Since You Asked Me for a Genre Busting Radio Comedy Show
June 7, 2021 7:33 AM   Subscribe

John Finnemore (previous, previouslier) is an award-winning writer and performer of radio comedy in the UK. In the past he was worked on projects with Benedict Cumberbatch and Michael Palin. However, his longest running series is the ensemble sketch comedy show John Finnemore’s Souvenir Programme.

Typical programmes include absurdist situational sketches, parodies of musical hall ditties, and always finish with a long genre-parodying story segment. More recent series have moved in more experimental directions including metacommentary on John’s writing and his allocation of parts to the players (Carrie Quinlan, Margaret Cabourn-Smith, Lawry Lewin, and Simon Kane) and story segments which reveal an inner unity to all the previous sketches.

For series 9 the show has gone in a radically different direction, slightly toning down the absurdism in order to tell reverse biographies of six members of an extended family of amateur poets, traveling musicians, and subtle radicals. The result is a sneakily profound mediation on family traditions, collective memory, loss, death, humour, and the healing power of whimsy. Five of the six episodes are available on BBC website (or BBC Sounds app for those outside the UK) with the final episode coming out on Thursday.
posted by nangua (18 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
nangua, THANK YOU for this heads-up!!! I LOVE JFSP and had not heard about this cool Series 9. Need to listen!!!
posted by brainwane at 7:44 AM on June 7

I loved the first eight series of this and laughed a great deal, but series nine has left me completely cold so far. Maybe I need to give it another listen.
posted by Paul Slade at 9:24 AM on June 7

Cabin Pressure is wonderful. I've developed of ritual of listening to it on long plane trips. I've probably gone through the series 5-6 times and it still makes me laugh. I otherwise know nothing about the world of radio comedy, BBC or otherwise, but I'll definitely be checking out JFSP. Does anyone have any other recommendations for series similar to Cabin Pressure?
posted by dephlogisticated at 9:53 AM on June 7 [3 favorites]

Paul Slade, that was my experience at first as well, but I think things start to come together in episode 3 in such a way to make the earlier episodes work better in retrospect. The reverse chronology of the series means that the earlier episodes are full of callbacks to material that only occur in their original form in later episodes. So the later you get in the series the better episode 1 gets.
posted by nangua at 9:55 AM on June 7

I'm here for all John Finnemore things, but series 9 of JFSP feels kind of inaccessible to me. Like, I have to hear an episode three times before I start feel entertained instead of just confused.

That isn't a BIG problem because at this point I will listen as long as it takes. But still.

My all time favorite episode is s6e5! Especially the Lorry Driver sketch!

And to go for a more obscure bit of John Finnemore's stuff, his episode of MyTeenage Diary is lovely!

Does anyone have any other recommendations for series similar to Cabin Pressure?

I can't think of anything similar, but there is always Cabin Fever, sort of a spin off (about Arthur Shappey in quarantine).
posted by Ashenmote at 10:17 AM on June 7 [2 favorites]

I was at the same Cambridge college as John but in the year below, which meant that two out of my three years there were punctuated by brilliant sketches and plays. I remember in particular one Christmas pantomime which featured a cast of heavyweight literary authors singing and dancing to pop songs - like the Bronte Sisters doing “hey hey we’re the Brontes”.

He is also responsible for one of the most golden memories of my time there. I did history, which is one of the few subjects that doesn’t have exams at the end of the first year. John had a role on the college JCR - I think it may have been Ents Officer - which included custody of the college’s dilapidated punt. For some reason this had been left over the winter at the top of the river and needed transporting south to where it normally lived. One day in the summer term me and the rest of the first year historians found a note in our pigeon holes saying something like “you lucky bastards don’t have exams, you are therefore charged with rescuing the college punt”.

On the appointed day we marched up the river, found and bailed out a barely river-worthy punt, and took it down the river to Grantchester to lie in the sun getting drunk under the willow trees on the bank of the river. The Belle and Sebastian song “I Spent The Summer Wasting” still has the capacity to zap me back straight back to that particular day. As the sun set we then drunkenly steered the punt back to its proper mooring.

Reading what I’ve just written, it’s an anecdote that could be about the late 1890s rather than the late 1990s, when it actually happened, which is part of why I treasure that memory. So John, on the off-chance you’re reading this, thank you!
posted by greycap at 10:43 AM on June 7 [11 favorites]

He's also one of the very small handful people to have solved the puzzle book Cain's Jawbone.
posted by Paul Slade at 11:27 AM on June 7 [1 favorite]

Does anyone have any other recommendations for series similar to Cabin Pressure?

Tom Wrigglesworth's Hang-Ups and In and Out of the Kitchen are similar -- they're both warm/gentle Radio 4 Sitcoms.
posted by HoraceH at 11:30 AM on June 7 [5 favorites]

If you’re after warm, gentle Radio 4 comedy, you want Fags, Mags and Bags - ‘Fags’ as in cigarettes - it’s set in a corner shop. It’s a lovely place to spend half an hour
posted by stanf at 3:44 PM on June 7 [4 favorites]

Is there a way to listen to the earlier seasons of JF'sSP?
posted by slappy_pinchbottom at 5:22 PM on June 7

I unequivocally love everything of John Finnemore that I have heard; he's clever, thoughtful and very, very funny, very much better than the general run of the Radio 4 6.30 comedy slot. The new series takes a bit of getting used to but is very much worth it. It reminded me a bit of his two series of John Finnemore's Double Acts, a series of one-off two-handers, some of which linked in a similar way.

Incidentally, if you have no access to BBC Sounds, or want to hear more of his stuff, there is usually a fair amount on YouTube.
posted by Fuchsoid at 9:01 PM on June 7

Is there a way to listen to the earlier seasons of JF'sSP?

If you're prepared to part with some cash, you can buy each series as a little box set on iTunes. Here in the UK, they're £6.99 each.
posted by Paul Slade at 12:15 AM on June 8

I discovered John Finnemore some years back. His series "Cabin Fever" was off the wall halarious.
John Finnemore’s Souvenir Program is currently making my Sunday afternoons a real treat, after listening to "The Archers" omnibus. And the "News Quiz".
posted by james33 at 5:41 AM on June 8

"I have two questions: glass slippers? and glass slippers?"

That's where I've got to. This really is an astonishing piece of work.
posted by Grangousier at 3:27 AM on June 9

Oh, and the strange thing is a lot of it is set around where I grew up. Places that were about ten miles or so from places I lived. Not, so far, anywhere I actually lived.
posted by Grangousier at 3:31 AM on June 9

Listening through again, I wonder whether there's any significance in the anachronisms (A Nightingale... before it was written, a woman killed in a bombing raid on Leeds the year before bombing started, a reference to The Egg Man in 1966). I'm sure if there is, it will be in tonight's episode.
posted by Grangousier at 12:14 AM on June 10

I asked Mr F on Twitter, and he says they're just anachronisms, and I felt a bit foolish, the way one does when one thinks one is pointing out another's cleverness and just ending up being rude to them. He was very good about it, though. There was another (Stranger On the Shore) in the last episode.

A beautiful series. Someone on Twitter mentioned that the BBC wouldn't have commissioned it if they'd known what it was going to be, and I wonder whether that might not be the case, but I hope they're glad they did.

I've been thinking recently about how so many kind things have come out of the beastliness of the past few years - I've been bingeing a few of them recently - and this is definitely one of them.
posted by Grangousier at 12:12 PM on June 10

I have now listened to episodes 1-5 twice, and just listened to episode 6 and I'm just crying with how sweet it is.
posted by brainwane at 12:30 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]

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