John-Paul Stephenson

Opinion: A tribute to The Dave Gorman Show

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A fortnight ago, Dave Gorman announced that his Absolute Radio show, The Dave Gorman Show, would be coming to an end this morning. In his typically unassuming style, Gorman ensured that the news to end the show wasn’t delivered as if it was the worst thing to happen to British radio since Kelvin MacKenzie. No bad blood; just time for people to reclaim their Sunday mornings and see what life brings.

First broadcast in October 2009, the Sunday morning show has given us regular features, in-jokes, and geekiness galore. For much of the show’s existence, Gorman was joined by comedians Danielle Ward and Martin White, familiar to niche comedy audiences for their Karaoke Circus and macabre musicals such as Gutted.

The live show interspersed music with features. In “Ward’s Weekly Word”, Danielle gave a sardonic summary of current cinema and TV, whereas Gorman’s own “Found Poetry” poked fun at the keyboard warriors commenting on news stories that barely count as ‘news’ in the first place. White’s feature collated the contributions to the weekly audience question into a song, usually performed with his accordion.

The team created an intimacy between themselves and the audience. The audience provided much of the content, offering funny, weird and interesting responses to the weekly question. For example, questions such as ‘What do you know about the world that hardly anyone else knows?’ led to revelations such as that a knob rotates underneath the yellow boxes at pedestrian crossings to indicate to those with visual and hearing impairments when it is safe to cross. It’s difficult, once you know that, not to check every crossing.  The version of the world according to The Dave Gorman Show is full of geeks and genuinely nice people.

The podcast version embraced not only those not listening to the show live, but also the podcast audience catching up, and may well be months behind. They overtly recognised this by welcoming new contributions on topics addressed several months previously. “Pun Street”, the feature exclusive to the podcast in which audiences submitted the best puns used to name a shop, became somewhat of a cult. A classic of the genre must be the dog groomers named “Indiana Bones & the Temple of Groom”. My own submission to Pun Street never even made it to the committee room: a carpet fitters in County Durham called “Get Laid Professionally Ltd.”, with the subheading “or just get gripped and felt”. Punnery at its finest.

The show jumped the shark when Martin White left in April 2012. Unfortunate timing meant that his contract expired during a brief hiatus in the show, while Gorman was on the Australian leg of the PowerPoint Presentation tour. White’s announcement on Twitter that his contract would not be renewed attracted a lot of sympathy for him, and anger against the station. The relationship between White and the audience had been abruptly ended without any signalling or ‘thanks and goodbye’.

Commercial radio rarely allows sacked presenters to say farewell to their audience in fear that they will rant against the management or promote a rival station, in the style of DLT, Simon Bates and, recently, Danny Baker. White’s sudden departure was unsettling for the audience with whom he had formed some sort of bond. After two and a half years, a synthetic friend was leaving our lives.

Furthermore, the illusion of a group of mates rocking up on a Sunday morning to do a geeky radio show for a cool and fresh station was broken. The incident foregrounded the production and the management at the expense of intimacy and comradeship between performers, station and audience. Slightly naïve tweets to Dave and Danielle requesting that they publically comment about White’s departure were evidence that some listeners felt very much a part of the relationship.

Paul Foot and Pete Firman stepped in as guest co-presenters, to varying degrees of success. Firman’s performance of the acutely visual ‘hammering a nail into your nose’ trick lead to an excruciating few minutes that alienated those not watching the live video feed on the website. Some other features in the final year were also a little hit-and-miss; the ‘Autocomplete’ game often confused its participants, and the concept of the game’s loser forfeiting his or her birthday celebrations a little anti-climactic.

However, Michael Legge’s stint as a guest presenter was so successful that he remained as the third member of the team until the show’s penultimate week. There was again a strong trio that clearly connected with each other and, more importantly, with the audience. Legge has an aptitude for this type of show, and I hope we’ll hear or see more of him in the future.

It’s always a little sad to say goodbye to a show that has formed a small part of your life for three years. The Dave Gorman Show has accompanied recoveries from hangovers on Sunday mornings, and walks with my dog. It’s been fun, and I’ll miss it, but the team are absolutely right to move on before it gets too stale.

  • Andrew

    A good summary of what the show what made the show successsful. You’re right that Martin White’s departure was badly handled but Dave Gorman apologised for that during the last show. I wouldn’t entirely agree that it jumped the shark after White left but it was beginning to feel a little stale and it was a wise move to end the series.

  • Alfster

    An excellent summary of the show. I stopped listening soon after Martin went. One erason was the ‘la la la la la’ sound made by a group of 13year old girls being played underneath Dave’s opening comments and his final ‘Jerry Springer what have we learnt in this episode’ comments (Because Martin was no longer there with his song).

    As I listened to the podcast on earphone in the car it was far too distracting and annoying.

    The feel of the show went once Martin went which is a shame as I got a number of things read out on the show and it had a certain relaxed feel about it.

    However, it does seem station owners think they know best…which the patently do not.

  • Lise

    Anyone know whether or not we will get a replacement podcast now the Dave Gorman show is over? Living in Canada now, it’s the only way I can get to really enjoy Absolute – please don’t say I’m a podcast down per week! Arghhhhh!!