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Saturday 30th November 2013


I listened to podcasts today whilst I was running and attempting to tidy up my office (I got so close to having it tidy a few months ago, with everything in its place, but it has somehow managed to untidy itself almost completely). The Infinite Monkey Cage is a lot of fun, whilst being informative and clever and if you're interested in the mechanics of comedy then Comedian's Comedian gives good insights (I listened to the ones with Milton Jones and Al Murray, who both reveal a lot about their comedy philosophy and the luck and judgement that went into creating their onstage personas). But Desert Island Discs remains the king of the podcasts. It was a podcast before podcasts even began and it's the perfect podcast format. I dipped into some of the archive shows, finding one with Kenneth Williams from 1987 with Michael Parkinson hosting (I'd forgotten that he'd ever done this show).

It's faintly astonishing how old-fashioned the interview sounds and how Williams' sexuality is skirted over and the discussion even goes into whether he wished he'd had kids. The term bachelor is used, not really euphemistically, as if Williams had just never met the right woman. I love Williams so much and he is hilarious in this sprawling interview and there are only hints of the sadness that lay beneath the facade. The love of an audience, it seems, was more important to him than the love of a partner. I can totally understand how the highs of performance could become as addictive as love and how a performer could confuse the two, but with Williams the crushing sadness of it all is him having to hide away a part of himself on top of that. Obviously he didn't have to discuss his sexuality in public, but it feels astonishing to me that this would still be an issue as recently as 1987. But maybe it was more of an issue for Williams than everyone else. Whilst most comedians aren't actually tortured by depression (more than anyone else), he was a man disappointed with the way his life had turned out, which seems a terrible shame. He's an utterly fascinating character, but remains for me the absolute essence of Just A Minute. Even if that was all that he had achieved he would still be one of the funniest performers of the 20th Century. The drive to succeed can make you forget the important things in life, but also fail to see your own success. Poor old Kenneth.

I wondered if anyone had ever chosen the Desert Island Discs theme as one of their eight desert island discs. If you are playing the game as what records you'd most like to have if you were on a desert island (rather than what are your favourite records - I love the ambiguity in the format) then surely it would really make you laugh to be sitting on a desert island listening to the theme tune. For a bit. Then it would become eerie. Then it would make you heartbreakingly sad. Then it would become funny again. It would be a fun choice anyway. A couple of people on Twitter suggested that you could subvert the show further by choosing a sand pit or a sunbed as your luxury item. Yeah, way to make yourself look cool. Or hot. Or both.

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