How many comedians have their own radio shows these days? At the weekend it can feel like all of them. On Radio 2 Romesh Ranganathan is still finding his feet on Saturday mornings while his mate Rob Beckett has his feet under the table on Sunday teatime (he’s a bit too busy, a bit too in-your-face for my tastes, but maybe a Sunday evening is exactly when you need a bit of a gee-up).

Meanwhile, over at Absolute Radio (where Matt Berry does all the voiceovers), Frank Skinner and Jason Manford rule the roost weekend mornings.

Or at least they did. Skinner signed off after a 15-year stint on Absolute last Saturday.

He wasn’t leaving by choice, as he has made clear since it was first announced. “It’s pretty well documented that I don’t want to go,” Skinner added at the end of Saturday’s show. “I keep thinking that one of the King’s representatives is going to arrive with our last-minute pardon.”

No surprise then that there was a sense of no cusses given (I’m being polite) about Saturday’s broadcast, though, as ever, it did feel that Skinner and his sidekicks Emily Dean and Pierre Novellie were just sitting around trying to amuse each other.

The Herald: Jason ManfordJason Manford (Image: free)

But the subjects that drifted across their frontal lobes included German wasps (“Pest of the month”), wood veneers (which led to George Washington’s wooden teeth), the anchoress Julian of Norwich, 1970s streaker Erika Roe and a little light class war. The result was rather self-indulgent, but it did feel like you were overhearing clever, funny, engaged people amusing each other. There are worse ways to spend your time.

By contrast I tuned in to Jason Manford on Absolute for a few minutes on Sunday morning to hear him discuss 1970s Yorkie adverts and play Jefferson Starship’s execrable We Built This City. Thin gruel by comparison.

Nothing against Jason, but you can’t imagine him ending his final show talking about a Dylan Thomas poem about an old man being obliterated in an air raid. “You see the analogy,” Skinner noted before getting a wee bit emotional.

“Oh God, this must be terrible radio,” he suggested before thanking Dean in particular for her companionship.

“I was offered this job. As I walked home I phoned Emily in the park and said, 'Will you do this radio show with me?' And she said: ‘Oh thank God we never had sex, otherwise we wouldn’t be friends now.’”

So very frank and so very Frank right to the end.

Greg Davies doesn’t have his own radio show but he was the subject of the newly expanded Desert Island Discs this week (Radio 4, Sunday; repeated Friday and now an hour long).

Choosing Wichita Lineman and The Smiths was always going to get me onside anyway, but I liked the version of Davies on display here. The real man is much less strident, certainly less full of himself than the cartoon persona he (amusingly) projects on Taskmaster. His pen portrait of his childhood was full of love but also fear; Davies was someone who hated school. Later, he hated being a teacher.


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“It’s hard to square this quite frightened weedy young lad that you are describing with the ‘magnificent beast’ of the title of your most recent stand-up show where you are bestriding the stage,” the host Lauren Laverne pointed out at one point “It’s a self-defence mechanism,” Davies claimed. “When you’re a teacher you have to conjure up this preposterous authority and it’s mock authority in my case … It’s the same on Taskmaster.”

Let’s go back to the question at the top of the page. Maybe we should slightly reword it. How many male comedians have their own radio shows these days? A lot more than their female counterparts, that’s for sure. At least Boom Radio’s On the Box show which has just finished on Sunday evenings had Jo Brand as the presenter. It even had her interviewing another woman, the poet and broadcaster Pam Ayres. Will wonders never cease?

This was comfort listening, a cosy chat and a few familiar TV theme tunes. If the brashness of Beckett on Radio 2 is too much this would have filled the bill.

But Ayres was honest about the setbacks she’d suffered, particularly at the start of her career. Winning Opportunity Knocks was not quite the invitation to success it might have seemed from the outside.

“Behind the scenes it was a bloodbath because I won Opportunity Knocks and then I signed up to this agent who I detest to this day,” Ayres pointed out.

“I felt as though I was chewed up and thrown on the scrapbook, to be honest.

“And then we started again.”

It’s the starting again that matters. It always is. Frank Skinner take note.

Listen Out For:

Add to Playlist, Radio 4, Friday, 7.15pm

Cerys Matthews is on sabbatical, so Anna Phoebe is joining Jeffrey Boakye for the new series of Add to Playlist in which guests choose five tracks and explore the connections between them.