Ian Burrell: Revealed - what makes a comedy boss laugh

Ian Burrell@iburrell
Monday 27 May 2013 00:43

Media studies Not much gets past BBC's head of comedy Shane Allen, who has a stern warning for all "laugh manufacturers" at the BBC, as set out in an email which has been leaked to me.

"I know you're all dignified and respectful professionals who wouldn't re-pitch previously rejected projects," he says. "Warning – you could be subject to a £1,000 fine for fly-tipping any old script mattresses and washing machines."

Aside from this harrumph, Allen brims with enthusiasm for his new role (having jumped ship from Channel 4) and sets out in detail his vision for bringing humour to the various BBC channels.

BBC1, he says, is "the least pitched and most watched" channel, reflecting the fear in the television comedy community of the "huge glare" faced by new shows on that network. Allen recommends the "soft launch" of the 10.30pm slot, which worked for Mrs Brown's Boys. He is excited about BBC1's upcoming Car Share sitcom, starring Peter Kay, a silent comedy from Matt Lucas and a sitcom written by David Walliams.

By contrast, BBC2 is "the most pitched of all places". Allen hopes for a "return to big daft classic form for BBC2" in the shape of House of Fools from Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer, and Count Arthur Strong who transitions from Radio 4 (hooray from me on that) to the 8.30pm slot.

For BBC3, Allen (who was at the centre of Frankie Boyle controversy at C4) wants "more subversive or outlandish ideas". BBC4 he sees as "a growth platform for BBC2", an opportunity for "those ideas that needed time to grow".

He's less positive about radio where he admits to be "digging away slowly and not so surely" after six months in post. "Financially you're looking at [£]11/12k an [episode] which isn't get rich quick money but it's worth considering", he tells scriptwriters.

Overall, in an era when all media platforms want humour to lighten the mood, Allen and those who depend on him are well-placed. "Basically," he says, "in comedy land we're going to be ok in the future as we're a much sought genre."

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