Very sad to hear that Martin Kelner (above) has been sacked from his lunchtime slot at BBC Radio Leeds. Although I am not a local listener, I acquired the iplayer habit a couple of years ago via a certain psittacine comedian - Martin interviewed Freddie Davies when our book Funny Bones was still looking for a publisher - and the regular, wholly pointless but compelling film club competition (a daily excuse for weak puns) soon got me hooked - not that the regular diet of Northern Soul and sixties and seventies pop proved any kind of hindrance in this matter, you understand. And for a few shining hours - I mean days, or possibly even a week or two - there was even a regular doo wop slot, though it didn't seem to attract much attention from anyone other than me and was quietly dropped.
No matter. The main point about Martin Kelner as a broadcaster, and the real reason why what he describes as his "charmless" sacking is such a pity, is that he gets it: he knows, that is, precisely how to pitch such a show, which is a rarer talent than you might expect. He revels in the essential triviality of much of the content, but switches to more serious topics don't seem a lurch. You know throughout that you're listening to an intelligent man at play rather than someone wearing a bright mask of affability.
Or rather you were. According to a lengthy piece on Martin's own website, which explores not just his sacking but the state of local radio generally, he is already "getting cards and letters from people I don't even know, in a Glen Campbell stylee, so there will be some interesting little jobs to do." I certainly hope so.
Although part of me is, I have to admit, selfishly glad about this enforced liberation. I have lost count of the number of mornings I have logged onto twitter and lost myelf for forty five minutes or so in thinking up film-based puns for that day's show. Others might have been able to let go after a few minutes, but not me. It got to the point where I would be going through the New York Times' list of 1000 Greatest Movies, scanning each title for possible wordplay. I mean, that ain't right. Recently I was contemplating writing a Prospero-type speech on this blog renouncing my interest in film title puns and vowing thereafter to resume my pursuit of more creative endeavours.
Well, now the decision of BBC Radio Leeds' Managing Editor Sanjiv Buttoo to sack Martin Kelner has rendered such a speech unnecessary, and if I don't produce a theatrical or literary masterpiece at some point in the future I shall no longer have any spurious film clubs to blame. Still, I suppose it's a new start - which I hope is how Martin sees it (for himself, I mean). But his talents were so specifically suited to that sort of show it's difficult to understand why BBC Leeds thought he was dispensable.
You can read his account of the sacking below:
Martin Kelner: My Sacking, and a Plausible Plan for BBC Local Radio
And if you are one of the unlucky few who have not yet purchased a copy of Funny Bones: My Life in Comedy, the autobiography of Freddie "Parrotface" Davies, you can find out more about it below:
Funny Bones blog
And I thoroughly recommend Martin Kelner's When Will I Be Famous?, a account of showbiz acts at the more modest end of the business which is, like his late lamented radio show, perfectly pitched.