Tag Archives: E4

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.

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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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Filed under Comedy, Television

Devvo, Lee Nelson & television people

Devvo smiles in Edinburgh last month

When I was at the Edinburgh Fringe, a couple of weeks ago, I had a chat with chav character Devvo who was performing in the Comedy section of the festival.

‘Chav’ translates as ‘Ned’ in Scotland and in American, I guess, it translates as ‘trailer trash’.

I did not have time to include the chat in this blog, a sign of my very bad time-management at this year’s Fringe but, for the purposes of bullshitting, perhaps that was suitably irresponsible of me, given Devvo’s irresponsible chav image.

“You’re sometimes labelled a ‘You Tube sensation’. Why?” I asked him.

“Just for being me, really,” Devvo answered in his Yorkshire accent. “I started out – what? – eight years ago just being me. Being a young lad going around causing trouble, causing bother and then people started picking up on it. But people are filming you and saying stuff and then you suddenly think Hang on! I’ve got a voice! I could be clever! I can teach people all my knowledge and give ‘em me life tips – so now I’ve started doin’ life tips videos on YouTube. School’s crap. Who learns owt from school? Learn it from the man in the street… That’s me.

“Everyone wants to make money, John. Everyone wants to know how other people do it. Everyone’s got boring jobs haven’t they? I’ve got no job. I’m a dole queue hero, I am. I’ve got teeshirts that say I am so I must be.

“You see people dressed like me with me Burberry cap on an’ people get scared. Don’t be scared, cos some of ‘em have got knowledge. But be scared of some of ‘em, because some of ‘em have got knives.”

“And,” I said, “the people who come to see your stage shows are…”

“It’s a nice mix,” said the man with the Yorkshire accent. “Cos there’s different levels of Devvo fans. You get the real low-level idiots who are just on my wavelength. Then you get the middle group who’re a bit more intelligent, but they know about me character. And then you get the people who’ve got no idea and that’s right fun. But I did have a gig the other day with a load of Army squaddies in at the low level of intelligence and I were stood there doin’ me show thinking Why am I even bothering? I left thinking This is ‘orrible.”

“What were they doing?”

“They were just idiots. It was a nice gig but I just thought You’re all idiots. Cos I’m growing into a bit of a businessman now – sellin’ teeshirts, sellin’ DVDs, givin’ out me life tips. I’ve gone up-market. I started out as, like, a rap character, but you’ve gotta move on.”

“You used to do music gigs, but now it’s mostly comedy gigs?” I asked.

“I’m not really that arsed about doing music gigs again,” said Devvo, “because I just felt I were ripping people off. Which is alright. But it’s not that much fun when you’re just stood there for half an hour takin’ money off people for doing all of yer old songs. It’s not really as good as breaking it up and having funny bits in between.”

“How were you ripping people off?” I asked.

“Just cos you think I’ve only done half an hour an’ I’ve just played these old songs an’ I’ve done nothing new. Now it feels like I’m gettin’ back to doing it just for a laugh again.”

“So you’re angling more towards comedy now,” I said. “What about Lee Nelson? He’s on TV already. He came along after you’d made a YouTube name for yourself. Some people have even said he ripped-off the Devvo character, though I couldn’t possibly comment.”

“Well,” said Devvo, “they’ve gone and said to him: Lee, here’s a cheque and can you do this for us and make it all friendly and clean and polished for BBC3? And, fair enough, if he’s happy with that, that’s up to him. If that’s where his comedy lies, you can’t begrudge him that.”

“What was he doing before he became you?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” said Devvo, “because he’s got another character which is a Spanish footballer or an English footballer or something and that’s even worse. And he’s got a similar shirt on to mine, except mine I got from a charity shop about eight years ago for £3.”

“You did some TV stuff before the Lee Nelson character appeared on TV…” I prompted.

“Yeah. When we were filming some stuff for TV, they said to me: Why don’t we find somewhere in London that looks like Yorkshire and film down there? And that’s when I started to think You’re a set of knobheads because why don’t we just film it in Yorkshire?”

“Who was this for? Not the BBC?” I asked.

“No, it were for Funny Cuts on E4 a few years ago. I did it for Monkey Kingdom and it got the most views out of everything, but they just came and they said Right, we want some scripts now and I said We don’t do scripts and they suddenly all panicked and went in a flap and said What? You don’t do scripts and it’s in Yorkshire? Aaaaahhhhh!”

“But,” I asked, “if someone like BBC3 approached you, you’d still be happy to do television?”

“I would do, but I kinda stopped doin’ all me filming stuff a while ago because I just got bored. I thought Sod you all! Originally, we started doin’ things just for fun. People were filming me just for fun and then it got to a point where all these TV people were getting involved and then I suddenly thought I should be doin’ all this TV stuff now, because I’ve been given sommat! and then I took a step back and thought What? No! We were just doing stuff for fun and then TV tried to get its fucking claws into it and ruin everything, so I walked away from it and thought I’d just live me life, get me life tips ready and now I feel I’m just doin’ it for a laugh again.

“The Monkey Kingdom stuff’s been on E4 and Channel 4 and YouTube but now, if someone came to me with some TV stuff, if it don’t work out, I’ll just carry on doin’ me life tips in Yorkshire.”

“Can you develop the character into something else?” I asked.

“Probably. I could do owt. There are Waller FM podcasts on fat-pie.com and Devvo – me – I’m in there somewhere.”

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Filed under Comedy, Music, Television