Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

Weak Tea and bad satire

When RTE first aired Green Tea earlier this year, it was obvious to all that there were many problems with the radio satire show fronted by Nob Nation dude Oliver Callan. Of course, it takes time for a show to …

Tue, Sep 27, 2011, 09:51


When RTE first aired Green Tea earlier this year, it was obvious to all that there were many problems with the radio satire show fronted by Nob Nation dude Oliver Callan. Of course, it takes time for a show to find its feet, especially a political satire show given the heavyweight precedents for that particular beast on the national airwaves.

This time around on the show’s second run, though, it’s obvious that the people behind the scenes have not actually done anything at all about the main problem with the show: it’s just not funny, sharp or satirical in any way, shape or form. Like all satirical shows, it gains its juice by caricaturing and magnifying the more ludicrous elements of its victims. But Green Tea prefers to be light rather than dark, a succession of sketches with funny voices which seek to lampoon the character’s traits and mannerisms rather than actually tear the more pompous elements of the political gallery apart. It’s not likable enough or nasty enough to stick in your memory. It’s as if Callan is happy enough to slag his victims off, but stops short of angering or annoying them for fear they might not invite him around for a cup of tea in the future.

However, it’s not just Callan who lacks an edge. With the exception of occasional Gift Grub sketches (and we’d be interested to hear if Apres Match could do the do on radio as well as on TV), Irish radio satire has all the attack potential of a three day old kitten. From (Un)Funny Friday on RTE Radio One’s Liveline to the terrible sketches which pop up now and again on Today FM’s Last Word (indeed, every radio show’s attempts at cutting-edge satire), Irish radio prefers to paint cosy, rhyming pen-pictures of the cast of rogues and scoundrels at its disposal rather than villify them in any way. It lacks that dangerous edge or element of surprise, that moment when you stare at the radio and go “did they really say that?” Of course, we still stare at our radios and go “did they really say that?” but it’s with a groan rather than a note of surprise. We know what we get with Callan and co turn their attentions to Enda Kenny or David Norris. We know the lines and the weak spots. We also know that they’ll inevitably throw Ryan Tubridy, Paul Galvin and Miriam O’Callaghan into the mix. We know they won’t go for the real loopers on the national stage because they’re afraid we won’t recognise them. Irish radio satire as predictable as an Irish summer.

Perhaps it’s really down to the long shadow cast by Scrap Saturday and a fear that you’re competing with a show which can’t be bettered because it really went to the edge and back, though it’s hard to believe that a show which ran for just two years over 20 years ago still has such an effect. But when you remind yourself of the show’s highlights (many captured in this article) and remember how the Irish political culture of the time reacted to the sketches, you quickly realise that Scrap Saturday was a much different, darker, funnier beast. Maybe we were living in much more innocent times or maybe the targets the late Dermot Morgan, Gerry Stembridge, Pauline McLynn and Owen Roe had to aim at were far better bad guys to be aiming at, but the sketches show that they were going hell for leather for the jugular every time and didn’t give a toss who they offend. Now, that was satire.

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