Yesterday, I blogged about a distinctly un-enjoyable TV pilot show I went to see at the BBC. I mentioned the warm-up man. There was some reaction to this.
Comedian Dave Gorman commented:
“I think it’s always been a mixed bag. Some recordings are fun to attend and some are more like hostage situations. I was in a studio audience 20 years ago where it was not unlike the one you describe here and I’ve been in others more recently that have been great.
“Warm-up’s a hugely difficult (and hugely underrated) skill. A lot of brilliant acts make for lousy warm-ups. Some know they can’t do it and steer well clear. Others think they can… but the only way of finding out is to do it. Nothing about the circuit – not even the most fluid of compering – tells who can or can’t.
“Some shows fly under their own steam and the warm-up really only has to do a set at the top of the show. In other shows where there are set changes and/or multiple takes, the warm-up might well end up performing more than everyone else involved put together.”
Jake Betancourt-Laverde, who studies TV Production at the University of Westminster (where I studied it) Tweeted:
“Sounds very similar to the two times I saw Mock the Week being recorded. Genuinely the most depressing experience I’ve ever had at a comedy show.”
Comedian Tiernan Douieb picked up on this and asked: “Yet you went twice???”
Jake explained: “Second time I was a VIP! I got free wine and wotsits after!” but later he told me, “Mock The Week was akin to a battery farm for laughter. Three soulless hours of one liners.”
More upliftingly, Toby Martin Tweeted:
“This reminds me of something that once happened to me. A couple of years ago I travelled the breadth of the country to see a recording of Just a Minute, which I’d grown up listening to and adored. After queuing with my brother for an hour, we were turned away as the available seats had been taken up by those who had apparently queued since lunch time.
“In a haze of mindless ire I fired off an angry e-mail to BBC customer services, knowing full well that I would only receive a courtesy e-mail reminding me that the Terms & Conditions on my tickets covered just such an eventuality… and roughly two weeks later I DID receive said e-mail.
“Then, about a fortnight later and having forgotten about the whole sorry episode, I received the following voicemail on my phone: Hello Toby, this is Nicholas Parsons. I’ve been given your e-mail that you sent a little while ago to the BBC and would like to apologise profusely for the inconvenience you were caused. I would like to invite you to the next recording of Just a Minute as my personal guest.
“Needless to say, I was suitably stunned and glowed with pride a few weeks later as I took my specially reserved seat right at the front of the auditorium in Broadcasting House.
“The episode filled me with even more adulation for Nicholas Parsons, who took the time to meet me afterwards… but I haven’t bothered attending any more BBC recordings since!”
I have to say I, too, have a great deal of admiration for Nicholas Parsons. I met him fleetingly when he was presenting Sale of The Century at Anglia TV and he seemed very very decent – an impression strengthened when my comedy chum Janey Godley published her jaw-droppingly shocking autobiography Handstands in the Dark. She told me:
“Nicholas called me up to say he read my book on holiday and it equally traumatised and entertained him – what a man! He says he will never forget the holiday as everywhere he looked he saw a wee ‘Janey’ walking about in his head and he wanted to hug me. He has always been supportive of anyone new who comes on Just a Minute – makes us feel nurtured.”
Another comedian who read my blog yesterday was Omid Djalili. He commented:
“During a recording of my BBC show in 2009, the audience left after an hour. It was OK though – I recorded my own laughter 167 times and found I achieved many a nuance in the laugh track.”
Comedians. What can you do with ’em?