"It's time to shake up British comedy!"

Image shows left to right: Lucy Regent, Freya Bennett

In this piece, Pro members Lucy Regent and Freya Bennett talk us through their burgeoning collaboration, sparked at our Big Comedy Conference - and their huge ambitions.

It was March 2024 and the patriarchy was in full swing; Jeremy Hunt was presenting to the government the latest economic implications of their annual omnishambles programme. The US election machine was soldiering on under an ever-present shadow, looming large and orange. Oppenheimer was sweeping the Oscars. And, perhaps most importantly, the time had come again for the annual BCG Big Comedy Conference.

Amongst the throng of comedy creatives were Lucy Regent (chronically unable to go five seconds without striking up a conversation) and Freya Bennett (had a red clown nose stowed in her bag and was praying she wouldn't have to use it). Both had made long journeys to be there, both were experienced writers on the cusp of the elusive 'big break', and both could've done with just a little more sleep.

Before long, Lucy had succumbed to her chronic condition and they had struck up a conversation. For both of them, this was their first introduction of the day - and, as it transpired, no other networking was needed. Inseparable for the rest of the conference, they traded Percy Pigs and aspirations as they debated all things comedy.

Big Comedy Conference 2024. Image shows left to right: Jason Cook, Lee Mack
Big Comedy Conference 2024. Image shows left to right: Jason Cook, Lee Mack

Throughout their discussions, it became clear that both Lucy and Freya shared not only similar tastes in the programmes they enjoyed (female-driven, character-driven, gag-driven) but also in the impact they both wanted to have on the industry itself. With the undeniable successes of recent programmes such as Ghosts and Derry Girls, they agreed there was still a demand for bold, characterful situation comedy that pays homage to the slapstick and risqué humour that is the signature of the classic sitcom. What they also acknowledged, dispiritingly, was the lack of risk being taken in the industry platforming new and emerging talent.

Between them, they had broadcast credits and a multitude of film festival award wins and nominations under their belts. They had put in the work, they had sacrificed, and they had earned their stripes - and yet, they were both trapped in the same cycle, knocking on the same hardwood doors.

Of course, there are those that break through, with the critically lauded Big Boys by Jack Rooke on Channel 4 and Things You Should Have Done by the brilliant Lucia Keskin on BBC Three being examples of new talent making it into the mainstream broadcasters. But this, they feared, was becoming rarer by the year and, thus, an industry that has always tried to champion emerging talent is now at risk of being navigated by the same voices, faces and perspectives. But rather than commiserate further, Lucy and Freya set out on a mission.

Derry Girls. Image shows from L to R: Clare Devlin (Nicola Coughlan), Michelle Mallon (Jamie-Lee O'Donnell), Erin Quinn (Saoirse-Monica Jackson), Orla McCool (Louisa Harland), James Maguire (Dylan Llewellyn)
Derry Girls. Image shows from L to R: Clare Devlin (Nicola Coughlan), Michelle Mallon (Jamie-Lee O'Donnell), Erin Quinn (Saoirse-Monica Jackson), Orla McCool (Louisa Harland), James Maguire (Dylan Llewellyn)

"Why wait until being on the other side of success to change things?", they decided. Together, they have vowed to shake up British Comedy - and they're doing it in the best way they know how.

They decided to collaborate and, with a plethora of ideas in their pockets, they quickly landed on one. After swiftly getting to work, their new sitcom treatment is complete - with a pilot script quick to follow. Lucy and Freya instinctively know what audiences want; not more of the same, per se, but to see the beats that made them laugh when they were younger, reimagined in new and exciting ways. The sitcom hits many of the desirable qualities recently expressed by Jon Petrie (Director of Comedy at the BBC) - their show is regional, has a high laugh rate and, most importantly, champions new talent and emerging performers in British comedy - no matter their background.

An important facet of Lucy and Freya's mission was to also provide training opportunities behind the camera as well as in front. A recent study by Channel 4 news that found working class creatives in UK film and TV are at the lowest level in a decade, currently making up less than 10% of the overall workforce. Similarly, women who are able to build sustainable careers in the industry are becoming scarcer, with cyclical sexism still being sadly all too prevalent in a post-Me Too world.

But fear not - these are two women who will not leave you out in the cold, they will open the door when talent comes knocking. They both carry the notion of melding the old with the new, the classic with the remix, and they're going to do it while taking as many talented individuals along with them as humanly possible. So, sit back, enjoy - and watch this space.

Published: Tuesday 11th June 2024
BCG Pro logo

This article is provided for free as part of BCG Pro.

Subscribe now for exclusive features, insight, learning materials, opportunities and other tools for the British comedy industry.