Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Funny For Your Ear - On The Radio

Note:- This post flowed much better the first time I wrote it but, after a laptop crash, it's now something of a pale imitation of a post. Caveat emptor.

It's a hoary old cliche but things only become hoary old cliches because they're true - there's something about radio comedy that feels more imaginative, more unfettered, more abstract than that of TV or film. That's not to say that I don't adore film and TV comedy - it's just that I've always had a soft spot for comedy for the ear. And here's why...

The Hitch Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy
After all, it began life as a BBC Radio 4 sitcom, after all. Douglas Adams has always been a big influence on me and this is where that influence began. It's that rarest of beasts - a sci-fi programme that's actually funny. But the emphasis is on the funny rather than the sci fi and it's a particularly understated British style of funny as typified by Arthur Dent's reaction to the destruction of his home planet ("Look, I'm a bit upset about that"). That said, it's combined with a wildly imaginative and inventive stream of ideas, from Babel Fish to Infinite Improbability Drives, all designed to drive the funny along.

The Goon Show
It's impossible to talk about audio comedy without discussing this. I was brought up on Spike Milligan books so it was only natural that I would graduate on to this. Radio was the perfect format for Spike Milligan, ideally suited to his surreal flights of fancy which would be impossible to realise in a visual medium.

I'm Sorry, I Haven't A Clue
Television currently seemed to be littered with a plethora of comedy panel shows (a lot which are very funny, to be fair) but, of course, radio got their first. This is one of the finest examples, keeping the tradition of British seaside silly, smutty innuendo going strong for nearly forty years. Sadly, original host Humphrey "Humph" Littleton passed away last year but, as with all showbiz, the show must go and has gone on.

The League Of Gentlemen / The Mighty Boosh
Another fine television tradition is that of plundering the ariwaves for the latest comedy and these are two of my favourite examples from the last ten years. The Mighty Boosh follow in the Goons tradition of the strange and the surreal which has surprisingly translated very well to the screen whereas the League Of Gentlemen obscured and suggested their cast of comedy grotesques on the radio before revealing them in their full gory glory on screen.

So there you have it, just a few examples as to why audio stuff is great. I could go on all day but we've all got other things to do. I mean, there's all that washing you've been putting off, isn't there? Just cause it's the holiday season...


Kurt said...

I sent away for the LP versions of The Hitchhiker's Guide radio broadcasts when I was in elementary school. All the way from Britain! I still have them.

That Baldy Fella said...

I have a copy of the LP that I haven't listened to yet. Geek Fact #1 - The LP is actually slightly different to the radio show as they re-recorded it and, as Douglas Adams did every time, he chnaged bits he didn't like