Friday, April 30, 2004

Jon Gaunt

The phone-in jock has a difficult balancing act to achieve. He needs to accomplish the “provoke and stroke” manoeuvre, by which he irritates his listeners enough to phone in, but not so much that they switch off in disgust. Caesar the Geezer, back in the days of LBC, was a master at this, alternately sympathizing with put upon east enders, before berating them for casual racism or taking some vegan student to task before agreeing on animal testing. Jon "not at all" Gaunt, on the other hand, utterly fails at this complicated endeavour, settling instead for a flurry of right-of-centre opinions dressed up as common sense. Let us remember that common sense, for all its virtues, would have us believe that the world is flat.

None of this puts off Gaunty, as he is known by his loving audience of bitter cabbies. He adds in the irritating feature of claiming to be even handed, all the while sharply cutting off those who he doesn’t agree with and letting those he does ramble away like a whisky-soaked pub bore. Not content with that, Gaunt has dreamt up the brilliant gimmick of gratuitously interrupting people, exclaiming “if you’ll just let me finish!”. The man then complains bitterly if anyone tries to stop him when he’s in mid-flow which is, for a show ostensibly for the public to have their say, more often than you would hope.

Like many people enjoying success nowadays, Gaunt is a overly reconstructed leftie and at the start of the Afghan War he got on his old hero John Pilger to debate the rights and wrongs of the bombing campaign. Pilger, who sounded like he’d rather be in Afghanistan than talking to Gaunt, lasted about a minute before Gaunt, unable to stop himself even for such an illustrious guest, jumped in while Pilger was in mid-sentence and Pilger responded by hanging up. Gaunt’s face was a picture – and this is on the radio - and he spent the rest of the show asking his operator to “keep a line open for John” in case he’d been cut off and wondering if he’d phoned back yet.

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