Network: My Technology: Logging on for laughs

Where can you go for good comedy? Griff Rhys Jones reveals how a theatre fundraising project inspired him to create a comedy magazine online
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The Independent Culture
We decided in the process of raising money for Hackney Empire, to publish a comedy book, but were having trouble getting a distributor, and thought, why not put all our material on the Net? The book is now selling at WH Smith's, and the Not the Millennium website has helped set us off to do something like a British version of the US comedy site The Onion.

Currently, it's a commerce site that directly helps the Hackney Empire; you can buy tickets and merchandise, or donate money, or buy a "Knighthood to the Empire". We're selling tickets to the Not the Millennium concert, which is a spoof concert with big stars like Pink Floyd and Paul McCartney kindly agreeing not to perform.

The site is also updated fortnightly with comedy, and since it began we've added other writers.

We are thinking about the possibilities for a comic magazine specifically for the Internet. The Not the Millennium website is an experimental period to help kick off the magazine at the same time as fund-raise for the Hackney Empire.

We are looking at how people use entertainment during the day. My feeling is that over the next few years there will be more programmes broadcast on the Net, primarily because you can broadcast without a licence on the Internet. The Net is going to change a lot of the current ways of doing television.

We're working on a quick-fix entertainment because we think that daytime television never took off, as most people don't have the time to watch television during the day. Instead, people are working, and perhaps would like to find something amusing on a website, maybe a 30-second video.

I don't think that people want more and more choice - I think they want a guide. So we are saying that the site has all this stuff, as well as a favourite that you can quickly look up. We want to form an umbrella site for comedy writers and performers. People like to pick up individual things from the Internet and pass them around, and this will be a source.

I think digital technology will move along the lines of allowing you to choose when and what to watch. In a short while everything will be in one place - games, computer, Internet and TV. So what will change is how we present stuff on the Net: we'll no longer want to look at a lot of writing and we'll demand clearer pictures. Information will adapt to television rather than the other way round because we'll be using the Internet from the sofa.

It's interesting that comedy magazines have never really hit it off. Apart from Viz or Private Eye, there aren't many pure comedy magazines. But all our comedians are experienced with working on the Internet, and see the Net as potentially the future for a magazine format. Certainly as a production company, it's something we need to get involved with.

Of course it's difficult to tell because, we don't know. So we are trying to get in there, and get our foot in the door. But I realise that the Internet has already become crowded very quickly.