It's not so grim up north
A cosy Yorkshire DJ is master of the double entendre
A few weeks ago, I got a letter from someone suggesting that I might like his new show, which would soon air "in the much-coveted (yeah, right) Wednesday night at 11.30pm slot on BBC7 (weather permitting)". The letter got my attention because the someone in question was Martin Kelner, who writes a funny column in the Guardian. Kelner is also a radio DJ. In the past, he has worked at BBC 5 Live and Radio 2. He is now at BBC Leeds, where he presents a "drive" show and where he produces something called Late Nights, which is transmitted to more far-flung bits of Yorkshire such as, um, York. I occasionally listen to Kelner's podcast, which is extremely rude. He has a voice that reminds me of a childhood spent listening to Sheffield's Radio Hallam, another place he used to work: it is the kind of voice that can deliver a line like "And speaking of Sat'day nights, ladies and gents, here's another Sat'day night by . . . Whigfield . . ." in a completely unironic manner.
I say "can" deliver. The point about Kelner is that, though his voice is all northern and cosy, his mind obviously is not - almost everything he says could be taken in two ways. This is a quality that serves him to brilliant effect in the aforementioned BBC7 show, Pleased To Meet You. (If you missed it, there are another three programmes to come.)
The conceit of the show is this: Kelner plays a version of himself - he is a very local-sounding DJ - and Jake Yapp a superannuated theatre veteran, Dora Dale. Kelner's job is to reminisce with Dora about the famous people she has met in "a long, eventful life on the fringes of, and occasionally right at the heart of, show business". As he puts it as the show kicks off: "Dora, we look forward to being pleased to meet some of the people you've been pleased to meet."
It's like Mrs Merton in reverse. Dora is rather naughty - her double entendres are far too blue for these pages - while Kelner plays it straight: he's just trying to keep his bosses happy. Imagine Alan Partridge, only without the anger and frustration and the belief that he could - should - be doing better things. Oh dear. I've only just started, and I've already mentioned Mrs Merton and Alan Partridge. Why is so much new comedy so in debt to its predecessors? Still, I do think that Pleased To Meet You is pretty hilarious. This is down to Yapp, who plays Dora with aplomb. He has given her a period, rather camp voice that is quite perfect: like Siân Phillips after too many gin and its. Plus, the script streaks through the decades like sweat through greasepaint. One minute, Miss Dale is on about Rod Steiger, the next, Adam and the Ants. It's silly and puerile, in a good way.
BBC7 is one of the great joys of the new radio age. It would be worth buying yourself a digital radio for it alone. Repeats, at least as far as the BBC is concerned, are usually considered to be a Bad Thing, yet on BBC7 they are used to tremendous effect; the station is a daily "greatest hits" of comedy and drama. Add its fine original output to this mix, and the result is a safe berth when Radio 4 is at its most annoyingly earnest - which is often, these days. I used to despair of the ranting nutters who ring Feedback to complain about Radio 4's PC tendencies. Just lately, however, I have started to worry that I am in danger of joining them. Are radio critics allowed to ring Feedback? We shall see.
Pick of the week
31 July-4 August, 11.30pm, Radio 4
To help you sleep on these hot nights, five special shows of poetry, music and sound "explorations".
29 July, from 2.30pm, Radio 3
The Proms get groovy: a new commission about global warming features in concerts 20 and 21.
Don't miss . . .
The Cambridge Folk Festival
Folk music is no longer about bearded fellows plucking at mandolins and supping on pints of cloudy real ale. The Cambridge Folk Festival, now in its 43rd year, continues to explode the now almost defunct myth of the Arran sweater by bringing together an eclectic mix of folk, jazz, blues and world music. Acts appearing in the leafy grounds of Cherry Hinton Hall this year include the Mercury nominee Seth Lakeman (right, touted as the folk world's Jamie Cullum), the country legend Emmylou Harris and Cerys Matthews, the Welsh caterwauler.
The Cambridge Folk Festival runs from 27 to 30 July. More details at: www.cambridgefolkfestival.co.uk