Stuart McLean's Vinyl Cafe radio show is a weekend institution on Canada's CBC Radio, filling the love-it-or-hate-it slot occupied by The Archers on Radio 4. You can listen to it live on Saturday and Sunday afternoons GMT at www.cbc.cavinylcafe. On page or on air, the edgy humour keeps the occasional threat of schmaltz at bay. The peak of the radio show is the Vinyl Cafe soap: McLean's edgy tales of second-hand record store owner Dave and his family, pets and neighbours have filled five books (two of them, Vinyl Cafe Unplugged and Home from the Vinyl Cafe, to be published in the UK by Granta next month) and nine years of broadcasts.
The latest radio episode is typical of the way in which the comedy ambushes you: Dave attends the "awkward and inappropriate" funeral of his saxophonist friend Billy's Aunt Ginger, who died at 91 in a skiing accident ("well, snowboarding if you're gonna be technical"). What follows involves a coffin, Alice Cooper's make-up case (found in the back of the shop), a straw poll on funeral music ("Stairway to Heaven", Cat Stevens, Enya, "Leader of the Pack") and a lost customer.
For the past two years Vinyl Cafe listeners have been invited to contribute to the Story Exchange, an archive of three-minute pieces from which McLean selects one to read each week ("It has to be true and it has to be short").
Read them on the website, including last weekend's contribution from Olympic speedskater Kristina Groves, now 25, remembering her childhood bid to carry the Olympic torch in Calgary. McLean is planning a UK visit later this year, if you can't catch him in Winnipeg this weekend.