Magazine article The Spectator

Telling Jokes

Magazine article The Spectator

Telling Jokes

Article excerpt

Craig Brown's sometimes surrealistic humour in the Telegraph and Private Eye has been brought to Radio Four in a six-part series, This Is Craig Brown (Wednesdays). Everything we're familiar with is there: pastiche, parody, farce and some telling satire. The cast is strong and includes Rory Bremner, Edward Fox, Felicity Montague and Harry Enfield with John Humphrys, Charlotte Green and Barry Norman playing themselves.

Humphrys interviews a government minister about a storm in a teacup in a satire of his Today programme style and the content. It came off though not everything does, such is the nature of satire. An EastEnders sketch featuring Churchill and Hitler didn't work for me. An impression of the Queen was excellent, capturing both her voice and pronunciation beautifully, and Tony Benn's interminable diaries on radio cassettes are funny. Future subjects are first-hand accounts by the five most distinguished people never to have had sex with Marilyn Monroe, and Barry Norman's interview with Daffy Duck. We will also hear from Brown's columnist characters, Bel Littlejohn and Wallace Arnold.

Charles Chilton is one of those remarkable pioneering radio producers and writers that the 1940s and 1950s created. Now 87, he talked engagingly about his career to Russell Davies in the Archive Hour on Radio Four (Saturday). Chilton wrote and produced many shows including Journey Into Space, an immensely popular science-fiction series. He grew up in poverty in London, and one day walked into the then new Broadcasting House to ask for a job as a messenger boy. He was told to write a letter. When he was interviewed and explained that his father had died in the first world war he was given a job. The director-general, Lord Reith, had been injured in the war and favoured maimed exsoldiers or those who had suffered in consequence, a policy that lasted until the 1980s.

As a messenger, he came to know producers who discovered his interest and knowledge of popular music and jazz. He was soon promoted to work in the gramophone library and was allowed to present music programmes, though he was taken off the air because of his cockney accent. He was later reinstated when troops in the second world war told the BBC they liked his shows. As a producer in the Variety department he worked on the Goon Show, acting as a diplomat between Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan who had stopped speaking to each other. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.