Last night (September 13), XFM aired its final show. After broadcasting for 23 years, the station is now set to relaunch on September 21 as Radio X – “the first truly male-focused, fully national music and entertainment brand for 25-44 year olds” – with Chris Moyles heading up an all-male cast of DJs including Kaiser Chiefs frontman Ricky Wilson, Vernon Kay and Johnny Vaughan.
It’s a move that’s caused an inevitable few raised eyebrows among those who understand that enjoying the music of Royal Blood and having a vagina need not be mutually exclusive ideas, but before we step into the #banter-filled new dawn, let’s celebrate what came before. In nearly two decades of broadcasting, XFM didn’t just cast the net out for new music, but also for new presenting talent. And, over the years, it caught some pretty big ones. Here are five brilliant funnymen whose careers would be nothing without the station. Good work, XFM – it was fun while it lasted.
XFM not only gave Ricky Gervais one of his first jobs (as Head of Speech back in 1997), it also helped create one of the greatest writing partnerships in recent comedy history. When Gervais needed an assistant at the station, he arranged to interview one young candidate – who turned out to be Stephen Merchant. Yep, if it wasn’t for XFM and a hefty dose of fate, we wouldn’t have The Office. Proving that lightning actually does strike twice, meanwhile, in 2001 the pair returned to the station to host a weekly radio show and met future collaborator Karl Pilkington. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.
Following a short stint presenting the Dancefloor Chart for MTV, Russell Brand got his break at XFM presenting his own Sunday afternoon show alongside regular collaborator Matt Morgan. While his XFM stint didn’t last long (Brand was fired for reading porn on air and bringing homeless people into the studio), it did pave the way for a hugely successful Radio 2 talkshow, with Brand returning to XFM for a one-off charity special in 2013, aided by pals Noel Gallagher and Noel Fielding.
Comic writer Iain Morris started out co-presenting a radio show on XFM with Jimmy Carr. So far, so good. But, following the stint – which ended in 2006 – Morris was then encouraged to write a little program called The Inbetweeners. He even recently tweeted that the series wouldn’t have been made were it not for his involvement with the station.
No question that without XFM the Inbetweeners wouldn’t have happened. Thanks to @jimmycarr for encouraging my creative urge. ripxfm
— iain morris (@iainkevanmorris) September 14, 2015
Adam Buxton, meanwhile, made his radio debut in 2003 when he began hosting a show for XFM with comedy partner Joe Cornish. The pair continued to forge a successful radio career, becoming podcast stars, while Buxton has since gone on to present Bug – in which he dissects the mad ramblings of YouTube commenters in typically witty fashion.
Presenter (and former NME Radio host) Alex Zane joined XFM in 2003 to present the breakfast show – his first high-profile gig. A keen-eared MTV representative then scouted him out from there to present for them, and Zane hasn’t looked back since. Of course, NME Radio was his finest hour (naturally) but we’ll concede that XFM had a pretty big part in the making of him, too.