty Boosh launched in 2004, but I did really enjoy this, and I had never really seen anything else like it on TV before, so I was pleased to discover that they had also done a radio series.

This was before the TV version, and once again, this is a series that has gone on to be repeated several times on BBC7 and BBC Radio 4 Extra. The Boosh (seemingly they had not become “Mighty” by this point) brought us the rather bizarre adventures of various creative characters, which was all mixed in with music and just plain weird moments, as they continued to establish their really rather surreal style.

The idea was rather similar to the first TV series, as Vince and Howard struggled to work in a zoo that didn’t seem to have too many animals, not that the particularly liked them anyway. Indeed most of the episodes were reworked for the first series of the TV version, and their attempts to bring some of these ideas to life and match the imagination was rather bold.

A lot of listeners must’ve found all of this rather baffling, but it seems that everyone making this was having a laugh. Also featuring in the cast were Rich Fulcher and Richard Ayoade, who went on to appear in the TV version, and Lee Mack was among those helping out too. The show also won an award for innovative comedy writing, and not funkiest hairstyle as I would’ve originally guessed.

There were six episodes of The Boosh in one series, and I did enjoy this as much as the TV version, it was like discovering a bonus series of their adventures that had been there all along. After the third and final TV series ended, Noel and Julian took The Mighty Boosh on tour. Some of these shows have been released on DVD, and I’ll review those soon too.

Radio Memories – Kenny Everett’s Radio Days.

Kenny Everett’s Radio Days (BBC7, 2005)

Kenny Everett is someone whose work I have enjoyed over the years, and a while ago I reviewed some of his TV comedy shows. I only remember his TV work from his later years though, which was mostly contributions to some chat shows and comedy panel games, where he was always entertaining. Around this time, he was also a host on radio station Capital Gold, although I never listened to this, I wish I did, I’m sure I would’ve enjoyed it.

So I took any opportunity that I could afterwards to listen to some of the archive of his radio work. I remember that Capital Gold once aired a compilation of some of his highlights on what would’ve been his birthday that I enjoyed, and I just couldn’t resist the chance to listen to Kenny Everett’s Radio Days, featuring some of the best bits of Cuddly Ken’s show for Capital in the late-70s, the station that puts a sparkle in your ear (around the same time his series was on ITV). vlcsnap-00463

There was always tons of stuff featured! First of all, there were a lot of jingles, and Kenny was famous for taking a lot of time to sing and record these himself, meaning that even going into an advert break was an event. Although the songs were edited out from this compilation, it was clear that Kenny always tried to keep up with all the new bands on the scene, including The Buggles, Marshall Hain, and Paul “Macca” McCartney. And it was in stereo!

It also seems that Kenny was rather fond of pulling some rather unusual clips out of the archive, including advert outtakes, silly jingles, jokes from old American comedians, anything that would make people giggle really. There would also be competitions where a digital watch could be won if you had golden ear’oles and could guess the song, and a record that Kenny was particularly fond of was introduced as “a gramophone record of esteemed repute”. Also featuring was Captain Kremmen (who starred in the TV series, and was also turned into an animated short film), and The World’s Worst, where some truly awful out-of-tune records were played.

One highlight for me was when Kenny along with fellow host Roger Scott were trying to record an advert for an album by The Beatles. Kenny recommended that Roger should say “they played all night, till their fingers were down to the bone”. Kenny then recommended ever more bizarre phrases, including “they played all night, till their fingers were hot throbbing lumps of gristle”. This then concludes with Roger endlessly laughing after Kenny had given him the image of “the gristle hanging out of their guitars”. That really did sound like great fun to do.

I’m fairly sure that there were only four editions of Kenny Everett’s Radio Days, and I think that there were also a few extended repeats with the songs left in. Either way, I was very pleased that this did turn out to be as funny as I hoped it would be, and I’m always on the lookout for more from Kenny’s career for the various stations that he worked for.