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The Story of the Piss Poor Podcast
By Martin "304 and still going" Kelner
Jun 26, 2017 - 3:05:17 PM
Back in 1982, the world was a very different place. Pyramid teabags were no more than the dream of starry-eyed beverage futurologists, Rolf Harris was a much-loved family entertainer, and security round radio stations was a pretty haphazard affair. It was in that kind of climate that Leeds station Radio Aire was the victim of a break-in.
The frontman of the late, unlamented, post-punk Leeds band, The Three Gingers (Remember them? Thought not), climbed in through a back window, and forced his way onto the air. (Round about that time there was a lively post-punk scene in Leeds with such respected acts as Gang Of Four and the Three Johns, neither of whom had ever had anything to do with the Gingers, although our intruder informed me excitedly that they did once support Mutants of the Holocaust).
Unlike most activists who bothered to break into radio stations, his demands fell short of revolutionary government, release of all political prisoners, and a private jet to fly him to Cuba.
In fact his motives, apart from a desire for more exposure for himself and his "music," remain opaque to this day.
Two factors conspired to get him behind the mic. Firstly, I was on air presenting my entirely unlegendary tea time show, and in those days local commercial radio, unlike today, was legally obliged to provide "local content." As far as I was concerned, some nutcase climbing in through the kitchen window counted as "local content," and saved me having to arrange proper interviews.
Secondly, our activist had recently returned from busking in France, and could do what he assured me was a passable impersonation of fellow street entertainer Edouard LaPaglie, and as I had no idea who or what Edouard LaPaglie was, I took his word for it, and launched the character on my programme to an almost negligible degree of hilarity among my small but select audience.
In those days, his act consisted mostly of smuggling the word "arse" onto what was still a very prudish media landscape. So he would talk about asparagus for instance, and pronounce it 'asparagarse.' Occasionally he might mention how he didn't use the ball-type deodorant, preferring an 'aresole.' How we laughed.
When I was moved to the breakfast show in a vain bid to get some listeners for the station, 'Edouarde' became a regular character in a "comedy" serial, Monsieur Haricot Prends Ses Vacances, a tribute to Jacques Tati's movie Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot. It differed from Tati's film in two important ways. The movie got big laughs through mime, and our feature, being radio, obviously had no mime in it. Also, it didn't get big laughs.
As I moved to different radio stations through the '80s and early '90s, Edouard sometimes moved with me. He was used sparingly on my Radio Two shows, whose audience at that time I judged would be less than receptive to Edouard's unique brand of largely arse-based humour.
However, when I was hired for a show networked on all the BBC's local radio stations in the North, he became a feature again, alongside other characters, Caroline Aherne's creation Mrs Merton, and a comedy proprietor of a Chinese takeaway (
autre temps, autre moeurs, as Tony Blackburn might say).
The thing to remember about Edouard is that he is NOT a comedy Frenchman, definitely not. There's no string-of-onions-aw-he-haw-funny-Frenchman about him. He's not the guy in Good Morning Vietnam.
He's doing an accent, yes, but what the hell the accent is your guess is as good as mine. Beyond the name, and the running gag, "Hey Edouard, what's the French for soiree?" "Ey, Martan, we don't have one?", there's very little reference to his being French.
Some time in the late '90s, while on the BBC's North Night Network, we became aware of the odd podcast, and we decided to have a bash at one. I believe Edouard named it the Piss Poor Podcast primarily for the alliteration, to mirror the North Night Network. Little did we know how titularly prophetic it would prove.
As I was on the BBC at the time, we did it for free, except for one we did for charity, which in fact contributed a decent amount of money towards buying sewing machines for a small village in Ghana (Really! We had no particular link with Ghana, but we bloody love sewing machines.)
After one of my various sackings, we started charging a pound a week for the PPP, until I was lured back to BBC Leeds to present the breakfast show. They paid us to stop doing the podcast because it was felt any editorializing in it might compromise the impartiality of a news-based show. In fact, we earned more for NOT doing the podcast than we ever did for doing it. Which I suppose should have told us something.
When I was moved to a less newsy show we started doing the PPP for free again, but after another recent sacking (see elsewhere on this site for the story behind that) we reluctantly had to start charging for subscriptions, as it is now a vital income stream, for me at least. (Edouard has a thriving business online, selling items unable to be sourced elsewhere on the net, and despatching them in plain brown wrappers.)
And that is where we stand at present, 140-odd subscribers each paying a pound a week, and we cherish every one.
Actually, I embarked on this brief history as a kind of thankyou to all of you who subscribe to the podcast. Given the torrent of stuff you can get for free on the Internet, I'm stunned and rather flattered that any of you would spend time and money on our little podcast.
I think of Edouard and myself as a plucky little cottage industry, battling for survival against the big battalions of the online world. We're like manufacturers of craft beer, artisan bread, or beautifully wrought hand-crafted artworks in a world of bottom-line mass production. Or we would be, if there were anything lovingly crafted or beautifully wrought about the PPP.
But some of you seem to appreciate the thrown together nature of the enterprise and continue to buy it as we move into our fourth century. I can only thank you, and promise we will not change our winning formula by introducing crass commercial gimmicks, like editing, or new jokes.
And to all those of you who say you'd like to listen to the podcast, but don't want to pay for it, we understand.
Similarly, to the thousands of you who used to download the PPP when it was free, but won't pay in case it's just the same bollocks you've already heard, we say, yes, but in a different order.
Look, we'd love to do it for free for everybody to download, and would be happy to if we could get a sponsor to cover our current income from the enterprise, which can be easily calculated. And despite the homegrown nature of our product, we'd be happy to call it the Toilet Duck podcast, the Paddy Power Podcast - that's got a ring to it - or the official podcast of Exit, the voluntary euthanasia society. As long as we can carry on swearing, and taking the piss out of Britain's most respected restaurant critics.
Here's a soupcon, a petit gout.
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