Blue Jam

Watching an old episode of the IT Crowd the other day sent me down an internet worm hole wondering whether Chris Morris’s old Blue Jam radio shows were available online. No joy on the BBC website or on iTunes but it didn’t take long to find them preserved by fans in incredibly high definition. I’ve been listening back to them over the past few days.

Blue Jam was originally on Radio 1 between 1997–99 Â when I was at university. It blew my mind when I first heard it and I’m still surprised it was aired. I used to come home from the pub and lie on the sofa listening to it on an old analogue Technics tuner that was one of the things I spent my student loan on as soon as it cleared the bank account.

The show was a mixture of eclectic but excellent laid back music and incredibly dark comedy sketches written by Morris. Some of the production techniques would still stand out as futuristic on radio today. At the time none of the actors were particularly well know but listening now it’s a who’s who of comedy voices: Julia Davis (Nighty Night), Mark Heap (Green Wing, Spaced), Kevin Eldon (Elvenquest) and many more. Nobody will say whether the last episode of the first series was cut short because Radio 1 took it off air or because Morris wanted it to look like they had — I think that probably means it was the latter. But there are so many shocking sequences that perhaps it’s no surprise that it’s not one of the shows on constant repeat on Radio 4 Extra these days.

Morris is an incredibly complicated character and most people in the know would rank him in the top few influences on modern comedy — mainly for his most controversial stuff like Brass Eye. But the controversy is a bit of a red herring — his true influence is that he did things nobody has ever done before in comedy. Blue Jam hid away in the middle of the night not because it was explicit or rude but because of the spooky effect of listening to it late at night. You pretty much had to listen to it alone.

Listening back in the last few days has cheered me up about the possibilities of media. Blue Jam was British comedy experimentation at its best — making you laugh and question everything all at the same time.

Personalised exercise

A couple of weeks ago, I watched a very good programme on BBC Four called The Truth About Exercise presented by Michael Mosley.

Instinctively I guess I knew that different people responded differently to exercise but I hadn’t really looked at the science. One study mentioned in the programme found that in a sample of 1,000 people given the same WHO recommended exercise regime for 20 weeks, 15% had a dramatic improvement in their fitness but 20% showed no real improvement at all (so-called ‘non-responders’). It also seems that there are genetic markers that can predict where you will be on this distribution.

The programme then looked at some of the research that’s going on into High Intensity Training which sounds too good to be true and has led to a few somewhat dramatic headlines. The idea is that you can get many of the same fitness benefits of the WHO recommended regime based on just a few minutes per week of really pushing yourself in full body exercise. What was interesting was that Michael Mosley is in the ‘non-responder’ group but the High Intensity Training did still have a benefit to him — it improved his insulin sensitivity by 24% which in his case (with a history of diabetes in the family) was very important.

It brought me back to my hatred of gyms which was what got me interested in Good Gym in the first place and thinking about how we could radically improve the health of a large percentage of the population. Only about a third of the UK population meet the recommended levels of exercise for a healthy lifestyle and it’s costing the NHS billions of pounds and probably having all kinds of other effects on the economy and society as well.

I think there’s a huge need for tools that make preventative healthcare work. Unfortunately the NHS  (which is really a national ill health service) isn’t set up to build them so I think they’ll have to come from elsewhere. I’d like to see services that can offer advice and motivation to people about exercise on a personalised basis. They could involve some element of genetic propensity to benefit from different types of exercise as well as looking at other lifestyle issues such as your activity levels (the programme singled out sitting down at work as probably the UK’s biggest killer) and devise nutritional and exercise advice that takes into account budget and lifestyle.



 Some rights reserved by Josiah Mackenzie
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