Case study: The Now Show

Colin Anderson reveals the key elements of his role as producer of radio comedy series The Now Show, Radio 4’s weekly satirical news and current affairs programme.

Producing a radio comedy series like The Now Show, Radio 4’s weekly satirical news and current affairs programme, means being the grown up of the group, according to producer Colin Anderson. A producer needs to take responsibility for the show, to allow the performers, including regular cast members Hugh Dennis, Steve Punt, Jon Holmes, Mitch Benn and Laura Shavin, to be creative without breaking editorial guidelines, but also to make sure the show runs on time.

The production can be split splits into five parts: writing the script; the first reading of the script by the cast; a full rehearsal; performing and recording the show in front of an audience and finally editing it down ready to be broadcast the following day.

Writing
Colin and the writers meet every week to decide the topics that will form the main sections of the show performed by Steve and Hugh. They look through the week’s papers to see what’s dominating the news and suggest ideas. Audiences respond well to good topical references so it is worth getting the idea right. It’s the producer’s job to say whether the conversation is leading to a topic that the writers can work with or just an enjoyable diversion!

"He’s got to make sure he gets everyone to the studio on time and gets the show out... it’s a lot more grown up than anything we do." – Hugh Dennis

Reading
On the recording day the cast all meet up for the table read, where they read through the script for the first time. This is a chance for the cast to familiarise themselves with the script - they’ll only have two opportunities to read it through before they perform it live with an audience.

The producer’s role is to cast an eye over the monologues written by single performers on the show, such as Jon Holmes. The cast have the freedom to be creative and will try and get away with as much as they can, but it’s up to the producer to make sure it complies with editorial policy.

Rehearsal
The rehearsal is a chance for the comedians to perform the show as they would for the recording, allowing them to get their timings right and know where cues are for sound effects and music. It also gives the sound engineers a chance to practice sound effects and music cues, and allows Colin to make last minute changes to the script. 

Recording

The producer goes on stage at the start of the show to welcome the audience and to set up the show. "Even doing this warm up bit as the producer you'll sometimes get laughs and immediately you can feel that this crowd's really up for it." says Colin. " Usually the good shows are the shows where it's been like that from the start."

During the recording, Colin will sit in the production booth with two studio engineers controlling the desk and recording the show. His job is not only to enjoy the show but to look out for the edits, ticking parts of the script where there are big laughs. Not everything makes the final cut however. Once finished Colin will take away a copy of the recording and his notes ready for the edit.