Podcast of week: The Beef and Dairy Network
Who knew talking about farming could be so weird and hilarous?
Benjamin Partridge, producer and voice of The Beef and Dairy Network
I rarely listen to comedy podcasts, and recommend them even less frequently. It is so hard to quantify what exactly makes something funny, or if a stranger will find something as hilarious as I do. The last time I recommended a podcast that was entirely satire was A Very Fatal Murder, which was so hilariously written that I had to keep rewinding iTunes to listen over to some of the dialogue. Here, I’m about to tell you to listen to a podcast about the production of beef and dairy animals. Really.
Every episode is between 10 and 20 minutes long so you almost have no excuse not to try it. Produced and voiced by Benjamin Partridge, it originated as a mini-series for BBC Radio 4, broadcasting six, then 10 episodes – there are now about 70. I listened to about 10 in one sitting. The Beef and Dairy Network is, in all sincerity, a show about livestock and livestock-related products, and social issues that are caused by this very particular industry. It is surrealism played straight – if a listener wasn’t paying full attention to the details, they might assume that the received pronunciation and delivery was, in fact, from an authentic news segment.
Important topics, such as what can happen to a person who eats yoghurt when it is out of date, what would happen if life on other planets was bovine instead of humanoid, and very importantly, what parents should do if they discover their children eating lamb instead of beef, are tackled with utmost sincerity. It reminds me very specifically of a BBC comedy show called Look Around You, which recreates a 1970s in-studio education show about science and nature, only all the facts are staggeringly incorrect. There is also, I feel, more than a little of the bottled magic that Monty Python achieved at its finest here, too.
Occasionally, the surrealism of The Beef and Dairy Network breaks from jokes into a kind of poetry, which regular podcast listeners will find reminiscent of Welcome to Night Vale. I love this touch: there isn’t anything particularly cynical about The Beef And Dairy Network, more a presentation of a weird and specific conceit that expands far, far beyond where it should be able to go in 10 minutes of audio. I like that as well as being extremely weird and very funny, there’s a loveliness to it as well. At most, the satire here is targeted at how unfeeling and myopic broadcasters and interviewers can sometimes be with their subjects: there are fleeting hints of Channel 4’s Brasseye.
This is a strange and hilarious podcast – if you try it for 10 minutes, you might find yourself deep in an hour later, like I did. It’s refreshing and weird and entirely committed to the story it is telling you – and besides, where else are you going to find out the warning signs of lamb consumption in your community? I absolutely recommend a listen.