Peace in a Pod | Podcast

‘Wooden Overcoats’ is a classic British comedy in podcast form

It’s a familiar sort of drollery, replete with clueless leading men, devious charmers, smart women and, in this case, one very articulate mouse

When I first heard the title, I thought it might be a tad too morbid for morning listening. But then, one person who recommended it to me said it was the falling-off-your-chair-laughing kind of funny. I thought this level of hilarity might pose a driving hazard, so I decided to put it off for an off-road listening opportunity. Soon, another recommendation came along, now from a comedy artist who’s quite difficult to please, and I decided it was time to queue up all three available seasons, and hit play.

Wooden Overcoats is a comedy podcast and audio sitcom that’s as British as you can get — and given that many of us were raised on a diet of P.G. Wodehouse and Yes, Prime Minister (even the somewhat over-the-top Fawlty Towers), it’s a familiar sort of drollery, replete with clueless leading men, devious charmers, smart women and, in this case, one very articulate mouse, who opens the story:

Now, hidden in the English Channel is an island called Piffling. On the island is a village, called Piffling Vale. The village has a square, and the square has this lovely little antique shop, but opposite the antique shop is a funeral home...”

Fun(n) funerals

The funeral parlour is run by the ironically named Rudyard Funn, assisted by his sister, the expert embalmer Antigone, and their person-Friday, Georgie. “Funn Funerals” has for years had the monopoly in the funeral business in Piffling Vale, but now there is competition, in the form of the handsome and urbane Eric Chapman. The latter is bringing all kinds of exciting innovations to the management of the final journey, starting with a spiffy new coffee machine in the waiting lounge. Rudyard’s situation isn’t helped by the mayor, who is convinced that if Piffling Vale is to become a town, it must have at least two funeral parlours. The ensuing competition results in all manner of awkward situations, mainly for Rudyard, who decides he must do everything he can to stay ahead in the business, including espionage and sabotage, thus providing the little village with the most excitement it has seen since the 15th century. The spirited Georgie mostly goes along with Rudyard’s plotting, but the long-suffering Antigone much prefers to focus on art cinema (which is “meant to be survived, not enjoyed”) even as she harbours a secret crush on the dashing Chapman (who quite fancies Georgie).

The ongoing tensions between Funn and Chapman are presented by Madeleine, Rudyard’s pet mouse, whose painstaking chronicling of this saga will, she tells us, become the first ever Sunday Times bestseller to be written by a mouse (possibly to be contracted by Random Mouse, publisher of such great works as Of Mice and Other Mice).

The independently produced comedy is written by David Barnes and played by an ensemble cast. Despite receiving both acclaim and awards, Wooden Overcoats ran for three seasons (2015, 2016 and 2017) but had to take an extended break until a Kickstarter campaign brought in enough funds for a fourth and final season that will be released in mid 2020. There’s enough in the archive to keep one going till Season 4 comes along, with 24 episodes across the three seasons and several extras that, the producers say, “have been crafted with love and — as Antigone would say — with fluids”.

So, what is a wooden overcoat? Just listen, won’t you.

The Hyderabad-based writer, academic and neatnik blogs at www.mayanotes.blogspot.com.

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Printable version | Feb 22, 2020 10:14:14 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/podcast/wooden-overcoats-is-a-classic-british-comedy-in-podcast-form/article30470262.ece

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