It’s not a question for you, but the title of the prestigious annual stand-up comedy competition for new acts. I’m a big fan of stand-up and had the pleasure of some great contestants taking part in the competition last week at the Bethnal Green Backyard Comedy Club.
The big break
Speaking to a couple of the competitors it was striking by how easy it was to get started in comedy. But, as easy as it is to start, making a big break is notoriously difficult. One of the biggest challenges is getting noticed and building any sort of fan base.
An under-served genre
To me, stand-up is a massively underserved area in the TV industry. Broadcasters and SVoD channels could be doing so much more to help nurture the next generation of comedic talent.
The likes of Russell Howard’s Good News should be applauded for giving a platform to upcoming comedians – it was through his show that I discovered the brilliant John Robbins, and subsequently my now favourite podcast – the Ellis James and John Robbins Show on Radio X.
More needs to be done
It shouldn’t be a case of established comedians helping out their mates though. Broadcasters need to be doing more.
Netflix’s stand-up comedy is heavily skewed by big names, generally from America. It is also very difficult to separate the good from the bad. There doesn’t seem to be any editorial curation of the content. All of this combined makes discovering anything new and exciting, tedious and difficult.
The BBC has its Live At the Apollo series, which it uses to introduce audiences to new performers. It has a couple of other shows and also uses Radio 4 in particular to help with testing out new comics.
Issues with representation
But how representative of the world is the slate of comics the likes of the BBC uses? Its policy of ensuring the likes of Have I got News For You aren’t all male panels should say enough. There are plenty of brilliant female performers, but they don’t have the profile to get on the major shows. Same story for those of different classes, sexuality, politics and ethnicity.
It was heartening to hear of the recent launch of Next Up, a SVoD platform dedicated to providing a huge range of never before seen stand-up content from gigging comedians. It is a great new revenue stream for the performers, gives them the chance to start building and connecting with fans, and with this a reputation which makes people want to see them live.
Ideas like this are bringing the genre into the modern era. The major channels can do more, but it is exciting to see other players getting involved and helping to make people laugh.
By Xander Ross, Junior Account Manager at Franklin Rae