Casting An Eye At The Pods: Friday Night Comedy from BBC Radio 4

By: William G. Muir

I am an Anglophile! For those who do not know what a Anglophile, it simply means I am a great admire of England and all things English. Why I am telling you the reader all of this? Well because it is related to today’s podcast review. We are going to be looking at the Friday Night Comedy From BBC Radio Four.

Like other podcast that I have review in the past, this podcast is actually a rebroadcasting of a radio show. To be honest The Friday Night Comedy… is not like the podcast of radio shows I have reviewed in the past. This podcast is a rotation of more than one BBC Radio 4 shows.

The podcast mainly features in it rotation The News Quiz and The Now Show. Both of which take a satirical look at the news throughout Great Britain as well at major international stories. There are times that The Friday Night Comedy… will feature other shows as well. During the month of August the podcast covers the events at the Edinburgh Comedy Festival. Every so often they will also test out new show on Friday nights.

Since The Now Show and The News Quiz makes up the majority of podcast during the year, and those are the two shows I will be focusing on. Both shows have a few things in common, first being that they are comedies. While both shows have different formats, both shows do feature well known comedic talent as guest. Both shows have an thirty minute run time. And they both have a season that last for six weeks. This means that they run through a couple season each during the year.

The News Quiz is a panel game show. I know some of my American readers may not be familiar with this type of show. The format has all but disappeared in The United States. The heyday for panels show in the US occurred during the 1950s and 60s with such shows as What’s My Line and I Got A Secret.  Even up through the 70s and 80s panel shows played a big part of the television landscape with Hollywood Squares and The Match Game. The last panel show to appear on American prime time television was the US version of Whose Line Is It Anyways.

It seems like the only place to find a panel show in the US is on NPR.

But in the UK panel shows are extremely popular. Comedian laden shows like QI and Mock The Week prove that you can talk about serious topics and make them entertaining. Something that seems to missing from US television. Maybe because most US celebrities are not interested in issues that do not revolve around themselves.

Not only is the television landscape different in the UK so is the radio. (I’m only speaking terrestrial of radio stations here, I have no knowledge of what satellite is like.) In the US radio stations either play music or they are talk radio station that either focus of politics or sports. The only exception to this is public radio, which airs a variety of different content. In the UK the BBC radio stations run the gambit of programming content. From pop music. comedies, sitcoms and drama all finding their home somewhere in the BBC radio family.

As it’s names implies, The News Quiz is exactly that, a weekly quiz about news. Sandy Toksvig is the host of the show, and she ask her panelist vague question about some event that has taken place in the past seven days. The panelist, a mix of comedians, journalist and odd politician then try to guess which news item Sandy is referring to.

While the focus of the show is suppose to be the news, it is not unusual for the discussion to veer off course. What starts off as the fact of a particular subject can devolve into personal anecdote. While the does get some of it’s humor from its satirical look at the news, the real humor in the show comes from the panelist sharing their amusing personal stories.

Often times the personal banter takes up such a large portion of the show that they may only get to a few news stories during a taping.

Another staple of The News Quiz is the cuttings. Several times during the show, the news reader will take a few moments to read out clips that has been sent in from a listener. These clips may be from a news story, advert or other various print sources. The cuttings are example of people trying to say something in a clever way, which often timers result in the piece meaning something different from it intended purpose. A double entendre if you will.

My American readers may recognize this an old favorite of such late night talk shows as the Late Show with David Letterman; were they do a similar bit. The only difference is that the late night talk shows script their cuttings.

Whereas The News Quiz is a panel show, The Now Show is a radio sketch show that pokes fun at world and local news. The show is hosted by comedians Steve Punt and Hugh Dennis. They are joined by regulars Jon Homles, Laura Shavin, Marcus Brigstock and Mitch Benn. Often times they will have a guest or two on the show. Mostly the guest are up and coming stand-up comedian there to showcase their talent. And to tell joke about current events.

Some of the reoccurring features of the show include Mitch Benn singing original songs about whatever issues are in the news. John Holmes provides an editorial each week which is introduced with Hugh Dennis making jokes about Holmes height. And to finish each week Dennis and Punt read out response to question that were asked of the audience before the show began.

Now the question is would I recommend The Friday Night Comedy… podcast to you the readers. Of course I would, if for no other reason than you get a look into what is going on outside of your own boarders. From the numbers I know this blog is seen by mostly Americans, and far to many of us no little to nothing that is going on outside our own country. That is a very dangerous thing.

So please do yourself a favor and give this podcast a try. Not only will you see what is happening in the rest of the world, and maybe have your eyes opened to how other people think. But you will also learn that serious things do not always have to be boring, they can be quite fun. You might then want to move onto to other podcast put out by the BBC as well.

I give The Friday Night Comedy… podcast a thumbs up.

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