Last summer I recommended to you the joys of the audiobook. I discovered that when sunning yourself on a distant shore, you could have Sir Michael Caine telling you his life story in his actual Sir Michael Caine voice. Well, this summer I have something new for your listening pleasure.
I was staying at the secret resort where many BBC stars gather for their hols. It’s a perk of being a member of the 1922 Committee of BBC presenters (so called because after 7.22 in the evening, no one at the meetings is still sober). In return for our monthly dues, we can spend two weeks a year lazing around, bullying the staff and complaining about how standards have slipped – such a pleasant change from being in the office.
It was a regular lunchtime scene. Delia was raving about Simon Rimmer’s Pulled Pork with Spicy Coleslaw, Sir David Attenborough was whispering to himself in the foliage and Crimewatch’s Rav Wilding was accusing the Rev Richard Coles from Saturday Live of stealing his sun lounger.
To drown out the cries of “sinner!” and “citizen’s arrest!” I put on my headphones to listen to a little podcast recommended to me by a PM colleague. It’s called Here’s the Thing: an interview programme hosted by Alec Baldwin. Yes, the man who got involved in an angry Twitter rant against a reporter, who once got kicked off a plane and who has been involved in an altercation with a photographer. The original title of the show was to have been Here’s My Fist, You Worthless Little Git, but calmer heads prevailed.
The ranting notwithstanding, I’ve got a lot of time for Mr Baldwin, whose turn on 30 Rock was one of the show’s many highlights, and whose willingness to send himself up (he appeared on The Larry Sanders Show and was asked to speak up) is endearing. So what’s Here’s the Thing like?
Every two weeks, Alec interviews someone interesting. It’s an impressive list. I caught his chats with Lena Dunham (creator and star of Sky Atlantic’s Girls), Rosie O’Donnell, Elaine Stritch and Billy Joel. No doubt being Alec Baldwin helps secure many of these stars, but it’s his winning way with an interview that makes Here’s the Thing so listenable.
There’s a jaw-dropping moment when Elaine Stritch reveals the first time she… well… it was the first time she experienced what Golden Girl Rose Nylund once described as the occasion her husband made her eyes go back in her head. There are unintentionally hilarious moments when Stritch’s need for diabetes medication prompts on-air intervention by her assistant.
The Joel interview takes place in similarly relaxed circumstances… in his home, by the piano. The conversation covers his entire career and is regularly accompanied by Joel playing and singing his hits. Mr Baldwin, who confesses to having no musical talent of any kind, does not let this inhibit him from crooning along. It’s sometimes painful, but hilarious. And they keep in the bit where Joel’s mobile phone rings: he uses the theme from The Godfather.
I was so engrossed, the sun had set by the time it finished, and I could see the Rev Coles being led away, as paramedics nursed a bruised Rav.
Eddie Mair hosts iPM on Saturday at 5:45am and PM from Monday-Friday at 5:00pm on Radio 4