The accidental humorist

His name will be on the credits of Steve Coogan's new show tonight. Lucky Coogan: Geoff Posner is Britain's most successful comedy director. By Robert Hanks

Posner, you're probably saying... why does that name sound familiar? The answer is that you have seen his name on the credits of countless television comedies. What Ken Morse is to the rostrum camera, Geoff Posner is to directing comedy.

It's not an exaggeration to say that he is the most successful comedy director in Britain; a glance at his cv will confirm that. Starting with Not the Nine O'Clock News in the early Eighties, he has directed practically every key comedy programme of the past 12 years - The Young Ones, Carrott's Lib (a Bafta), Saturday Live (and its companion show Friday Live), almost everything Victoria Wood has ever done (three Baftas), the early series of The Lenny Henry Show, French and Saunders, the first ever Reeves and Mortimer show for Channel 4, Steve Coogan (another Bafta for last Christmas's Pauline Calf wedding video)...

Along the way, he's been in on the ground floor of the TV careers of Harry Enfield, Ben Elton, Julian Clary, Fry and Laurie - the list drags on. His latest project is Coogan's Run - six playlets featuring Steve Coogan doing his "Man with a Thousand Faces" act. If there is such a thing as a comedy establishment, it was largely Posner who established it.

Posner himself, while hardly shy and retiring, is modest about his achievements, talking about them in terms of chance. He just happened to be in the right place at the right time. For instance, he only got drafted into doing the final series of Not the Nine O'Clock News because a shift of department heads pushed Bill Wilson on to something else.

While working on that series, he just happened to hear a horrifying shriek in the editing suite next door. Checking on what was going on, he found Paul Jackson at work on the first episode of The Young Ones (the shriek was Rik Mayall doing Rik Mayall-type comedy). "Fancy a go?" asked Jackson. Posner leapt at it, launching himself squarely into the Eighties alternative comedy scene.

There is clearly something more than luck at work in his career, though. For one thing, there's sheer tenacity. He was at the BBC for about seven years, working his way up from floor assistant, before he got to be a director. He had decided that directing was what he wanted to do when he was 12, and spent his evenings at home in Finchley watching Top of the Pops to check the editing and the camera angles. "I set myself a target when I was 13," he says. "By the age of 30 - which when you're 13 is like one step from the grave - I wanted to direct, I thought. I made it by about three days."

When he was 16, he wrote to the producer of Thank Your Lucky Stars to ask the best route into TV. The reply was that he should go to university first; he slogged off to Essex to read sociology. This was possibly the one shaping coincidence of his career. Granted, there wasn't the big Oxbridge comedy tradition to help him, but it may well have been the radicalising influence of Essex in the Sixties that prepared him for working with the alternative comedians of the Eighties.

Certainly, he has always tried to work within guidelines (non-racist, non-sexist) which have put him at odds with more old-fashioned comics. One of the main reasons for his leaving the BBC and setting up his own company, Pozzitive, was his frustration at being forced to work with a comedian who didn't follow those rules.

The other factor you have to bring into the equation is talent. His fellow professionals speak of him in terms tinged with envy. John Lloyd, co-producer of Not the Nine O'Clock News, talks of his "finely tuned taste". "He's just incapable, given a good script, of doing it badly. Look at things like Acorn Antiques - it's faultlessly shot and put together. Also, you would have to be an idiot not to get on with him."

Paul Jackson, the man who introduced him to The Young Ones, and now a managing director of Carlton Television, calls him "the most inventive, challenging picture director in British television. He works well with actors, story and technical team, but so do half a dozen other people. What they can't match is the sheer verve of his visual flair."

He recalls seeing Posner directing live music for Saturday Live: "He would call 50 or 60 shots for a two- or three-minute musical number. People spend four days in editing to get it right - Geoff did it live. Frame- accurate is one 25th of a second; I don't suppose Geoff was ever more than four frames out."

Is there anything this wonderman can't do? Be funny, perhaps? Posner says: "Everybody assumes that just because you're in comedy, you must be hilarious. Well, we're not. That's the reason why we're producers and directors and not appearing in front of camera, I guess." You suspect this is modesty again - isn't he really a funny person manque?Quick as a flash, he retorts: "Don't you call me a manque." This is the true secret of his success - above all, he's a man who knows his own weaknesses.

n 'Coogan's Run' starts tonight, 9.30pm BBC2; 'Not the Nine O'Clock News' is running on Fridays, 9pm BBC2; 'Victoria Wood - As Seen on TV', Sunday, 9pm BBC2; 'The Young Ones', Thursday, 9.30pm BBC2

and what's more...

Fashion houses are dropping supermodels in favour of "real" people (for reasons of cost, suggest the cynics). Is theatre going the same way? The London production of the musical version of Tommy by the Who will star "cockney-born, 19-year-old unknown Paul Keating", currently workng in his local branch of Tesco. When Ken Russell made his film version in 1975, it starred Roger Daltrey, whose cinematic career took off in no uncertain terms. Why, he even starred in Lisztomania...

Arts and Entertainment
Russell Tovey, Myanna Buring and Julian Rhind Tutt star in Banished

TV reviewGrace Dent: Jimmy McGovern's new drama sheds light on sex slavery in the colonies

Arts and Entertainment
Australia's Eurovision contestant and former Australian Idol winner Guy Sebastian

Eurovision 2015Australian Idol winner unveiled as representative Down Under

Arts and Entertainment
Larry David and Rosie Perez in ‘Fish in the Dark’
theatreReview: Had Fish in the Dark been penned by a civilian it would have barely got a reading, let alone £10m advance sales
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Former Communards frontman Jimmy Somerville
music
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl
filmFirst look at Oscar winner as transgender artist
Arts and Entertainment
Season three of 'House of Cards' will be returning later this month
TV reviewHouse of Cards returns to Netflix
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford will play Rick Deckard once again for the Blade Runner sequel
film review
Arts and Entertainment
The modern Thunderbirds: L-R, Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon and John in front of their home, the exotic Tracy Island
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
    Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

    Lost without a trace

    But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
    Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

    Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

    Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
    International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
    Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

    Confessions of a planespotter

    With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
    Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

    Russia's gulag museum

    Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
    The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

    The big fresh food con

    Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
    Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

    Virginia Ironside was my landlady

    Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
    Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

    Paris Fashion Week 2015

    The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
    8 best workout DVDs

    8 best workout DVDs

    If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
    Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

    Paul Scholes column

    I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
    Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
    Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

    Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

    The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable