Random 8

Paul Kerensa

Paul Kerensa

One random comedian, eight random questions; it's the ultimate test of funny person and fate. This week we welcome the busy stand-up, TV writer and script editor Paul Kerensa, who's currently touring a show that's slap-bang right down the middle of our ballpark.

"The First Broadcast: The Battle for the Beeb in 1922 is a one-man play (although I'm calling it 'stand-up history' as I can't quite be bound by a script - I learnt it then forgot it again) retelling the BBC origin story.

"I play two genuine radio pioneers, wild engineer Peter Eckersley, who'd anarchically broadcast after a few G&Ts, play gramophone records off-centre covered in jam, impersonate opera singers etc... and straight-laced Arthur Burrows, pretty much the only person to see broadcasting coming during WWI. They both loathed each other yet from their rivalry came, pretty much, the BBC.

Paul Kerensa

"It's a cracking tale, I love it, and I want more people to know it, so I started a podcast - The British Broadcasting Century, full of archive clips and guest experts - and a novel - Auntie and Uncles, due out later this year - and this one-man play The First Broadcast, touring the land throughout 2022.

"I work for the present-day BBC as a writer (Not Going Out, Miranda) and radio presenter (Radio 2 Pause For Thought, Sunday Breakfast on BBC Radio Sussex/Surrey), so it's been nice to go back 100 years... although my project is, I should add, nothing to do with the BBC. I'm doing it all myself. Well, the first presenters did, so I'm going back to those roots."

What was your childhood career dream?

Run a jazz bar. Some pals of mine just said they're starting one up (Nick and Charlotte of Guildford Fringe) and I'm super-jealous. I'd completely forgotten I planned to do it, aged eight, before I knew what jazz or mortgages were. Good luck to 'em!

Which TV show would you love to have been in, and which part?

Dad's Army, as one of the privates - one of those in the background who never says anything, but is always there, every episode, watching Clive Dunn and John Le Mesurier and James Beck and ALL of them being brilliant.

When we were writing Miranda, I nagged her for a walk-on part as a customer, which they finally granted in Series 3. Apparently I'm the only customer in three and a bit series to actually buy anything. I'm single-handedly keeping Miranda's shop afloat.

Paul Kerensa

What's your favourite fact?

I'll go with a BBC history fact as I just read this in one of the 50ish books I've read as research for my show: the BBC's Manchester station was first to broadcast Big Ben's chimes, beating London to it.

The owner of the Manchester studio (Metropolitan Vickers) had an office in Westminster, so an enterprising employee phoned the Manchester station just before the hour, stuck the phone handset out of the window, and Big Ben's chimes were broadcast throughout the Northwest - but not hearable on London radio sets.

Oh, and the guy who voiced Tigger co-invented the artificial heart with Dr Heimlich, of manoeuvre fame. That's a better fact.

Paul Kerensa

Your most interesting injury?

My pelvis was broken - deliberately - because my bladder was born on the outside of my body so they needed to pop it back in again. I have a neo-bladder, or because it's a bladder I wasn't born with but is now mine, I call it my step-bladder.

Oh yes I do jokes too...

What's the weirdest thing in your wardrobe?

Right now, a 'cat's whisker' crystal set 1920s radio, as I stored my props for the show in my wardrobe.

Oh, and months ago, my eight-year-old daughter decided to put a post-it note in my underwear drawer saying 'Big Pants'. I put it back in her drawer, and she keeps putting it back in mine. Every other day, I get the post-it note back again.

Who's the most interesting person you've ever met?

Jonathan Bryan - a teenage boy who's written a book called Eye Can Write. He's in a wheelchair permanently and can't speak. Instead he communicates, reads and writes by darting his eyes across a chart with letters on. "My eyes became my voice," he says. "My silent soul emerges," he writes in one of his poems. He's a gifted writer, the subject of CBBC show Locked In Boy, and a total inspiration.

Oh and Michael Bublé - I once taught him improv for a hidden-camera stunt. Fancy. Buble was cool. Jonathan Bryan is cooler.

Paul Kerensa

What's the worst job you've ever had, outside of comedy?

Sorting the mail at a Post Office depot. Those people are saints. Long unsociable shifts, you have to wear gloves because the bags are made of evil, but on the plus side you get to know all the postcodes and open mail when no one's looking.

How do you feel about cats?

Hate them. I pretend to like them for my daughter, but I sneeze at them, because I'm allergic to supercilious sociopathic bum-licking mini-ogres. Utter beasts. Dogs however...


The First Broadcast: The Battle for the Beeb in 1922 is touring the UK now. For Paul Kerensa's podcast and other projects, visit paulkerensa.com

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