Taking YouTube comedy out of the hands of amateurs

Leading producers Pozzitive Comedy are tired of badly made online clips, they tell Ian Burrell

The sight of Harry Enfield butt naked on stage in an unorthodox tribute to the scale of Napoleon Bonaparte’s cojones, and Marcus Brigstocke heading off to Glastonbury in the guise of hapless toff Giles Wemmbley-Hogg, are two great comedy moments that have never made it to DVD.

But fear not, humour fans. Both of these mirth-generating episodes are now available on what will be a one-stop shop for those who love classic British sitcom and sketch shows. Pozzitive Comedy is a new online channel created by two producers responsible for much of what has made us laugh on television or radio in the past two decades.

David Tyler and Geoff Posner have been behind the output of Steve Coogan, Paul Merton, Armando Iannucci, the Little Britain boys and Victoria Wood. But while they have decided to create an archive of their work on YouTube, they are not prepared to entrust the uploading of material to those members of the public who have previously taken it upon themselves to perform such tasks.

According to Tyler, clips are often uploaded in the wrong “aspect ratio”, meaning those pictured are given a thin face (“which is delightful if you’re a pudgy comedian trying to look stylish, but is intensely irritating to us; it’s like watching it on your gran’s telly”). Sometimes the film is wrongly cropped, so “they cut the sides off as someone is bringing in some hilarious prop”.

This is vexing to people who dedicate their lives to the finest details of comedy. Other amateur editors manage to miss the best punch line, he says.

“Selecting the best clip is a black art, but an absolutely joyous one. You finish on the funniest joke – it’s a really easy rule – finish on a big laugh and cut.”

Tyler and Posner have already dedicated a significant portion of their lives into logging details of their vast output on their pozzitive.co.uk website, which features inside information on 76 television and radio series they produced, along with 570 photographs and 70 audio clips. Tyler personally wrote out the credits to every show. “It took me 18 months,” he says. “Every show we’ve done is listed by title, however obscure. It ranges from ‘How brilliant’ to ‘Oh, that one’.”

The YouTube channel will run alongside the main website, featuring stars like Coogan in Paul & Pauline Calf’s Video Diaries and cult favourites such as Seven Days, which ran on BBC3. “We’ve got great stuff like Marcus Brigstocke’s Giles Wemmbley-Hogg Goes Off to Glastonbury, which is a one-off half hour, so you can’t really put it out on DVD but everyone is always asking for it. And the notorious Harry Enfield Napoleon big bollocks sketch, which went out as a never-to-be-repeated show on BBC4 and will not be put out on DVD. That’s not one you’d want to get the wrong aspect ratio on believe me.”

Pozzitive are also considering the inclusion on the YouTube channel – possibly with montages of photographs – of the pair’s radio output, including such shows as The 99p Challenge, which featured Simon Pegg, Peter Serafinowicz and Nick Frost.

Tyler is not opposed to the YouTube tradition of mashing up a clip. “That’s creative and no one’s making money – they’re just doing it because it’s a blast. It’s different to copyright theft. I feel strongly to the point of derangement that if someone makes something they should be getting royalties and if they are not then that’s stealing.”

The Pozzitive Comedy channel is not expected to be an earner in itself, but Tyler hopes it will generate money indirectly. “[We hope] people will think ‘I’d like to watch the whole thing’, and go back to the site and see if it’s available on DVD and if it isn’t will ring the BBC and say, ‘Can you stick this out on DVD because it’s really good’.”

Meanwhile, Pozzitive continues to produce new material, starting with a second series for Radio 4 of the airline-based comedy Cabin Pressure, written by John Finnemore.

Another upcoming Radio 4 project, written by stand-ups Nick Doody and Matt Kirshen, is called Bigipedia. “It’s sort of like Wikipedia on the radio, as if Radio 4 has been taken over by this monstrous Wikipedia-style encyclopaedia of everything,” says Tyler. “It’s very different and I’m not sure whether the world is ready for it yet, but they’re getting it whether they’re ready or not.” For the great archivists at Pozzitive it sounds like the perfect theme.

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