There was no point preparing for an interview with Frank Carson. Some interviewers managed to get a first question in before he started speaking; very few made it to a second. The interviewer's job, Frank thought, was to laugh - it wasn't forced laughter, he just left you with no-where else to go.
It was the same with audiences. Other comedians might pause after a well-delivered one-liner and allow the audience a chance to respond, or at least to breathe. Not Frank. The gags came thick and fast, as if he wanted to pummel you into laughter. He was relentless.
In fact, he didn't need an audience to laugh - he provided his own laughter track with every joke. He was never crude, but he had a filthy laugh. His enjoyment of laughter for its own sake was so genuine, so innocent, that you couldn't help but join him. And when he thought you really did need a break, he'd deploy one of his signature catchphrases: "It's a cracker!", or "It's the way I tell 'em".
Read the rest of this entry
Dr Richard Dawkins
, the world's most famous atheist, recently engaged in a public dialogue
about human origins with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams
, at Oxford University's Sheldonian Theatre. Dawkins and Williams are former Oxford professors, and the event was chaired by the distinguished philosopher Sir Anthony Kenny
, who describes himself as an agnostic and "a representative of ignorance". Please use this thread to discuss the arguments they marshall in the debate and share your views on who proved most persuasive. You can watch the debate here
On this week's Sunday Sequence I spoke to the composer Dr Philip Hammond about his new composition, Requiem for the Lost Souls of the Titanic, and we heard, exclusively, two short excerpts from the piece. Many of you texted us to say how moved you were by what you heard. It really is a stunningly beautiful work which will make a massive contribution to our public commemoration of the Titanic tragedy during this, the centenary year.
The world premiere of Philip's Requiem takes place in Saint Anne's Cathedral in Belfast on 14 April, with an additional performance as part of a Requiem Mass in St Peter's Cathedral on Sunday, 15 April. If you would like to be present for either of those important dates, you can book your place on the Titanic Festival website. In what follows, Philip Hammond tells us more about the background to this remarkable new composition.
Read the rest of this entry
An excavation at Pompeii
Are you a fan of history programmes on TV
? Or radio documentaries about key moments of history? Maybe you love books about history or the biographies of some of the most celebrated people from history. Then here's a date for your diary. The BBC is running a major 3-day event in Belfast
looking at the creative relationship between history and broadcasting. We'll be bringing in some big-name TV presenters and professional historians for a series of illustrated talks, conversations, interviews, discussions and preview screenings that are all about history.
I'll be hosting the event, which begins next Tuesday, 21 February. Our guests will include Mary Beard, Adam Nicolson, David Reynolds, Jenny Abramsky, Carlo Gebler, Alvin Jackson, John Bowman, Francesca Stavrakopoulou and many others. This will be very special, I can promise you; and to avoid disappointment you need to book a place. Admission is free.
Here's how you reserve your place at the BBC Festival of History and Broadcasting. You can book in for a whole day, or all three days, or book for an individual session.