Behind the scenes of British comedy, two hard men fix the funny money

AVALON, THE comedy company at the centre of the storm when Frank Skinner fell out with the BBC this week, admitted yesterday that it is "ruthless and will stop at nothing" in pursuing its clients' best interests.

"As a management agent that is our job," said a company spokesman. "Our competitors in the industry say we drive a hard bargain but that is what our job involves - looking after the careers of our clients and nothing else." On Wednesdaythe BBC said Avalon was demanding pounds 20m for a five- year contract for Skinner to keep his chat show on BBC1.

Avalon was embroiled in a dispute at the Edinburgh Festival when another client, Al Murray, was excluded from the Perrier Prize shortlist because he was too well known. His agency protested and he was reinstated. Not only is Mr Murray, the eventual winner of the prize, a client, so too were two more of the six finalists.

Avalon was founded in 1988 by a former president of the Cambridge footlights, Jon Thoday. His first foray into showbusiness was promoting the West End show Nightclub Confidential. He lost pounds 400,000. To make money he then drifted into comedy, acting as an agent for a Spitting Image writer.

He was joined in the early Nineties by Richard Allen-Turner, a former entertainment manager at Middlesex Polytechnic, and the two decided on a strategy of promoting the shows that many of their clients appear in. They now run Britain's biggest live comedy promotions company, one of its biggest talent management agencies and a television production company.

This year Avalon Promotions will run close to 2,000 nights of live comedy, including the Carlsberg Ice Comedy Network, which operates in 40 venues around the country.

It was Avalon that took live comedy into the rock'n'roll age, promoting the Newman and Baddiel concert at Wembley Arena in 1994 and putting on Frank Skinner at Battersea power station in 1998.

The people on Avalon Management's books tend to be at a relatively formative stage of their career. As well as Skinner and Baddiel, clients include Harry Hill, Jenny Eclair, Stuart Lee, Richard Herring and Simon Munnery. It dominates the Edinburgh Fringe, while a rival agency such as PBJ Management, which handles the likes of Rowan Atkinson, Harry Enfield, Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer, has a stronger grip on more established talent. Avalon Television's big hits have been the Fantasy Football League on both BBC and ITV and Frank Skinner's chat show, which was getting a 40 per cent audience share by the end of its last run.

Despite all the headlines referring to Skinner's demands, there are some in the industry who believe the BBC's highly public falling out with Avalon was done to pre-empt the corporation attracting flak for losing another big star.

Television comedy costs about pounds 200,000-plus per show to produce and the pounds 20m Avalon was asking for included the cost of making the show - it was not all Skinner's fee. As such it was not much more than many other BBC stars receive.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
techApp to start sending headlines, TV clips and ads to your phone
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift crawls through the legs of twerking dancers in her 'Shake It Off' music video
musicEarl Sweatshirt thinks so
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan in What If
filmReview: Actor swaps Harry Potter for Cary Grant in What If
News
Our resilience to stress is to a large extent determined by our genes
science
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Principal Arboricultural Consultant

£35000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Principal Arboricu...

Trainee Digital Forensic Analyst

£17000 - £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Trainee Digital Fo...

Planning Manager (Training, Learning and Development) - London

£35000 - £38000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glob...

Asset Finance Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - ASSET FINANCE - An outstanding...

Day In a Page

Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment