Radio

'Broken Dream Catcher' and 'Woof' are radio from a different world

Nick Revell and Chris Neill guide Robin Ince through difficult, absurd and compelling comedy terrain

Nick Revell was one of the first MCs I saw at London’s Comedy Store when I was an exceptionally spotty and poorly dressed teenager obsessed by alternative comedy. That night he would introduce Julian Clary, who was clad in a rubber vest and shorts and accompanied by Fanny the Wonderdog, and activist prankster Mark Thomas among others. After an eponymous TV pilot and a long-running radio series, The Million Pound Radio Show, co-written with Andy Hamilton, Revell spent most of the Nineties offstage. Now, he has taken to performing one-man shows that mix absurdity, physics, artificial intelligence and whatever else has taken his fancy. I saw the live version of his frenetic, densely plotted and exuberant story of his highly intelligent cat and his sentient house which has somehow been cut down to 30 minutes and become Nick Revell Vs Lily, Evil Cat Queen of Planet Earth and The Laughing Fridge, the third episode of BBC Radio 4’s Broken Dream Catcher.

While Seinfeld, however erroneously, has been described as a series about nothing, Broken Dream Catcher appears to be a series about everything in the universe and a few things that may live outside of it.

If it had a bibliography, it would be the size of a Thomsons Local Directory. In episode one, he covers NASA and Taylor Swift’s involvement in the Illuminati and the accidental activation of Rupert Murdoch’s conscience plus appearances from Jesus and a few other gods. It is a volcanic eruption of theories, rumours and preposterousness as if Ronnie Corbett’s monologues had been informed by the Fortean Times and Arthur C Clarke’s Mysterious World.

Broken Dream Catcher appears to be a series about everything in the universe and a few things that may live outside of it

I first saw Chris Neill as producer of radio sketch series What If? Coming on after a sketch about old-age pirates, he politely and knowingly asked the audience if they could react to the sketch as if they found it funnier than they had the first time around. He now has his own series, Woof, also on BBC Radio 4. Neill’s world is populated by middle-class gourmands and matchmakers rather than the mythic, Machiavellian and Olympian. There are hints of Alan Bennett and Kenneth Williams in Neill’s delivery and painting of people and scenes, but it is also a very personal world. Like Revell, Neill etches images in the mind with ease as he conveys the many worlds of hope, fear and horror when being placed in the awkward position of middle-class and middle-age dinner parties with a blind date and a pair of new blue serge trousers.

“My date ran long bony fingers through long lank grey hair, maybe it was a trick of the light, but it threatened to reveal a ponytail at any moment… he struck me as the type who knew all of Joni Mitchell’s lyrics by heart.”

All too brief at 13 minutes, Woof can be barbed and acerbic, but also whimsical and self-effacing. Should those in lengthy partnerships ever hanker to be free and on the dating scene again, Neill is the gentle hand that guides you away from that cliff of innocuous chatter and paranoia.

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