This Nations Saving Graces

Written by Louis Barfe

The wisdom of binning the godawful Midweek at the end of last year was more than justified last week by comedian Stewart Lee and painter Rose Wylie in conversation for Only Artists (R4, Wednesdays, 9am). Wylie had requested Lee’s company, but as is the way with this Chain Reaction-type format, the conversation was far from one-sided. The two compared approaches and found a fair bit of common ground, despite working in different fields.

They talked about how immediate responses to work tend to be involuntary and visceral rather than intellectual. Wylie mentioned her daughter had been to one of Lee’s shows and laughed so much she feared she’d lose control of her bowels. They discussed the relative merits of their hearing aids. Lee asked if Wylie felt a massive difference wearing them. She said no, as they kept falling out. Lee said they worked so well, they made him feel like a wolf.

Even when they weren’t talking about much, it was an illuminating and agreeable conversation. The mutual respect and interest was obvious. If you happen to be in London between now and February, Wylie’s paintings are at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery, and Lee is always on tour.

Meanwhile, I was alerted on Twitter by Steve Doherty, producer of the very fine Meet David Sedaris, to beautiful work by Neil Nunes, covering Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s betrothal in the 7pm news on Radio 4. How Nunes said, ‘Harry proposed while they were cooking a chicken,’ while retaining composure yet conveying fully his disbelief at being expected to utter such a sentence was a triumph of the announcer’s art. You could practically hear his raised eyebrows. I might even have to make it my ringtone.