Last year I was chatting to an effervescent bright young comic at a party when he mentioned that he was doing Mock the Week later in the week. As he said the words , I didn’t feel envy as I once might have done. The days when I thought that I might be a boon to the show , or the show a boon to me have long gone. I was just curious – “What does that pay these days ?” His answer surprised and mildly depressed me – “Oh I dunno. I end up spending nearly all of it on writers anyway”
That answer encapsulated for me why I find some TV comedy panel shows a difficult watch. The end product is often very entertaining. And there is no doubt about the amount of talent on display. But I would prefer to see a show that rewarded those acts who have taken it upon themselves to be topical comedians , rather than to be a showcase for those comedians who happen to have the right combination of agent , and perceived marketability , for whom writers can shore up that they don’t really follow the news.
This is not a bitter position. I had a shot , the pilot episode of League of Their Own , and I was frankly misbooked and hopeless. It is quite clear that when it comes to this sort of thing I do radio better than TV. It is more a lament that the stand ups that you see on television don’t even come close to representing the breadth of talent that there is out there. When people discuss , as they have been , that women are underrepresented on TV panel shows , they are missing a bigger point. Huge swathes of British comedy is underrepresented on TV panel shows. It has long been an agent’s game , leading to the establishment of a coterie of comedians who faces just fit , and a larger group of comedians with their noses pressed against the window , wondering when Lady Luck will finally be smiling on them.
I’d like to see more women on the shows. But more than that I’d like to see more comedians booked for their content alone rather than their position in comedy’s complex infrastructure. I believe that British comedy is far richer and more diverse than is reflected in the booking policy for these shows , however entertaining the end product may be.