Strap yoooself in and listen

This freewheelin' troubadour is a comedy genius of the airwaves

Once again Bob Dylan put in a performance of comedy genius as DJ of his Theme Time Radio Hour (Thursdays, 11pm, Radio 2 and Sundays, midnight, 6 Music), in a show devoted to the subject of cars. "We're talkin about when the rubber meets the rowwwwd, we're gonna clamber aboard the four-wheeled horselesssss carrrridge. Hardtop, classics, Buicks, Cadillacs, SUVees. Strap yoooself in and listen."

As fans of the show will know, Dylan has spent the past two years honing a unique impression of a pirate DJ broadcasting out of Mexico wearing a novelty tie, crossed with a Steinbeckian farm auctioneer; he renders each word as intense and aorta-rocking as the world's richest cheesecake.

Five minutes in and he's taking an email from Chuck in Iowa asking if Bob likes the movie Bonnie and Clyde ("Well yes Chuck, as a matter of fact I doooo"), after which Dylan informs that Clyde Barrow once wrote a letter to the Ford Motor Company congratulating them on their "dandy cars" - in a manner so fluidly fact-packed it simply can not have been off-the-cuff, suggesting the whole email thing was made up: I dunno, and who cares, certainly not Dylan, who recently dismissed technology and the supposed threat that free downloads pose to the music industry with something along the lines of, "It ain't worth nothin' anyway."

Fifteen minutes in and Bob's playing the Dixie Hummingbirds' 1957 recording of "Christian Automobile" and then repeating the lyrics of the chorus carefully into the microphone when the song was through, determined to prove it was the richest of brews. "You gotta check on your generator . . . you neeeed more strength and powuuur. When you are weary from victory God will put you to beddd."

Sometimes he seems to be whizzing on Benzedrine ("That's maybe a fried hubcap, maybe a two-grilled shell, maybe a rooster with a raw top. Whatever it is it Ain't. Up. The. Road"). But then he'll deliver a virtuoso monologue - a poetic pile-up consisting of a lifetime's supply of words in a continually unfurling paragraph, scattering rip tides of vowels so sexy, I felt like a girl in a towel answering the door at four in the morning to a Night of the Iguana-era Richard Burton ("Now, Mr Berry's was an envelope-pushed career of vision . . . from languid-doooowops to feral R and Bee. From yammayamaprettymomma to Louis-Louieeeee . . ."). And sometimes he's dead straight: a dad on a payphone making hotel reservations. ("I been in a car with Joni Mitchell. She was driving a Lincoln. Excellent driver. I felt safe.")

The man is a presenter without peer! He never fails to give a full-scale show, complete with everything a person could possibly want to hear: drama, film clips, interviews, advice, biography, philosophy, and the kind of blues that makes you want to slide into the dirt yard and shoot up chickens. As the show wound down and I swung my feet, clutching my 50 pence for an advance ticket for next week, he courteously offered all listeners a lift home as though prepared to greet us at the airport with our names on a piece of laminated A4. That's some shelter from the storm. Scarf him up, brothers.

Pick of the week

Material World
31 July, 4.30pm, Radio 4
Quentin Cooper asks if the British summer is getting worse.

Mark Radcliffe and Stuart Maconie
31 July, 8pm, Radio 2
Live from Cherry Hinton Hall on the opening night of the Cambridge Folk Festival.

Antonia Quirke is an author and journalist. She presents The Film Programme on BBC Radio 4. She writes a column on radio for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 28 July 2008 issue of the New Statesman, Money rules: Why cash now counts more than class