John Walker's Electronic House

Rum Doings: Episode 6

by on Oct.07, 2009, under Rum Doings, The Rest

In episode 6 of Rum Doings the topic not under discussion is what we can do about the dumbing down of British culture. Instead we primarily discuss sitcoms – so much so it becomes dangerously close to being a theme. There’s thoughts on what the UK and US sitcoms have in common, and indeed what they do not. Along the way we consider the anti-Semitism of Shakespeare, why Stephanie Cole grew into the wrong old lady (and is brilliant), and why you should never shh a pregnant lady. This, as you’d expect, brings us to our plans for scientific experiments on all 3.5 billion of Earth’s women.

Defining a sitcom proves to be far trickier than you’d imagine. Can it be an hour long, does it require an audience, how important is the situation? And is either nation better at irony? We also ponder on the private life of Jonathan Swift, the peculiarities of Bill Hicks, and the excellent tests on OK Cupid. Oh, and one of us turns out to be a murderer, and the other seeks the wrath of religious fundamentalists.

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17 Comments for this entry

  • dartt

    I’ve been checking my feeds the last few days in anticipation of this!

    I should have known that upon it’s release a great hue and cry would go out, and within moments I’d hear of it’s popular success among it’s grand audience of handsome and enlightened listeners.

  • devlocke

    At some point, I’d love to post some brilliant sort of comment that explains exactly how much I love this podcast and why. But I’m always a bit intoxicated when I listen to it – because Rum Doings always goes down better with a bit of booze, much like everything ever – so I always get halfway into writing it and then give up. I’m going to lower my intentions and just try to post a comment, rather than an all-encompassing and brilliant comment, this time around. The highlight of my drunken-listening-to-things-from-the-internet used to be the John Walker/Jim Rossignol RPS podcast when available and ‘Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me’ from NPR every week. Now it goes ‘Rum Doings’ when available, followed by your RPS podcast with Mr. Rossignol when available, followed by ‘Wait, Wait…’ It’s a shame I can’t get one of each every week.

    Incidentally, you should really explain to Kieron/Alec how you record your own podcasts because I can actually hear yours and theirs are fricking inscrutable on a regular basis due to noise and distortion and whatnot. You’re not only full of humor, you manage to get it recorded in such a way as to allow it to be understood.

    Christ, I’m 90% sure I sound illiterate but I’m just drunk enough and frustrated enough (from typing out a comment and then nixing it and not posting it because I recognize it’s lame) to click ‘Leave Comment’ anyway. Cheers.

  • Mike Arthur

    Loving Nick’s lack of “political correctness” in this podcast, it seems to reach new lows each week (which is great).

    In case you ever planned on reading Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus I really wouldn’t bother. It’s few wise moments (like the one you mentioned) give way to a bunch of defeatist nonsense that made me glad I didn’t read it early in my relationship.

    If anyone is bored enough to read any more about it I wrote a review on my blog a while ago:

    Keep up the good podcasting, looking forward to the next one and hope it doesn’t crush your website.

  • bodnotbod

    I think I’ve heard the greater part of Hicks’ output and I don’t remember him saying a woman needed a black rapist to sort her out. Not saying it didn’t happen, mind.

    Another enjoyable show. Keep ’em coming.

  • Quercus

    Regarding Nick’s Bill Hicks request, the bit he was referring to was where Bill Hicks was complaining about the fad of barely post-pubescent girls singing about their angst in love. (Tiffany was the main target). He compared their lack of rock and roll “soul” in songes with rock legends such as Jimi Hendrix and described what would happen if the two of them met.

    I didn’t think it was as disturbing as Nick suggested, any more so than any of his other material. Bill Hicks was not easy to listen to at times, but his humour was fantastic and often very near the mark when it came to commercialisation, politics and religion.

    As for sitcoms, I think John was more or less right that the Americans produce so many sitcoms that some are bound to be vaguely good. The British who I think are normally outstanding in producing comedic material always seem to produce very bland, middle of the road sitcoms. One notable exception being Coupling, by Stephen Moffat. It was the British version of friends and was fantastic.
    As for irony, I think you are misunderstanding the view point. People do not say that American comedians do not understand irony, but that the average American does not use or understand it the same way the average Brit does. It seems to be more part of routine life here than it does in the States.
    I have really struggled with a lot of sitcoms because I cannot stand the humour of embarrassment that is important in farce and seems very common these days in so much of our comedy output (including The Office).
    Here is a question for you – would you call The Goodies a sitcom?

  • NM

    I would call The Goodies a theme-based sketch show.

  • Quercus

    Fair enough. I forgot to mention that the discussion about performing experiments was hilarious, especially the idea of encouraging women to share their problems and then interrupting them because of something on the radio.

    Just as a thought (with no evidence to back it up at all) I can’t help feeling that if a woman says “sshh, I’m trying to listen to this” to a man, generally the man would take it better than a woman in the same situation.

  • Gassalasca

    Finally! John! Let us embrace in our not being able to stand Fawlty Towers! :gets ready for a bearhug:

  • MrsTrellis

    I’ve always been confused by John Gray’s notions. If I have a problem and tell someone about it, I would like their opinion and advice on how to solve it. I am also confused by his assertions about the sexual signals of a woman wearing plain white underwear. (All I think is that she’s a bit of an idiot as you can see it under pale clothing.)

    Fawlty Towers is better than Only Fools and Horses.

  • John Walker

    Anal warts are better than Only Fools and Horses.

  • MrsTrellis

    True. I am quite proud of the fact that Only Fools and Horses made no sense to me because (a) I didn’t understand what or where Peckham was; (b) I didn’t know what a council estate was; and (c) I couldn’t understand a word anyone said.

    The perils of being middle class and Northern.

  • Masked Dave

    Surely it doesn’t count as ‘speaking off topic’ if you actually have a topic to talk about and do so for the whole show (in this case, sitcoms) and just start with a joke “shock” topic?

    I mean, I love the show. I just think you aren’t being honest about your concept ;)

  • John Walker

    It was quite by accident, though. We did, on the tube on the way to Nick’s house, discuss that it might be good to talk about sitcoms at some point. Interestingly I think this is the first time we’ve talked about something we’ve mentioned we might before recording. Neither of us expected it to be thematic throughout. And you’ll be relieved to learn that episode 7 has no such errant theme.

  • Gassalasca

    I reasonably enjoyed Only Fools and Horses when I first watched it. I was eight, and they were showing it right after Baywatch. Ah… early mornings with Mitch Buchannon and Del Boy Trotter. Never such innocence again.

  • vagabond

    Good stuff. I particularly liked the bits about holocaust denial and girls buried under patios.

    I am vaguely interested in checking out some of the sitcoms you like, but since I can only gather a few points of reference to see if our tastes are similar (I disliked Golden Girls as a 13 year old, dislike Sabrina, and like Scrubs), and it might be some effort to aquire some of these things, I’m curious as to your opinion of the following (assuming you’ve seen them):
    Better off Ted, Arrested Development, My Name is Earl.

  • John Walker

    vagabond – Better Off Ted is one of the best sitcoms in years – really good stuff. Arrested Development is superb. And I really enjoy My Name Is Earl – I think the ensemble cast is well put together, and it’s consistently well written.

  • vagabond

    Thanks for that,
    I’ve started watching Big Bang Theory. It has some painful jokes at times, but overall I’m liking it.