Blue Jam was an ambient, surreal dark comedy and horror radio programme created and directed by Chris Morris. It was broadcast on BBC Radio 1 in the early hours of the morning, for three series from 1997 to 1999.
|Running time||1 hour|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|Home station||BBC Radio 1|
|Created by||Chris Morris|
|Written by||Chris Morris|
|Directed by||Chris Morris|
|Produced by||Chris Morris|
|Narrated by||Chris Morris|
|Original release||14 November 1997– 25 February 1999|
|No. of series||3|
|No. of episodes||18|
|Opening theme||"Stem/Long Stem/Transmission 2" by DJ Shadow, played in reverse|
The programme gained cult status due to its unique mix of surreal monologue, ambient soundtrack, synthesised voices, heavily edited broadcasts and recurring sketches. It featured vocal performances of Kevin Eldon, Julia Davis, Mark Heap, David Cann and Amelia Bullmore, with Morris himself delivering disturbing monologues, one of which was revamped and made into the BAFTA-winning short film My Wrongs #8245–8249 & 117. Writers who contributed to the programme included Graham Linehan, Arthur Mathews, Peter Baynham, David Quantick, Jane Bussmann, Robert Katz and the cast.
On his inspiration for making the show, Morris commented: "It was so singular, and it came from a mood, quite a desolate mood. I had this misty, autumnal, boggy mood anyway, so I just went with that. But no doubt getting to the end of something like Brass Eye, where you've been forced to be a sort of surrogate lawyer, well, that's the most creatively stifling thing you could possibly do." Morris also described the show as being "like the nightmares you have when you fall asleep listening to the BBC World Service" (a reference to the World Service also appears in one of the monologues read by Morris).
Morris originally requested that the show be broadcast at 3 a.m. on Radio 1 "because at that hour, on insomniac radio, the amplitude of terrible things is enormously overblown". As a compromise, the show was broadcast at midnight without much promotion. Morris reportedly included sketches too graphic or transgressive for radio that he knew would be cut so as to make his other material seem less transgressive in comparison. During the airing of episode 6 of series one, a re-editing of the Archbishop of Canterbury's speech at Princess Diana's funeral was deemed too offensive for broadcast, and was switched with a different episode as it aired.
Format and styleEdit
Each episode opened (and closed) with a short spoken monologue (delivered by Morris) describing, in surreal, broken language, various bizarre feelings and situations (for example: "when you sick so sad you cry, and in crying cry a whole leopard from your eye"), set to ambient music interspersed with short clips of other songs and sounds. The introduction would always end with "welcome in Blue Jam", inviting the listener, who is presumably experiencing such feelings, to get lost in the program. (This format was replicated in the television adaptation Jam, often reusing opening monologues from series 3 of the radio series.) The sketches within dealt with heavy and taboo topics, such as murder, suicide, missing or dead children, and rape.
Common recurring sketchesEdit
- Doctor (played by David Cann): "The Doctor" is a seemingly "normal" physician working in a standard British medical practice. However, he has a habit of treating his patients in bizarre and often disturbing ways, such as prescribing heroin for a cold, making a man with a headache jump up and down in order to make his penis swing (while mirroring the patient's bewildered jumping himself) and making a patient leave and go into the next room so he can examine him over the telephone. His name is revealed to be Michael Perlin in several sketches.
- The Monologue Man (played by Chris Morris): Short stories, often up to 10 minutes in length, written from the perspective of a lonely and socially inept man. Each story usually involves the protagonist's acquaintance Suzy in some capacity.
- Michael Alexander St. John: A parody of hyperbolic and pun-laden radio presenting, St. John presents items such as the top 10 singles charts and the weekend's gigs.
- Bad Sex: Short clips of two lovers (played by Julia Davis and Kevin Eldon) making increasingly bizarre erotic requests of one another, such as to "shit your leg off" and "make your spunk come out green".
- The Interviewer (played by Chris Morris): conducting real interviews with celebrities such as Andrew Morton and Jerry Springer, Morris confuses and mocks his subjects with ambiguous and odd questions.
- Mr. Ventham (played by Mark Heap): An extremely awkward man who requires one-to-one consultations with Mr. Reilly (played by David Cann), who seems to be his psychologist, for the most banal of matters.
The sketches not listed are often in the style of a documentary; characters speak as if being interviewed about a recent event. In one sketch, a character voiced by Morris describes a man attempting to commit suicide by jumping off a second-story balcony repeatedly; in another, an angry man (Eldon) shouts about how his car, after being picked up from the garage, is only four feet long.
Morris included a series of 'radio stings', bizarre sequences of sounds and prose as a parody of modern DJs' own soundbites and self-advertising pieces. Each one revolves around a contemporary DJ, such as Chris Moyles, Jo Whiley and Mark Goodier, typically involving each DJ dying in a graphic way or going mad in some form – for example, Chris Moyles covering himself in jam and hanging himself from the top of a building.
Three series were produced, with a total of eighteen episodes. All episodes were originally broadcast weekly on BBC Radio 1. Series 1 was broadcast from 14 November to 19 December 1997; series 2 was broadcast from 27 March to 1 May 1998; and series 3 broadcast from 21 January to 25 February 1999.
- Series 1 – (Fridays) 14 November 1997 to 19 December 1997, from 00:00 to 01:00.
- Series 2 – (Fridays) 27 March 1998 to 1 May 1998, from 01:00 to 02:00.
- Series 3 – (Thursdays) 21 January 1999 to 25 February 1999, from 00:00 to 01:00.
|1.1||"ee arth welcome"|
|Sketches include: The Gun & The Gibbon monologue, babies fighting each other, Radio 1 Newsbeat, and the Doctor kissing things to make them better. Includes music from Björk, Apollo 440, Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot, Eels and Massive Attack.|
|1.2||"oo ab welcome"|
|Sketches include: a man convinced he's a baby trapped in the body of a man, Conceptual Art monologue, an unusual acupuncture practice, and Bad Sex. Includes music from DJ Shadow, Aphex Twin, Naked Funk, and D'Angelo.|
|1.3||"oo mug welcome"|
|Sketches include: the Doctor getting very angry over a pulled tendon, a man asking for a pay rise, a builder in a swimming bath with a strange ability, and Crime Reconstruction monologue. Includes music from Les Rhythmes Digitales, Dubstar, Baby Fox, and Spearhead.|
|1.4||"oo voof welcome"|
|Sketches include: Elephant monologue, a man very angry over his four-foot car, Michael Alexander St. John reading the dance chart, and a man robbing a store with a gun in his stomach. Includes music from Propellerheads, Moloko, Björk, and William Orbit.|
|1.5||"voo vak welcome"|
|Sketches include: London Dungeon monologue, three lawyer skits, the Doctor thinking a man is quite ugly, and an unorthodox children's birthday party. Includes music from Common, Moby, Beck, and Portishead.|
|1.6||"oo vudge welcome"|
|This episode was cut short and cross-faded into the first episode during broadcast, as one of the skits - Morris's re-editing of the Archbishop of Canterbury's speech at Princess Diana's funeral - was apparently deemed too offensive to broadcast. The sketch was replaced and the new re-edited episode was aired as episode 2.1; this episode, 1.6, consists of the first 13 minutes of episode 2.1, the "Bishopslips" skit, and most of episode 1.1.|
|2.1||"oo vudge welcome"|
|Sketches include: a little girl with the genitals of an older man, The Belt monologue, the Doctor pays a man to go away, and some unemployed Welshmen chat. Includes music from Massive Attack, Moloko, Sneaker Pimps, and Ben Harper.|
|2.2||"oo thub welcome"|
|Sketches include: a four-year-old gangster girl, a couple has lizards in their television, Michael Alexander St. John reads the club news, and the Suicide Journalist monologue. Includes music from Aphex Twin, Propellerheads, Air, and Jim White.|
|2.3||"oo taz welcome"|
|Sketches include: the four-year-old gangster girl returns, Mr Ventham has trouble with his pockets, the Doctor prescribes heroin, and a couple specializes in raising the dead. Includes music from Happy Mondays, Jimi Tenor, Serge Gainsbourg, and Moloko.|
|2.4||"oo ziz welcome"|
|Sketches include: a penis-shaped nightlight, Rothko monologue, unnecessary operations, and The Gush. Includes music from Madonna, Air, Brian Eno, and Imagination.|
|2.5||"ah zim pulz wah welcome"|
|Sketches include: a man with a special ticket for the zoo, more unemployed Welshmen, more Bad Sex, and the Doctor diagnoses symptomless comas. Includes music from Massive Attack, Spearhead, R.E.M., and Biosphere.|
|2.6||"ah ah moorz moorz welcome"|
|Sketches include: an interview with Jerry Springer, a family with pet lions, a man who lives outdoors, and a thing in the sky. Includes music from Dubstar, Massive Attack, Akasha, and Boards of Canada.|
|3.1||"package holiday welcome"|
|Sketches include: unusual foreplay, Sausage Street Vendors monologue, urine transfusions, and the Doctor hides. Includes music from Kool and the Gang, Beck, Mr Scruff, and Marvin Gaye.|
|3.2||"uh h-hm-hm-hmu welcome"|
|Sketches include: two parents sing a song for their missing child, a restaurant with an Ugly Weirdo policy, Michael Alexander St. John reads the dance news, and a woman calls the plumber. Includes music from Low, Esthero, Moloko, and Wagon Christ.|
|3.3||"oo costrinsi welcome"|
|Sketches include: Cigarettes monologue, someone possessed by Beethoven, a zombie baby, and someone who has trouble starting conversations. Includes music from Herbert, Beck, Amon Tobin, and PJ Harvey.|
|3.4||"har com plusian bezhley welcome"|
|Sketches include: a man who definitely has a willy, an employment agency for thick people, even more unemployed Welshmen, and open abdomen therapy. Includes music from Howie B, Aphex Twin, Mercury Rev, and Broadcast.|
|3.5||"al trang un sabers welcome"|
|Sketches include: a man who hasn't cheated on his wife, Michael Alexander St. John reads a list of things that are cool, Suzy's Wedding monologue, and Chris Moyles commits suicide. Includes music from Sie, Whale, The Orb, and Sons of Silence.|
|3.6||"oo huxtapaz welcome"|
|The final episode of Blue Jam. Sketches include: more Bad Sex, a man tries to commit suicide with an escape clause, an idiot compound, and a man decapitates himself for art's sake. Includes music from Boom Boom Satellites, Sade, Black Star Liner, and Aphex Twin.|
Blue Jam features songs, generally of a downtempo nature, interspersed between (and sometimes during) sketches. Artists featured includes Massive Attack, Air, Morcheeba, The Chemical Brothers, Björk, Aphex Twin, Everything But the Girl and Dimitri from Paris, as well as various non-electronic artists including Sly and the Family Stone, Serge Gainsbourg, The Cardigans and Eels.
Digital Spy wrote in 2014: "It's a heady cocktail that provokes an odd, unsettling reaction in the listener, yet Blue Jam is still thumpingly and frequently laugh-out-loud hilarious." Hot Press called it "as odd as comedy gets".
A CD of a number of Blue Jam sketches was released on 23 October 2000 by record label Warp. Although the CD claims to have 22 tracks, the last one, "www.bishopslips.com", is not a track, but rather a reference to the "Bishopslips" sketch, which was cut in the middle of a broadcast. Most of the sketches on the CD were remade for Jam.
- Track listing
- "Blue Jam Intro"
- "Doc Phone"
- "Lamacq sting"
- "4 ft Car"
- "Suicide Journalist"
- "Bad Sex"
- "Mayo Sting"
- "Unflustered Parents"
- "Moyles Sting"
- "TV Lizards"
- "Doc Cock"
- "Hobbs Sting"
- "Morton Interview"
- "Fix It Girl"
- "Kids Party"
- "Club News"
- "Whiley Sting"
- "Little Girl Balls"
- "Blue Jam Outro"
- "www.bishopslips.com" (not a real track)
Blue Jam was later made for television and broadcast on Channel 4 as Jam. It utilised unusual editing techniques to achieve an unnerving ambience in keeping with the radio show. Many of the sketches were lifted from the radio version, even to the extent of simply setting images to the radio soundtrack. A subsequent "re-mixed" airing, called Jaaaaam was even more extreme in its use of post-production gadgetry, often heavily distorting the footage.
Blue Jam shares parallels with early editions of a US public radio show Joe Frank: Work in Progress from the mid-1980s, that Joe Frank did on the NPR affiliate station, KCRW, in Santa Monica, California.
- Plunkett, John (24 February 2014). "Chris Morris's Blue Jam Back After 17 Years | Media | The Guardian". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 July 2016.
- Karpf, Anne (29 November 1997). "Morris After Midnight". The Guardian.
- "Kind of Blue". The Guardian. 27 March 1998.
- Arnold, Sue (8 February 1999). "He's Funny, Clever and Original. Why Is He on Radio 1? | From the Observer | The Guardian". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 July 2016.
- Karpf, Anne (21 January 2001). "Tuning to Parallel Universe". The Guardian.
- Lezard, Nicholas (23 February 1999). "Chris Morris – The Spoof Is Out There". The Independent.
- Kennedy, Neil (21 March 2014). "Blue Jam: An Ethereal Mix of Ambient Music and Detached Reasoning". Digital Spy. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
- O'Brien, Jonathan (23 November 2000). "Blue Jam | Music Review | Album | Hot Press". Hot Press. Retrieved 11 July 2016.
- Carlson, Dean. "Blue Jam – Chris Morris | Songs, Reviews, Credits | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 11 July 2016.
- Segal, Victoria. "Blue Jam". NME. Archived from the original on 21 January 2019. Retrieved 12 September 2005.
- Mullen, John (November 2000). "[Blue Jam review]". Select.
- Artsy, Avishay (18 January 2018). "KCRW remembers radio artist Joe Frank". kcrw.com. Retrieved 2 June 2018.
- Blue Jam at the Internet Archive
- Blue Jam on the BBC Comedy site
- Blue Jam at BBC Programmes – series 1 repeats on BBC Radio 4 Extra