Ian Wolf

Radio Weekly #1

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Radio Weekly #1, with Ian Wolf

As there’s little in the way of new TV comedy this week, Ian Wolf looks at some of the best radio comedy programmes currently on offer.

The Unbelievable Truth


For those not aware of this show, The Unbelievable Truth is a panel game, and as is law when it comes to panel games, it involves David Mitchell.

He acts as host of “the panel game built on truth and lies”, in which four comics deliver a lecture on a subject which is mostly lies, except for five pieces of unlikely true information which have to be smuggled past the rest of the panel.

In this week’s edition, Tony Hawks gave a ‘lecture’ on mice, Arthur Smith on Sir Walter Raleigh, Rhod Gilbert on soup, and Mitchell’s 10 O’Clock Live co-star Charlie Brooker on his specialist subject of television.

The show is rather like QI, in that it is partly about unlikely trivia. Among the things mentioned were the fact that Bruce Forsyth first appeared on the TV before World War Two began and that Raleigh’s widow kept his severed head in a velvet bag which she carried around with her (although this fact has already been on QI).

Mind you, a lot of the lies mentioned are things you really hope are true, such as Swindon having a “Day of the mouse” in which the mice get to rule the town, or Raleigh farting during the coronation of Charles I.

My only problem with The Unbelievable Truth is that I think some of the facts might be wrong. One of the things that regularly crop up is obscure but daft American laws, like how in Nebraska you have to brew soup if you are also selling beer. I always suspect that these ‘laws’ are just made up and just included because they sound funny.

The Simon Day Show


This brand new sketch show sees The Fast Show and Down The Line star Simon Day perform as some of his best known creations at The Mallard, a small provincial theatre with not that much room in it. If you want an idea on sort of place The Mallard is, it’s best put by the woman in charge of the box office admitting to adding the phrase “Must see” to acts because the tickets are not shifting.

This week, Day starred as his Yorkshire poet persona Geoffrey Allerton, reading some of his poems and extracts from his memoir Marking Time. Day/Allerton’s poetry is excellent, making humorous comments on inner city life and going to art-house movies.

His sombre childhood memories were even funnier, covering the bad relationship Allerton had with his father. He mentions that his father, “threw a jar of Marmite at me,” and that he showed him a picture of a naked woman, or as Day/Allerton puts it, the, “lady with the lower beard.”

The show is not just about Day and his character, but also of the regular staff and visitors of The Mallard. There is surly Rastafarian technician Goose (Felix Dexter) who gets annoyed about being given jobs outside of his remit, the Leeds-born boss Ron Bone (Simon Greenall) who mocks Allerton’s supposedly posh background, and there are the two posh mothers (Arabella Weir and Catherine Shepherd) talking about the problems of employing a “frog” as a nanny.

This has all the marks of becoming a really good series. Future episodes will see Day performing as reformed convict Tony Beckton and his Fast Show classic Tommy Cockles.

The News Quiz

I wasn’t planning to review this show but things changed for reasons you will soon discover.

The long running satirical panel game, currently hosted by Sandi Toksvig, has been running since 1977, and last week saw the start of its 74th series. This week’s guests included regular performers Jeremy Hardy and Susan Calman, semi-regular Will Smith, and journalist Matthew Parris.

There were some topics that you would expect to be covered, such as the royal wedding, super injunctions and Libya, but then it came to the subject of tuition fees, and how most universities are raising them to extortionate rates.

Among those are my old university, Teesside University in Middlesbrough, which this week announced it was planning to put up its fees of £8,500. As you would expect, they took the mickey out of the region. Parris said that what was actually going on was that they were actually selling the whole university for £8,500.

Smith said that £8,500 tuition fees were a status thing, but argued that if this was the reason that they should just change the name to “Oxbridge University of the North” or “Hogwarts”.

It cost the university £20,000 to change its logo and the name of the establishment to “Teesside University” from “University of Teesside”, so £8,500 is nothing, really. Toksvig at the end claimed that if anyone was offended, the £8,500 includes, “a whole row of terrace houses.”

To be honest with you, I was shocked when I heard them talking about Teesside in such a fashion, because I am amazed that anyone on BBC Radio 4 has even heard of Teesside.

I didn’t mind The News Quiz mocking my old university, though. I’m just glad it got the publicity, even if it was not the most glowing publicity. To be honest, when I heard that the fees were going up, I was on Twitter arguing the raise was impossible; because no-one in Teesside has £8,500. (It’s true – I’m currently writing this on a Windows 98 in a skip near a Starbucks, leeching onto the Wi-Fi).

The News Quiz show is still entertaining after so many years, and because it is on at 6.30pm, it mocks the news two-and-a-half hours before Have I Got News for You does. Well worth a listen.