Comedy supergroup head for a live Friday night reunion

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The Independent Online
Channel 4 is planning a "supergroup" of comedians in a reunion of one of its most influential comedy programmes as part of the celebrations of its 15th anniversary

The channel has asked Pozzitive Productions to try to gather Ben Elton, Harry Enfield, Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie together to record a special reunion of its Eighties comedy show Friday Night Live.

The 75-minute show, which is likely to be recorded as if live, is scheduled to be shown in December if the comedians, who have largely moved on from stand-up comedy and sketch shows, can clear their diaries on the same date.

Friday Night Live, produced by Geoffrey Perkins, now head of comedy at the BBC, attained considerable status during its heyday from 1986-88. Hosted by Ben Elton, it took the form of a cabaret show and launched the careers of a new type of politically correct but brash comedian.

The programme holds a special place in the heart of Channel 4 because it was the broadcasters first move into the realm of the alternative comedy that now makes up so much of its output.

"Since they last did the show they've all become so big and so famous getting them together will be a challenge," said Geoff Posner, the original director of the show.

"They're all like brand names now, writing books, plays and appearing in films. I don't think anybody quite realised the importance of what we had until after the show was finished."

Mr Posner, who was also the director of the innovative BBC alternative sitcom The Young Ones believes Friday Night Live can take some of the credit for the subsequent comedy club boom that rolled across Britain in the late Eighties and early Nineties. "Ten or 12 years ago there were very few comedy clubs in Britain and there was no real route for comedians to get exposure."

Les Keen, a stand up on the national circuit who is just breaking into TV agrees that Friday Night Live had a seminal influence on a generation of comedians: "It was that show that got me interested in doing that kind of comedy," he says. "Although there had been The Young Ones and The Comic Strip there hadn't really been any alternative stand up and there weren't any clubs to see it in. There's almost too much stand-up comedy on TV now which is a pity because it's hard to get it right and Friday Night Live's format has never really been bettered."

As well as boosting the career of Harry Enfield, whose Loadsamoney character was an enormous hit, the show was the first to air Julian Clary and Jo Brand, and it gave Paul Whitehouse and Charlie Higson of The Fast Show their first taste of writing.

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