I feel like I’ve answered a Starter for 10 wrong on University Challenge, but instead of a Jeremy Paxman boring a look of disdain into my skull, instead I’m thrown an expression of pity.
Emma Levinkind, head of comedy at Oxide student radio, has just had to explain the pun in the new Comedy schedule title ‘Nitrous Oxide.’ In typical Oxford fashion, even in a comedy show you learn something new (it’s the chemical formula for laughing gas, for all fellow the arts students reading this whose GCSE chemistry days are thankfully far behind them) The new schedule, found in digital radio at oxideradio.co.uk 12-2pm every Saturday, is in typical student radio style, wide in variety.
This DIY student attitude in which everything is written in free time not assigned to slaving away in the library, and produced and edited on free software, as well as an open submissions policy. As demonstrated by the inclusion of sketch show, a mockumentary, and a surreal improv panel show; anything goes.
First on the line up is ‘Metamorphoses’ which metamorphoses the mythical stories into modern day terms. In writer David McShane’s own words: “Okay, it’s basically Ovid with dick jokes.” These 10 minute episodes include the original Hunger Games of Pasiphae trying to stop Minos from creating a maze and sending in hoards of children to kill the minotaur.
The awkward part in which Pasiphae is impregnated by a bull gets a look in (just don’t take this retelling for gospel and use it your mods, Classics kids) and Theseus has to impose a ‘Does It Concern Killing?’ rule, adding that “We can abbreviate it to the dick rule. AKA don’t be a Dick” in order to stop Ariadne from being even more of a psychopathic mentalist than Ovid intended.
Essentially, it’s Horrible Histories if CBBC was legally allowed to print that many jokes about nymphomaniacs like Scylla. The small team of only three actors throughout the episodes, Claire Bowman, Ben Dawes and Luke Rollason, means that they can still maintain pathos to the ludicrous situations Ovid places his gods in. Even the sweary teenage angst of Icharus appears forgivable when the listener has the dramatic irony of knowing his wings of wax will melt as he flies into the sun.
While McShane wanted to create a comedy which highlighted “just how messed up the original stories are”, Nathan King, writer and producer of ‘The Oxide Sketchbook’ sketch show declared “the Sketchbook’s open arms to script submissions” as a “vehicle for anyone who fancies dipping their toes in the vast waters that are sketch writing.”
With inspiration from BBC Radio 4’s mockumentary ‘People Like Us’ in the segment ‘Recorded Delivery’, all the way back to classical Greek mythology, it’s an eclectic listening schedule. So if there’s a question on that specific chemical compound ‘Nitrous Oxide’ in next week’s episode of University Challenge, Paxman better watch out.