Friday, 23 March 2012

Radio Reviews: 23 March

Queen of the desert island… Kirsty Young is a worthy successor to Roy Plomley as Jackie Mason’s appearance proved

Written by Louis Barfe
Louis-Barfe-newBWOn Radio 4's Pick Of The Week, Hardeep Singh Kohli said that he liked comedian Jackie Mason more before he heard the former rabbi's Desert Island Discs. I suspect Kohli's problem was less with Mason's choice of records (including Patsy Cline and Susan Boyle) than with his declaration that most minorities – specifically black people and Jews – are no longer persecuted, but that they continue to act as if they are.

Kirsty Young tackled him, saying that it was a 'controversial' view, but I can see Mason's reasoning. He's a 75-year-old Jewish man, who knows how mainstream anti-Semitism used to be, and how much the situation has improved. He did his bit for racial harmony in his rabbinical days, acquiring a reputation for funny sermons that attracted a sizeable audience of gentiles. Anyone trying to persecute Mason would be on a hiding to nothing.

When working in Las Vegas, Frank Sinatra took against Mason for showing insufficient respect, and turned up at a show to heckle. Mason demolished Frank. Young asked if he was worried about reprisals, given Sinatra's connections. Mason was blasé. What's the worst they could do? Young replied, deadpan, that they could have killed him. She then left a pause before reminding Mason that they tried. Well, yes, some bullet holes had appeared in Mason's hotel-room door, but he thought it was just an earthquake.

Young is the best post-Plomley presenter of Desert Island Discs. She's a good interviewer, able to relax her subjects without relaxing too much herself. Sometimes she's downright stern. It was a delight to hear her yelp with laughter at Mason's assertion that Cajun cooking is 'burnt fish' and that his mother had mastered it years ago.

Having recommended The Brontës' Piano (BBC Radio 4), it disappointed me. Catherine Bott told us that the music played by the Brontës could throw new light on their work, but, at the end, we were told that it probably didn't. If it doesn't stand up, why make it the focus of the programme? I'd have preferred more of the piano's restorer talking about his work, and Jonathan Cohen (fans of 1970s and 1980s children's TV, THE Jonathan Cohen) talking about playing the historic instrument. It felt like a 10-minute feature stretched to half an hour.

Desert Island Discs, BBC Radio 4, Sundays at 11.15am, repeated Fridays at 9am.


Liza Tarbuck has been announced as the replacement for Alan Carr when he vacates the early Saturday evening slot on BBC Radio 2 in May. Carr is stepping down in order to reclaim his weekends.

Follow Louis on Twitter:@LadyWireless or email him at: Louis also hasan 'exciting new blog-type thing' on

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