Thursday, 6 June 2019

Comedy Archeology - It Started Out On The Radio….

Britain has a fine tradition of taking stuff from the radio and putting it out on the telly with moving pictures as well as the talky bits. Hancock’s Half Hour would be the prime template for this (I am a fan of Hancock but I haven’t watched / listened to all of them yet) but it is far from the only one. Oddly, I very rarely discovered something that started out on the radio and then transferred to TV. I generally watched the TV version, found out it started on the radio and then went back and listened to the audio version. Here are some things that started out on the radio before making the leap to the small screen.

On The Hour / Knowing Me, Knowing You With Alan Partridge
On TV, it was known as The Day Today but on the radio, it was On The Hour. Chris Morris, Armando Iannucci, Steve Coogan, Rebecca Front, David Schneider, Doon Mackichan - all have become a firm part of the comedy landscape for the last 25 years. Both series are very much rooted in taking the usage of the medium seriously even if, in the case of On The Hour, the material can be pretty silly. It takes the format of serious news reporting, highlights how constructed and daft it is and then throws in some delightfully silly gags. Also, it’s another case of people who love words and sounds and the inherent silliness of many of them. 

On The Town With The League Of Gentlemen
It’s pretty well formed by this point having started out as a stage show to begin with. There are some differences from the television version - Edward, Tubbs and the Local Shop are nowhere to be seen (arguably, they’re partly visual anyway so it’s no real surprise that they’re not there) and diminutive shopkeeper Mr Ingleby is very much an audio-only gag (although he is very briefly referenced in one ep of the series).

The Mighty Boosh
Given that the Boosh are both fond of surreal flights of fancy and prone to breaking out in song, radio was definitely the ideal medium for them to start out in. Again, it’s pretty similar to the show - the main difference being the recurring guest presence of Lee Mack (who is an incredibly sharp comedian but not someone I would have pegged as being into whimsy and surrealism).

That’s just the tip of the iceberg; there are many, many more besides (Whose Line Is It Anyway? Being another) but this could go on forever if I don’t cut things off somewhere. Of course, not everything made it way away from the airwaves…




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