British Comedy Guide

Chain Reaction. Copyright: BBC.

Chain Reaction

BBC Radio 4 chat show. 64 episodes (11 series), 2004 - 2016.

Series 9, Episode 5 is repeated on Radio 4 Extra on Monday at 10:30pm.

Press Clippings

This enduring Radio 4 show is one of those excellent ideas that seems glaringly obvious once someone else has thought of it. The basic concept is a hostless chat show; an initial guest chooses a sparring partner who, the following week, chooses another, and so it goes on in a cheerful human centipede of chat. This series began with Adam Buxton talking to Reece Shearsmith and has passed through a range of comedy luminaries, including Vic Reeves and Sharon Horgan.

Phil Harrison, The Guardian, 28th March 2015

In praise of Chain Reaction

Chain Reaction; an ingenious little show that's been bubbling away on radio's equivalent of People's Friend magazine for years.

Rob Gilroy, Giggle Beats, 27th March 2015

The idea behind Chain Reaction, if you haven't listened (why?), is that last week's interviewee becomes next week's interviewer, so we get a long list of famous people (usually comedians or actors) interviewed by a similar person who they admire or have worked with. Each person's interview technique is very different, so the show is hit and miss. The last two week's programmes, which featured Bob Mortimer interviewing Vic Reeves, and then Vic Reeves talking to Olivia Colman, have been tricky listens. I love Reeves and Mortimer but they don't do interviews, really. When they were together it was funny but utterly random; when Reeves talked to Colman, I had to switch off. He had no questions; he didn't really listen to the answers. Argh! It was frustrating.

This week, Colman talked to Sharon Horgan, and I enjoyed the whole show. Colman managed to take the mickey out of the interviewing process ("Do you have a favourite sibling? Do you have a favourite child?") and also get revealing answers. Revealing of both Horgan and herself, which made up a bit for the week before. So we learned that Colman can't cope with too much to do (and then her husband points out that what she's worrying about could be done in a hour), that Horgan prefers writing to acting, and that despite being born in England she considers herself Irish - "it's very important to me that I'm Irish". The chat brought out the contrast between Horgan's career-minded pragmatism and Colman's family-comes-first attitude. As well as both women's wit. Colman was a great host. Give her a show. Nurture the "talent". Manage it.

Miranda Sawyer, The Observer, 22nd March 2015

Radio Times review

"Do you have a legal list?" Olivia Colman asks her interviewee Sharon Horgan. "Sorry, what's that?" responds Horgan, in answer...

Jane Anderson, Radio Times, 18th March 2015

Radio Times review

Graham Norton, Jonathan Ross and Alan Carr are not going to lose any sleep if they listen to this. Jim...

Jane Anderson, Radio Times, 11th March 2015

Radio Times review

Bob Mortimer may well be in trouble with his wife after this broadcast. He has told her that he works...

Jane Anderson, Radio Times, 25th February 2015

The driverless car of chat shows, Chain Reaction (BBC Radio 4), returned this week with Adam Buxton firing questions at The League of Gentlemen's Reece Shearsmith. The tag-team format allows for a nice variation in tone (the host baton passes to Shearsmith next week, with a new guest in the other chair), but when the host is as thoughtful and considered as Buxton I almost wish it was his show alone. He's the ideal blend of gentle irreverence and a genuine interest in other people. For all the novelty of the format, it was a good, old-fashioned interview, with Shearsmith offering up everything from impersonations of his old acting teacher and revelations about his childhood (he was nearly christened John Wayne) to the intriguing story of the time he became the apprentice to special-effects artist Christopher Tucker, only to run away from his house in the middle of the night "like Jonathan Harker fleeing Castle Dracula". In a brilliant summation of his comedy oeuvre, including The League of Gentlemen, Psychoville and Inside No. 9, he describes the template as: "Three people in a room. One of them goes mad." Chain Reaction is such an obvious candidate for translation to television that it's puzzling it has yet to make the jump.

Julia Raeside, The Guardian, 19th February 2015

Radio Times review

Reece Shearsmith looks rather dour as he explains to his interviewer, Adam Buxton, that his looks have helped cast him...

Laurence Joyce, Radio Times, 18th February 2015

When I spoke to Carl Cooper, the producer of this series, I asked how much of the material for this edition - Kevin Bridges interviews fellow Glaswegian comedian Frankie Boyle - had to hit the cutting room floor. "It was a tricky one, content wise," he conceded, but you'd never know it from this brilliant edit.

All right, you might have an inkling when Boyle starts talking about beaming porn onto the outer walls of primary schools - not a practice he supports, takes part in or suggests, I should add, before the green biros come out to start an "appalled from . . ." letter.

For the most part, the conversation is on why the controversial performer has decided to stop - spending time with his family became more appealing than being under constant scrutiny for every word he said or wrote. There's an interesting section on why Boyle hates comedy panel shows where he reveals how scripted and planned they are, and how much he liked to drop a grenade into such proceedings.

He's certainly not lost his precocious comedy gift and shows like this are evidence that he can be put before a microphone without bringing a broadcast company into disrepute. I'd like to go on record now that he should be a guest editor on The Today Programme next year.

Jane Anderson, Radio Times, 3rd January 2014

Chris Addison will be pleased with this picture - there is very little bare flesh on show and certainly nothing suggestive of his nether regions. In a terribly British section of his interview by friend and fellow comic thespian Rebecca Front, they discover a shared aversion to nudity, especially their own, in performances.

As Addison remarks, his modesty is based upon his body resembling a stick man made out of Twiglets. Their similarities do not end here, however: both confess to having been goody-two-shoes at school and how many other modern comedians can claim to have been part of madrigal groups? Middle-class and brainy does not have to mean smug, though, and so this interview rubs along nicely. I look forward to Addison asking the questions of Derren Brown next week.

Jane Anderson, Radio Times, 3rd August 2012

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