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24 September 2014
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BBC Northern Ireland Comedy
The Give My Head Peace Christmas Special attracted an audience of 233,000

BBC Northern Ireland Comedy


There's no business like the funny business


Jackie Hamilton, Executive Producer, Comedy Unit, BBC Northern Ireland, writes


"'The funny business' - a throwaway line often used to describe the silliness of the world in which my team and I work.


"However, to succeed in providing audiences with relevant shows which stand the test of time, we must get both the 'funny' and the 'business' right.


"Much of the past two years - since the birth of the Comedy Unit - has been about ensuring that we are the first port of call for emerging and established comedy talent when it comes to talking about their new ideas.


"We like to think of ourselves as a hub which offers support, guidance and direction to talent, based on an understanding of the different kinds of comedy which we believe our audience likes.


"Just like audiences, comedy talent comes in all forms: the lone writer, the stand up comedian, the ensemble, the complete unknown and the household name.


"While bearing in mind the varied tastes of our audiences when making our decisions, we recognise that each of these talents requires a different type of opportunity to help them grow and flourish.


"The Comedy Unit recently seized the opportunity to showcase Irish comedy talent by staging and filming three shows called One Night Stand at the Belfast Festival at Queen's.


"These shows featured 23 comedians from both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Many relative newcomers to television, such as Maeve Higgins, John Colleary, John Lynn, Rachael McCabe and Neil Dougan shared the limelight with more established comedians such as Kevin McAleer, Owen O'Neill and Michael Smiley.


"These programmes, hosted by Jake O'Kane, will broadcast in March.


"With our extended family of writers and performers, my team and I within the Comedy Unit have been busy developing and piloting new formats and ideas for radio, television and new media.


"Narrative comedy – written comedy that doesn't just fall into the sitcom or sketch show categories - has been a priority as we look to find comedy formats of the future.


"'10 X 10 Funnies' is a writing initiative in which we invited more than 40 emerging and established local writers to submit outlines for new sitcoms.


"Ten of these submissions will be developed into 10-minute comedies which will be broadcast on BBC Radio Ulster.


"Who knows, maybe in the future one of those short comedies will have the same impact as Give My Head Peace?


"An early success for the Comedy Unit has been The Blame Game on BBC Radio Ulster. This comedy panel show, which features both established and rising comedy talent as they lampoon the week's news and current affairs, will soon be seen on BBC ONE NI in January.


"Looking after established talent and brands is also a key task of the Comedy Unit. Indeed, Folks On The Hill and Give My Head Peace are hugely popular with families in Northern Ireland and continue to attract large audiences.


"This year will see the launch of Dry Your Eyes, a new six-part, 30-minute BBC ONE NI comedy sketch series with The Hole In The Wall Gang - the team behind Give My Head Peace.


"This series shows a 'Norn Iron' with all the unique characters that make this place special and features new writing and performing talent.


"As well as launching some of our new shows in 2006, we will continue to develop new talent and experiment with new ideas and formats.


"Evidence of this will be heard around April Fools, which provides us with an appropriate opportunity to experiment when we let our comedians take the helm at BBC Radio Ulster.


"Colin Murphy and a host of other talent will have the station all to themselves in I Can't Believe It's Not Radio Ulster. Irreverence and humour will be the buzzwords of the day as we adjust the tone and personality of the station with some shows that will hopefully prove to be a success for the audience, the comedians and writers and BBC Northern Ireland.


"Finally, presenting Irish talent on the national stage is a natural progression for the BBC Northern Ireland Comedy Unit and we currently have three scripts in development with our network colleagues at BBC ONE and BBC THREE.


"It's a funny old business, the funny business, but with our audience at the heart of everything we do and our ambition to help develop talent, we are determined to get big memorable laughs."




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