Explaining exactly what the Beef and Dairy Network podcast is, might be a tough call, but there’s no misunderstanding the devotion of its small but growing audience. A good 300 or so devotees of the podcast, which is approaching its 50th edition and has already scooped a number of awards, have eschewed the delights of the Champions League tonight in favour of this rare live show.
Styling itself as “the podcast for those involved in – or just interested in – the cultivation of beef and dairy herds” – the show is, on the surface anyway, a straight-faced satire of the ultra-nerdy, super-specialist podcast.
But in reality it’s so much more than that. Using that premise as a springboard, its creator and host Benjamin Partridge has created a massive parallel, beef-obsessed universe with a huge cast of characters, from couples who’ve met on dating site Beef Encounters to the mafia-like industry body the Bovine Farmers Union.
Resplendent in spangly red lame jacket and Kylie-style golden shorts which he jokes he invariably sports whilst recording, Partridge takes up his role as host and we’re off, recording the ident for our fictitious sponsors, the questionable American agri-chemical conglomerate Mitchell’s.
The podcast has already featured an impressive array of comedy names, from Greg Davies to Kevin Eldon. Tonight’s big name is Mike Wozniak of ‘Man Down’ fame, and he’s hilarious reprising his role as a celebrity bovine arse vet fallen on hard times, and we hear how his hit Channel 5 program ‘Vet In A Helicopter’ got cancelled after an unfortunate accidental massacre and turning a cow inside out by mistake.
Henry Paker, meanwhile, plays Michael Banyan, well known to regular listeners as disgraced Bovine Poet Laureate. Recently returned from enforced exile in Spain, his description of the chaos that greeted him at Heathrow from his former gang of literary hell raisers – Mark Rylance dressed as a giant M&M and a toothpaste-smeared Germaine Greer for starters – is probably the funniest section of the whole recording,
Proceedings evidently operate around a loose brief, but it’s within the space for improvisation where most of the most priceless humour operates. On more than one occasion Partridge looks utterly thrown, having been caught by an unexpected, sidewinding quip. But with such a rich, almost Simpsons-sized universe already constructed, there’s always somewhere else for him to take the subject.
Supporting roles are taken by pianist Dave Cribb, whose opening song ‘Beef Is A Promise’ sets the surreal tone brilliantly, and Nadia Kamil, the voice of Mitchell’s among many other roles, and they’re every bit as adept at inhabiting this bizarre universe where beef is king.
We finish with a succession of (pre-prepared) questions from the floor for our resident vet, and we’re treated to tips on how to get chicken to fight properly and snakes to mate with garden hoses.
For the devoted followers of the Beef and Dairy Network podcast, this was – utterly inappropriately – like being a pig left to roll freely in their favourite excrement. But doubtless there are others who arrive here curious if mystified and leave as fully paid fans. Wonderfully surreal and pleasingly daft, this podcast’s reputation and following are sure to snowball in the future. So our advice is to join the herd before the stampede really starts.