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The Week in Comedy: The kids are all right with these big comic names


Apart from the occasional gift from the gods, such as current BBC1 pleasures Rev and W1A, primetime television comedy is often dull, disappointing or a dud. But children's TV is a different thing altogether, with some of the most consistently fresh and innovative comedy around.

The BBC pretty much has the genre to itself, as ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 don't put much – if any – effort into making or broadcasting programmes for children. But CBeebies (for nought- to six-year-olds) and its sister channel CBBC (for six- to 12-year-olds) have a whole raft of programming, much of it comedy with appeal beyond its target audience.

Horrible Histories is a case in point. CBBC has brought Terry Deary's educational books wonderfully to life – complete with fart jokes and comically gruesome deaths – and the shows have a large grown-up audience (possibly some under the guise of "I watch it with my children"). Adult fans – including Tanni Grey-Thompson, Amir Khan and the cast of The League of Gentlemen – are keen to appear on the show because it's such good fun. As League's Reece Shearsmith said: "There's not a weak link in it."

Other CBBC programmes attract big comedy names as writers or performers. Henry Winkler (aka The Fonz) created and stars as the title character's dad in Hank Zipzer; 4 O'Clock Club has fantastic raps by stand-up and rapper Doc Brown (who also plays the main character's older brother) while Richard Ayoade, fresh from directing The Double, joins other star names including Caroline Aherne and John Thomson, voicing characters in the animation series Strange Hill High.

It's also just been announced that Jason Donovan is to be a voice character in CBeebies' new cartoon Boj, about an Australian marsupial family in the Outback and – this will take some digesting – comic Matt King, better known as the quietly malevolent Super Hans in Peep Show, is currently developing a series for CBBC.