I think we can all agree that local radio is a wonderful thing. As well as being the starting places for a lot of the airwaves’ best known disc jockeys, it’s also the home of a lot of fantastic and often obscure shows.
Take my local radio station, BBC Three Counties Radio. For an awfully long time now, it’s been the home to who I believe is one of this country’s best reporters and DJs, Justin Dealey. If he were on national radio, with his brilliant interview technique and his fantastic selection of songs, he’d be a national treasure. However, the magic of local radio means that he is much loved by a smaller group of people, which gives this great intimacy to his shows and local radio in general.
It’s not just true for radio DJs, but also for panel shows, such as the musical comedy panel show Anything But Coldplay, our show to review today. Being on local radio makes it a lot more intimate than something national, like I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue for instance, but that doesn’t make it anything less funny. I’ve always been a fan of the mix of music and comedy and Anything But Coldplay ticks all the right boxes.
Hosted by the charismatic Toby Friedner, it’s a show that flies by in an hour full of laughs, the odd bit of swearing and a sea of party blowers. The object of each round is the chance for the winning team to play the song of their own choosing on the radio. providing it is Anything But Coldplay. Team captains, musical comedian Sally Riceman and Chesham Comedy Club’s Mark Rann make it an absolute joy to listen to, especially given the little arguments between the two of them about Riceman’s sub-par music tastes, whilst the guests wonder what the hell’s going on in a small room in the middle of Dunstable. Keeping score are the brilliant Brian Damage and Krysstal, who are two awfully talented comics, with an eye for comedic songs that Bill Bailey would be proud of. There’s something infectious about the comedy on display, from its sheer absurdity to the fabulous musical prowess in the Party Blower Round.
The biggest pleasure of the entire series’ run was when being invited to come to the Christmas special, featuring eighties legend Paul Young and seventies icon Kiki Dee. Having been to the previous episodes in the series, I knew what to expect, and it’s fair to say that this Christmas episode was an absolute riot.
Our first round was Real Thing Or Just An Illusion where both teams took it in turns to guess whether Christmas songs, based only on their titles, were real or merely a product of Friedner’s overactive imagination. It’s been done in the past, but none were quite as absurd as some of these song titles such as Arse Christmas which, rather unfortunately, turned out to be fake. Just listening to the two teams over-analyse fake song titles makes for a right laugh. Following that came Golden Oldies, my favourite round of the show, featuring Brian Damage and Krysstal’s renditions of famous songs, as Friedner puts it, “in their own special way”, usually with unfathomable murmurs of Christmas classics that the two teams then have to try and guess. This round has the brilliant bonus of audience participation, allowing for those watching to get some points if neither team gets the answer in enough time.
The third round is a great little Christmas party game entitled The Wheel Of Four Tunes where teams are given a topic, such as Divorce, and asked to name four songs around that topic - for instance, D-I-V-O-R-C-E by Dolly Parton, or If You Leave Me Now by Chicago. The Wheel Of Four Tunes on this Christmas special gave us the topic of divorce, rather aptly, and great fun was had by all. Next, a hilarious musical interlude courtesy of Brian & Krysstal. As usual, their irreverent humour created a riotous atmosphere with no rest for your face muscles. Krysstal is also resident score keeper. The dulcet tones of Brian shouting ‘Tell ‘em Krysstal!’ after Toby asked for the scores had the entire audience in hysterics each time.
Christmas Cafe Karaoke came next, where a member of the Three Counties team goes to local cafes and speaks to customers and staff, asking them to sing their favourite Christmas song. The teams then have to guess the response of the people in the cafe, which involves a multiple choice with options such as “A) Does Justin (Dealey) get punched on the nose? B) Do all guests in the cafe suddenly launch into a rendition of Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas? or C) Does the owner call the police?” . Invariably, due to the sheer absurdity of the options given, both the audience and teams descend into laughter before hearing the actual clip, which, more often than not, can result in the people in the cafe singing. This round’s been done throughout the series, but none have been quite as good as this one.
Towards the business end of the show comes Round 5 of 6, involving a local town crier shouting the lyrics to well-known Christmas songs. It’s been done before with local grandmother, Carol, from Chesham, during the series reading lyrics to either punk or rap songs, and as always, ends up with an uproar of laughter. Hearing the town crier live made for a fun experience, with the audience in stitches as teams failed to guess the songs shouted by Chris from Leighton Buzzard. It’s one of the best rounds in the show’s repertoire. Indeed, that brings us to the final round, entitled The Party Blower Round where all four contestants have to play songs of Friedner’s choosing on party blowers. One team member plays a song on their blower, and the other member has to guess that song. Usually it ends up with looks of despair and bewilderment, as well as a lot of haughty guffaws from the audience! It’s another great game to play at a Christmas party or something like that, and is certainly one I’m going to be adopting in the near future.
Anything But Coldplay really is one of the jewels in the crown of local radio. With some absolutely side-splitting rounds and some guests who are more than up for a laugh, it’s one of the best things on radio at the moment and once you start listening, you won’t stop.
Anything But Coldplay’s Christmas Special was broadcast on Christmas Day and will be available on the BBC Sounds app for the following month. If you missed it on Christmas Day, I’d recommend you listen to prolong your festivities.