Is Liza Tarbuck a radio genius?
I SUSPECT that I am not the target audience for Fortunately (Radio 4), where Fi Glover and Jane Garvey talk to each other in a very podcast fashion. But I can see why people would like that.
Glover and Garvey are friends and it shows. They talk about everyday things – pets, garbage cans, bland mashed potatoes from the recent Covid-themed holiday season – in a playful, fun way. At some point during the first episode of their new series on Tuesday night, Garvey had to disappear. “Excuse me a minute, the decorator is screaming,” she told listeners.
At another, Glover started telling us about his frozen shoulder. “If you say to a group of friends, ‘I have a frozen shoulder’…I was going to say half of them would raise their hands, but they can’t.”
They even try their hand at being agony aunts during which they talk about menstruation, grief and homesickness.
But the reason I visited on Tuesday was because their guest was Liza Tarbuck. Jimmy’s daughter (and Pauline’s, as Tarbuck Jr would be the first to remind you).
I’ve loved Tarbuck ever since she started appearing on the 1980s ITV sitcom Waiting (which is probably on Forces TV as we speak). But her days as an actress are far behind her and now she is above all a radio DJ on Radio 2.
And she’s very good at it. Glover and Garvey are big fans. “It’s getting rarer and rarer for people who really understand radio to get on the air…” they tell him at one point, “but you just know radio and you make it special.”
There are a lot of things in there. Tarbuck’s Saturday night show on Radio 2 is madness. His musical choices are entertaining and quirky (mostly) – last Saturday’s choices started with The Du Droppers, then included Dexys, “Peculiar” Clarke, Kae Tempest, Department S, Sports Team and Julia Lee & Her Boy Friends, among others – but it is the middle monologues that set her apart.
Aided by listener contributions (including Saturday’s A Listener’s Erotic Dream on Robbie Coltrane), Tarbuck creates a small sonic world of nonsense, fueled by various accents, his distinctive wordplay and a dirty laugh. In this respect, it is part of the radiophonic tradition of Wogan and Everett. She does not interfere in your world. You must enter her house.
(Shaun Keaveny’s 6 Music show that ended last year did something similar. Keaveny has now moved on to podcasts).
“Steve has a spag bowl tonight. Isle of Wight recipe. I don’t know what the secret ingredient could be. Resentment?” asks Tarbuck, laughing.
“Is anyone responsible for what you do and say,” Garvey and Glover asked Tarbuck on Happily. You can probably guess the answer.
On Monday, Elvis Costello spoke to Nihal Arthanayake on 5 Live about his passion for Welsh broadcaster Mavis Nicholson, working with Burt Bacharach and mortality, his own and that of others.
Speaking of her mother’s death last year, the emotion in her voice was palpable.
What he took from that experience, he told Arthanayake, “is the will to live, the desire to live, even when things are compromised.”
We can’t go on, we keep quoting Samuel Beckett slightly misleadingly. It would have been great on Radio 2.
Listen: Archive on 4: Bloody Sunday – 50 Years On, Radio 4, 8 p.m., tonight. Peter Taylor has done more than most to explain the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Here he reflects on what happened in Derry on that horrific day 50 years ago.
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