A spoof late-night phone it that has outraged Radio 4 listeners has been revealed as the work of Fast Show stars Paul Whitehouse and Charlie Higson.
The BBC has been inundated with complaints about Down The Line, with listeners calling it ‘drivel’, ‘antagonistic rubbish’ and ‘cringeworth’ and moaning about ‘trite and unsophisticated’ presenter Gary Bellamy, pictured.
But today Radio 4 will reveal the Tueday-night show was not evidence of the station dumbing down by launching its first phone-in, but is instead the comic creation of Whitehouse and Higson,
Bellamy is played by comic actor Rhys Thomas, with comedians including Harry Enfield, Simon Day, Felix Dexter, Catherine Tate and Arabella Weir playing the callers. The show was semi-improvised to make it feel spontaneous.
Radio 4 comedy commissioner Caroline Raphael is due to appear on the station’s Feedback programme this lunchtime to reveal the truth behind the show, which was launched as a factual programme two weeks ago, and sooth the fears of the die-hard listeners who had complained.
However Higson said that he wanted to keep the subterfuge going for longer. He told the Guardian today: ‘We were keen not to say anything, but the Radio 4 people were concerned not to piss people off.
‘But no matter how much publicity there is, some listeners will still be tuning in and not knowing it's a spoof.’
Whitehouse added: ‘We didn't want to announce who it was. We wanted it to go out with minimum fuss - Tuesday night at 11 o'clock is hardly banging on the doors of comedy and announcing our arrival.
‘We thought it was much more interesting to get the thing out and see how people react. It would have been nice if it had ticked along [without revealing it was a spoof], but I suppose these days it's tricky with the internet. There are a lot of comedy nerds out there.’
‘But the fun of doing it on Radio 4 is that it's on Radio 4, isn't it? How dare we have one of these banal, dumbing-down phone-in shows on Radio 4? Whether we've pulled the trick off or not, I don't know.’