Radio Active @ The Playhouse

First posted on October 22, 2018


Not to brag but I listened to a lot of BBC Radio 4 as a teenager. As much as R4 has a reputation for quality content it also has a lot of repeats and and never ending programs when it comes to entertainment. Just a minute has been running 50 years (with it’s host only missing one of the 910 episodes as of writing) with minimal changes of an admittedly basic format. British radio comedy has a format. There have been a few more unique set ups like Tim Key’s Late Night Poetry Program or the surreal Blue Jam (Maybe my favourite broadcast radio program ). Sitcoms, sketch shows, and panel shows (so many panel shows) don’t tend to deviate from the format much. After years of listening I did tire of programs ranging between topical panel shows like The News Quiz (since 1977) to topical sketch shows like The Now Show (since 1998).

Unsurprisingly these satire programs have been parodying themselves for decades. The 1991 Thank God it’s Satire Day sketch from On the Hour - which turned into The Day Today TV version with the same cast - is a great example of a radio 4 topical comedy parody inside a radio magazine show parody.

The Show

Radio Active as a parody radio show from the 80s making fun of the radio formats of the day. In universe, Radio Active is a variety show that features bickering hosts, a call in sigment, a drama presentation, adverts, jingles, and clips from other . Here’s a history of it and a listing for the tour. I wasn’t the only person under 30 there but most people were 50+.

“Soon here on Radio 4 there will be another continuity announcement, but first, here’s a program”

Most of the characters and programs mentioned in this show were reprises from the old show.

Radioactive Drama Repatory Company present

“Host: Hello Caller
Caller: I’d like if you wouldn’t mind to change the subject?
Host: Oh, we havn’t got one yet!
Caller: Then I’ll call back later”

The show has clips of different shows that supposedly exist on their station. That was your life, wasn’t it as a version of Desert Island Disks but without having any of the right tracks and incoherent guests. Interviewing someone who knew the profiled person who turned out not to know them with the final punchline being the only thing the interviewee would be honest about was being a transvestite.

“Now you didn’t go to RADA did you.
No No I went to an acting school that nolonger exists:
The London Academy of Dance and Institute of Dramatic Arts or LARDIDA…”

Radioactive was also known for it’s parody songs. Back in the day some of the tracks were released on the BBC’s own label. Status Quid where the joke was the song was boring and repetative (literally called Boring Song). The performers watching to see how long they could keep it going. The best loved by the audience seemed to be The Hee Bee Gee Bees. Imitating the high pitched disco of the Bee Gees in the fine tradition of OK British parody songs. See them below on Swedish TV, back in the day.

I think the strongest jokes (and one’s I hadn’t heard before) came from the incompetent cast of the Drama Repertory Company misreading the script.

“She’s seriously one hundred and eleven. I mean Ill.”

The sketch that got the biggest reaction was a fake adverts. One of the chaps put on his best smooth relaxing baritone for

Hello, I’m a warm reassuring voice here to sell you something […] you probably think you’ll find me warm and reassuring, too. Well now you can buy me! Phone me on 01632 and I’ll come round and shag you rigid!

That got me. Was not expecting that.

Was it good?

It was fine. It was the same jokes from 30 years ago.

20th of April 2018 Radio Active at Norwich Playhouse


‘Cos I liked it but it wasn’t anything new. Literally can’t be.

Would not have been worth missing the Birds of Hell album launch if I wasn’t there with my Mum.