How does BBC Comedy find the funny in Edinburgh?

BBC's tented village The BBC will house all its own comedy in a tented festival village

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At Edinburgh Festival Fringe more than 2000 comedy shows and plays are performed over three weeks each August. For some in BBC Comedy it means preparing for a marathon viewing session. They tell Ariel why they bother.

'I fall asleep during a show at least once during the festival,' admits Victoria Lloyd, a producer in radio comedy. She insists it's not indicative to the quality of the show but more a result of cramming in as many shows as she can into a day.

'It's down to exhaustion and brain fog - when it's ten o'clock, your ninth show that day and you're kind of tired.'

Lloyd and her colleagues perform what she describes as a kind of relay where they each head up to Edinburgh for a four day stint to sit in darkened rooms listening to comedians trying to make it.

We are Klang Lloyd saw sketch group We Are Klang in Edinburgh and later produced their radio show

'Last year I saw 60 shows. Of that, a lot were bad. But you maybe see six or 10 really good things and of that, maybe one thing comes to the top.

'Ten or twelve producers are all doing the same as me so a surprising amount of stuff comes up that way.'

This year Lloyd is on the look-out for stand-up comedians and musical guests for Radio 4's satirical comedy The Now Show.

While that show is established, the team also scout out talent for completely new solo shows with a view to pitch the concepts to Radio 4 and even sometimes Radio 2 and 1. Lloyd is likely to produce two series of The Now Show a year and then four series of other shows.

People Lloyd has gone on to produce shows for after spotting them in Edinburgh include Nick Mohammed, sketch comedians Coward and comic trio We Are Klang.

Polished acts

With so much airtime up for grabs, the possibility of missing the next big thing could worry some.

But, considering the amount of talent selling their wares, Lloyd says 'you just have to accept you can't see everything'.

She does, however, approach the four days with military-like precision.

'I'm really tragically sad, I suspect a lot of people in the department are. I have an excel spread sheet that lists every show that I have an interest in seeing by date, time and venue. Then I plot in each day 'oh well I can see these six shows at this venue' and then the next day go to another venue and do the same thing.

'Trying to run venue to venue, that is madness.'

It's a pilgrimage Lloyd has been doing for eight years for Radio 4 and a further two years of her own accord. Despite this she says she's only walked out of one show in ten years of going.

'There's usually something of merit in everything you see,' she explains.

Lloyd is not necessarily looking for polished acts, instead keeping an eye on how people progress from one year to the next.

'Some things come to you fully formed and some things are a long conversation, and can take six months of development work.'

Long process
Hebburn on stage The writer of BBC Two comedy sitcom Hebburn started off on BBC Comedy Presents

If things seem to take a long time in radio, they take even longer in tv.

While the newer acts are extremely unlikely to be picked for tv stardom in Edinburgh, tv assistant producer for in-house tv comedy Simon Mayhew-Archer is also preparing for the trip up to Edinburgh. He says building up your exposure to what's out on the comedy scene makes the trip worth it.

Mayhew-Archer is no stranger to dealing with new comedy talent. He has worked on the Radio 4 Extra satirical news show Newsjack, which encourages members of the public to send in their sketches.

He also used to produce BBC Comedy Presents - the BBC's live comedy shows. This, he says, works as lots of comedians' first step in their relationship with the BBC.

Mayhew-Archer points out Comedy writer Jason Cook started off his link with the BBC performing at BBC Comedy Presents nights and went on to write BBC Two comedy Hebburn.

All the live stand-up shows under the 'BBC Comedy Presents' banner will bring the best of the Fringe into the BBC venue with nightly shows at 11pm for the 24 days.

For the second year running, they will be in a tented festival village which will house all the BBC's activities under one roof.

The tent won't just host new comedians but will offer masterclasses to show how more established acts put their shows together. BBC shows including Him & Her, Whites, Getting On and Cabin Pressure will reveal their writing secrets.

Another masterclass will be put on by BBC Radio 2 New Comedy Awards past winners to help people take their first steps in comedy.

Let's just hope they don't produce too many more comedians for these talent scouts to watch. There seem to have their work cut out already.

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