One of the biggest decisions an up-and-coming stand-up comedian can make is to give up the day job and concentrate on performing. It means farewell to the career as a teacher (Greg Davies), doctor (Harry Hill) or sales rep (John Bishop) and suggests a belief that a job telling jokes is going to pay the mortgage instead.
Alfie Moore spent 18 years on the Humberside police force before he turned to stand-up comedy, but if It’s a Fair Cop – his first series for BBC Radio 4 – is anything to go by, it was definitely the right move.
The formula for the show is that Moore swears his audience in as police officers for one night, and takes them through a real-life scenario to see what kind of decisions they would make in the same circumstances. Theft was the theme of the first instalment, with the focus on 80-year-old Maureen and a stolen tin of salmon.
This approach was clever because the laughs, and there were plenty of them, came from two different directions. For a start, there was Moore’s great patter, in which he managed to mock his previous profession at the same time as demonstrating a deep respect for it. Plus his rapport with the audience/temporary officers (“Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time,” said one less than sympathetic volunteer) was equally entertaining.
Less laugh-out-loud funny was an archive recording of Eric Idle – Radio Five, the comedian, actor and writer’s hour-long music and comedy show first broadcast on BBC Radio 1 in 1974 (18 years before the real Radio 5 Live came along).
Alongside his eclectic choices of music, Idle threw in a number of sketches, for which he provided all the voices. However, unlike the Monty Python skits getting another outing in the team’s arena gigs this month, this material hadn’t survived the test of time.
It’s not always easy revisiting recordings of yourself from the past, but former film producer David Puttnam took that risk in Archive On 4: Meeting Myself Coming Back.
Puttnam is probably best-known as an Oscar-winning movie producer, with hits including Bugsy Malone, Midnight Express, Chariots of Fire, Local Hero (which he revealed a deep affection for) and The Killing Fields – but he has also gained a reputation for speaking out on all kinds of issues, in particular education and the environment.
It was revealing, then, to hear Puttnam cringe at an item from the BBC sound archive in which his nervous, younger self was being interviewed alongside director Alan Parker about their early film, Melody. Indeed, it was items such as this that allowed the listener to engage with the candid producer as he reflected on the highs and lows of his colourful career. Commenting on his short-lived role as the first British executive to head an American film studio (Columbia Pictures 1986-88), he said: “It did not play to any of my strengths and did probably play to a number of my weaknesses.”
Also helping to take the interview to another level was presenter John Wilson, who consistently asked intelligent and insightful questions and, as a result, prompted a compelling discussion rather than a bland Q&A session.
As part of the BBC’s commemoration of the First World War, Radio 3 has been telling the story of the conflict through its music. An example of this was Sunday Feature: World War One – Cradle of Jazz, in which Alyn Shipton charted the musical and social changes of an era that saw the evolution of jazz from ragtime. Alongside Shipton’s informed commentary and an abundance of interviews and musical interludes, the moving and inspiring story of hugely influential African-American bandleader, arranger and composer James Reese Europe made a particular impression.
When America joined the war, Europe saw combat as a lieutenant with the 369th Infantry Regiment (the ‘Harlem Hellfighters’), and in early 1918 he and his military band travelled all over France, performing for British, French and US troops.
Just over a year later, on May 9, 1919, Europe – once described by composer and pianist Eubie Blake as the “Martin Luther King of music” – was backstage at a concert when an angry band member attacked him with a knife. He died a few hours later.
It’s a Fair Cop, R4, Wednesday, July 9
Eric Idle – Radio Five, R4 Extra, Sunday, July 6
Archive on 4: Meeting Myself Coming Back, R4, Saturday, July 5
Sunday Feature: World War One – Cradle of Jazz, R3, Sunday, July 6