Frank Muir and Denis Norden were contestants on a panel game called 'My Word.' It ran for years on Radio Four, and probably on the Home Service as it was before it was re-branded in the 1960's. This show was about words (well, the title was imaginative!) At the end of the programme both these contestants had to tell a story, using a well-know phrase or saying, which was given them by the compere. This saying had to be part of the 'punch-line' or closing sentence of the story. When it ended, the contestant who had the longest applause from the studio audience won. I just loved this show. I've always had a love of words, and these two men, who were major scriptwriters, working on BBC radio comedy shows such as 'Take It From Here' which starred Jimmy Edwards, Dick Bentley, and June Whitfield. It was a sketch show, best remembered for 'The Glums' section, with Dick Bentley as the dimwitted Ron Glum, June Whitfield as his ever-so-patient girlfriend Eth and Jimmy Edwards as Ron's father. Frank Muir became Assistant Head of Light Entertainment at the BBC and then Head of Comedy at London Weekend Television and Denis Norden introduced the long-running television show 'It'll Be Alright On The Night' which consisted of clips of out-takes and bloopers from television shows and films. I think the best way to describe their comedy would be 'droll' and probably not appreciated by today's audiences as being somewhat tame. Perhaps so, but they had a wit and originality which is missing from today's entertainment, which seems dead-set on being quite offensive (don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with a lot of modern comedy, but so much is just out-and-out offensive and crude. A double entendre is one thing, but being crude is another. Using bad language to get is laugh is just cheap. We don't appear to have any boundaries today, anything goes, which is a shame. Muir and Norden then went on to be involved in 'My Music' which used the format of 'My Word' but using music as the theme. Steve Race was the compere of that show.
When I was at Mander College in Bedford in the late 1960's, a friend of mine on the course came to visit me at home and introduced me to 'The Goon Show.' His father had recorded the original broadcasts on to reel-to-reel tape (actually illegal, but never mind. I think everyone did this at one time or other.) and he had transferred these recordings onto the then newly-introduced format of tape cassette. I was able to listen to some of them and was immediately hooked. I just loved the surreal humour of those episodes, probably first broadcast in the 1950's. The characters, played by Peter Sellers, Harry Secombe and Spike Milligan (who also wrote most of the scripts, along with Eric Sykes.) really captivated me and I have been a fan ever since. I have been a fan of Spike Milligan ever since. He's been called 'The Grandfather of Alternative Comedy' and influenced the Monty Python style of comedy.
I got hooked on the crazy comedy of another radio show called 'I'm Sorry, I'll Read That Again', which had John Cleese, Bill Oddie, Graham Garden, Jo Kendal and co in it. This ran from the early 1960's into the 1970's and some of the performers went on to write such shows as 'Fawlty Towers' and from 'The Goodies' on BBC television. They began their careers at Oxford and Cambridge Universities and performed in'The Footlights' revues. I recorded a lot of these shows onto audio cassette and replayed them endlessly until the tapes wore out. Cassettes might be the latest technology in the 1960's, but they weren't very reliable. The tape was extremely thin and often got twisted inside the horrible little plastic cases. The longer the running time, the thinner the tape and as a result, the more likely they were to cause problems. I had a Philips cassette player, which must have been one of the first cassette players on the market.
We've now got digital radio. I won a rather smart Roberts radio, courtesy of Classic FM. It was around 11-12 years ago. It sits near our bed. We listen to Radio 4 Extra on it. They broadcast what I can best call 'back catalogue' or 'archive' material on the channel. It was originally called Radio Seven. I'm not sure why it was re-branded as Radio 4 Extra. Perhaps because most of what it broadcasts originated on Radio 4. They have old episodes of such shows as 'Round The Horne', 'The Goons', 'The Navy Lark' as well as crime series such as 'Sherlock Holmes' (there are quite a few radio versions of the stories, going back several decades.) As well as the occasional documentary and play. It seems to run on a 12-hour cycle, which means it can run 24 hours a day. 'Desert Island Discs' is played on Sunday evenings at 9.15. As this is a series which has been going since around 1942 it could run almost indefinitely. Also, other comedy shows which are on earlier in the week on Radio 4, such as 'Just A Minute' and 'I'm Sorry, I Haven't A Clue.'