And now, we’re going to rush straight over to a small town in Hertfordshire, where something important is at this very moment about to take place.
birds tweeting, continuing in the background
Hello, er well, here we are outside number 23 Gungadin Crescent in Sawbridgeworth, er where we’ve had a tipoff that there might well be a sketch happening some time today. But I must say, if anything droll is going to happen here, it’s certainly belied by the calm, suburban exterior of this thoroughly ordinary house, though there is a slight air of expectancy, one or two passers-by have already stopped to look. Er Derek, do you think we’re going to get a sketch here today?
Well I must say, David, there’s little doubt in my mind. To me, the house looks exactly right: Semi-detached, small bay window, neat little garden in the front – I think we can expect something fairly surreal, a Viking at the very least.
Yes, yes, and of course the, the address is certainly promising, that’s er 23 Gungadin Crescent.
noise of people gathering in the background
Well there seem to be some more people gathering outside now, and a couple of them are pointing at an upstairs window. And it really does look like the sort of window out of which someone could probably fall, er with hilarious results, David… but personally, I don’t think it’s going to be that sort of sketch.
Ah! Oh no, no. Wait a minute… wait a minute! Something’s happening at one, one of the lower windows. Er somebody’s moving about inside the house… yes, they’ve just peeked out from behind the net curtains, and you can just feel the tension mounting. Derek?
Yes, the net curtain didn’t move in any particularly whacky way, so I don’t think the sketch can have started yet. But it’s certainly a most promising sign.
Yes, in fact it suggests to me that the first comic sortie may well be expected from out here in the street. Er can you see any movements further down the road from where you’re sitting?
Well, there are one or two people moving in this direction, David, yes.
Anyone particularly hilarious?
Not as yet, no no. What— no. Wait a minute! I can see a postman walking with a slight limp! Yes, he’s definitely limping slightly, but I don’t think it’s funny. No. No, he’s… he’s probably just been bitten by a dog or something.
postman limping along the street and approaching the house
[Yes, seems so ?], er but, but I don’t think we should rule out that limp yet, Derek. Er he’s coming up to the house, yes, he’s opening the gate of this house, amusingly named 23 Gungadin Crescent, Sawbridgeworth. Er the joke there of course being in the 23 Gungadin bit er, Sawbridgeworth being er, well, quite normal of course, and Crescent being only slightly sportive, because in fact the road is absolutely straight. Erm, a visual joke there. And—
Now what’s this?
Whoa! Yes, the gate has swung back and slightly grazed his left thigh! What a priceless piece of comic buffoonery there! Yes, the crowd is quietening again now, and I think the postman’s going to ring the bell – yes, yes, he is!
So we could be coming up for our first piece of dialogue now. Is this the sketch we’ve been waiting for?
Yes? Good morning.
Er good morning, Mrs Thomas, is it?
Yes, that’s right.
A registered letter for you ma’am. Could you sign here please?
Yes, certainly. There you are, bye.
Well, I, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say I thought it was quite funny, errr, though of course it’s very hard to be absolutely sure. We might well be in some of the more rarefied levels of comedy here—
Ah, but wait a minute, what have we here? Er David, David, look at this!
somebody coming running up the the street
There’s a man marching up to the house, up to this perfectly ordinary house, but he’s dressed as a nineteenth century German fireman, and, he’s got an octopus on his head!
Yes, yes! It, it certainly is an octopus, and there can be no doubt now about the humorous intent of this man, because he is now climbing over the gate in a most amusing way, and waving what looks to be a small, pink er, elderberry bush, yes! This then is the man who is clearly going to be collecting all the laughs here this afternoon!
running stops, door bell
And he’s moving straight into the dialogue now!
Good morning, are you… are you Mrs Bostock-[Rice-Pudding-nein-kein-Cuttlefish ?]?
Well that was both a very funny voice and an extremely funny name!
Shh shh shh, er she’s going to reply…
Er no, my name’s Mrs Thomas.
What?? Oh… oh, oh I’m sorry, I seem to have made a mistake.
Y-yes, I think the person you want lives at 42 Logical Positivism Avenue.
Oh. Er, sorry to have bothered you then.
sound of man running away (with one foot possibly in a bucket)
42 Logical Positivism Avenue.
Not 23 Gungadin Crescent after all.
I think we’ve made a boo-boo, David.
Ahhh yes, all the signs would point to it, Derek er, better get the outside broadcast unit moving, then.
As soon as possible, I’d say. Okay lads, 42 Logical Positivism Avenue, quick as you can! Come on now, there’s going to be nothing happening here at all.
gear being packed together
(over) Come on, lets get [round ?] then, 42 Logical Positivism Avenue…
motor being started and OBU quickly driving away
And now on Radio Four: A Rook at Bedtime. Tonight: ‘Jude the Obscure’ by Thomas Hardy.
leafing through pages of paper
further leafing through pages of paper
Caw! Caw, caw! Caaw, caw. Caw, caw caw. Caww, caw caw. Caw caw caw caw… (fades out)
Burkiss Way opening signature tune
(over) Yes, would you like to be rooked at bedtime? Then before retiring tonight, send all your money to Jo Kendall, Chris Emmett, Nigel Rees and Fred Harris and by return of post you receive our amazing correspondence course on the Burkiss Way to Dynamic Living. Simply place the five hundred and thirty-six course books on top of an open door, then walk through it and you’ll be knocked out by our fantastic literature for Lesson 14, Do-You-Know-What The Burkiss Way.
Thank you, thank you very much. Hello, and first an important message for all honeymoon couples listening to this programme:
You must be mad!
And next a warning: Today’s course [set ?] is on a subject which.. many people might find a little… er.. well embarrassing (nervous laugh), it’s not [??] the, the.. intention of the BBC to… [you know ?] to, to beat about the bush on [??]… erm, oh gosh, er ha, erm, but to come, er.. y-y-you know straight to the point and, a-a-a-a-and treat the whole topic in a oh broad-minded… intelligent and er, oh we…, you know thoroughly mature fashion, ermm… Ladies and Gentlemen, how to do er you-know-what.. ha, the Burkiss Way. (audience reaction, pause) Now, erm… you-know-what is, of course rather a silly euphemism for.. for, well for.. well for quite some time now, and er.. oh sorry, sorry, err errrr, let’s not avoid the issue any longer, erm, er, er what we’re talking about quite bluntly, bluntly, mmm, is, how, how, how, how to get as much as possible out of.. errr er err, out of the question, err err, out of the question, I’m sorry I can’t do it!
Alright, have it your own way.
(quietly) Oh yeah.
In the meantime, here is an important item which has nothing whatever to do with the subject of this programme:
clock ticking, continues in background
Good evening, members. I hereby declare this, the four thousand seven hundred and ninety-fifth meeting of the East Grinstead and District Gnat Watchers’ Society, open.
(pause, clock ticking)
Do you know what I saw last week?
(together) No, what?
(together) Uhhh. How interesting.
(pause, clock ticking)
Talking of seeing things, you’ll never guess what I saw last week.
(together) No, do tell us. What?
(together) Gosh. What a turnup for the book.
(pause, clock ticking)
I saw a gnat last week.
(together) No, go on, I don’t believe it!
Yes, without a word of a lie, a gnat this big. Must have been as big as a— uhh, easily as big as a…
Just the word I was looking for.
(short pause, clock ticking)
I tell you what: I saw a wasp last week.
Is that not a gnat?
Well yes, it was a gnat now I think of it.
(pause, clock ticking)
Stop me if I’ve told you this before, but last week, quite by chance, I saw a gnat.
(short pause, clock ticking)
I believe you did tell us that before.
I think so, yes. Oh, that aside for the moment, I saw a gnat last week.
(pause, clock ticking)
Er, is that a different gnat to the other one?
Of course it is! The conversation would tend to get a bit monotonous if we sat here all evening talking about the same gnat, wouldn’t it?
(together) Yes, that’s true.
I must tell you this, though: Last week I was walking down the street when imagine my surprise, when I beheld in front of me quite unexpectedly, a naked woman.
(together, unexcitedly) Oh?
Yes. Then just as I passed her, I happened to glance behind me in an almost unconscious manner, when I saw out of the corner of my eye emerging from the greengrocer’s a voracious South American puma.
Yes. Springing tenaciously to attack the naked woman, it passed in front of a number one two four bus on its way to Catford, causing the driver to swerve, striking a visiting head of state resulting in a World War of startling unprecedented savagery.
And you know – I was nearly home before I realised what an incredibly unlikely occurrence I had witnessed: I hadn’t seen a single gnat from one moment to the next.
(together) Gosh, how incredible!
I saw two together at one point, but not a single one.
(short pause, clock ticking)
Actually, you remember that gnat I told you about?
I’m afraid it wasn’t exactly true. In fact, I’ve had rather an uninteresting week, so I made it up.
Yes, so did I actually.
Me too. (short pause) Well, same time next weekend?
I wouldn’t miss this for the world, would you? Might for a gnat, but not the world.
clock ticking stops
vibraphone glissando, then Theme from A Summer Place
There will now be a short intermission.
dramatic music, continues in background
(over) Coming soon to this intermission: ‘Hamlet, Prince of Confused Finish to Anne’s Husband in Scandinavia, seven letters’.
fades up momentarily
(over) Starring Laurence Olivier and John Gielgud, and adapted for the widescreen by the Times’ crossword compiler, ‘Hamlet, Prince of Confused Finish to Anne’s Husband in Scandinavia, seven letters’ will have you chewing your pencil in awe. Listen to what the critics said:
Best cryptic screenplay for years.
Everyman, The Observer.
Act two, scene four is a real stomper!
Mephisto, Sunday Times.
A load of shoemenders, eight letters.
Coffee Time, The Sun.
fades up momentarily
(over) Yes, witness the now legendary soliloquy scene:
Two down, or not two down, that is the search for an electrically charged particle [??], eight letters. Whether ’tis nobler in the mind, to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous [here’s a forecast of Richard’s ?] exclamation mark, seven letters. Or, to take arms against a sea of trouble, and by opposing, dash dash brackets quotation from Hamlet Three in four letters.
(over) Yes, ‘Hamlet, Prince of Confused Finish to Anne’s Husband in Scandinavia, seven letters’ is coming soon to this intermission!
Well, welcome back to ‘How To Do You-Know-What The Burkiss Way’ —
telephone ringing, continues in background
Oh, erm. Excuse us a moment please.
(somewhat nervous laugh)
ringing stops, phone handset taken off cradle
Er hello, i-is that the Burkiss (voice changes to falsetto) Way to Dynamic Living?
Yes, can I help you?
(back to normal) Er well yes, er. Three weeks ago, I started taking your course (falsetto) to make me more well developed.
(normal) Well, i-it’s rather difficult to explain really er, you see I’m, I’m still waiting for (falsetto) for the second half of it to come through. (audience reaction) (normal) Only you see, erm, ahem, you see half of my body is now extremely well developed er, (falsetto) and the other half isn’t!
Erm, how do you mean exactly?
(normal, a bit embarrased) Well, I’d er, I’d rather not go into (falsetto) details if you don’t mind.
Ah, ah, —
leafing through paperwork
—er, hang on, erm, I’ve just found your card; it’s er Prondergast of Maida Vale, isn’t it?
(normal) Er, that’s right, (falsetto) yes.
Well er, don’t worry, we’ll send off the second half of your course in Body Development straight away.
(normal) Oh er (nervous laugh), thank you very (falsetto) much indeed.
Not at all, Mrs Prondergast, goodbye.
phone handset replaced on cradle
Right, this is it.
Off you go.
Off you go.
Yes, you can!
Tell them how to do you-know-what the Burkiss Way.
Er, y-y-you-know-what, I-i-ii I can’t.
Iiiih erm… (sheepishly) I don’t know what you-know-what is. (short pause) You tell ’em.
I don’t know what it is, either.
(confident again) Oh! Oh, well that’s alright then. Erm, it could be something quite innocuous, like erm… er ‘Walking down the street’.
street atmosphere, foot steps
An ordinary street, in.. an ordinary town. And here in this.. ordinary house, where you or I might live a perfectly ordinary live is… an ordinary man. (short pause) Next door to this.. ordinary man lives another man, who’s not quite so ordinary. (short pause) A man whom we must call simply Mr X.
atmosphere fades out
You can call me simply.
Simply. Very well then erm, Simply, you’re real name is Eric Pode of Croydon.
That’s right, yeah, yes.
Now, what can you tell me, what made you change it to ‘X’?
Ah well you see, I wanted to have personalised hot cross buns.
I see, I see.
Well, a man there with a problem. A problem which even today is hardly thought about, far less discussed in the open. The problem of – constantly having to interview anonymous people about their private lives. Yes, like many others, that interviewer is.. a documentary addict.
quickly ticking clock, continues in background
Tell me, erm, how did this problem of yours first start?
Well… i-i-it’s, it all began really when I, when I went to a party, you see.
We and the lads had had one to many… well you know what it’s like with sausage rolls…
We, we were getting a bit merry you see, and then, then of ’em suggested, just for a joke I think it was, that we—
…we made a documentary.
I see. Erm, what, what what sort of documentary?
Oh, iii-it was just a film about the sexual habits of bats initially…
… but, but after a few times— well it, i-i-it got worse…
Worse? How do you mean, ‘worse’?
Well, we started going out onto the streets, looking f…
… looking for Dimblebys.
Yes. I..i-it was only the Jonathans at first… but soon.. w-we started getting onto the Davids.
And, an-an-and where did you find these… these erm, these Dimblebys?
Oh erm, well, Savile Row street corners, …
… near the Melvyn Bragg hair oil tanker terminals… you know, that that sort of place.
And what did you… what did you do with them?
Well we… (taking a breath) usually we, we would go into this room together, you see… usually at [??], …
… and then we were alone, we’d, we’d pull the blinds down… a-and then, we’d er…
(exhales) … we’d, we’d sit in the shadows.
And, and then what happened?
Well I.. I-I started to hear these voices…
Yes, a tragic man, with a tragic problem.
Just like that, you see!
(cuts in) Shhhhh!
Panorama theme, then down for
(over) Well, on Panorama tonight we ask the question, ‘What can we do to cure cases like these?’ People like the man you have just seen, people like the man he was interviewing, and people like me, who have an uncontrollable urge to walk back and forth across the studio floor, pointing at enormous photographs.
Well, sitting opposite me now is an expert in talking about things quite a bit, Professor Heinrich German-Accent. Professor German-Accent, what’s the big danger of documentary addiction as you see it?
Well, what usually happens is that the subject, er generally some young, naive er, ignorant and immature current affairs producer vill be inwited to try one these so-called ‘soft programmes’. ‘Soft programmes’, —
—such as Nationvide, or erm… what’s that programme that’s worse than Nationvide?
Err, sorry, you’ve got me there…
(audience reaction) [Er well then, anyway, ?] er, erm after a time, after a time these become habit-forming, the withdrawal symptoms are extremely unpleasant: The drying up of BBC pay cheques, no er expenses paid, [trips ?? ?]—
Ultimately the subject sinks about as low as it’s possible to go: He er begins interviewing German professors and saying ‘I see, truly a terrible prospect.’
I see, truly a terrible prospect. Well, the next piece of film, ladies and gentlemen, taken at a centre for rehabilitating documentary addicts, contains disturbing shots of extreme cases.
foot steps in a reverberating corridor, door being unlocked and opened
You rang the bell, Mr Whicker?
Yes, I’d like a glass of water. A glass, so crystalline and calculatedly colourless in its cataclysmically cleansed condition. Filled with water so—
I go and get some for you.
—refreshingly, reassuringly recuperative, so emphatically effervescent in its empirically endowed…
door being shut
But what can we do to curb the spread of these documentary addicts? Well, for most of them the problem is so chronic that they become seized by an urge for a quick fix at very frequent intervals, and (starting to get worked up), in fact they… oh.. hand me that can of film, …
… quick! Quick! The telecine machine, quick, that’s it, put it in!
(over) Set it up, quick! Quick! Quicker! (desperate) Quiiick!
[??] fades up
(relived) Ohh! Hohh! Ohh, I needed this…
fades out slowly
(over) Right, now who’s next to see the dentist?
Er me, my name is Smoth, an-and I’m here for me dental check-up, Doctor Flark.
I see. Well I’m afraid Doctor Flark isn’t here today, would you like to see Cardinal Richelieu instead?
Er er, I beg your pardon?
I said ‘Would you like to see Cardinal Richelieu instead?’
What, what Cardinal Richelieu, the Chancellor of France during the reign of Louis XIV?
(slightly sarcastically) No, Cardinal Richelieu who keeps the chip shop on the Edgware Road. (normal) Of course Cardinal Richelieu, the Chancellor of France during the reign of Louis XIV, what do you think this is?
Yeah, but but w-we..he was largely responsible for the outbreak of the French Revolution, resulting in the mass slaughter of thousands of people.
Well, I can’t help what these medical students get up to.
Yeah, but.. but-bu-but surely he’s dead?
Well, that’s only true to a.. certain extent.
What sort of extent?
Well… very large extent. But he has got an extremely good degree.
Well ha, that’s no good if he’s dead, is it now? Aha, I might as well have Doctor Crippen on that pretext—
No, I’m afraid he’s busy at the moment. Erm, you could see our new dentist.
Is he a mass murderer?
Law-abiding person, is he?
Alright then, what’s his name?
Now look, why should I have my teeth inspected by lunatic French primates, habitual manic slaughterers, and megalomaniac Puritan witch hunters, who haven’t got the faintest connection with the world of modern dentistry?
This is the National Health, you know.
Fair enough, I, I’ll see Judge Jeffreys.
Er I.. I-I-I’ve come for me check-up.
Very good. Just wait there while I finish with this patient!
Next!! Now, just sit down here, please.
No, thank you.
I don’t like sitting on broomsticks.
Ohhh, weell, it was worth a try. Now, sit down in the chair.
Oh, right you are.
Would you like me to take your pointed hat?
What pointed hat?
Ahaaaa!! So, you own so many pointed hats you don’t know which one I’m referring to, ha haa!
Er wha-wha-what are you talking about?
[Don’t seize ?] what I’m talking about! I put to you this question: Are you, or are you not, a witch!!
Ah. Oh you seem to have seen through my little trap.
Look, er look, could we please get on with the checkup, this is supposed to be a dentist, not the Bloody Assizes.
Ahhh haaaa, pourquoi non, dites-moi Monsieur le Smoth, eh? Aa—
There’s no call for that language, either.
Very well. (audience reaction) Let’s get on with the examination, then.
Oh, right you are.
Who appears for these teeth?
What? Well… well well, I do, I suppose.
These teeth are charged, that on or about the thrid of February, they did wilfully and heinously commit – treason. Arson! Grand Larceny!! Bribing an officer of the law!!
Here, here, don’t be silly. Now look, how could teeth commit treason? That involves danger to the person of the monarch.
Well, they could bite him!
Well what about bribing an officer of the law then, how could they do that?
Mmmmmm-they could… bite him.
Well that wouldn’t be much of a bribe, would it?
That depends where they bit him!
Alright, w-what about arson? I mean, how could a set o’ teeth set fire to some public building?
Weelll, they could bite— alright, I’ll drop some of the charges. (audience reaction) These teeth are charged, that on or about the thrid of February, they did wilfully, heinously and maliciously, erm… eat a piece of black pudding.
That is not true.
Not true, is it, my little friend? Then perhaps you would tell me what this black, meaty substance is, adhering to the crown of your rear lower bicuspids?
Er bu-bu-do-th-bu-bu-no-that’s not black pudding no, th-tha-tha-that’s a piece of burnt steak.
Ooohhh!! So you are a witch!! You are a witch!! (audience reaction) And, and while being burned for your wicked misdeeds, you decided to gnaw your way to freedom, leaving by your own admission a charred piece of steak in your teeth, ahahahaha! Haa! Very well, I hereby sentence you to hang by the neck, until you get fed up with it, aaahaahaa, haa! Next!
Burkiss Way closing signature tune
(over) Well ha ha ha, that winds up another instructive half hour in Dynamic Living. If you’re still in any doubt as to what You-Know-What is, aha, simply apply You-Know-When to You-Know-Who at You-Know-Where of Stepney, aha what a giveaway. Next week we’ll be showing you how to win a young girl’s heart, with the help of Christian Barnard Raffles Ltd, Jo Kendall, Chris Emmett, Nigel Rees and Fred Harris. Then, as soon as you’re ready to propose, study the scripts of Andrew Marshall and David Renwick, and the additional scripts of Douglas Adams, and you’ll learn how to get down on your knees. Simply kneel regularly on ducks, available now from producer Simon Brett of Stepney. See you again next week folks and happy dynamic living!
to finish & out
roadside atmosphere, birds chirping in the background
Well, I think it’s looking just a little bit doubtful now, don’t you, Derek?
A little bit on the doubtful side now, David. Conditions certainly far from good here at Logical Positivism Avenue. The passers-by looking extremely sensible at the moment and the weather certainly very low on humorous content here.
Ah yes er, just a recap for those listeners who may have missed it: The nineteenth century German fireman with the octopus on his head collapsed dead, just before he could make it to the door of number forty-two here. Yes, and after that brief ripple of merriment which that event caused, it’s all been rather.. as it were, unhilarious in the comedy department, hasn’t it, Derek?
Yes, not much action at all here now, and personally I’d say the best we could hope for at this late juncture would be say… a continuity announcer with a bit of programme news, don’t you think?
Yes, I think you’re probably— oh! Er just a minute! Er what’s this?