Tuesday, 4 December 2012

The comedy award that many comedians cannot win

I found myself having a tiny tantrum on Twitter today. Alliteration aside, I was venting my spleen about nominations for the British Comedy Awards 2012. I have no issue with the people who have been put forward - I was delighted to see the brilliant Moone Boy up for two awards - but I do have an axe to grind with the organisers.

What decade are you living in?

If these awards are meant to represent the best of Bristish comedy then where are the categories for radio or podcast or other online productions?

If they were called the British Television Comedy Awards then I'd have no issue. But they're not. They purport to be the British Comedy Awards - the best of British comedy. So, to my mind, they should be celebrating comedy across all media not just TV. And, frankly, a lot of the best comedy is not on TV. On radio you'll find shows like Bleak Expectations, now in its fifth series on Radio 4 - a show, incidentally, that tried to transfer to TV and wasn't as funny. Radio has all the best pictures you see. Then there are the perennial favourites (some of which are so popular they've been on air for 40 years!) like The Now Show, The News Quiz, Infinite Monkey Cage, Heresy, I'm Sorry I haven't a Clue, The Museum of Curiosity, The Unbelievable Truth, Just a Minute and the many, many wonderful comedy plays and dramas that appear on the BBC? And let's not forget that radio is also the proving ground for many shows that do eventually transfer to TV successfully. Without radio there would be no Sarah Millican's Support Group, The Thick of It, The League of Gentlemen, Little Britain, Harry Hill, Lee and Herring's Fist of Fun, The Day Today, I'm Alan Partridge, etc.

But lest you think it's all about the BBC, what about all the great stuff that turns up on indie stations like Resonance FM's John Dredge's Nothing to Do wit Anything or Kevin Eldon's Speakers series? Or Frank Skinner's and Dave Gorman's shows on Absolute Radio? Or XFM's Marsha meets ...? Then there are the podcasts like Do the Right Thing, Adam and Joe, David Mitchell's Soapbox, The Ricky Gervais Show, The Onion, The Collings and Herrin Podcast, Helen and Ollie's Answer me this and all of the odd stuff that Peter Serafinowicz and Robert Popper put out periodically. Just visit the iTunes store and type 'comedy podcast' into the search box and you'll find hundreds of great products, many of them free. And I haven't even touched all the great comedy on YouTube and the many other free video channels.

And, while we're at it, what about books and audiobooks? You can't tell me that Steve Coogan's performance reading I, Partridge isn't one of the best comedy performances of 2012. It absolutely is. And what about theatre?

We live in a brave new world of multimedia. So why don't the British Comedy Awards? Why are they fixated on one form of media? If their argument is that non TV-based comedy is less well known, then they could do a great deal to change that. Exposure during such a prestigious event would create a whole new audience for these wonderful shows. Mind you, I'm pretty sure that some podcasts and radio shows already get more 'viewers' than some TV comedy shows. Like him or loathe him, the record-breaking Ricky Gervais podcasts were downloaded by the millions.

Maybe the British Comedy Awards should just be for TV. Then we can have a proper awards ceremony that celebrates brilliant, innovative, hilarious British comedy in all its various forms and across a myriad of platforms.

I'd rather listen to Pappy's Flatshare Slamdown than watch Kookyville any day of the week. But only one of those would be eligible for a comedy award it seems.

And it isn't the funny one.

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