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Alan Parker’s 29 Minutes of Truth

Radio 1
Series One 1993 (three programmes)
Series Two 1994 (three programmes plus a special edition recorded live onstage)

Alan Parker Urban Warrior, the clueless, Sham 69-obsessed, cod-radical creation of character comedian Simon Munnery, offered the people of Britain “29 minutes of truth… and one minute’s silence… in memory of the people no-one remembers” in this ‘built’ show which mixed urgent propaganda with half-cocked reports on the state of the nation.  Alan, a latterday Wolfie Smith, aimed to provoke revolution using a Mockney accent, an assortment of sampled Clash riffs and some spectacular slogans (“On your side!”; “The Birmingham Six are free — when will the rest of Birmingham be free?”; “People of Briterrrrrrrrrn!  Don’t let them trample you into the ground!  Trample yourselves into the ground!  Then blame them.”)

He was generally  assisted by an accomplice with a weight problem, variously called ‘Hammond’ or ‘Stu’ and played by none other than Stewart Lee, best known as one half of Lee and Herring: he also collaborates with Munnery and others in a strange and largely stage-based project known as ‘Cluub Zarathustra’.  In addition, Lee played guitar in Alan’s punk-influenced band the Truth, who were heard in occasional shows of this and subsequent series, and for whom Alan in the role of ‘lead shouter’ produced some memorable vocals (“Get a job, get a job/ Earn yourself a few bob/ Buy a cooker or a fridge/ Then smash it up!  We don’t need machines!”)  Alan claimed to be the most left-wing person alive (“Think of the most left-wing thing you can think of, and then double it”), but the joke was directed not at left-wing ideas, but at the egotism and ill-informed ranting of people like Alan.  Munnery sums his character’s attitude up as having more to do with rock’n’roll than politics: “It’s standing with your legs apart like the Clash”.

Two subsequent series followed in the revised Radio 1 comedy format, each episode being an hour long and interspersed with music tracks played in full (rather than in clip form as foils for jokes, as happened in the first two series).  The first of these was entitled simply Alan Parker (though the titles did promise “59 minutes of truth”), and the second Alan Parker: Roadwarrior.  Both, sadly, were sprawling and weak in comparison to the half-hour original.  Alan resurfaced as the star of his own BBC2 TV special, entitled London Shouting, while Munnery returned to Radio 1 with his Cluub Zarathustra character, The League Against Tedium.  More recently, Alan has been heard on Radio 4’s The Now Show.  

© JB Sumner 1998