Sunday, 26 August 2012

"Ghostly Goings-On"

If you live in the United Kingdom, you'll probably agree with me that the funniest thing about BBC radio comedy shows is that you can listen to them for half an hour and not laugh once. Oh yes, I know there are exceptions. Count Arthur Strong is a hoot, The League of Gentlemen began on the radio, and The Goons - well, maybe not as hilarious to us today, but still recognizable genius. But three swallows doesn't make a summer, and the rest of radio comedy is like listening to a bunch of am-dram performers who've been told they have to improvise a comedy sketch to avoid the firing squad.

A couple of years ago, Martin and I were planning a trip to Chillingham Castle (way up in Northumberland, where the north turns nice again). Turns out we were essentially planning a long weekend in the car, as I live in Battersea and Martin lives in Nottingham, but that's a detail. It was the castle's reputation for ghosts that attracted us - not the ghosts themselves, as neither of us is that credulous, but the possibility of sighting some choice fruitcakes on the midnight spooky tour.

It may seem like I'm rambling, but to pull these two strands together: I invented an imaginary BBC radio comedy show called "Ghostly Goings-On" to liven up that long, long car journey. Here is a fragment:

And this Sunday lunchtime we have a brand new series of "Ghostly Goings-On", starring:
Angus Deayton as HECTOR PLASM 
Also starring: 
David Tennant as MANNY FESTATION 

[Sound of knitting. A door opens.] 

HECTOR: Hello, Madame Blavatsky. You look as if you've seen a ghost.

MADAME B: Why you no go bake you' eayd?

[Audience laughter at silly foreign accent.]

HECTOR: I think you mean boil my head.

[Audience laughs again, not having realized that was what she meant.]

HECTOR (contd): Unless we get a case soon, I won't have to. My head will just fall off for lack of money.

[Cautious tittering from surrealist contingent in audience.]

MADAME B: Wait! I senses a presence tryin' to communicate...

[Clatter of letterbox flap. Thud of letter dropping onto mat.]

MADAME B: It ees a message from da other side!

[A knock at the door.]

MADAME B: Rap once for-a yes, twice for-a no!

HECTOR: Oh good grief.

[Sound of door opening.]

MANNY: Hello you spooky people. Did I just see the postman?

HECTOR: Kevin Costner will be delighted.

[Single laugh from sole audience member who recalls the movie; he turns the laugh into a cough.]

[Sound of letter being ripped open.]

HECTOR gasps.

MANNY: What is it, man? You've gone as white as a sheet.

[Long, tense pause. ]

MANNY: Sheet, Madame Blavatsky. Not shit.

MADAME B (with relief): Oh-kay doke!

[Audience roars with loudest laughter so far.]

HECTOR: It's a laundry list from Chillingham Castle! Oh no, wait...

[Sound of paper rustling.] 

HECTOR (contd): On the other side - a note scrawled in very red sticky ink.

MANNY: Give it here, let me see.

[Sound of paper being snatched.]

MANNY (contd): That's not ink, it's... Oh no, it is ink. I've got a pen like that. They're rubbish.

MADAME B: Ze note, what does eet say?

MANNY: "Help, I have been given a fatal poison and have only minutes to live."

HECTOR: You look perfectly fine, old chap.

MANNY: Not me, you fool; the note. And there's a P.S.

MADAME B: A peees?

MANNY: "Come at once and catch my murderer!"

HECTOR gasps loudly.

MANNY: What?

HECTOR: I left the teabags in the pot. It'll be stewed!


  1. Well this passes the laughometer test Dave, in fact I think it's worthy of a pitch to the Beeb. In particular, Madame Blavatsky shows a lot of potential. I would tentatively add Clare in the Community to the list of worthy contenders for eliciting the occasional chuckle, although not as hysteria inducing as Count Arthur.

    1. I'm glad you liked it, Peter. I must admit that, while originally conceiving it as a spoof, I quickly became fond of Manny and co, to the extent that I wrote a follow-up scene and started to sketch out the rest of the story. Perhaps I'll run that later in the week.

  2. Replies
    1. Here's what you had to say at the time:

      ROZ: "You forgot Ed Lessmoose - a stuffed creature on the wall of the baronial hall... by day. Where does it go at night?"

      DAVE: "It's not actually stuffed. Sir Humphrey is a vegetarian, so he just pays a moose to stick its head through a hole in the wall."

      (Note to interested readers: Do the Morrises really communicate by email and blog comment? The answer is that we do, though we also shout between our respective studies, especially with demands for cups of tea.)

  3. I see another comedic interloper is now beginning to manifest itself - the Roz and Dave Show. If that succeeds you can treat yourself to an ancient retainer who can commute between kitchen and Dave and Roz studies ferrying cups of tea and slices of Lemon Drizzle cake.

  4. Mmm, lemon drizzle cake... Oh, where was I? Well, Peter, if you're up for the Roz & Dave Show, here's our guest spot on Leo's Bantering Boys radio prog: