Radio Memories – Dead Ringers.

Dead Ringers (BBC Radio 4, 2000-2007, 2014-present)

A while ago, I took a look back at the TV version of comedy sketch show Dead Ringers, which recently reached its 20th anniversary (was it really that long ago?), and was fairly successful. This was a spin-off from the original radio version that I did listen to as well. This was usually in the Friday evening slot, that also featured The News Quiz and The Now Show.

This consisted of celebrity impressions, and also of politicians, meaning that this was a topical show that was always recorded as close to transmission as possible. The cast usually consisted of five or six comedians who provided the variety of voices. One of them who has featured in every series is Jon Culshaw. Now he has turned up on a lot of other radio shows I that listened to doing his impressions.

I’ve already told the story of when I remember him doing his voices as a guest on Chris Moyles’s BBC Radio 1 show. But he also turned up on Steve Penk’s show on Capital FM, where rather memorably he managed to get through to the prime minister on the phone and try to persuade him that he really was the opposition leader, he wasn’t having any of it though.

And he was also a regular guest on James Whale’s Talk Radio show for a time too, I don’t know how he did it all. Also among the regular cast were Phil Cornwell and Jan Ravens. Of course, any figure who was currently in the news was considered to be fair game. I don’t listen to Radio 4 much beyond their comedy programming, so some of their targets were lost on me a little.

But their running jokes about cast members of The Archers and news hosts really did seem to go down well with the studio audience (do you remember the days of studio audiences? What a time that was). And I imagine that Culshaw would do his popular Tom Baker impression whether he had to or not. I also remember that there were a lot of writers, who probably had to work hard.

Indeed, there were so many, that when credits were read at the end in the style of a celebrity, the writers list was so long, that the voice had to be speeded up before the closing music would run out. Despite a seven-year break on the radio, there have now been 17 series of Dead Ringers, along with repeat runs on Radio 4 Extra, and lots of highlights released on CD.

More TV Memories – Dead Ringers.

Dead Ringers (BBC1, 2002, BBC2, 2002-2007)

Recently I took a look back at some of Rory Bremner’s shows, that were based in the areas of impressionism and satire, and this is another comedy show that was in that area, even it is wasn’t as hard-hitting as some of Bremner’s material could be. Dead Ringers started out on BBC Radio 4 in 2000, and featured various sketches, some of them were topical, and others were parodies of various shows.

This did well enough for there to be a TV version, and this launched as a pilot on BBC1 in 2002, which was then given a full series, although this would be on BBC2. Among the cast was Jon Culshaw. Now he has had a rather interesting career in comedy as an impressionist going back about three decades now. I remember when he was a guest on Chris Moyles’s Radio 1 show in the late-90s, and said that he made his TV debut on late-80s talent show Sky Star Search, when he had a big mullet. The clip hasn’t turned up online, which is probably just as well because it all sounds rather embarrassing. vlcsnap-01005

He then went to on contribute to various comedy shows including the later series of Spitting Image and 2DTV. In Dead Ringers, he played various famous figures. His most successful impressions were of then-Prime Minister Tony Blair who featured in most of the topical sletches, and his take on Tom Baker as Doctor Who was also put to good use, usually featuring in hidden camera pranks. He later went on to get his own show on ITV1, before going to BBC1 for further shows, this time in a double-act with Debra Stephenson. vlcsnap-01008

Also featuring in the show was Phil Cornwell, who had featured in a lot of comedy over the years, and his range of impressions (including his Michael Caine) were always amusing. Also among the cast whose talents were on display were Jan Ravens and Kevin Connolly. And often featuring on the show were parodies of various TV shows including Newsnight, and even of TV idents, hooray! vlcsnap-01009

Sometimes radio shows find the jump to TV rather difficult, but this show did better than most, eventually running to seven series on BBC2, but it seems that only a rather small amount of episodes were ever released on DVD. After the first TV series, there was also a behind the scenes documentary. About five years ago, Dead Ringers was revived on Radio 4, and most of the cast returned along with some new talent to parody the latest generation of people in the news.