February 17, 2008

The Bugle

John Oliver is familiar to those who watch the Daily Show. He's the slight, very laughable, owlish-faced guy with glasses ignorant Americans might say speaks with an "English" accent, though there's really no such thing as an "English" accent, each person on the British Isles being gifted with a vocal delivery that sounds out with remorseless GPS-like precision the given geographic and social position of its speaker to anyone who pays attention to that sort of thing. Is John Oliver a native of a particular six-square block of inner London? Only his linguist knows for sure. Nevertheless, he's trained his voice, like all the people on those islands over the years, to pronounce a lot of biographical and cultural information about himself whenever he uses his words. These niceties are wasted on most Americans, who in general have no idea where people from that part of the world are coming from or why that should make any difference to an American anyway.

This makes comedy hard, since relating the funny topical thing about England or Scotland or Ireland, or even about inherently laughable Wales at times, which Oliver and his partner Andy Zaltzman valiantly set out to do each week in a half-hour podcast from timesonline called The Bugle—an audio newspaper for a visual age, must depend on a familiarity with those places with which the average American audience is famously ill-supplied. Oliver and Zaltzman have solved this problem for transatlantic listeners by taking special pains in each program to make plenty of understandable fun of America as well.

1 comment:

Jim said...

The Bugle is simply the best comedy podcast on the internet. From the sections that are thrown directly into "the bin" to the audio cryptic crossword to "hotties from history," it is laugh out loud funny. I was familiar with John Oliver from "The Daily Show" but Andy Zalzman is new to me. He is brilliant. It is slowly moving up the "charts" on itunes. Soon it will become a cult thing. Check it out.