Phil Cornwell: Log on and have a good laugh

The comedian Phil Cornwell talks about taking his 'Billy and Dave' sketches to an internet audience
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The Independent Online

The two projects that I am working on at the moment - one that's on television, Stella Street, and the other on the internet, Billy and Dave - both rely upon new technology.

The two projects that I am working on at the moment - one that's on television, Stella Street, and the other on the internet, Billy and Dave - both rely upon new technology.

Stella is about to start a third series in October, and it'll be the second series that we've filmed with digital cameras. The Billy and Dave sketch show has recently moved to the Net, having built up a cult following while airing on Steve Wright's Radio 1 show. Both projects are quite surreal.

The idea and format of Billy and Dave is perfect for the internet. It's about two cockney boys living in a complete fantasy world, talking about all the wonderful things they are going to do but never get round to doing. Very quickly we can knock out half a dozen three-minute self-contained vignettes because it's all talking and improvising. It's organic, like the internet, and the bitesize portions are just right for the amount of time most people want to spend on one thing on the internet.

On the technical side, using digital cameras makes everything more spontaneous, which is refreshing, and there is also a different dynamic in a film crew. For instance, I am allowed to have a little play with the equipment because we only need a very small crew. Because there are fewer cameras and less equipment, it's less frightening to learn how to use the equipment. It empowers me. You spend a lot of time as a comedian being powerless over decision-making. Digital technology and the internet are especially good for helping us comedians to do our thing.

The Web television channel is the brainchild of comedy actor Robert Llewellyn ( Red Dwarf) and the Computer Warehouse entrepreneur Jonathan Cole. They have been joined by Nigel Planer ( The Young Ones) and myself. What I especially like about broadcasting on the internet as opposed to television is not having to write a treatment in order to get a commission and then having to sit around for six months only to have it turned down. Showing on this site cuts out the middle man, so the internet is a great outlet in that respect.

While it's early days for a comedy channel on the Net - no-one knows if it'll work - it wasn't hard deciding to get involved. I met another comedian running stuff on the site in the street and said, d'ya fancy doing stuff? Billy and Dave was the first thing that sprung to mind as easy to transfer to that medium.

Technology is advancing and it will probably be better in a few years time, and that's what I find exciting because it feels quite pioneering. The digital filming looks very sexy now. The cameras are lovely bits of equipment - light, transportable and state-of-the-art. You can really see the difference in quality. For the first series of Stella, we filmed with a Hi 8 camera and we wanted it to look raw and rough, but now that we use digital, it's got that element but much higher production values. However, I don't think it's as cheap, because the digital cameras are expensive.

I'm not a big techno man, yet, and I'm actually a bit fearful. It's crazy, I know there's no real myth to it. So I'm doing stuff on the internet partly to force me to confront something I know that I can't avoid.

In the future, who knows? At the moment, the Billy and Dave show is just an internet animal, but we could easily broaden it out, and it would definitely work on television. The appeal of the internet is that it enables me to initiate work. Of course, making money would be nice, but it's not my primary concern right now, strangely enough.

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