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The Big Booth

Radio 4
2000 (six programmes)

The first new comedy show of the year 2000 -- programme one in the series, broadcast on New Year's Day, was an extended 45-minute edition -- was a decidedly peculiar showcase for established stand-up Boothby Graffoe (the only comedian, as we are constantly reminded, to share his name with a small Lincolnshire market town).  The Big Booth was strong on songs: beside Boothby's own guitar-accompanied ditties, which have a habit of taking off in all manner of unexpected directions, each show featured a guest musician.  Contributors ranged from the mildly quirky Glen Tilbrook to that legendary, time-served exponent of strangeness, John Otway. 

Interspersed between the music were sketches which had an odd, wilfully half-thought-out feel: some began strongly and spent several minutes tailing off into nothingness, others didn't get beyond the opening line without somebody questioning the point.  Sometimes, whether deliberately or not, the show gave the impression that half the performers hadn't seen the script, and the others had never seen a comedy show before and had no idea what was going on.  This made for gripping listening, whether or not it was actually funny. 

The regular cast of Boothby, Vivienne Soan (who also played the sax) and Big Al (no further identity provided) was filled out by an impressive selection of irregulars: Simon Evans, Kevin Eldon and Stephen Frost all showed up for a couple or more shows apiece.  So too did another musicial guest, guitarist Antonio Forcione, who spent less time playing than vainly trying to convince Boothby of his ability to speak English. 

© JB Sumner 2000.  Created 29/4/00