Our Sixcom Hell
Comic Relief came to 6 Music yesterday and provided for me a memorable day during my last couple of weeks at the station. It was all that is good about the place: people pulling together without the muscle of being a huge national terrestrial radio station, doing stuff for the love of it, having a laugh (6 Music was, five years ago, built on having a laugh) and pulling favours (it was built on pulling favours too). Jon Holmes and me had written a four-part sitcom to be performed live, throughout Red Nose Day, set in the newsroom – as charity fun on telly is always about newsreaders sending themselves up, so it seemed in the correct spirit – and called Drop The Dead Junkie. There was loose talk of it being written live too, but why make life more difficult than it already is? We wrote it beforehand, which allowed us to make last-minute casting changes dependent on which comics turned up (in the event, Jon Culshaw, Marcus Brigstocke, Lucy Porter and Stephen Merchant, all of whom got small but important speaking parts), and to write in two topical jokes for two winning listeners to read out in Episode Four, which they did, playing “stringers” filing news stories.
Harvey Cook and Julie Cullen, familiar voices to 6 Music listeners, took the bulk of the acting, with an actual intern, called Jimmy Bird, manfully taking the actually very significant part of the Work Experience Boy. He was great. They were all great, combining Goons-style gusto with an admirable sense of self-parody, including supporting news players Adrian Larkin, Clare Runacres and Lucy O’Doherty as themselves. Jon and I mainly provided moral support, although I did get to do one of the few live sound effects: coins rattling in a tin. I was very proud. Hats of to producer Claire and technical crew Jules and Jo, who were on hand all day to make it happen (wow, there’s a BBC mantra you don’t hear any more). Also, a tip of the hat to DJ Osymyso, who wrote us a theme tune.
A fabulous, if knackering, day. 6 Music at its let’s-do-the-show-right-here finest. Due to a no-show by Russell Howard, I had to be a contestant in Nemone’s radio darts quiz, which was fun. I met Leigh Francis, who was in for an interview, as himself. It was that kind of day. Thanks to all concerned. I’ve never done anything for Comic Relief before, and it felt good. I dare say the money we raised through texts and donations was modest, but hey. We are a small radio station. We should, by rights, be happy to be a small radio station. We can’t all be Radio 2. The BBC should be able to support a number of smaller operations without any spurious drive for ratings getting in the way of the spirit. You can watch the video of Episode Two and listen to all four here. Thanks to Catherine Chambers and Kris Shaw for filming this, editing it and getting it up before the end of Red Nose Day.
Now, time to start putting my stuff in a box. It’s been a key week in terms of the career crossroads I find myself at. I met Mark Radcliffe in a sandwich shop this morning (he’s been down in London filling in for Steve Wright, which is in itself a thrill), and I told him that my stock at 6 Music is down, but my stock at BBC1 is up. His reaction was: what are you worried about then?