Tag Archives: Channel 4

Lynn Ruth Miller reveals what it is like to be on TV reality show “First Dates”

Lynn Ruth and John on First Dates

Over the summer, the people producing Channel 4’s First Dates series were desperately keen to have comedian Lynn Ruth Miller on as their first 82-year-old lady. But they were having a lot of trouble finding someone of an appropriate age. She and I even talked about trying to get me dating her on the show, although the format is blind dates with strangers.

Eventually, though, the TV company found a suitable date for her and the result was screened on Channel 4 last night. Coincidentally, her date was also called John. At the end, a caption said that, after meeting up for the date, John (from Milton Keynes) had gone down to meet Lynn Ruth (in Brighton) for fish & chips.

“Fish and chips?” I asked her in an e-mail last night.

This morning, she replied: “Not chips”.

“Tell me more,” I said. 

So she did. And here it is.

923597_first_dates_john_and_lynn_00f1fe90c1723516f6ffa5ef7675a21a

I have to say this was a beautiful example of what a reality show is.

The editing and the filming were excellent. The people co-ordinating each interview were marvellous and helpful. They made everyone feel very at ease. The truth is I was so at ease I said a few things I should have censored, but there you are.

This programme is all about selective perception. We see what we want to see and the editors at First Date are experts at piecing together a very deceptive encounter where absolutely nothing is not true but everything is out of context.

We had a pre-interview first to see if we were suitable and would make good television, then a recorded interview that was really lovely because they did not film anything you asked them to omit. After all, most of the questions are very personal.

However I am very open about my life since I do cabarets about it, so I was not bothered.

The actual date is really lovely but people should know it is completely orchestrated.

We met in a restaurant that was near the First Dates restaurant and the staff let me put on some make-up. I did not want to look like they resurrected me, after all. I have my pride.

Then we waited in a little room and they told me exactly the path I was to walk to the restaurant where the Maitre D’ welcomed me and sent me to wait for my Romeo at the bar.

Had I seen the programme before, I would have known that I was being recorded since we were miked up before we entered the place, but I did not. Again, I was my usual blunt, untactful, filthy self.

John First Dates

“Then my paramour came into the restaurant and kissed me…”

And then my paramour came into the restaurant and kissed me (even though we had NOT been introduced!) and BOUGHT  me a drink. They gave each of us £25 towards our meal – enough to actually pay for a serviette and a toothpick at this place.

After we were seated, they called each of us out at least twice to ask us to ask a question about something or discuss something they wanted in the programme.

After the meal, my little darling paid the difference between the £50 we were allowed and the total. Since he had had a couple beers and quite a substantial lunch I hate to think what the total was.

They interviewed us alone and then together. Then we were told to say goodbye and get into a pre-arranged cab that took us about a yard away to the corner.

We had to make our own way home.

John, despite what he said, did not call me. He definitely thought better of it when he got away from the heady atmosphere of being filmed for TV.  Please remember he said that he still had feelings (you might remember the kind?) and all he needed was a little blue pill to get him up and ready for action.

I believe he realised that, if I had to wait four hours for a cuddle, I would find better ways to spend my time… a movie perhaps… or doing it myself.

I e-mailed him after the director asked if he had contacted me.

We made a date to meet in London but, when he realised this would keep him out after dark (mercy me!) he broke the date.

A month or two passed and Vic the director asked again if I had heard from him, so I e-mailed again.

I told John when I was free but, for some reason I attribute to meagre grey matter, he did not bother to give me a specific date. He just appeared in Brighton.

We did not eat fish and chips

Since he came unannounced, I just took him along with me on my previously-arranged lunch date.

What I did not realise was that it was not my immense charm and hot little body that brought him to Brighton.

THEY PAID FOR HIM TO COME TO BRIGHTON.

Lynn Ruth Miller First Dates

“Horrified… It was a side of life he had never encountered.”

I had a pre-arranged lunch date with Melita Dennet, a very lovely lesbian lady I love very much, and I just brought him along. We went vegetarian. I think he was horrified. It was a side of life he had never encountered. All he did the entire time we were together was stop people on the street to tell them we were going to be on television.

As you should know by now, my mind is definitely my erogenous zone and he didn’t get anywhere near it.

He was, of course, very very kind and just a tad insipid.

Perfect person for an old lady.

I like to think that is not me

The sad thing is that people think we fell in love when there was absolutely no chemistry between us. His greatest joy is changing his grandchildren’s nappies and mine, as you well know, is throwing them into an audience – the nappies not the grandchildren.

And this brings me to my main point.

People do not instantly fall in love and cement forever relationships in 30 minutes any more than someone who thinks he can sing can be an opera star if Simon Cowell decides he has talent.

Things that are worth achieving take time and effort.

Anyone who wants to understand the dynamics of real relationships needs to come to my show I Love Men at Leicester Square Theatre, November 20 & 27 @ 5pm and 29th @ 9:30pm.

That tells is like it is (I hope).

First Dates tells it like we wish it could be.

lynn_ruth_miller

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A meeting with a man from Channel 4

Anna Smith last night, "after three days of sleeping on a psychiatrist’s couch"

Anna Smith hit her head, hit her head, hit her head…

I have received a communication from Anna Smith, this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent.

She lives in Vancouver.

I pass it on without comment.


I walked right into the courthouse building about a week ago and bruised my forehead. I wasn’t knocked out cold or anything, I’ve just had a headache…

People said I should get it checked out, but I was feeling over-scanned at the time…

My sisters seem to be taking turns going to Colombia and being driven round in motorcades with armed guards, each for different reasons. It seems a bit excessive, but I don’t know, maybe that’s what everyone does there. It is making me wonder a bit though. I have never been in a motorcade. Am I missing out on something?

I think my brain is OK.

I went and looked at the place where I bumped my head and tried to recreate it because it didn’t seem possible… I still don’t understand how I could have done it… and it’s a really nice building by Arthur Erickson.

One night in early spring, ages ago, I met a Channel Four television producer from London on the street here. It was very late at night and he was quite drunk and with two other men. One was a Canadian animator and the other had just bought a television station so they were all celebrating.

The Channel Four man had just bought a series from the animator. So I started teasing the three of them, especially the Londoner, putting on different accents because they were wondering where I was from and I was saying “I’m from Canning Town; no, maybe it was Texas or Argentina….”

They were going mad, especially Mr. Channel Four… So they took me home in a taxi to a nice area and it happened they were staying in a simple but particularly well-designed small apartment building, made of dark lumber, which I admired. It had an inviting courtyard which was hidden from the street, with a grassy lawn and apple trees scattered about. The owner told me it was one of Arthur Erickson’s first commissions.

The Channel Four man was about sixty years old and very pleasant. He asked if I could go with him to the Pope’s summer palace because his son was being married there in August. He said I could stay in his flat in St Johns Wood but then he suddenly hesitated.

“I have cats,” he said. “Two of them. You don’t mind cats do you?”

I told him that I didn’t mind cats. We had a drink and I think his Canadian friends wanted me to sleep with him, but he was very sweet and said it wasn’t necessary. They gave me some money to get a taxi home and I never went back.

In any case, I had small children at home and it was out of the question that I might run off to the Pope’s summer palace in August. But I do once in a while wonder who that man was.

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Why you can do nothing if the BBC or anyone else steals your TV or film idea

The figure of Justice - blindfolded to avoid seeing any truths

Justice, as always, is blind in the UK

I went to a Creative England ‘crew night’ at Elstree Studios last night.

In theory, these evenings are a chance for people to sell their services – as camera people, accountants, make-up artists, prop suppliers and the rest – to producers, directors and production companies. In practice, it mostly turns out to be suppliers of such services talking to other suppliers of similar services and to recently-graduated film students while they desperately look over their shoulders for non-existent producers, directors and production company executives.

I went because Elstree Studios are at the end of my high street in Borehamwood and because I correctly guessed there would be free egg sandwiches and crisps. I am an overweight man without shame.

I got chatting to an enthusiastic young man who foolishly started talking to me because (I think) he figured anyone as old and overweight as me must be a good bet for an established figure with finance to spare.

How wrong can an enthusiastic young man be?

“I’ve got this great idea,” was his opening gambit.

Mistake Number One.

Never tell a stranger your idea. They may steal it.

If a large, established film company wants your idea, they will probably just pay you money and give you a producer credit.

If a successful, well-financed film company simply steals your idea, you can do nothing about it. They will out-finance you in any legal case and, if you abandon your case, you will be liable for their costs.

If a small film company steals your idea they may possibly, if you are lucky, give you a percentage of the film’s net profit (which will be zero), no salary and a producer credit.

If a small film company screws you and makes an unsuccessful film from your idea and you sue them, you are throwing your money away in legal costs because the film made no money and there are no profits in which you can share.

If a small film company screws you and miraculously makes a successful film from your idea, gets shedloads of money and you sue them then, again, they will simply out-finance you and, if you abandon your case, you will be liable for their costs.

If a TV company steals your idea, you are similarly screwed.

You cannot afford to sue a TV company. They will out-finance you in the legal process and, if you abandon your case, you will be liable for their costs.

Malcolm Hardee outside Grover Court in 1995

Malcolm Hardee told the man from the BBC to “Fuck off!”

Many years ago, the late Malcolm Hardee and I had an idea for a 26-part TV series. It would be made either as an independent production for the BBC or, more probably, as a BBC series with us as producers/associate producers or in some way involved and paid. We mapped out the structure and detailed series format.

We suggested our idea to the excellent and entirely trustworthy Janet Street-Porter who, at that time, was Head of Youth at BBC TV. She liked it and passed it upward to Alan Yentob who, at that time, was Controller of BBC2. He said he wanted to do it.

This was early in the year.

By autumn, the legendarily indecisive Yentob had changed his mind and decided he did not want to make the series. It may have been for budgetary reasons. Or on a whim.

But fair enough. No problem.

The idea, pretty much, had to be made as a BBC production/co-production or not at all because it partially relied on a lot of the BBC’s archive material.

About three years later (I can’t be exact) Malcolm received a phone call from someone at the BBC saying they were thinking of making a 26-part TV series and could they talk to him about putting them in touch with various people. The proposed BBC TV series had the same title as our idea, was on the same subject and had the same structure. There was no mistaking the rip-off.

Malcolm told the BBC man to fuck off and laughingly told me about the phone call. The BBC had forgotten from whom they had stolen the idea and had approached the very person they had nicked it from.

But it is not as simple as that.

Ideas are only ideas and two people can separately have an entirely original idea.

That was not the case with our idea, as the structure and even the title of the series was what we had suggested. It had been blatantly ripped-off, though it was never actually made.

Oddly, in the UK, the BBC has a worse reputation for stealing ideas than ITV, Channel 4 and the small independent producers. I suspect this is because of size.

I suspect what happened with our idea (which had been given a provisional go-ahead as a general, well-formatted idea for a BBC project but had not had any concrete work done on it) was that it had been discussed by and mentioned to various people and, three years later, someone simply plucked it from their memory without remembering or caring how it had got into their mind.

Channel 4 has fewer reasons to steal ideas

Channel 4 is less likely to steal

Channel 4 has no corporate reason to steal ideas: it commissions but does not make programmes. And, unlike the BBC and ITV, small independents (by and large) have no standing staff crews. They do not have staff instantly available for projects. They get ideas commissioned and then employ people on a project-by-project basis.

So, if you take an idea to them and you have all the contacts, knowledge and experience, they might as well bring you in as part of the production team and possibly (though rarely) cut you in on a small percentage of the money because it is easier to use your knowledge rather than employ someone who has to get to the state of knowledge you already have. Also, it is not the production company’s money; they can insert you into the production process within the budget which gets agreed by the commissioning channel; you become part of the overheads.

With the BBC, there are large numbers of staff on the payroll, so it is psychologically easier to rip-off external people’s ideas because the BBC is a vast organisation; and it is practically easier to rip you off because there are people already on the ongoing BBC payroll who can get together all the facts, contacts and research required.

It is easier to screw you and the person screwing you will probably not even be the person you gave your idea to.

It will be their boss or their boss’s boss or another producer who heard the idea from another producer who heard it from the secretary of the person you originally told.

So…

– There is simple theft of an idea.

– There is second-hand theft of an idea.

– There are cases where people have genuinely forgotten they heard the idea from someone else and think it is their own new idea.

– And there are cases where two unconnected people have simply come up with exactly the same idea because it is a concept whose time has come.

Whatever.

You can send manuscripts, plot outlines, formats and everything to yourself or your solicitor in strongly sealed envelopes by registered post and not open them when you receive them – thus being able to prove that you had a specific idea in detail on a specific date…

But, by and large, if a TV or film company or a producer decides to rip off your idea, there is nothing you can do about it unless you win the Lottery.

So it goes.

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How budgets and technology have affected the type of TV comedy we see

I was at the London School of Economics last night for an event called Comedy As Commentary, in which a panel of writers and producers discussed the way in which “much comedy writing can be read as a kind of commentary on social life.”

But economics came into it too.

One of the panelists was Joanna Scanlan, actress and co-writer (with Jo Brand and Vicki Pepperdine) of the highly realistic sitcom Getting On, set in the geriatric ward on an NHS hospital.

All of the panel seemed to be big fans of the sitcom Father Ted.

“But,” Joanna pointed out, “the budgets that were available to make television at the point that Father Ted was commissioned by Channel 4 are very different from the budgets that are available to make television comedy now.

“What has happened is that the realism mode, to-camera shoot and the limited locations are partly financially driven. If you turn up in a commissioner’s office and say we have to build these props and it’ll take a six-day shoot… The Thick Of It was initially shot in two-and-a-half days per episode and Getting On was done two-and-a-half days per episode.

“They both started on BBC4, where there were very low budgets and very low expectations for audience: they were going to build it.

The Thick Of It has ended up being a huge phenomenon, but it has never had the budgets that really go with that.

“People talk about Getting On as if we really intended it to be like that, but we didn’t. It had to be like that. It couldn’t be different (because of the budget).

“The other thing is that technology has changed; cameras have changed. You can walk around a room without a cable behind the camera so therefore you can shoot in rooms without cables becoming visible on the shot.

Peter Capaldi, who directed the first two series of Getting On, said at the very beginning Why are we making television in the way that we’re making it? The technology has utterly changed. All the conventions within the production methods you can throw away.

“So I think it’s partly about letting your imagination run wild but (with lower budgets) it’s very difficult in a world where no commissioner is going to… Well, Sky is the exception. When they started commissioning comedy, Lucy Lumsden, the commissioning editor, said she wanted touchy-feely stuff, she wanted warm stuff – which is partly about their subscribers, but it’s also that she had some more money. You could make a world. You could have more than one location.

“It obviously does affect the creative vision.

“There was a BBC do a while ago where one of the heads of Comedy was saying Ooh, it’d be nice if… and showed a clip of Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em – one of the most famous episodes where Frank Spencer gets hoisted up onto the steeple of the church… We can’t laugh at that sort of thing any more, because we really couldn’t afford to do that. It’s out of the question, but it would be good if we could.”

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How (some) talented British television producers put comedy talent on TV

Before you read this blog, I should point out that I have never met the comedian Jack Whitehall and, as far as I can see, he is an entirely amiable, talented chap who has every reason to continue breathing and, indeed, to prosper…

Now…

In this blog a couple of days ago, I had a chat with chav comedy character Devvo about how TV companies could not quite come to terms with the Devvo character yet the arguably similar Lee Nelson character arrived on UK TV screens.

Yesterday I asked comedy entrepreneur Bob Slayer who was helping and handling Devvo at the time, what he remembered. This is what he told me.

____________________________________

Monkey Kingdom were the first production company to put Devvo on TV. They did a thing for Funny Cuts on E4, which you can see online (there are two uploads)

This one has currently had 2.1 million views:

And here is one of several short stings for a Channel 4 programme called Whatever. It has had 500,000 views:

I was in the meeting when Monkey Kingdom suggested filming Devvo in London and making it look like Doncaster. Is this normal? The very being of Devvo is that he is the Donny Soldier from Yorkshire… But, to be fair, they realised this pretty quickly and backed down. I also got a funny text from Devvo while filming to tell me he had found out the dog that they had brought in for one bit of filming was on more per day than he was.

Overall, though, the Monkey Kingdom guys did do a good job and they let Devvo get involved in the edit. We were looking forward to working with them again and were discussing a pitch to Channel 4 but then they got The Charlotte Church Show greenlighted and dropped all development projects.

Devvo then did a thing for BBC TV with Ken Korda (Adam Buxton). It was a bad start when we met the TV people in the office that the producers of My Family were using.

They filmed some great non-scripted stuff around the BBC. But then they wouldn’t let us see it prior to broadcast, let alone get involved in the edit which they did an absolute bollix job on and then put a shite laughter track on it… I hope it is not online!

(IT IS)

There were a few other things as well and then the BBC decided to make a show called The Wall. They put it out to tender to three production companies and to the BBC in-house. All three of the production companies got in touch with us to put Devvo in their pitch. Charlie Brooker’s Zeppatron was one of these and they ended up winning the pitch.

What they kept telling us was that they liked Devvo because he was the ‘real deal’ and not just someone dressed up as a chav. They expected him to be a big hit in The Wall and so we were also planning his own series.

As the show got closer, we started to get odd requests. Like could they put a laughter track on it. To which we said no because he is not just dressed-up as a chav. This happened a couple of times and they apologised that someone higher up was obviously nervous. And, of course, in the end they replaced Devvo with Simon Brodkin dressed up as the Lee Nelson chav character. That was the safe choice…

A producer guy that we met along the way who helped us out and tried to steer us through the murky waters of TV was, at the time, also producing a show written by Wil Hodgson – a sitcom about dogging. The genius of this was that dogging was just the glue that made it all work – it was always in the background and never explicit. It showcased Wil’s writing brilliantly and really showed how hilarious it is to see quite normal people in abnormal situations.

I was at the read-through at Soho Theatre with Johnny Vegas in the lead role and Cariad Lloyd opposite him. It also had Morwenna Banks and just a really strong cast. ITV gave them a development deal. Then, a few months down the line and many meetings and going backwards and forwards, ITV said We love it… but… Can you rewrite it without the dogging?!

That is like asking to make Father Ted a little less Irish… I expect some eedjit did ask the Father Ted people that at some stage but fortunately they were left alone!

It’s no wonder that we get so much shite like My Family and that Jack Whitehall is allowed to continue breathing. Please can someone stand on his windpipe?

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Kevin Bishop – consolidating a career combining comedy and ‘proper’ acting

Kevin Bishop seems to be consolidating his showbiz career by overlapping comedy and ‘proper’ acting rather well, without getting any distracting Russell Brand front page coverage.

Channel 4’s Star Stories got him attention in 2006 and The Kevin Bishop Show got him even more profile in 2008-2009. But he had already paid his dues. He started his showbiz career in that by-now almost classic training ground of BBC TV kids’ series Grange Hill and his first movie role had been as Jim Hawkins in Muppet Treasure Island back in 1996, when he was only 16 years old.

This week, he started filming a new comedy movie May I Kill U? about the recent London riots and, two nights ago, I was at the first recording of his new BBC Radio series Les Kelly’s Britain, produced by Bill Dare and written by Bill Dare & Julian Dutton

The show was interesting for several reasons.

One interesting thing was that, during the recording, there were two heckles from the audience, which I hope stay in after the edit. I have to admit I have not seen that many radio recordings, but I think I can say that heckles are not that common and Kevin dealt with them so smoothly that I actually wondered if they had been set-up… though I think they were genuine.

Unusually, Kevin did not use a stand microphone. He had one of those little headset mikes with a thin strip coming down the cheek of the type that Madonna and other singers have so they can strut freely around the stage.

This allowed him to wander the stage and to come down into the audience while the other four performers used traditional stand mikes.

The show was notable for excellent casting of the four supporting actors and for two spot-on Scots accents from them, one of which got laughs from me and from the cast themselves just for the accent itself – it was a rather oily Gordon Brown accent – you had to be there.

The show’s producer/co-writer Bill Dare has a long pedigree in comedy – including The Mary Whitehouse Experience, Dead Ringers, The Now Show and ITV’s Spitting Image 1990-1993. He is also, to me rather startlingly, the son of actor Peter Jones who, to my generation, was star of The Rag Trade and, to a later generation, was the voice of The Book in the original BBC Radio version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

There is a slight problem with Les Kelly’s Britain in that the basic comedy situation is that a show is being presented by a radio host who lacks self-awareness and Alan Partridge has explored and carved out that territory already.

So, although Les Kelly is a distinct character, it is a dodgy creative proposition.

The publicity says Les Kelly is like “the love child of Jeremy Kyle and Jeremy Clarkson” and “the natural heir to classic comic creations Alan Partridge, The Pub Landlord and Count Arthur Strong” which is fair enough, though the inclusion of Count Arthur Strong mystifies me.

The show sounds as if it might be slightly un-original but, in fact, that is misleading. The Les Kelly script, superbly delivered by all five performers when I saw it, has some genuinely wonderful surreal moments and occasional dark humour – it managed to fit in a joke about the wartime bombing of Dresden, though one of the re-takes at the end was, according to Bill Dare, “in case we need to cut the cancer joke”.

I hope they keep it in and that Les Kelly’s Britain prospers.

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Has British comedy stagnated since Monty Python, Hardee and Tiswas?

Beware. This is my blog. These are my very highly personal opinions. You can object. Please do.

People have said Alternative Comedy is not dead, it has just ceased to be Alternative. It has become the Mainstream. But they seldom talk about the next new wave of British comedians who will replace the now mainstream Alternative Comedians.

I desperately want to spot any new wave for the annual Malcolm Hardee Awards, which I organise. Our avowed intent is to try to find “comic originality”.

We do find admirably quirky individuals to award the main annual Comic Originality prize to – last year, the one-off Robert White; this year, the one-off Johnny Sorrow.

And their one-offness is as it should be. You cannot have comic originality if 37 other people are doing something similar.

But where are the new style comedians performing a recognisable new type of comedy genre? There has not been anything overwhelmingly new since so-called Alternative Comedy arrived in the mid-1980s – over 25 years ago.

As far as I can see, there have been four very rough waves of post-War British comedy, most of them comprising overlapping double strands.

The first double wave of ‘new’ comics in the 1950s were reacting partly to stuffy mainstream 1930s Reithian radio comedy, partly to the necessary order of the 1940s wartime years and partly they were rebelling against the dying music hall circuit epitomised by John Osborne‘s fictional but iconic Archie Rice in The Entertainer (1957).

The Goon Show (1951-1960) on BBC Radio, at the height of its popularity in the mid 1950s, was the antithesis of the ‘old school’ of pre-War comedy. The Goons were a surreal comic equivalent to John Osborne’s own rebellious Look Back in Anger (1956) and the kitchen sink realism which surfaced in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Osborne was ultra-realistic; The Goons were ultra-surreal.

But Osborne’s plays and The Goons‘ radio comedy were both reactions to the rigidly ordered society in pre-War, wartime and immediately post-War Britain and The Goons‘ new anarchic style of comedy (although it owes some debt to the pre-War Crazy Gang and although the Wartime radio series ITMA was slightly surreal) really was like the new rock ‘n’ roll (which was not coincidentally happening simultaneously). It was startlingly new. They were consciously rebelling and revolting against a clear status quo which they saw as stuffy and restrictive.

Hot on the heels of The Goons came a different form of rebellion – the satirists of the 1960s – with Beyond the Fringe (1960) on stage and That Was The Week That Was (1962-1963) on TV. These two slightly overlapping Second Waves of new post-War British comedy were again reacting to a stuffy status quo.

The First Wave, the surrealist Goons wave, then reasserted that it was still rolling on when a Third Wave of influence – Monty Python’s Flying Circus – appeared on BBC TV 1969-1974 and – as satire declined in the 1970s – it was Monty Python‘s (and, ultimately, The Goons‘) comedic gene pool that held sway for a while – also epitomised, oddly, by the children’s TV show – Tiswas (1974-1982).

The Goons, Beyond The Fringe and That Was The Week That Was had been rebelling against something; Monty Python was surreal and Tiswas was anarchic just for the sheer sake of it. Monty Python and Tiswas were one-offs, but they have pale imitations trundling on even to today.

After Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister in 1979, a Fourth Wave of new comics arose in the early and mid-1980s – a generation influenced by the satire gene not by the Goons/Python gene. These mostly-university-educated young left wing things rebelled against Thatcherism with their often political-based humour which became known as Alternative Comedy.

But again, just as there had been a second overlapping wave of comedy in the previous generation, this mostly ‘serious’ comedy was paralleled by a different wave possibly more low-key but epitomised by the decidedly fringe appeal of the hugely influential Malcolm Hardee, whose release from prison and subsequent comedy career coincided with the start of and overlapped with the future stars of Alternative Comedy.

Malcolm’s strand of mostly non-political comedy was spread by the clubs he ran and the acts he managed, agented, booked and/or nurtured: acts including the young Paul Merton (performing as Paul Martin when Malcolm first managed him), Jenny Eclair and later Keith Allen, Harry Enfield, Harry Hill, Vic Reeves, Jerry Sadowitz, Jim Tavaré and Johnny Vegas.

While London’s Comedy Store nurtured future mainstream acts (some progressing there from Malcolm’s clubs), the more bizarre and original new acts continued to flock to Malcolm’s gigs and clubs including his near-legendary Sunday Night at the Tunnel Palladium gigs and later his lower-key but just as influential Up The Creek club.

These two strands of 1980s comedy – the alternative political and the Hardee-esque – successfully came together in a Channel 4 programme – not, as is often cited, Saturday Live (1985-1987), a mostly failed hotch-potch with different presenters every week, but its long-remembered successor, Geoff Posner‘s Friday Night Live (1988) which supposedly firebrand political polemic comic Ben Elton presented every week in what was supposed to be an ironic sparkly showbiz jacket.

Political alternative stand-ups mixed with strange variety and character acts, oddball comics and cross-over acts like Jo Brand, Jenny Eclair, Harry Enfield and many others nurtured by Malcolm Hardee.

This was both the highpoint and the start of the decline of Alternative Comedy because serious money was spent on the relatively low-rating Saturday Live and Friday Night Live on Channel 4, both ultimately shepherded by Alan Boyd’s resolutely mainstream but highly influential Entertainment Department at LWT.

Since then, where has the next giant New Wave of British comedy been? There are random outbreaks of originality, but mostly there has been a barren mediocrity of pale imitations of previous waves – and the desolate, mostly laugh-free zone that is BBC3.

At this point, allow me an even more personal view.

I thought I spotted a change in Edinburgh Fringe comedy shows around 2003 when Janey Godley was barred from consideration for the Perrier Award (despite a very lively verbal fight among the judging the panel) because it was decided that her seminal show Caught in the Act of Being Myself did not fall within the remit of the Awards because it was not a single ‘show’ repeated every night: she was basically ad-libbing a different hour of comedy every performance for 28 consecutive nights.

That same year, Mike Gunn performed his confessional heroin-addict show Mike Gunn: Uncut at the Fringe although, unlike Janey, he lightened and held back some of the more serious details of his life story.

It seemed to me that, certainly after 2004, when Janey performed her confessional show Good Godley!,  Fringe shows started an increasing tendency towards often confessional autobiographical storytelling. Good Godley! was one of the first hour-long comedy shows at the Fringe (though not the only one) to use material that was not in any way funny – in that case, child abuse, rape, murder and extreme emotional damage. Janey did not tell funny stories; she told stories funny. Viewed objectively, almost nothing she actually talked about was funny but audiences fell about laughing because it truly was “the way she told ’em”.

Since then, too, there seems to have been a tendency towards improvisation, probably spurred by the financial success of Ross Noble and Eddie Izzard. The traditional 1980s Alternative Comics still mostly stay to a script. The 21st Century comics influenced by Janey Godley, Eddie Izzard and Ross Noble often do not (to varying degrees).

So it could be argued there has been a tendency in this decade away from gag-telling (apart from the brilliant Jimmy Carr, Milton Jones and Tim Vine) towards storytelling… and a tendency towards improvisational gigs (bastardised by the almost entirely scripted and prepared ad-libs on TV panel shows).

But long-form storytelling does not fit comfortably into TV formats which tend to require short-form, gag-based, almost sound-bite material – you cannot tell long involved stories on panel shows and on Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow type programmes. So a tendency in live gigs and certainly at the Edinburgh Fringe – a tendency away from gag-based comedy to storytelling comedy – has been unable to transfer to television and has therefore not fully developed.

Occasionally, a Fifth Wave of British comedy is sighted on the horizon but, so far, all sightings have turned out to be tantalising mirages.

One possibility are the Kent Comics who all studied Stand Up Comedy as an academic subject in the University of Kent at Canterbury. They include Pappy’s aka Pappy’s Fun Club, Tiernan Douieb, Jimmy McGhie, Laura Lexx and The Noise Next Door. But they share an origin, not a style.

Whither British comedy?

Who knows?

Not me.

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