Ever since Man discovered that storms weren’t actually the result of Thor riding across the sky on a chariot pulled by goats, there’s been a big problem with weather: it’s not very funny. But if you’re on TV, your duty is to entertain.
Some weatherpeople make a token effort: talking through a doggedly maintained rictus grin, wearing deliberately hilarious clothing or, if they’re on ITV in the mornings, pointing to the map with their breasts instead of their hands. Yet there’s only one whose performance is worth watching even if you don’t care a fig for tomorrow’s climate: the cult hero that is Daniel Corbett.
Dan thundered onto the precipitation prediction scene in 1997, when he first appeared on BBC News 24. Initially it was his unique two-part sign off that caught the eye: a bright “That’s all the weather!” followed by a stern “…for now.” It soon transpired that his whole style – a manic cross between Stanley Unwin, the Great Soprendo and Rudolf Nureyev – is gloriously idiosyncratic.
Dan’s old-school. He romanticises meteorological phenomena and even days of the week into sentient, capricious forces who delight in ruining our mundane, middle-class lives. Weather fronts are personified as “he” rather than “it”, and described as “troublemakers” who are “lurking” over the Atlantic, the North Sea or “the near Continent”, as Dan likes to call France.
Combine this storytelling with Dan’s rat-a-tat delivery and gift for malapropisms, and you get gems like: “That little troublemaker may try to put some rains on our barbecues, but I think we’ll manage”, “Wednesday is the day – look at this thing, it’s just a mess” and “Nice day for the afternoon, maybe a picnic or so perhaps in Northern Ireland, into Scotland and 26 for Cardiff.”
Dan has a number of obsessions. “Heat-of-the-day bubbly showers” appear regularly, but his chief concerns are temperatures (“let’s look at the numbers”), the effect of wind on umbrellas (“hold it probably with two hands”), and what to wear on the way to work. Always on the hunt for a colourful simile, he’s compared weather fronts to motorcycles stuck in mud, tumble dryers, glue and “an unwanted neighbour, just hanging there”.
All this is accompanied by lithe, Bob Fosse hand gestures – Dan’s arms sweeping across the map as he conducts the epic battle between us, trying to get to the office without getting wet, and the evil areas of low pressure that conspire to foil us. He hasn’t blamed Thor for spoiling a golf tournament yet, but he’s in that ballpark.
Details such as exactly what the weather will be like tend to get lost in Dan’s flow, but to complain would be churlish. In Dan’s (jazz) hands, forecasting’s an art, not a science. He’s the latest in a long line of great British TV eccentrics. You’ll start enjoying weather almost as much as he does.