BBC to broadcast The Festival Of Funny

Monday 15th February 2021, 9:47am

  • The Festival Of Funny will run across the BBC's TV, radio and iPlayer channels from late February to mid-March
  • Fourteen hours of new content will premiere, including new stand-up shows, pilots and documentaries
  • Tommy Cooper is to be celebrated, Harry Hill stars in a series of comedy shorts, and more
Tommy Cooper

The BBC has today announced The Festival Of Funny, a celebration of comedy across TV, radio and online that has the aim of "putting a smile on faces across the country".

The BBC says: "Beginning later in February and running through to mid-March, The Festival Of Funny will see an array of brand new comedy content across the BBC, as well as celebrating comedy classics and taking a look at some of the greatest icons in British comedy."

In total thee will be fourteen hours of new content during the season, including four comedy pilots for BBC Radio 2, a comedy pilot for BBC Three and a new stand-up strand. The corporation adds: "Viewers will also be treated to classics from some of the country's most loved comedians, favourites from the BBC comedy archive as well as an entire evening dedicated to Victoria Wood on BBC Two."

Commissioner Shane Allen says: "We're bringing together the very best of BBC Comedy past, present and future in a dedicated festival of funny to do comedy's job of bringing sunshine and laughter when we need it the most. Comedians have been starved of both stages and live audiences; it's important that we continue to back the stars of today and tomorrow as well as honour the beloved legends and shows that the BBC has always led the way with. Alongside the crucial support provided by Bitesize and Headroom, The Festival Of Funny is another vital BBC offering to celebrate the world renowned British sense of humour."

New BBC Two stand-up series

Stand Up For Live Comedy. Rachel Fairburn. Copyright: Phil McIntyre Entertainment

BBC Two will air Funny Festival Live, a new stand-up series over five consecutive nights from a covid-safe London location. The diverse line-up will see established comedians joined by new and emerging talent from all across the country.

Producers say: "Off the back of a hugely difficult year for stand-up, the series will support comedians in getting back to work and also provide a platform for emerging comedy talents who have not been able to follow their usual path of showcasing their work over the last twelve months."

Already confirmed to appear in the series are Jason Manford, Jo Brand, Darren Harriott, Dane Baptiste, Joanne McNally, Rachel Fairburn (pictured) and Chris McCausland.

Comedy shorts

Harry Hill

"To continue to support new and emerging talent, The Festival Of Funny will also present a comedy shorts showcase featuring a bold, contemporary collection of the silliest, most distinctive comedy short films. Platforming the next generation of comedy voices, the films show the wealth of exciting talent from emerging creatives all across the UK and beyond. The films will go out late night on BBC Two and also have a home on iPlayer."

Amongst them, Harry Hill will be writing, directing and starring in a series of four silent black and white comedies: Harry Hill's 4 Minute Wonders. Each short will see Harry in a different historical setting - from prehistoric times to the Napoleonic era - and take the comic back to his first television series, 1994's Harry Hill's Fruit Fancies. Broadcast on BBC Two, it consisted of six 15-minute dialogue-free, black and white comedies.

Stand-up shows

Rose Matafeo

A selection of previously recorded stand-up specials will sit on BBC iPlayer and be broadcast across various BBC channels.

Rose Matafeo: Horndog

Fern Brady: Power And Chaos

Dylan Moran: Off The Hook

Eddie Izzard: Force Majeure

John Cleese Live At The Acropolis

Stephen Merchant: Hello Ladies

Bill Bailey Limboland

Celebrating the comedy greats

Tommy Cooper. Tommy Cooper. Copyright: London Weekend Television

The Festival Of Funny will also showcase "the work of six of the country's most successful comedy greats, taking a deep dive into their lives and a look at some of their greatest work". This includes:

Tommy Cooper At The BBC: In the centenary of his birth, this programme takes a look at the unique comic genius of Tommy Cooper with a selection of clips from his appearances at the BBC, presented by Sir Lenny Henry.

Caroline Aherne At The BBC: Ground-breaking comic genius Caroline Aherne is celebrated in this selection of her work, including The Mrs Merton Show and The Royle Family. It will be presented by Fast Show colleague John Thomson.

Victoria At The Albert: Recorded at the Royal Albert Hall in 2001, Victoria Wood performs her At It Again stand-up show, showcasing her brilliantly penetrating observations on the mundanities of life.

Dave Allen: On Life: This special marks 50 years since Allen's seminal BBC series, Dave Allen At Large. In this broadcast premiere, Dave Allen presents a selection of his favourite monologues from across his career. Originally compiled for VHS release and armed with his trademark props, he sits on a stool, sips his whisky and reflects on the idiocies of life, meditating on everything from the process of ageing through to the invasive tendencies of the modern telephone.

Billy Connolly: Made In Scotland: Another chance to see the two-part series with intimate interviews with Billy Connolly, providing unique insight into the early influences and motivations that made this comedy legend the man he is today.

Radio 2 pilots

Across Saturday 6th and Sunday 7th March, BBC Radio 2 will broadcast four new comedy pilots, which will also be available afterwards on BBC Sounds.

They are:

Delightful Sausage. Image shows from L to R: Chris Cantrill, Amy Gledhill

The Delightful Sausage On Staycations

The Delightful Sausage - AKA Chris Cantrill and Amy Gledhill - are bringing their Edinburgh Fringe 'Best Show'-nominated double act to Radio 2 with a travelogue unearthing some of the UK's most unique staycations. The show finds them getting hot and bothered at a Dracula-themed B&B, sampling some eye-watering cuisines and having a truly unforgettable stay at a Yorkshire holiday camp.

Tommy Tiernan

Tommy Tiernan On: Beards

Stand-up comedian Tommy Tiernan is perplexed to find out "Just when does a beard become a beard?". To discover the answer, he roots about the facial hair of everyone from Roy Keane to Karl Marx in this half-hour of meditative comedy, "from one of the masters of the art".

Kiri Pritchard-McLean

Kiri Pritchard-McLean: Secret Desires

Kiri Pritchard-McLean explores all the things she's missed whilst living in isolation. Featuring audience stories, Kiri will unpick the awkward moments of life that we so weirdly desire... Hen do anyone?

Anuvab Pal

The Empire

A sitcom written by Anuvab Pal set in Imperial India where the new district magistrate of Darjeeling grapples with the responsibilities of his new post with the help - and sometimes hindrance - of his colleagues. The cast features Stephen Fry, Alexander Owen, Rasika Dugal, Anuvab Pal and Michelle Gomez.

Radio 4 stand-up shows

Eleanor Tiernan

Radio 4's Sunday night stand-up slot continues with the following new specials.

Eleanor Tiernan: Success Without A Sex Tape

Anna Morris: Kid-Life Crisis

Stephen Buchanan: Talking Shop

Borderline: A Postcard From The Edge Of The Union (Patrick Kielty)

Jacob Hawley: Class Act

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