Mike Myers took Hollywood by storm.
They didn’t see him coming.
His brand of humour was so quirky, so odd.
I read an interview with him about this.
They asked him what were the influences that made him so different to mainstream American humour.
He said it was partly because he was a Canadian.
His mum and dad had emigrated from Liverpool.
They knew they were going to miss home.
So they brought the things they thought they’d really miss most of all.
Tapes of their favourite radio programmes.
“The Goon Show”, “Around The Horn”, “Hancock’s Half Hour”.
Things you can’t get anywhere else.
See, in America, TV pretty much killed traditional radio.
Now it’s mainly just background, something you have on while you’re doing something else.
Driving, housework, hobbies.
So it has to be about things you don’t need to concentrate on.
Music and phone-ins.
Whereas BBC radio still assumes people will actually sit down and listen.
So you have comedy programmes, quiz shows, radio plays, long-running serials.
Pretty much like TV, but without the pictures.
Which meant it was faster and cheaper to make than TV.
Which meant it could be more experimental.
Mike Myers grew up listening to his parent’s tapes.
Which gave him a whole dimension of humour that America didn’t have.
They’d just been brought up on TV.
I’ve always thought the limitations of radio are what made it great.
Because it doesn’t have pictures, it develops your imagination muscle.
That’s great for children.
When my kids were young it was always difficult to get them to bed.
So I thought, let’s take that as a brief.
First let’s investigate the problem.
Children want entertainment but, like everyone else, they’re basically lazy.
They want to just sit up and watch TV, and let it do all the work.
But maybe there’s compromise here that works for both of us.
They’d like entertainment, but I’d like them to use their brain.
So I bought a lot old-fashioned radio plays.
At night I would put them to bed, switch the lights out, give them a torch, and let them listen in the dark.
I’d put on Sherlock Holmes or Raymond Chandler, or “Orson Welles’ Tales From The Black Museum”.
Radio plays are really melodramatic.
The SFX and music have to help tell the story and set the mood.
So they were atmospheric, and a little scary.
And mainly, what I liked, is the children had to use their imagination.
While they were listening to the story, their minds were creating the pictures.
They were participants, not just recipients.
Developing their imagination.
Spike Milligan worked better on the radio than TV.
Because he used sound effects in “The Goons’ to create images that are much funnier for being suggested rather than shown.
Tony Hancock worked better on radio than TV.
Because he used ‘dead-air’ to make what you imagine happening much funnier than if you saw it.
TV first became big in the USA, back in the 1950s and clients began shifting their ad budgets to it.
The radio companies asked comedian Stan Freberg to do a commercial telling clients why they should advertise on radio.
This is roughly what he did:
Anncr: “This is a live news broadcast and we’re about to witness an incredible event.
Lake Michigan, the second largest lake in the entire world, has been filled with billions of gallons of whipped cream.
And now a giant B52 bomber is about to drop a 50 ton maraschino cherry right into the middle of it, from a height of 20,000 feet.”
SFX: JET ENGINE NOISE.
“And here it comes, ladies and gentlemen, what an incredible sight, what an historic moment.”
SFX: Whistling noise.
“And there it goes ladies and gentlemen, right on target.”
SFX: Whistling noise.
“ And it’s about to hit, it’s about to hit, THERE IT GOES.”
“Well there you have it ladies and gentlemen: a 50 ton maraschino cherry dropped from a B52 bomber into Lake Michigan filled with whipped cream.
Let’s see you do that on TV.”