Ivan Brackenbury’s Hospital Radio Roadshow
Tom Binns @ The Bull and Bear
8:45pm, Thu 25 Feb 2010
Ivan Brackenbury is a bit of a hard sell – for one thing, I’ve not encountered any community radio stations in Australian hospitals, so that’s half of the ludicrously long show title that’s probably alien to most locals. Luckily, the title is curious… certainly intriguing enough for me to pencil in the show, and inked when a friend expressed an interest in coming along. So we walked into the show with maybe a dozen other people, and the only knowledge we took with us was a line from the show’s Guide précis: “entertaining the sick with inappropriate dedications”. And that is, quite literally, the show in a nutshell, as Tom Binns brings the dweebish character of Ivan Brackenbury to life with the aid of a laptop laden with songs and jingles.
Ivan’s community radio show, which he insists is transmitted back to the hospital from his little room in the Bull & Bear, consists of little more than snippets of Ivan setting up shout-outs to patients, then using a song’s lyric as a punchline for the joke. Someone suffering from jaundice and liver failure? Have a listen to Coldplay’s “Yellow”. A couple, both beset with Alzheimers, celebrating their anniversary? Simple Minds’ “Don’t You (Forget About Me)”. Injured in a scaffolding collapse? “It’s Raining Men”. Coronary bypass? “Building A Bridge To Your Heart”.
Now, that may sound like a pretty simple kind of show – the puns are pretty obvious, and I soon found myself trying to guess the punchline song while he set up the joke. But Ivan is such a likeable character that I just got swept along by the laughter. Half the time he bumbles ignorantly through his faux pas, and the other half he’s reeling in shock – wait for his reaction to the Joan Arkwright’s Country Tracks call-out in this clip.
There’s also the odd ad (the show is sponsored by KY – cue “Love Really Hurts Without You”), as well as (genuine!) shout-outs to Ivan from Natalie Imbruglia and Mr T (the Mr T outtakes were brilliant). And it doesn’t hurt that the music, mired in the eighties, was very much my cup of tea.
I’ll be utterly honest, though: after laughing through the first ten minutes of the show, I began to sceptically wonder how long he could maintain the joke… after all, the set-em-up, knock-em-down rhythm was pretty predictable. The answer to that, I’m delighted to report, is all the way to the end… Ivan Brackenbury is a non-stop delight.