DMs Are Open. Image shows from L to R: Athena Kugblenu, Ali Shahalom
DMs Are Open

DMs Are Open

  • Radio sketch show
  • BBC Radio 4 Extra
  • 2022
  • 6 episodes (1 series)

A sketch show hosted by Athena Kugblenu and Ali Official that accepts submissions from the public. Also features Ali Shahalom.

Athena Kugblenu and Ali Official interview

DMs Are Open. Image shows from L to R: Ali Shahalom, Athena Kugblenu

DMs Are Open is the new radio series showcasing comedy written by the public. Hosts Athena Kugblenu and Ali Official explain more...

Hi. What can people expect of DMs Are Open?

Athena: It's a fast-paced sketch show written by the Great British public. People can expect a weekly review that isn't just restricted to what's been in the papers; we'll be looking for submissions on things that have been trending online too - from the latest Netflix comedian to get cancelled, to climate change. Basically, in 30 minutes, Ali Official and I are going to present a neatly wrapped up digest of a week on planet Earth.

Ali: Every show, our aim is to find the funny in the world's week of good, bad and the messy middle. That's everything from politics to pop culture. Rising house prices to Ramadan. E.On Energy to Elon Musk.

Are you looking forward to hosting the shows?

Ali: I'm super excited! It's a massive privilege to be a part of such a comprehensive BBC show. I come from a predominantly digital comedy background (@aliofficialuk - shameless plug), so I'm excited to explore ways of modulating humour from a mainly visual channel to humour on an audio platform.

Athena: I'm especially looking forward to hanging out with Ali Official. I will spend the whole time begging him to cast me in one of his Instagram or TikTok sketches. I think he wants me to audition though, which is rude!

Have you done any testing/piloting of the format, ahead of the first episode official?

Athena: Yep. The 20+ seasons of Newsjack were a dress rehearsal for this.

Ali: We recorded a pilot to test different formats and styles. Long story short, we've now got 6 episodes commissioned that'll go out every week!

DMs Are Open. Image shows from L to R: Athena Kugblenu, Ali Shahalom

The show will have topical elements... do you keep on top of the news normally?

Athena: Yes, to my detriment. Celeb gossip, make-ups and break-ups, politics, international news, fashion, sport, music, film - I am an uber consumer of news and culture. To be honest this is the worst gig imaginable for an addict like me, I should be hosting something where you don't need to know anything about the outside world. Like Countdown. Or Celebrity Juice.

Ali: We're also interested in exploring stories that don't make the headlines. Conversations that are happening in pubs and mosques, that random thread on Twitter or Reddit. Or something personal that's happened to me or Athena. We're trying to shine a light on those things as well as conventional news headlines.

Anyone can write for the show. That's exciting! Do you have any tips for those looking to submit material?

Athena: The most obvious tip is BE FUNNY. A joke a page is good, get three on a page then we can really talk. Be concise and end on a laugh. Better to burn out than to fade away. Like how Man City got kicked out of the Champions League this year. It was way more entertaining that way, right? Same applies to sketch comedy too.

Ali: Be you first, be funny second. The best way to stand out is to write a joke about a topic no one else is talking about. When those things align, it creates great material.

Athena: Also, as we're accepting sketches on a much broader range of topics, think about how well known your content is to the listener. Will you need some funny exposition to bring us up to speed? We all know who Greta Thunberg is, but fewer people know who John Sauven is. If he's been up to something interesting you may have to tell us who the heck he is first.

What would your dream headline be to talk about?

Athena: Serena Williams getting that 24th singles Grand Slam. Not because I want to write a sketch on it, I just want her to win that final one so badly. I also want Andy Murray to have an amazing tournament run, just so he can go out on a high. Tennis and fairytales. I love them both.

Ali: "Eid is now officially a public holiday".

Athena: It would be nice if scientists found out crisps make you live longer. Because I like crisps.

With the shows being created weekly, it's going to be a pretty intense six weeks ahead for you. Are you ready?

Ali: It is indeed. We write the show on Monday and Tuesday, record it on Wednesday and it goes out on Thursday. That's an extremely tight and intense schedule. But when you're in a profession you love, work feels like playtime. I'm looking forward to all the new and existing listeners tuning into the show.

Athena: We're not the ones writing it. The question is: are YOU ready?

See also: Interview with producers Sadia Azmat and Rajiv Karia

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