Endless simian enclosure

If sub-tweeting is a thing, is sub-blogging? If it is, then this is it. I’ll try to keep whingeing to a minimum in these parts, but do want to share a thoughts about the radio. BBC Radio. BBC Radio 4.

That’s not sub-blogging, is it? Well I’m not going to name any particular show, but rather dress this up as a more general point in case there are other examples. I’m not aware of any, but let’s pretend there are.

Here’s the thing: I think it’s detrimental to a radio programme to shoehorn comedians in for the sake of making supposedly dry subjects more funny or accessible.

Because the thing is, people, including smart people you get on supposedly dry radio programmes, and indeed people in general, tend to be perfectly interesting and funny if you let them be.

I’m sure radio producers would disagree: not everyone’s cut out for radio. Fine, but you’ve already made your mind up that your other guests are radio-worthy before putting them on the air.

Thing is, comedians are almost universally massive egotists; while academics, or whoever else might naturally about on dry Radio 4 programmes, may not be.

So you might end up with a (totally hypothetical) scenario in which a comedian (who, hypothetically, I happen to otherwise like) might, say, interrupt someone who HAS BEEN IN SPACE to fire off a long rambling only-semi-funny monologue they can’t help but unburden from themselves.

And because Tim Pe… the someone who HAS BEEN IN SPACE is a mild-mannered, though perfectly funny, interesting and articulate someone who HAS BEEN IN SPACE, it’s quite likely that they won’t get round, or be allowed, to finish what it was they were saying.

Given that your common or garden Radio 4 progamme is likely to have someone with a comic bent presenting or co-presenting it anyway, perhaps trust them, and your other presenters, and even your non-professional comedian guests, to provide the required amount of levity.

Because even a small amount of funny is plenty. And interesting trumps funny almost every time.

On criticism

Digitiser just posted a piece on the pointlessness of criticism. As usual, I agree with basically everything Paul says, but in this case disagree with the overall thrust. And, as it’s a subject close to my spleen, I got involved in the comments. Let me put it here for posterity.


The Guardian ran a 1-star review of Jack Whitehall‘s standup gig at the O2. I happened to see a tweet from Henning Wehn, which said “If an act manages to hold the attention of such a large crowd it simply can’t be a one star show. You might not enjoy it but it simply can’t be a one-star show.” I disagree.

I’d go so far as to say that if reviews are pointless, then so are the books, films and video games being reviewed. I say this because I think criticism is, first and foremost, entertainment. Yes yes, hats off to the actual creators – let us revere them etc, but it is right that their works are discussed, and if that’s sometimes in a negative light, that’s a sign that our society, or at least one aspect of it, is healthy.

Consider the alternatives: a world in which films and TV programmes come out and nobody talks about them, or one in which people only have good things to say about them. I’d rather, quite literally, be dead then live in either of those utopian intellectual wastelands.

Like everyone else I’ve learned the hard way my tastes don’t coincide with any one critic or the critical consensus, or even the consumer consensus. There are too many top-rated games I find boring and many middling ones I’ve greatly enjoyed. But that doesn’t render criticism pointless. It merely puts it in perspective.

Surely I’m not alone in starting out reading a review hoping that the critic really really hates the thing in question? Genuinely, that is. It would be a step too far to pretend to hate it to generate some entertaining copy – but it’s that entertaining copy I’m hoping for.

C.f. some of Peter Bradshaw’s 1-star film reviews for the Guardian.