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Alex Lester (born Alexander Norman Charles Lester, 11 May 1956 in Walsall, United Kingdom) is a British broadcaster. He presents the weekday overnight/early-morning programme on BBC Radio 2. He also temporarily replaced Russell Brand on Saturday evenings in late 2008, between 9 and 11pm, following Brand's resignation over the prank calls row.

Contents

Early life and career

A doctor's son, Lester was educated at Denstone College, and worked in a variety of jobs (including at Dudley Zoo, in a pub, and as a civil service clerk), before he began his broadcasting career in 1977 for BBC local radio stations. He joined Radio Aire in Leeds in 1981.

Later, he worked for other radio stations in the commercial sector. These included Radio Tees, based in Stockton-on-Tees, where he worked from 1983 until 1986. At Radio Tees, on joining, he narrowly avoided an attempt by Canadian Programme Controller, Donald Cline, to rechristen him "Red" Lester. Lester went on to present, amongst others, the weekday lunchtime show and a specialist blues music programme there.

In 1986 he returned to the BBC, joining the newly opening BBC Essex based in Chelmsford. Lester joined Radio 2 in 1987, as an announcer and newsreader. He also presented the night-time show on a rota basis. In 1990, he was given the early-morning show permanently.

The Best Time Of The Day!

The programme currently starts at 2am, ending at 5am, and has become something of a national institution with an enormous and fiercely loyal cult audience of nightshift workers and early risers. The meaningless but catchy show slogans are SCOF (Swirling Cesspool Of Filth)and Slap My Top (thought to be a variation on the music hall soundbite slap my thigh - but reserved exclusively for people with bald heads) and listeners have marketed the show by writing the phrase in the dirt on the backs of trucks and vans. There was a limited edition range of T-shirts with the slogan written in Cantonese developed by a listener, which Lester awarded to people who came up with the most innovative uses of the slogan - winners included a local radio reporter who got the expression into a story; a man who wrote and recorded a song with the slogan as its title; a mystery girl, for placing an ad for Lester's show in the small ads section of a local newspaper and a man who developed a website which remains a communal meeting point for the programme's listeners, and is listed in the External Links section below.As well as T-Shirts another listener produced a range of glow in the dark Alex Lester wristbands which were also given away as prizes on the show.The new phrase for the 2009 - 2010 Truck Writing Season is BAG (BUFFOONS ARE GO).

Despite the ungodly hour, Lester prides himself on calling his programme The Best Time Of The Day. As one of the longest-serving broadcasters on the network, he is occasionally heard on Radio 2 during the daytime when regular presenters are away. The new slogan for the show is buffoon town.

The programme was broadcast from 4am until 6.30am from 1990 until 1992, and from 3am to 5am until 1994. For sixteen years after 1994 the programme began at 3am and finished at 6am, until it was rescheduled in 2010 after changes to the Radio 2 morning schedule.

Show features and campaigns

Running themes, innovations, campaigns and ideas which have become regular topics for discussion on the programme over the years include:

  • Penguins - years after someone first asked why penguins always appeared on Christmas cards, usually wearing a scarf, listeners still refer somehow to the wildfowl when answering Lester's daily trivia questions, known as Brain Bogglers...
  • The Les Dawson Memorial Gag - also stemming from the Brain Bogglers, this allows Lester to make light of slightly 'prejudiced' answers from his large sector of male truck driver listeners whose answers are usually unkind towards mothers in law. Lester breaks into a half-accurate impersonation of Dawson, a respected comic who was prone to telling such jokes in comedy's less enlightened era...
  • The Weather Chicken - any bad weather mentioned in the forecast by Lester's newsreader is often followed by Lester as the Weather Chicken - a staccato parody of female overstatement of poor weather conditions during banal, pointless discussions, with the resulting noise sounding uncannily like a chicken and resembling the screeches adopted by the Monty Python's Flying Circus team when they played domestic female characters...
  • Freda, the Woollen Fridge of Doom - the show's official mascot; a woollen box which the listener knits from a pattern downloadable from the unofficial website (listed below). The idea came after Lester accidentally 'killed' his own fridge when he stuck a knife in it to see if it would help it work properly...
  • Friendship Fries - also known as World Peace Through Chips, this idea claims to solve all global conflicts by adding french fries to every country's national dish, thereby giving them all something in common...
  • Eating For Free - an experiment to see if people can live entirely on free samples of food products sent in the post or handed out in supermarkets...
  • The Sock - from an otherwise inconclusive debate about clothing between Lester and his listeners, the sock was adopted as a superhero of the show, with nocturnal drivers accepting its status by hanging a single sock from the cabs of their trucks...
  • The Sandy Status Symbol - an idea to persuade troublesome teenagers that carrying a heavy sack of sand around is fashionable. They keep their coolness factor but the weight of the status symbol means they're too tired to pursue any anti-social behaviour...
  • The Christmas Cardboard Box - a gift which Lester promises will be 'all the rage' for Christmas 2005. Kids should be given a plain cardboard box for Christmas on the grounds that many toys get ignored by children who would rather play with the box in which the toy had been placed by the manufacturer...
  • The Traveller's Arse - an idea that a huge prosthetic bottom could be manufactured and worn in which people could hide their money and valuables, with potential attackers and thieves not suspecting anything as they would just assume the large-bottomed folk were American...
  • Tri-Team Football - initially stemming from a debate about how all sports have an aspect which make them look silly (such as the carpet on which bowls players rest their knees), this is an idea to make football more interesting by having three teams, three goals and a triangular pitch...
  • Fred Slippage - when the show travels in an entirely different direction to the one Alex was intending, he refers to it as Fred Slippage. Alex will explain where the thread of the show has changed from where he originally intended it to go.
  • "Love the Shoe" (sic) - wonderfully surrealistic puncturing of fellow Radio 2 DJ's notorious self-worship - sign-off on audience correspondence.

Miscellaneous

Lester has homes in Hastings and Wednesbury. For nearly 10 years he lived aboard a 60-foot traditional stern canal boat (which he nicknamed The Blue Pig) during the week, while presenting his show from the BBC's Pebble Mill Studios and then The Mailbox in Birmingham. He also has a restored cottage as a third home in the Normandy region of France.

Away from his radio work, he enjoys good food and drink, cars and attending concerts. He is known in particular for his love of 1970s rock, and attended many festivals in his youth. Obscure sports are another passion, over the years Lester has participated in Extreme Downhill Cheese Rolling, the Yorkshire Celery Wrestling Finals and achieved a creditable 9th place finish at last year's World Bog Snorkeling Championship.

In 2007, Lester decided to celebrate his 20th anniversary at Radio 2 by fulfilling his life's ambition of driving the width of the USA, from Los Angeles to New York. He catalogued his experiences via a blog, linked from the Radio 2 website.

Alex Lester is head of the 'Campaign to Reinstate Hunting Men from Horseback' (CRHMH).

External links

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