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The Future of Sketch Comedy in Britain

Comedy changes and evolves and each new pioneer creates a new format or puts a brand new spin on an old format. So the question now is where do we go from here?

Comedy is like cheese. There are a few that are very popular, but everyone has a different favourite and some of them really stink!

And with so much dairy in the pantry these days, I thought I'd write a regular opinion piece about comedy.

"But who are you to judge?" you might be wondering.

Well, I have my own sketch show on BBC2 on Sunday evenings at 7.30pm called The Ginge, the Geordie and the Geek (plug plug plug), but that is not what qualifies me to talk about comedy. What really qualifies me is the fact that I like laughing. That's it.

There are plenty of 'industry' opinions out there for you to read; plenty of people telling you what you should think is funny because they are experts. Well I'm not an expert, I'm a punter. We're all punters. If you like cheese, you don't have to own a cow or a dairy to talk about it, right? So what I'm saying is, this blog will not try to be a definitive opinion or the oracle on comedy, in the way that reviewers try to be. This blog will be a mildly amusing philosophical rummage around the bottom of the comedy cupboard to see what we can find. It'll be positive and objective, because at the end of the day we're all in this together. We all want to laugh.

And with that less than elegant metaphor I'll stumble into my first blog...

Sketch comedy goes in cycles. It always has. The most recent shifts in my lifetime were from the 'safe' light entertainment style of The Two Ronnies and Morecambe and Wise (my biggest influences by the way) to the work of alternative comedians Alexi Sayle, Rik Mayall and co, then to the big character catchphrases of the Catherine Tate Show and Little Britain. Comedy changes and evolves and each new pioneer creates a new format or puts a brand new spin on an old format. So the question now is where do we go from here?

Well we have the parody sketch shows, but with modern technology making it accessible for anyone to throw a parody up on YouTube and with the reality shows becoming a parody of themselves, it's quite understandable that huge chunks of viewers simply turn over when that's what's on offer. Then there's the Radio 4 Oxbridge stuff for those that like their comedy 'highbrow', but what about for a mass audience? What's the future for that?

Well in another medium, sitcom, Mrs Brown's Boys has led the way in broad humour and I take my hat off to Brendan O'Carroll for making my parents light up for the first time in years when talking about comedy on TV. And it's this success that could influence main stream sketch comedy. By that, I don't mean producing a carbon copy of Mrs Brown's Boys' large character and innuendo in a sketch format. I just mean making something that isn't elitist and that is full of heart.

When did it become taboo to make your parents, kids and granny all laugh at the same time? Mrs Brown can do that in the sitcom medium so why can't someone do that in the sketch show medium? The truth is no one has tried it for quite a long time.

Populist and mainstream has become a dirty word and as it's easier to get a laugh with a cock joke or a swear word and in doing so, not get battered by the press; I can see why most comedians don't even bother trying to keep it clean or appeal to a wide demographic.

Now, I have to profess a vested interest and say that the sketch show I've co-created and star in, is aimed at a mainstream audience, however I'm not saying that mine will be the one to achieve it. It may not, but if it doesn't I'm hopeful that someone else will. So that come Christmas Day - probably not for a couple of years- I can sit down with my whole family and we can all enjoy a new sketch show together. And it doesn't have to be 'comedy by numbers' either. There is room for mainstream sketch comedy with big laughs for the whole family as well as surprise, originality, familiarity and vision.

When it arrives, there will be elements of the media that slag it for being 'tired' or 'dated' or 'unoriginal' or one of the other adjectives that the comedy elitists use when a new show doesn't tickle their particular 'intellectual' perception of what is funny in their sheltered little world. However, that's ok, as long as families up and down the country sit and watch and laugh then those elitist highbrow critics can sit in front of their TV's and chunter until their heart's content.

Cynicism can be healthy and productive, in the right situation, but it's not as enjoyable as laughter.

The Ginge, the Geordie and the Geek starts this Sunday (29th Sept) at 7.30pm on BBC2

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