radio comedy


radio comedy
   Comedy on radio is inevitably associated with the networks run by the BBC, even though it is clear that comedy is essential to most radio, whether national or local, BBC or independent. While the term ‘radio comedy’ is usually used to refer to a variety of situation comedies, panel games and sketch shows, it can be seen that virtually all radio presenters and disc jockeys use comedy, irrespective of the format of the actual programme. The careers of disc jockeys such as Chris Evans, for example, rely very heavily on their ability to make people laugh. It can be seen that this trend has become more apparent in the 1990s, with Radio 1 spawning a number of significant comedies, such as The Mary Whitehouse Experience and Chris Morris’s Blue Jam, signalling the increasing importance of comedy to the medium of radio overall.
   Despite this, the majority of specific comedy programmes appear on Radio 4, which has a lengthy tradition of producing such programming. Panel games such as I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue and Just a Minute have been running for decades, as has The News Huddlines on Radio 2. Radio 4 has broadcast hundreds of sitcoms, the most famous earlier examples probably being It’s That Man Again, The Goon Show and Hancock’s Half-Hour. However, the format continues to be reinvented on radio in such programmes as On the Hour and People Like Us, both sophisticated parodies of Radio 4 and its journalistic excesses. The Asian-based sketch show Goodness Gracious Me! was seen to be a significant breakthrough for ethnic minorities.
   While radio comedy achieves significantly smaller audience ratings than its television counterpart, its future is assured not least because it often serves as a breeding ground for new comedy talent before the lure of television rears its head. A number of television sitcoms began on radio (such as After Henry and Second Thoughts), while Goodness Gracious Me! transferred to BBC2, Radio 4’s The News Quiz became Have I Got News For You and On the Hour moved on to satirize television journalism as The Day Today. Many in the radio industry bemoan the low standing the medium occupies compared to television, particularly when it is probable that much television comedy would not exist without radio serving as an apprenticeship.
   Further reading
    Took, B. (1976) Laughter in the Air, London: Robson (affectionate but outdated history of radio comedy).
   BRETT MILLS

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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