Friday 17 November 2017

On Radio 4 Comedy

Sioned Wiliam

Sioned Wiliam, Radio 4's Commissioning Editor for Comedy, is no mean comedienne herself - at least if her Feedback interview with Roger Bolton today is anything to go by. 

I laughed and laughed and laughed.

She played the part of a parody version of a BBC editor responding to charges of bias and denying everything, but so badly that she ended up making a complete dunderhead of 'herself'. 

She was absolutely brilliant. It's the best satire I've heard on Radio 4 in a long while and her performance couldn't be bettered. I almost believed she was 'for real'. 

Seriously, Sioned should be given her own Radio 4 series. (And, being Radio 4's Commissioning Editor for Comedy, if she can't commission herself, who can?). She has a great catchphrase too - "I don't think I agree". 

Roger Bolton made for a wonderful straight man here too. [And a genuine 'all credit to him' for his probing today].

Here's part of the script:

Roger Bolton: Well, let's turn to a political issue. It couldn't be more controversial at the moment. Sue Cooper wrote to us about Brexit.

Sue Cooper: I have to say that I am deeply disappointed by the way News Quiz has taken a very left wing and anti-Brexit stance. It used to be funny but it is now very biased. And when they start off arrogantly treating those who voted Leave as though they are completely stupid I reach for the 'Off' switch'.

Roger BoltonDo you think Sue has a point?

Sioned Wiliam: Well, I don't agree that it's coming from one position. We have a range of political voices on...

Roger Bolton: [interrupting] Oh no. If you listen to it consistently....I am not taking sides, but it is clear that the majority of jokes are broadly anti-Brexit.
Sioned WiliamI don't think I agree. I mean, actually, if you look at the last series. There were three episodes in which Brexit didn't feature at all....
Roger Bolton[interrupting] No, but when Brexit is raised, on the whole, most people's view would be that the majority of jokes are, if you, like opposed, as it were, against Brexiteers.
Sioned WiliamI don't think I do agree....

And on it went, and....

....News just just just in...

I've been informed by sources close to the BBC that this was not satire. 

It was a real interview. Sioned Wiliam was actually being serious and not - repeat not - engaging in comedy gold after all. 

I'm in shock, and will need to take a break to recover.

That girl, and that former BBC sports reporter who became head of the F.A.

After getting over my disappointment I decided, being a blogger about BBC bias, to put Sioned's Panglossian statements to the test by listening to tonight's The Now Show (which Roger and Sioned moved onto later). 

And, guess what? There were plenty of anti-Brexit jokes from Steve 'n' Hugh but not a single pro-Brexit joke/anti-EU joke. 

Not one. 

Listen for yourselves. Not one pro-Brexit joke and lots of anti-Brexit jokes. (The first five minutes will suffice if you're pressed for time).

And except for one mild dig at Jeremy Corbyn - later 'balanced' by a segment seriously citing his views on austerity and then running with a series of vaguely-anti-austerity gags - the targets were utterly predictable: Trump, Mrs May, Boris, the DUP, Nigel Farage, Brexit, Greggs. (Even Mugabe and Kim Jong-un got off lightly in comparison, Yes, really, they did!). 

Now that I know that Sioned wasn't just pretending to be a completely idiotic BBC high-up, I'm becoming seriously worried about her. 

If she genuinely believes that programmes like The Now Show and The News Quiz are 'balanced' because they invite on people like Hugo Rifkind and Danny Finkelstein, who she went on to name in her defence - despite both of them having voted for us to remain in the EU - then she is seriously delusional. 

Maybe she needs a few months off. May I suggest that she use her presumably huge BBC salary to book into Morecambe's magnificent Midland Hotel and partake of the sea air and the spectacular Lakeland views for several weeks.

She's clearly in need of it. (And I'll buy her a large glass of wine).

The very picture of smug Radio 4 comedy?

And as for The Now Show itself, good grief! Please hire a vet to put me to sleep before I ever listen to it again. 

The new 'talent' really needs to try harder. The old 'talent' is tired. 

And Jake - Mr Jake Yapp - please stop lowering yourself. 

...and then you 'self-censored' that bit of your famous Radio 4 satire when Radio 4 granted you your own one-off...

...and now, garlic and stake readied, you've become a The Now Show regular, simply pandering to the Radio 4 studio audience types . (Sell out!)

I don't blame you actually. Why not? Grab the loot from the BBC licence fee payer and get the BBC Pension Fund lawyers to help you stash most of it in a Caribbean tax haven.

That's my advice, and you'd be wise to take it.

P.S. The Daily Mail has a write-up about this today


  1. Something I read recently that had me laughing made me think of the typical BBCer.
    "After a quick trawl through Twitter to see if I can find any racism to condemn, or white people not condemning it, I head into the office."

    That was the first time I'd come across "woke". Never heard of the author before either. He's a witty fellow.

  2. That sent the Rantometer off the scale Craig! Excellent!

    Yes, I find the Now Show pretty unlistenable to now.

    Steve Punt's family were I guess part of the British Empire roadshow, as he was born in Cyprus on the UK base. Hugh Dennis's dad was a Bishop.

    Fits in with my theory that a lot of the BBC's support for "social justice" causes derives from upper middle class guilt - the people who dominate the BBC tend to come from families that did well out of slavery and empire.

  3. How often does the BBC immediately adapt an NT Production?

    Answer: hardly ever...not being in the interests of either organisation, but clearly they have made an exception in the case of a load of anti-Brexit hooey.

  4. There isn’t a race, nationality or people who’s ancestors haven’t been involved in oppressing, exploiting, killing or enslaving another race, nationality or people at some point in history. You might as well just feel guilty for being alive....

    1. True but our Empire is a lot more recent - we've even got a few bits left - and a lot of wealthier families still enjoy personal wealth derived from that era. I think it is an observable fact that it is people from that background, rather than working class people who are more inclined to express guilt about our imperial past. Personally I subscribe to the Orwellist view of Empire - a complete racket and not something that improved the lot of the average Brit.

    2. I’m not convinced about that - those who seem to feel guilt are those who have been educated to do so via our institutions not by background.

      You’ve also got to factor into the argument the devastation caused by two world wars had on peoples perception of nationalism and the change that had on our institutions.

    3. Have a watch of Howards End - set in that period at the very zenith of British Imperialism when Imperial Glory was all the rage - and yet there was already plenty of middle class guilt around. My own view is that a lot of that guilt is not misplaced. Whilst the British Empire did some good, it also did a lot of self-interested bad: engaging in slavery, dispossessing native farmers, effectively exterminating some peoples, closing down the Indian cotton industry, setting communities against each other and exacting bloody revenge on those who did accept our self-imposed rule.

  5. Dividing the world into either oppressed or oppressor is as intellectually empty as the Post Modernist drivel from which is derides.
    Orwell accurately identified the sub-group to which bores like Dennis and Punt belong back in the 30’s. To paraphrase, they don’t really care for the poor at all, they just hate the rich - or basically anybody who has something that they haven’t.

  6. The other interesting thing is that joe public didn’t exactly have it that good at home, whilst the country was out “oppressing”, building railways and setting up stable governments.

    Have you seen a sailors rations from the late 1700’s to early 1800’s? looks bad doesn’t it? Well people at the time actually considered it better than what most ate on land. Those that worked in factories were often slaves in all but name, but nobody seems to what compensations or an apology.

    1. I think that is the point, isn't it? The average Brit only saw a surge in their material wellbeing and health AFTER we started getting rid of the Empire from the late 1940s onwards. It was really an upper middle class racket, designed to create well paid jobs for the young children without much of an inheritance.


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