We are used to seeing usability themes appear in Dilbert and we all remember the usability related laughter generated by the first HCI rap and the fantastic "Nothing but a UCD thang" - Pt1, Pt2, Pt3 Pt4. And of course Jabok Nielsen has been a target of spoofs for years.
But it now seems that usability themes are entering the mainstream comedy world. This week there awere two radio comedy programmes on BBC Radio 4 that were based around usability problems with technology.
Last night, again by pure chance, I came across Down the Line and, looking it up on the internet this morning, was horrified to discover that I had already missed the whole of the first series. It's easily the best, and freshest, comedy show at the moment.
I don't know how many others feel the same about it, but the programme has at least been getting rave reviews on the "Cookd and Bombd" blog, where one listener describes it as "utterly fantastic".
"What's sad," the listener writes, "is that there's more talent, enthusiasm and humour going into this neglected little radio series than every current British TV comedy combined. As far as giving a comedic 'cross-section of Britain' goes, it does it about 500,000 times better than Little Britain could ever dream of. I absolutely adore this series, and I can't wait for the next episode tomorrow."
Down the Line is a spoof of radio phone-ins. Last night there was talk about bullying, and how it's a good way of toughening up kids, while an estate agent in the studio explained that holiday homes in Iraq and Afghanistan may look attractively cheap just now but are not necessarily a good investment.
The humour is quite subtle. There's no audience laughter to tell you where the jokes are - you have to spot them yourself. The great thing about the show is that it's silly enough to be funny but not so silly as to be an obvious spoof. Apparently the first show brought complaints from listeners who mistook it for a genuine phone-in.
Down the Line is classic comedy in the making and I won't be a bit surprised if, years from now, people regard it with as much reverence as Round the Horne and Hancock's Half Hour.
Revied of Down The Line from The Guardian.
The next day I listened to an episode of "Count Arthus Strongs Rafio Show" where a new mobile phone was the cause of much hilarity. You can listen to the show again here.
Spoof reminiscences of a former variety star. Count Arthur Strong is an expert in everything from the world of entertainment to the origins of the species, all false starts and nervous fumbling, poorly concealed by a delicate sheen of bravado and self-assurance.
Arthur invests in a mobile phone. Although this proves rather more of a problem than first anticipated, it leads to Arthur taking on a hospital radio show engagement. A case of mistaken identity, however, means all does not go as planned.