We are gearing up for the recording of the first two episodes of series 2 of TWTTIN (That Was Then, This Is Now). It's a Radio 2 show that looks at what happened this week in history which first broadcast in October/November 2004. After over a year had passed we had all assumed that there wouldn't be another series, but suddenly the call came through. The one thing we had said at the time when the possibility of a second series came up was that it was important that we didn't end up having to repeat weeks that we had already covered in the first series - after all it was difficult enough to wring half an hour of comedy out of the subjects the first time, but having to choose different topics and try again would be pretty difficult. Predictably the last three weeks of the second series cross over with the first three of series one. Ah well, we'll cope. Probably. I think there were a few things that we cut because they were rubbish. I don't think anyone will really notice if we just do the same sketches again. It would be an interesting experiment. Maybe we can just put out the first series shows and see if anyone complains. My guess is that they won't.
For the moment though we are in the virgin territory of the first two weeks of September. I had hoped to get the scripts done well in advance this time, but everyone has been very busy and whilst show one is looking pretty good, we spent today in an office that was alternatively too cold or too warm, but unlike the Little Bear's stuff, never just right, trying to think of funny ideas about various historical subjects.
We weren't doing particularly well and it brought back memories of the first series, where we desperately tried to get something together the day before the recording and sometimes on the day of the recording itself. So it was a kind of luxury to be doing this some four days before the recording. Look how prepared we are.
I particularly was having an uninspired day, having got up too early to try and get some swimming in, when staying in bed and sleeping would have been a better plan.
By 4pm the writing meeting had died a death and broken up with a lot of work still to do. I am sure we will get it sorted for you by Monday (I don't know if there are tickets still available, but contact the website in the message of the day section on the right if you want to see) We're doing more in September and cheeky Emma Kennedy wants us to try and write the scripts while we're up in Edinburgh. Yeah, some chance!
In the evening I replied to an email from a student wanting to know the details of how our old 1990s Radio 1 shows were put together and the politics and comedy policies of that station at the time. I found I could remember very little about the events of 13 years ago. Probably we had lots of days the same as today when not much gets done, but then finally at the last minute we cobbled something together. Maybe we were young and bright and it all just happened easily. I don't know.
In any case, here are my poor attempts to answer the questions
1. Your first radio one series, 'Fist of Fun', was broadcast late '93. How
did you become involved with Radio One?
As far as I recall they started looking for comedy stuff at about the time we were breaking through. We'd written an anti drinking or smoking (or possibly) both campaign for Simon Mayo and Jaqqui Brambles very early on. Then I believe they played some repeats of selected episodes of Lionel Nimrod. Then they asked us to do the Fist of Fun series. I presume we had pitched this to them and they had gone with it. I don't remember for sure. We did them at universities no doubt to appeal to this youth demographic
2. Was there much interest in comedy on Radio One at this time? Did you
associate comedy with the station?
I don't think there had been any comedy previously (or very little) and it was a new initiative. So I did not associate radio 1 with comedy, but was delighted to make the move from 4 to the somewhat hipper 1
3. Were you told what kind of audience you were aiming for? Or did you have
your own thoughts?
I don't know what kind of audience they were aiming for. We always wrote to amuse ourselves, but as we were 23 or so at the time this no doubt matched up with the kind of audience that Radio 1 probably wanted. The fact we recorded them at colleges would again suggest that this was the kind of group the station were aiming for. But can't be sure after all this time.
4. Did it ever seem that Fist of Fun was perhaps a test/trial run to see if
your type of humour would work on Radio One (Armando Iannucci had also had a
30 min series earlier that year)? Was there talk of a second series, or was
there always plans to go into an hour long live show?
I can't remember for sure. I think the policy slightly changed and that the station wanted their comedy shows to have music content and so the half hour format did not fit into that. I don't know if we wanted to do another series, but the hour long format was loads of fun for us and to my mind the best stuff we did on the radio, allowing us to do live stuff, interact with the audience and play our choice of music. They were relatively easy to write - we'd do all the sketches in a clump at the beginning and write the rest of the stuff the day before and then rehearse and do it on the day of broadcast.
5. How did the hour long shows occur? Where you worried about the format
Don't know. I think we relished the changes if anything, but hard to recall
6. As qestion 3: Were you told what kind of audience to aim for? Did Radio 1
management approach developing/marketing the show in a different way? I don't think we were and if we were we would have ignored any advice in this direction. I think they trusted us to do our thing. Radio 1 had little to do with content and I donât think they marketed the show at all.
7. What limitations did the shows have (forced to play certain types of
music, not allowed to say certain things, etc)? And how did you adapt to
Again there were few limitations, only on things like language. Occasionally something had to be bleeped - like the Anthony Hopkins sketch where he said "I am wanking as I write this" - the prerecorded bit was bleeped, but after it was over and we were live I just said "the word they bleeped was "wanking"" and there were no repercussions. I certainly remember having more fights with censors at other times on other things, but I think they let us just get on with it. We had a fairly good sense of what was tasteful or not and most of our most subversive ideas slipped under the radar as they didn't involve swearing or recognised offensiveness
8. As the series progressed, was there chance to change the format of the
shows at all? Did you feel it improved during the run?
I am sure we adapted things as we went and responded to things that went well. As I said most of the prerecorded stuff was done already (though I think we had the odd recording day as we went along) but most of the show was written just before transmission, so we could develop characters and ideas as we went. I would be surprised if we didn't improve, but remember very little about the actual shows after all this time.
9. The hour long show lasted three series, stopping at the end of 1995. Did
you want to do more? What were the reasons for stopping?
I think we would have liked to do more. I think the BBC stopped the show, but it might have ended because we were moving over to TV. But I doubt it and have a feeling at least one series came in between fist of fun tv series (might be wrong). It was a great way to develop new material and was relatively easy to do and I think we all enjoyed it, so think we would have done more if they had wanted us to. So can only conclude that radio 1 decided to move on. Pretty sure they cut back on their radio content at this point and we were just lucky to have been at the right place at the right time
10. You also appeared on Armando Iannucci's Radio One shows. What were they
like, and how were they different/similar to your own?
They were different in that Armando was more in control, but similar in that we improvised a lot of the stuff on the day or day before recording. I think most of the sketches were done from notes that we then worked around and then we would chat about stuff in the studio, so the main difference was that we weren't in charge and didn't choose the subjects. I don't think there were too many of them were there? Sorry, I don't remember all that much about any of this and less about Armando's stuff.