As a huge fan of Ouch!, the BBC’s monthly disability podcast, I made a beeline for the live version of the talk show at this year’s Liberty festival in London, which celebrates the contribution of deaf and disabled people to the capital’s culture. Presenters Liz Carr and Mat Fraser were in fine form as the highlight of the annual event.
There was the usual tomfoolery we’ve come to expect from the cheeky twosome as they joshed with each other and audience members. Disability issues, as you might expect, played a big part of their material, and for this live version of their podcast the mischievous pair had devised some ingenious games to encourage audience interaction.
One game had topical references to planned changes in benefits such as those proposed for Disability Living Allowance, with Carr and Fraser presenting a bastardised version of Noel Edmonds’ game show – the Ouch! version wittily re-titled “DLA or no DLA!”.
Doing the show live added an unpredictability that produced some anarchic twists, and even things like the accessibility arrangements took our hosts on unexpected tangents. And so, when an audience member confessed to “pissing in a sink”, quick as a flash, Fraser directed the audience’s gaze on the hapless sign language interpreter as she did her best to communicate this. Just in case anyone missed it, Fraser playfully uttered the phrase several times – just to see our gallant signer, duty bound to interpret, repeatedly struggle to stifle her giggles as she attempted to gesture the embarrassing phrase.
Carr on the other hand, was at her best when she had welfare services in her comedy sights, much to the amusement of the mostly disabled audience.
For instance, when encouraging more applause, she urged: “Do what you can with your limited ability. But remember, there might be social workers in the room, or the DSS. So you don’t want to seem too active, or they’ll take your money away!”
As well as oodles of natural charisma, Fraser and Carr have a slick professionalism that comes from presenting more than 40 hour-long monthly podcasts since 2006. But what I like most about them is that their mischievous banter is far removed from the passive or demure depictions of disabled people on the relatively rare occasions they are portrayed in the media.
The live format worked well, and with material that felt genuinely different from other game shows, I’d love it to get an airing on a mainstream television channel. But there probably isn’t a broadcaster in the land who would consider taking a chance on these potty-mouthed presenters who have more in common with an off-air Ross and Brand than the onscreen Richard and Judy.
Which is a great shame, as theirs is a refreshingly different perspective to anything else on television.
Mark Drinkwater is a community worker in Southwark, south London.
This article is published in the 15 October 2009 edition of Community Care magazine under the headline Ouch! Laughter that hurts