Bikechain Diskpartition is probably the UK’s leading exponent of the art of the chat show. Initially, Diskpartition became famous for his starring role as a mute tree-stump in one of Beckett’s least interesting stage plays. Diskpartition puts his uncanny success at being a chat show host to what he learnt during that play’s 27-year run at the Busstop, Cleethorpes. ‘Basically,’ he said, in a recent interview, ‘it is all about learning how to shut up.’
‘After all,’ he went on to say later in the interview, ‘the whole point of a chat show is for the guests to flog their stuff. It is nothing more than a sort of extended advert. So you have to give the guest time to flog their latest wares. Otherwise, they just won’t turn up again. Then, neither will the TV audience. Without those viewing figures, you will soon find yourself out of a job, trying to peddle your own ghost-written memoirs around the very same chat show circuit.’
Still inexplicably popular, after all these decades, it seems now that the chat show will never go away. This is why a need breed of entertainment writers have emerged to serve the chat show circuit. Their primary function is to come up with the several humorous anecdotes each celebrity guest needs when they have to hawk their latest wares around the chat show circuit. These writers specialise in the self-deprecating humorous anecdotes that audience research has shown goes down well with chat show viewers. Such anecdotes make the celebrity uttering them seem like an almost normal human being. And nothing like the self-obsessed narcissistic semi-psychotics that most stars almost inevitably become from having to perform their media personality for far too many hours every day.
As one of this new breed of anecdote writers recently said, ‘most of these celebrities on chat shows are actors, often either in show business or politics. So playing a role, pretending, comes naturally to them. Give them the lines and they can deliver them, usually in that gentle self-mocking way that research shows goes down well with the TV viewers. However, some of them are pop and rock stars. The pop stars are usually from an acting background or have been to stage school so they know how to deliver lines and can take direction.’
‘However,’ he went on to say, ‘the real problem lies with the old school rock stars. To them and their audiences authenticity was always essential. So they are so used to faking it that, many of them cannot deliver the lines you give them. Fortunately, though those that are still alive are so addled by drink and drugs. So their incompetence at even producing a short anecdote or even a self-deprecating one-liner response or apparently off-the-cuff spontaneous remark often collapses into incoherence. It can often seem endearing to an audience lost in misty rosy-eyed nostalgia for a youth they pretend to have experienced. Even though at the time they were stuck in their teenage bedroom studying for exams and listening to Abba.’
Still, though, with his show now in its twenty-fifth year, Bikechain Diskpartition still dominates the late-night chat show slot on UK television. Consequently, it looks as though the chat show format will continue for as long as the audiences enjoy its own very special brand of fake authenticity.