Saturday 10 December 2016

Radio: The spoof, the whole spoof and nothing but the spoof

Published 11/10/2015 | 02:30

Matt Cooper (left) in the Today FM studio.
Matt Cooper (left) in the Today FM studio.

"I just listen to the voices in my head! I have no control over it."

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No, that's not an interview with one of our glorious political leaders, outlining their radical approach to policy formulation. (Although that would be interesting.) It's Weird Al Yankovic, as heard on The Last Word (Today FM, Mon-Fri 4.30pm).

The veteran musician and satirist - emphasis almost wholly on the latter, really - was doing a gig in Vicar Street this week. And besides being very entertaining, there were three remarkable things about this interview.

One is how young Weird Al sounds. The guy is 55, according to the internet, but he could have passed for early twenties.

It wasn't just that Al is lively and enthused and, well, rather silly. (Matt opened by saying, "He appeals to the 12-year-old boy in all of us", and the man himself admitted that he remains, in essence, still a kid.) His actual voice was, ahem, weirdly youthful sounding.

The second remarkable thing is that Weird Al is still on the go; indeed, he's more popular than ever. I first heard him about 30 years ago, when he spoofed Michael Jackson's Beat It as Eat It. I'd always associated him with that long-forgotten decade, and sort of presumed he was now retired.

Not so. In fact he promised a "high energy rock concert" with a full band for Vicar Street.

And third, Matt Cooper giggled during this interview. A lot. That is unusual, no? Now, this isn't to say that the host is totally serious all the time - the Cork man often displays a playfulness and dry, sardonic sense of humour.

But still, you think of Matt Cooper and you think of a big-brained current affairs wonk. One of a handful of people on the radio who sounds comfortable discussing economics, because he's one of a handful of people on the radio who properly understands the subject, unlike the usual bluffers and BS artists.

You don't think of Cooper being unable to stop himself laughing as he lists off Weird Al's many, many spoof song titles.

But in fairness, they are funny: if you don't automatically chuckle at things like 'Addicted to Spuds' (a pastiche of Robert Palmer's 'Addicted to Love'), 'Like a Surgeon' ('Like a Virgin') or - Irish connection alert - 'Numb Me, Drill Me, Floss Me, Bill Me', you need a humour transplant, stat.

Another daily staple on the same station, The Anton Savage Show (Mon-Fri 9am) interviewed Kellie Maloney after her visit to the Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival. So big deal, you might say, Lisdoon has been done to death in the media.

Ah ah ah: not so fast. Kellie Maloney, you see, used to be Frank Maloney - a legendary boxing promoter and brassy Cockney geezer. Born in Peckham to Irish parents, Frank (as was) carved out a career in one of the toughest industries there is: "the old fight game".

Which makes his story of transition to being a woman even more fascinating, and made this a genuinely new take on an Irish institution. Kellie was at Lisdoon's gay weekend, The Outing - and she was full of praise for the whole thing.

She told Savage: "What was really nice was to see new and old mixing together. The older generation and the younger generation. For some of the older generation, it might have been a bit of a culture shock to them to see so many colourful guys and girls all dancing with each other of the same sex.

"But they were just coming in and joining in and they were being so friendly. It really is a lesson to other places in the world, I believe." It's also a lesson to the rest of us - particularly the younger, more liberal set - not to always judge a book by its cover. There would be an assumption that older Irish people, particularly the sort who go to Lisdoonvarna, are all ignorant, prejudiced and hateful. Not according to Kellie Maloney, they ain't.

She described the festival as "just pure happiness and enjoyment… It's one of the best events I've been to, so well organised and well run. The ones in Britain are more geared towards the LGBT, but here, it was with all the locals, which was lovely as well. "I think there's something about Lisdoonvarna, the views and the surrounding areas that make it magical and mysterious."

Having worked there for several summers as a student, I'm not sure I could agree with the end part. But you'll definitely get a warm, authentic welcome in Lisdoon, no matter who you are or what your sexuality is.

Finally, quick mention of the passing of Brian Friel. I studied some of his plays in college, as part of a Modern Irish Theatre module, and remember them as being - not too dissimilar to Kellie Maloney's experience, actually - warm and authentic, with a touch of magic and mystery.

Arena (Radio 1, Mon-Fri 7pm) ran a fine tribute to the great playwright, featuring Sinead Cusack, Stephen Rea, Garry Hynes and many more. RIP.

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