Comedy Talk Shows and Favourite Songs

Talk shows are a staple of modern day television and have been so for over 50 years: Johnny Carson defined the late night talk show for nearly 40 years in the US and Michael Parkinson similarly dominated in the UK for 25 years. Recently the trend has seen far more informal shows dominate, things like Jimmy Kimmel in the US or Jensen in the Netherlands (my dutch may be bad, but he conducts some of his interviews in english so I can watch along). In the UK this has been taken even further by a raft of talk show where the hosts are not even real people.

One of the first to do this was Dame Edna Everage who dominated talk shows in the late 80’s and early 90’s by mixing proper talk show conventions with some comedy that was only possible because the interviewer was actually a man in drag peforming as a comedy character. This approach was continued by Caroline Aherne/ Hook (a 20-something comedienne) who used her Mrs Merton persona (a senior citizen with few social graces) to ask truly outrageous questions; the finest of which was “So, Debbie, what was it that first attracted you to the millionaire Paul Daniels?”

And now we have Al Murray using his ‘Pub Landlord‘ character as a host of chat show. The problem for Murray is that, unlike Parkinson or any of the late night show hosts in the US he is unable to command the quality of guests that a show typically needs to be successful. Whether this is because the guests have wised up after the experiences of Dame Edna or Mrs Merton is not clear but it makes for less interesting television. On the other hand he has come up with a couple of cool gimmicks; including getting all the musical guests to play 2 songs: 1 is normally the latest single that they are promoting, the other must be from the band who are, in the opinion of the Pub Landlord, the greatest band ever: Queen. So you could get Bryan Adams doing Fat Bottom Girls or Katie Melua doing Crazy Little Thing called Love.

Or the one that I liked best because it is my favourite Queen song: KT Tunstall doing Hammer to Fall. Which got me to thinking about my taste in music- it is very rare for me to agree with what is generally perceived to be the ‘best’ song or ‘favourite’ song by a band or singer. I would guess that Bohemian Rhapsody will be far and away the most popular Queen song- but not for me. When it comes to the favourite band of my youth (I got all their albums): The Beat (or The English Beat, depending on what side of the pond you are on) Mirror in the Bathroom is what most people will pick- not me, I love Save it For Later. Whether it is the rather risque lyrics that attracted a 13 year old boy or not I don’t know, but to this day it is still my favourite. And someone no less than Pete Townsend agrees with me. And he knows a little bit about writing songs (although a lot less about what you should or shouldn’t do on the internet). I’m thinking that I should stop that analogy right there. Onto The Eurythmics: I am going to guess that Sweet Dreams would be up there, but I’d pick When Tomorrow Comes. I never seem to get it right.

All of which pontification on musical taste has no real conclusion but leaves me wondering if I am yet again out of step with the majority of the world. Maybe it is the wiring in my head that makes me understand databases, but I still don’t fit in. And you know what? I am happy with that.

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