Sunday 21 October 2018

Fancy a giggle? 'Callan's Kicks' always hits spot

Eilis O'Hanlon

Remember Scrap Saturday? Chances are, the answer's no. Everybody thinks they do, but what they're really feeling is a warm glow of nostalgia at a lost age. There were always flashes of brilliance, and Dermot Morgan's early loss still feels cruelly unjust; but the show itself had more than its fair share of ropey filler. You certainly wouldn't get away with it nowadays.

Callan's Kicks, which airs each Friday evening on RTE Radio One, is not only a cut above its predecessors, it may very well be the best comedy show the national broadcaster has ever produced. Callan's skill as a mimic is uncanny. His Taoiseach, locked by Fine Gael in a cellar to spare them from embarrassment, is a perpetual delight; his Alan Shatter is so slyly sinister it sends shivers down the spine.

Callan does every single voice, save for a handful of female characters such as Miriam O'Callaghan, but it would be for nothing if the scripts weren't as sharp as a pin. Callan's Kicks is funny with an ease that's almost insulting to his competitors. Mario Rosenstock must listen each week through gritted teeth. He's also not afraid in the slightest to bite the hand that feeds him, with a series of digs at RTE stars that make one wince with recognition. Of course, they all say they love it, but I bet they don't really.

There was more comedy – of a sort – in Bridget Christie Minds The Gap, which explored that age old question: Are women funny? This being politically correct BBC Radio Four, and Bridget being a lady, the answer was a foregone conclusion; but the programme hardly made life easier for itself by not being very, well, funny. She shouted, she put on silly voices, she pretended to be an ant, she even touched on the central problem with female stand-ups, which is their discomfort, unlike men, with "authority and the occupation of space". Bridget just forgot to say anything that provoked more than a wry smile. In fact, the funniest thing here was Scottish comedian Fred Macauley. Who's a man. So that was a bit of an own goal.

To Bowman Sunday 8.30, one of the hidden delights of Irish radio. Each week the former Questions And Answers presenter delves into the RTE archives for clips which would otherwise be buried out of hearing. This week, there was a poignant interview with an elderly Donegal man who emigrated to work on a farm in Scotland in the 1930s. He recalled rising at four in the morning and working 17 hours a day for a pittance, before going home and gathering sticks from the wood to make a fire because the farmer provided no coal. And we think we have it hard.

Finally, with RTE seemingly still so coy about posing the questions Gerry Adams needs to answer about how he himself, and Sinn Fein as an organisation, handled accusations of child abuse, it was good to hear Today FM's Last Word tackling the issue head on in an interview with Eamon McCann. The Derryman could not have put it plainer: "The case of Aine [Adams' niece] is not the only one that has arisen from within the republican movement. There certainly were many more, and a number of these are going to come to light in the coming weeks." Adams himself was offered a chance to come on air to respond. He was otherwise engaged.

Sunday Independent

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