Radio Recap 25 February 2024

Michael Ball is funny. At times, he’s hilarious. Even bawdy. His sense of humor is an important part of who he is. He loves to make people laugh, something he’s been doing since he was a child. It’s instinctive with him, his mind working quickly, always ready with a snappy comeback or rapid-fire comment, sending those around him into gales of laughter. One of his greatest attributes is his self-deprecating humor – he has no problem with making fun of himself. We saw it throughout his memoir. And how about that infamous “curry” line he shot at Yvette Fielding in that hysterical segment about the smell in the lift? He sent that one out over the airwaves without a second thought. Now that takes real guts, and I admire Michael for it. And look at his segments with Orna. She comes on his show to talk about traffic, and they end up doing a 2-minute comedy routine, to the utter delight of the listening audience. When it comes to the radio, Michael loves just being himself, revealing the good, the bad & the ugly in his life, and he knows how to keep his listeners in stitches. Which is why his BBC Radio 2 show is such a hit …
“Hello, my lovelies. Let’s kick off with a bit of Tavares, shall we?” Michael suggests, drawing out his favorite word ‘l-o-v-e-l-i-e-s’ as he plays ‘Heaven Must be Missing an Angel.’ “Heaven is missing an angel,” he says afterwards, “because you’re here with me.” Is there anyone better than Michael when it comes to charm? I don’t think so. He has years of experience.
You know, we’ve had weeks when Michael’s voice has sounded tired. Or he’s been sick with a cold. But today he’s in PERFECT voice, his dulcet tone powerful and rich and resonant. It’s a joy just to listen to him speak!
On the Ball. The first contestant is Samantha, a supervisor in a grocery store. Michael complains about always having problems in the self-checkout line. Okay, there’s his complaint for this week. Samantha is playing opposite her lifetime best mate, and she tells a cute story about a dare between the 2 of them when they were younger – she dared him to run naked through the bushes, which he did, and to which she took off with his clothes! She’s adorable and makes Michael laugh heartily. And at the end of her question segment, Michael praises her, “You are VERY good!” On comes her mate Paul, better known as ‘Brownie.’ He says a lovely thing about Sam, whom he calls a “Four o’clock friend. You can call her at 4 AM and she’ll be there five minutes later.” Paul sets MIchael off on a bout of giggles when he tells him Sam calls their vacations together with their dogs ‘going dogging.’ Did I mention the word ‘bawdy’ at the start of this recap? When the subject of tattoos comes up, Michael says he’s been tattooed on fans’ bodies, that they’ve actually shown him the tattoos. His question: what’s it going to look like when the person gets older? Paul gives him an answer that suits Michael perfectly: Alfie Boe!
Orna comes on laughing. How perfect! They end up discussing ‘Alexa,’ that machine that sits in your house and talks to you (my own truly poor description), who Michael says even tells jokes at times. They have a hard time getting to the traffic because these 2 just can’t stop joking and laughing! They really are a delight together. When she talks about a ‘fun run’ taking place in the area, Michael simply doesn’t get it – the whole idea of a ‘fun run’ is an anathema to him. I’m with you on this one, Michael. My ‘fun run’ days are long behind me. If they ever even existed. When Orna returns they remark about what lovely guests populated the show today. “And then you come on,” Michael teases. And of course she laughs. Laughter is the root of their radio relationship!
Tameka Empson is a British comedian, actress and singer well known for her work on TV, film and the stage. She developed legions of fans when she was cast as Kim Fox in “EastEnders,” a role she has played off & on since 2009. She recently took a leave of absence from the show to co-write and star in the stage musical of “The Big Life” at the Theatre Royal Stratford East, which celebrates the 20th anniversary of the show first premiering. “The Big Life” blends elements of Shakespeare’s “Love’s Labours Lost” with the stories of Caribbean migrants. It’s limited run will wrap at the end of March. These 2 start the interview with lots of laughter, and her giggles are as infectious as Michael’s. She tells Michael how good he looks, and there should be cameras in the studio to show it, but Michael said he refuses to have cameras because he always looks dodgy on Sundays. I say he looks comfy, not dodgy. Tomeka talks about the inception of the musical “The Big Life” which she wrote 20 years ago and to which she has now returned, and she discusses the characters and the role she plays. The music is eclectic, so many different categories. And the script not only entertains, it celebrates these characters’ lives and where they came from. Tomeka also talks about “EastEnders” and how much she loves doing it. This woman is so much like Michael – what a sense of humor! – and she seems to celebrate life with a constant smile. Thank you, Michael, for introducing this enchanting actress/comedian to me. I feel like the proverbial ‘dumb American’ for not knowing who she was before now.
Anton Du Beke is juggling many balls at the moment. He’s well known for being a judge on one of Michael’s favorite telly series “Strictly Come Dancing” and is embarking on a national tour, singing and dancing with a live band. And his sixth novel in his bestselling Buckingham Hotel series debuts in March. Whew! He’s as busy as Michael Ball! And, once again, the word ‘charming’ comes to mind. Anton Du Beke is a total charmer! He discusses in great detail what it’s like to partner on “Strictly,” which is riveting. And he talks about his upcoming tour, something he adores, his enthusiasm over-the-top in the best way. There’s something about a performer talking about what he does, what makes him SO happy, that sucks me right in. I’m hanging on his every word. And he holds nothing back, going into great, GREAT detail about the tour. There’s so very much more to this interview, so many subjects arise it’s impossible to list them all. You have to listen for yourself and enjoy. And so much laughter here, these 2 men at their very best.
Nick pays tribute to Wendy Mitchell, a frequent guest on the radio show who passed away this week. Wendy openly discussed her dementia and Alzheimer’s, also writing many books on the subject. Wendy’s daughter asked MIchael to play “Over the Rainbow.” So very moving. 💔 A beautiful way to close today’s show before reminding us one more time to always be positive and to always try to be kind.
When you think of Michael Ball, the first thing that comes to mind for most is his voice. His singing. His talent as an actor. And the second? His wide grin. His hearty laugh. His infectious giggle. Even at rest, Michael’s face usually hints at a smile about to break through. It’s one of the things that endears him to so many. I’m pretty sure one of the biggest reasons Michael so loved playing Edna in HAIRSPRAY (besides being able to put on a dress and see how the other half lives!) is getting the chance to make an audience howl with laughter for 2 hours every night.
I don’t mean to imply that Michael goes through life as a cackling hyena. Far from it. He’s a human being just like the rest of us. I’m sure he can be moody or even depressed. He’s also an actor, which means he has an ego (It comes with the territory), or can even be temperamental when things go terribly wrong – He’s a perfectionist, after all, when it comes to his work. All actors are guilty of this. ALL ACTORS. Still, Michael doesn’t go through life grumpy or angry. He’s a man who prefers to keep a positive attitude, and that’s why humor steers his life. I know I’ve used this Charlie Chaplain quote before, but it’s so appropriate for Michael: “A day without laughter is a day wasted.” I doubt Michael Ball has wasted a single day in his entire life. In his world, there’s always a giggle or two lurking just beneath the surface, waiting for just the right moment to soar out over the ether.