Radio A Week: In Memory of Neil Innes


A query for you is HERE. Does he need to rediscover Neil Innes? Innes, who died last year, was at the forefront of post-war British comedy tradition, as a member of the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Squad, as a Python surrogate, and as Rutle, of course. And still, in history, he remains a very obscure figure. The television series The Innes Book of Records never airs, does it?

The first of three hour-long tributes to the comedian consisting of old interviews (even Janice Forsyth of Radio Scotland showed up at one point) was Neil Innes: Dip My Brain in Joy on Radio 4 on Wednesday, setting things partly right. If a little indulgent to be honest, the outcome was sufficiently whimsical, as it presumed everybody understood why Innes was relevant rather than making the case for him.

This first episode concentrated on the years of Bonzo, but it was also a well-rounded portrait of Innes himself, his Scottish father, his passion for Dada and surrealism, his decision to make Belgium his hobby, and the fact that “he was also a really nice man.” as host Diane Morgan pointed out.

The spirit of a more interesting program was therein. The fascination with World War I and World War II by Innes has been carried out. As he pointed out, the reality of the two world wars showed that “clearly no one was in charge who should be in charge.” Under these conditions, the comic silliness of Innes could be read as a political argument. How else to react to the war’s cruelty? Why are you serious? Can you see where it is headed?

But perhaps a tribute to the talent of Innes was not the place for that claim to be made. Instead, at least this somewhat baggy collection of clips made it clear how vital Innes is. It felt like a strong beginning in that sense.

Listen Out For: Start the Week, Monday, 9am on Radio 4. Humor is the focus of this week’s program, in keeping with the theme. Evolutionary ecologist Jonathan Silvertown, professor of literature John Mullan, and comedian Sindhu Vee are the guests.


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