Sound Heap review – one podcast to spoof them all

In 2018, John-Luke Roberts’s Edinburgh show consisted entirely of names of hitherto unheard-of Spice Girls. He’s up to something similar with Sound Heap, a new “podcast of infinite podcasts”, a medley of excerpts from imaginary podcasts performed by a galaxy of comedy stars. As a vehicle to parody the current glut of (celebrity, hobbyist and vanishingly niche) audio series, it works a treat, as Roberts lines up clips from Ventriloquists Talk True Crime, Memes with Val and Britain’s Worst Bastards for our listening pleasure.

No one who has followed Roberts’s career will expect anything less than creative fecundity, and he certainly delivers: the ideas for ridiculous but just-about-credible podcasts keep coming. Occasionally, the titles are as funny as his sketches get. More often, those sketches seize the opportunities offered by Roberts’s instinct for absurdity, as when Pranks With Full Consent recasts Jeremy Beadle for the age of the trigger warning, or Passwords of My Life with Tom Allen imagines a celebrity so delighted to talk about himself, he barely notices the associated sacrifice in cyber-security.

The media-mocking mix of silly and satirical brings to mind Charlie Brooker’s TV Go Home, with the distinction that, whereas Brooker’s parody was driven by savagery and scorn, wackiness is more Roberts’s mode. That leaves you with little to hang on to when the sketches are weaker: Roberts’s squawking Elton John act, say, or the apologetic series Sozcast. But there’s always a surprise around the next corner, such as Mark Watson Counting Up in Sixes to See How Big the Numbers Go, or heavy metal star “Corey Slipknot” appraising scotch eggs.

Podcasts will eat themselves, we may all have thought recently – but Roberts has got there first.


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