Unbroadcastable Radio Show

Note: This review is from 2006

Review by Steve Bennett

The Unbroadcastable Radio Show is a live show staged like a radio show. Four performers line up behind four microphones and read their sometimes topical material out from scripts. But, as anyone who’s been to an actual radio recording will know, this set-up offers scope for more fun than it sounds.

The main strength of this Manchester-based troupe is in the performance. Helen Copley, Dominic Woodward, Peter Slater and Toby Hadoke, pictured, providing so many convincingly varied voices that, was this real radio, you could believe it had a cast of dozens. And Hadoke – best-known as compere of the city’s much-loved XS Malarkey club – proves especially skilled at apoplectic rants, sparked by sheer frustration, in true Basil Fawlty style.

Writing, however, is patchier, even in the ‘best of’ show staged at the Manchester Comedy Festival which uses material culled from the last 12 months and split into three thirds: first a topical section, then broadcasts from a spoof radio station, and finally a selection of more general sketches.

The topical part is the weakest, even though this is supposed to be the group’s selling point. Admittedly, such a year-end compilation robs the material of its urgency, but the best topical gags should still stand up, even if the precise references are dated.

The show opens with a Four Yorkshiremen parody reflecting the compensation culture fuelled by companies such as Claims Direct – just one of several skits on this well-worn topic over the course of the afternoon. Then there’s a yobbish man teaching his son to chant football songs unintelligibly (characters who unnecessarily return later), which is one rather weak and easy-to-grasp joke unnecessarily contracted over several slow minutes – and which uses ‘faggot’ and ‘queer’ as laugh triggers uncomfortably often, ironically or not.

In fact, there’s a surprisingly reactionary undercurrent to some of the sketches, mocking ‘political correctness’ with a right-on Action Man, suggesting police are prosecuting the middle classes while murderers roam free, or having airport security harass a white woman with a child while letting an Asian man with a bazooka board a plane unchallenged.

But when they leave any attempt at a message behind, the sketches start to work. Alternatives to late-night poker, Woodward’s unhappy whiny-voiced magician, or Christopher Walker down the JobCentre or its similarly themed Davros down the Social Services all work very well. The exception to that rough rule of thumb is the team’s training school for camp-but-unthreatening TV hosts, which manages to be very funny and still make a point.

Even though local radio spoofs are far from new, their take on North West Regional Radio FM also provides plenty of highlights – mainly because it makes good use of the one thing that sets these four apart from so many other topical comedians or media parodists: their Northern-ness.

Whether it be in their bluff, no-nonsense version of Dragon’s Den, their down-to-earth adverts for the likes of an underpants superstore (one of the show’s few recurring sketches that actually justifies its reappearance), or Copley’s agony aunt blathering aimlessly as she waits for a call, this spoof hits home because it comes from first-hand experience, rather than abstractly trying to create sketches on issues that happen to be in this week’s Daily Mail.

There’s nothing about any of this team’s output that is really unbroadcastable, a few easily exorcised f-words apart, but aptly enough it’s the Unbroadcastable Radio Show’s radio show that has the most potential.

Review date: 23 Oct 2006
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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