Saturday, 20 February 2010

Dad, what's a 'Father and Son'? Well, it's a very specific sort of sketch with a hugely elaborate set up, piling up lots of information up front...

This week I've been reading a lunatically good book. Let's be honest though, you need something approaching my level of lunacy to really appreciate it.

It's "Prime Minister You Wanted to See Me?": A History of "Week Ending" by Ian Greaves and Justin Lewis.

Week Ending was of course BBC Radio 4's long-running, only occasionally funny,topical comedy show. Anyone was allowed to write for it, and I was one of the thousands who did, like many of its contributors sending in sketches by post on a Monday or Tuesday that I hoped might still just be topical by the weekend (towards the programme's end I'd graduated to faxing sketches often as late as a Wednesday). It was where we began to learn the form.

The book kicks off with a brilliant and lovingly researched extended essay on the series and its history with some lovely script extracts and then kicks into over-drive with lists, great big detailed lists, an index, and pleasing nerdery on Week Ending spin-offs, spoofs and music.
It's alarming just how many tightly coiled memories reading it unravels.
Perhaps the greatest joy in it is the listing of sketch and newsline titles, tantalising reminders of past political and cultural concerns, sometimes functional, sometimes punning or obscure, sometimes absolutely undecipherable.
It's also allowed me to map precisely the Week Ending contributions of three ex-colleagues,three Facebook friends, all sorts of writer heroes including Douglas Adams, Tony Sarchet, Marshall and Renwick and of course Tim Hincks of Endemol, and discover that my first ever broadcast sketch was performed by Josh Darcy, the guy who organised the celebrations of Ken Campbell at the Metafex festival in 2008.

Somehow, reading it made me feel having had a second sketch recorded for Radio 7's Newsjack recorded and then cut before transmission a week or so back was a good thing- part of a continuum, for me and BBC radio.

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