Show Hide image

Word Games: Corpse

Radio 4 newsreader Charlotte Green is past-master of the art of on air giggling.

So I presume I’m catching the mood, finger on the proverbial pulse, down with every kid, when I say that I have been in a state of quiet mourning ever since it was announced that Charlotte Green and Harriet Cass will be leaving their news-reading roles at BBC Radio 4.

If you listen to Radio 4, these are voices, ever soft, gentle and low, that have become embedded in our consciousnesses, especially if you listen in the early morning. My fandom is reserved for Green (no logic, just that Green –well, Green is Green; she’s a living legend) who for years has performed the heroic task of easing the daily trauma of waking. One flash of another breakfast show – a burst of Magic, a squawk of LBC, a bellow from Radio 1 – is enough to make the day ahead seem warlike, violent, awful to behold. Green makes everything seem all right, even if she’s reading the news of the end of the world. She makes you feel safe.

Then there’s her giggling. The BBC, in tribute, posted a little montage of her best bits on its website, which I urge you to dig out. News of a sperm whale propels her into hysterics but the follow-up is better. Green broadcasts the earliest recording of the human voice – a scratchy whimpering of someone supposedly singing “Au Clair de la Lune” – and then straight afterwards has to announce the death of a screenwriter, during which she loses her shit (as the saying goes) entirely, her giggles mounting to a pair of delirious squeaks and then meltdown, from which she somehow recovers to round off the news. (I like to imagine that at this point she hurls her headphones to one side and rolls around on the floor to expel the remaining howls of mirth.)

In an interview Green gave recently, she talked about her corpsing (so called because the poor actor who has to play a dead body onstage is a prime target to be provoked into laughter by fellow thesps – there is nothing more joyously infectious to watch but it does kick at the suspension of disbelief). “I do get the giggles; I’m a giggler,” she said, unapologetic, before going on to pronounce on the importance of laughter as something that binds people together. As you listen and find yourself creased and hooting over your computer, you know what she means.

Sophie Elmhirst is a freelance writer and former New Statesman features editor.

This article first appeared in the 17 September 2012 issue of the New Statesman, Who comes next?