Archives for August 2011

From Fringe to Screen Masterclass

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Jaine Sykes Jaine Sykes | 14:35 UK time, Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Miranda Hart, Tim Key and Fred MacAuley

Miranda Hart, Tim Key and Fred MacAuley

As part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Fred MacAulay hosted a Fringe to Screen masterclass offering pearls of wisdom about getting a show from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival through to television.

His first guest was producer Charlie Hanson (Life's Too Short, Whites, Extras) who commented "...the Fringe is the perfect way to hone your material."

Lady Garden performed a sketch before Eleanor from the group joined Fred and Charlie on stage. She explained how they "...altered a sketch to make it work from stage to screen by re-working the ending and hiring a choreographer."

Here's the outcome:

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Next on stage was Tim Key, who believed opportunities such as working on Life's Too Short (Stephen Merchant took an interest after seeing his show in 2009) and writing for TV and radio were thanks to performing at the Fringe "...which helped build up confidence in my material."

Isy Suttie took to the stage to perform a song from her latest Edinburgh show.

And finally, Miranda Hart joined the panel completing the line-up.

With the panel now complete, it was time to open up the floor to questions.

Miranda Hart, Tim Key, Fred MacAuley, Isy Suttie, Charlie Hanson, Eleanor Thom

Miranda Hart, Tim Key, Fred MacAuley, Isy Suttie, Charlie Hanson, Eleanor Thom 

Question: Is it better to write and perform or just write your own material?

Charlie said both are equally valid ways to get material shown. People are always looking for new writers, but the unique quality of performing your own material is it gives a sense of where it's come from.

Tim commented that performing his material himself gave him an opportunity to see what worked, allowing him to be more honest about what didn't.

Isy suggested visiting the BBC Writersroom website, plus writing radio sketches is a great way to get your material heard without necessarily performing it yourself.

Question: What is most gratifying - live comedy or filmed for TV?

Miranda particularly enjoys performing live, which is why her sitcom is filmed in front of a studio audience. She needs the punctuation of laughter through the show, although there's a maximum of two takes before the audience laughter tails off.

Charlie has worked on both, but when he's working on a single camera comedy (without a studio audience) he always remembers when the performers read the script in a room together for the very first time. That way he can imagine the audience reaction without having a live audience there.

Question: Is it possible to transfer a show from the free Fringe to screen?

Producer Charlie Hanson replies to an audience question

Charlie said producers do go to free fringe shows but usually on a recommendation, so word of mouth is key. He believes the free Fringe is a great place for new talent without the financial risk.

Tim recalled he lost £7,000 performing his first Edinburgh show.

Question: What's the next step for Fringe performers?

Charlie suggested if you believe your material is as good as it can get, then perform it elsewhere - don't just stop after Edinburgh.

Isy recommended starting your own gig night along with a couple of other acts as a regular way to show off material and an opportunity to try out new stuff.

Thanks to Charlie Hanson, Lady Garden, Tim Key, Isy Suttie, Miranda Hart and host Fred MacCauley. There's more from the Fringe on the Edinburgh 2011 site.

Definitely Still Absolutely Fabulous

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Jon Aird | 00:01 UK time, Monday, 29 August 2011

The award-winning Absolutely Fabulous will return to BBC One later this year with the first of three specials to celebrate its 20th anniversary. Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley will reprise their roles as Edina Monsoon and Patsy Stone, together with original cast members Julia Sawalha as Saffy, June Whitfield as Mother and Jane Horrocks as Bubble.

Absolutely Fabulous follows the lives of two best friends, Edina, an International PR guru by trade, but sixties teenager at heart and Patsy, a sex-crazed magazine editor.

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The new collection of specials picks up in the present day. Eddy was into every new fad and fashion imaginable and was often to be found at the bottom of a champagne glass. Not much has changed. Patsy worked in magazines and lived the high life. She still does. Saffy was hardworking and all but ignored by her mother and hated by Patsy. Saffy has definitely grown up. Eddy's mother was - and is, her mother. Unbelievably Eddy's PA, Bubble, is still employed and at one point displays a skill no-one knew she had, least of all her.

We will join them in the midst of a life-changing experience, Eddy will set her sights on changing the career of a very big fish indeed, and will go on to play a very special part in the London 2012 Olympics.

They're back, 20 years on, a teeny bit older, none the wiser but definitely still Absolutely Fabulous.

Jennifer Saunders said: "Its great that we are able to celebrate our 20th birthday with all the original cast. Like a good bottle of champagne we hope that we have got better with time without losing any of our sparkle. Last week when we started filming in dear old West London, it was as if nothing had changed. It was raining. Nevertheless, we are so happy to be working for an audience that has grown just a tiny bit older like us, but is still willing to let us fall over on TV in the name of PR."

Executive Producer Jon Plowman said: "Viewers have been fantastically loyal in their devotion to our show, so we're really thrilled to say that it's coming back for three new shows to celebrate our 20th anniversary. All of the originals who are back together again are still truly absolutely fabulous and the new adventures of Edina, Patsy, Saffy, Bubble and Mother, plus a few surprising guests, will be a real treat for viewers."

Absolutely Fabulous is a BBC Comedy co-production with Saunders and French Productions and has been written by Jennifer Saunders. Directed by Mandie Fletcher and produced by Justin Davies. Executive Producer is Jon Plowman.

Ruth Jones's Summer Holiday

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Jon Aird | 17:15 UK time, Friday, 26 August 2011

Ruth Jones and Jonathan Ross


Ruth Jones, just back from the Edinburgh Fringe, writes

"Haste ye Back!" – you'll see that written a lot at Edinburgh airport. Not by benign graffiti artists, the Scottish Tourist Board I should imagine. It's a nice saying and yes I probably will haste me back next year. Because I've just spent three totally enjoyable days at the annual Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

If you've never been then go. I can't recommend it highly enough. You can do it cheaply if you're clever – there are loads of free shows and two-for-one offers and you'll see a real mixture of brilliant and dreadful shows. In a beautiful city that never sleeps. For the month of August at least.

I saw fourteen shows. All an hour long which in my book is the perfect length for a bit of live entertainment. Any longer than an hour and my attention span and lower back start to go. Simultaneously. Oh and you can take your drinks in. What's not to love?

My personal favourite was comedy poet Tim Key. (I once worked with Tim in an episode of Saxondale – he played a man dressed as a squirrel trying to persuade Steve Coogan's character to sign up for a credit card...) He's compellingly laconic and left-field and does weird and wonderful things with a live bubble bath and a pack of laminated playing cards. Erotic ones. Just be warned if you sit in the front row wear a plastic shower curtain. And wellies.

I have to confess though I rather like the dreadful shows too. I was fascinated watching a play that shall remain nameless, where one of the actresses kept her mouth hanging open after every line she delivered. I don't think it was intentional. And I became mesmerised by it. The hanging jaw. I'd long since lost hope of actually understanding what the play was about so all I could do was watch the mouth. The spell was broken by a man collapsing in the audience. I do hope he was alright. I do hope he was faking. Just to escape the awfulness of the play.

It seems appropriate to end with a joke but as I don't do jokes here's a 2011 festival prize winning joke from Nick Helm "I needed a password eight characters long so I picked Snow White and the Seven Dwarves."

Ruth Jones's Summer Holiday is on BBC Two at 10pm, Monday 29th August.

Bill Hicks Quotes

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Jon Aird | 16:49 UK time, Friday, 26 August 2011

We could easily fill a whole blog post with quotes from Bill Hicks' stand-up sets, but actually what we have here are some nice words from other comics and musicians who were fans of Hicks.

"Bill Hicks wasn't just a comic, he was a crusader against humanity's relentless capacity to underachieve"

 - Simon Pegg

"I'm a fan of Bill Hicks. He did things that no other stand up did at the time. He was making fun of religion, at that time it was a lot harder to say those things in the States than it was here. To slag off Christianity and fundamentalist Christians, and to be pro drugs and anti gun in the deep south, that's a big ask. And he did that and made it funny. Bill Hicks was able to say things that he really thought, and he managed to make those thoughts funny without a care if it antagonised people."

 - Ed Byrne

"The passion is what comes through, and passion doesn't date very much. I think that why he will always remain relevant."

- Robin Ince

"Bill Hicks – blowtorch, excavator, truthsayer, and brain specialist. He will correct your vision. Others will drive on the road he built.”

- Tom Waits

"Bill was right up there with Lenny Bruce and Richard Pryor. He was easily the best comic of my generation."

- Brett Butler

"An inspired and inspiring truth teller, dangerous and brave and scary, all at once."

- Richard Pryor

"He was hilarious, brilliant, brave and right about everything."

- Henry Rollins

"The past, present and future of stand-up comedy."

- Sean Hughes

"To me and countless others, he remains an inspiration."

- Bill Bailey

"For a comedian, it was like losing John Lennon."

- Jay Leno

Watch American: The Bill Hicks Story, BBC Four, Saturday 27th August 10pm

You can find out more about the making of the film at

Funny in 15: Top five tips

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Jaine Sykes Jaine Sykes | 12:00 UK time, Friday, 26 August 2011

Funny in 15 seconds video screen

There's still a couple of days left to visit our Funny in 15 seconds video booth in Edinburgh. We'll be at the BBC site on Potterow until Saturday night - come show us what you've got! Your Funny in 15 seconds video might end up on the BBC website!

Here's our top 5 tips to make the most of your 15 seconds...

1. Too long or too short?
Don’t rush your joke and remember to speak clearly from the start, but also make sure you leave enough time to finish your funny properly!

2. The Element Of Surprise
Old jokes are great, but why not try an old classic... with a new twist? You could also try visual gags, songs, slapstick – surprise us!

3. Space, Man
The Tardis-like booth may look small on the outside, but it’s surprisingly roomy inside. Make use of all that space; get closer or further away from the screen, or walk in and out of shot.

4. Sound Advice
If there’s a group of you, speak separately; try not to step over each other’s lines. Listen carefully to the playback: is it too quiet? Too loud? If you’re struggling to hear what’s been said, then have another go.

5. Practice, Practice, Practice...
Even the top comedians still perform warm-up shows to make sure their material hits the mark. If you think you could do better, try again!

If you’re looking for more inspiration, there’s now a props box in the booth. Come and have a rummage; you might find the prop which makes your joke that little bit better.

A box full of props including hats and bow-ties

The Funny in 15 seconds video booth is open until Saturday August 27th. It is located on the BBC@Potterow site in Edinburgh.

Brendon Burns on Bill Hicks

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Jon Aird | 14:30 UK time, Thursday, 25 August 2011

Bill Hicks, gagged by an American flagBill Hicks is considered by many to be the greatest comedian of the last 30 years. He challenged the injustices of life head-on but his uncompromising approach met with conflict in America and he instead found fame on the international stage. Particularly in the UK, where 15 years after his death, his popularity continues to spread.

His fascinating life story is told in the award winning feature length documentary AMERICAN: The Bill Hicks Story, BBC Four, Saturday 27th August 10pm.

As an introduction, Brendon Burns, if.comedy Award Winner and Bill Hicks fan, reflects on the nature of Bill’s comedy...

Brendon Burns, wearing wings

Photo: Steve Ullathorne

Like a lot of comics, I wasted about 8 years of my career doing a bad impression of Bill, hero worshipped him to the point of it really sneaking too much into my work. I know some guys that have listened to his stuff so avidly that they went mad, literally went insane like he was their Helter Skelter, I've seen it happen.

His mike technique was awesome. I saw him in ‘93, and his pitching was just phenomenal, mesmerizing. He knew when to whisper, he knew when to yell, he knew when to hold the mike close to his mouth. I’m loath to use the term, but he was a real performance artist.

He was on the road 300 nights a year, and you can hear the changes and evolution in his sets, comparable to a performer like Van Morrison, who would sing a song that you know so well, and make it sound nothing like it.

The huge influence he has is also because he was such an emotive performer. When he’s speaking his mind so forcefully, you’re not always entirely sure about how you feel on the subject, until you talk about it at length afterwards. That’s when the writing process has become very organic - he could’ve argued either side of any coin and made it sound just as impassioned.

I think he was at his ballsiest in his youth – when he was doing that kind of (religious, provocative) material in the deep South. As he got older, he came to the UK, found an audience, and then obviously found it a lot more gratifying.

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He had a magical gift for language – that’s where British audiences are head and shoulders above the rest, in their love and appreciation of the kind of comedic puzzles in the punchlines that Bill excelled at.

He left open-ended punchlines – my favourite jokes of his are the ones that would just hang in the air, where the audience has to consider who the butt of the joke is, and as it hangs in the air they realise that butt of the joke was actually their dilemma, and the laugh comes when they realize “Oh – he’s ****ing with us.”

His ‘Heather’s Two Mommies’ routine is a really good example – you find you have to explain that joke to a lot of people but that cheapens it. He could have taken the coward’s way out and explained what he meant, but he didn’t, he let it remain ambiguous and left the joke in its purest form.

When you do that, you risk losing some people along the way (that’s not my quote, that’s Paul Provenza’s) and in the club scene, people can find that too much like hard work, but at arts centres and theatres across the UK, people flocked to hear him.

I would have liked to have seen Bill survive. Look at George Carlin – that’s a complete career, his final special was on Death, and his acceptance of that. I think with Bill, there would have been a lot of incongruities in his work in later life that would have pissed off a lot of these people that adhere to his ideas in an almost fundamentalist fashion. Everything Bill did was preaching against fundamentalist thought and I’m pretty sure that he would’ve found that so funny. It’s a shame we didn’t get to see that.

The direction Bill was going in was clearly spirituality – which is basically a period in every comics life – “What the **** am I doing this for? I should be saying something meaningful and changing the world”.

I think that’s the big overarching theme, that his comedy always aimed high, and that’s something that I took from him, that you must always do something that you’re afraid of doing, if you feel stupid broaching something, learn more so you can talk about it.

Any performer, an artist of any kind that is trying to find themselves onstage, that’s always intriguing to people, because none of us really know who the **** we are.

I think that’s why people are so drawn to his comedy, because it's based on audience response; it's one of the art forms where the judgments of success or failure are so in the moment. When you’re putting it out there on the line every night, that group audience realisation can be a real communal moment of understanding between people.

Because he aimed high, because of his passion, his brilliance with language, he was searching for a brand new way of saying something that has a comic viewpoint, and if you spend your entire career trying to find it, and with such a definitive voice, that stuff never dates.

Brendon Burns will be recording a DVD of his show Y'Know - Love 'n' God 'n' Metaphysics 'n' S**t on 12th November at The Bloomsbury Theatre in November.

AMERICAN: The Bill Hicks Story is on BBC Four, Sat 27th August, 10pm and is followed at 11.40pm by a screening of Revelations Live at the Dominion, Bill’s biggest and final UK show.

You can find out more about the making of the film at

Richard Herring's Objective at the Edinburgh Fringe

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Jon Aird | 15:30 UK time, Sunday, 21 August 2011

Richard Herring was at the BBC venue at the Edinburgh Fringe with a one off Scottish special about the See You Jimmy hat.

Here's a clip with Richard explaining how he mustered the courage to do a show like this in Scotland.

Listen to the full programme on BBC Radio 4 Tuesday 23rd August, 6.30pm.


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Three@TheFringe: Live Chat!

Steve Saul | 14:51 UK time, Friday, 19 August 2011

Three@TheFringe is now over but you can replay the backstage experience and see what happened when the stars harnessed the power of Live Chat!

Plus the live show wil be repeated on Saturday 20th at 9pm, Sunday 21st at 1am and Wednesday 24th at 12.55am on BBC Three.

Terms and Conditions:

All comments are pre-moderated which may delay publication. It is not possible to publish all comments; only questions and/or comments of interest and relevance to the programme and its themes will be chosen.

Do not include personal information in your comments (eg email addresses, telephone numbers); comments and questions will not be published if they contain personal information or if they contain material that may offend other users.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites linked from this page.

For further information visit our fascinating T's and C's site.

Life's Too Short: Liam Neeson and Helena Bonham Carter castings announced!

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Jaine Sykes Jaine Sykes | 10:00 UK time, Friday, 19 August 2011

There's some exciting news from Life's Too Short, the new fake documentary written and directed by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, and starring Warwick Davis...

Back in June, we announced that Sting, Johnny Depp and Steve Carell are all due to appear when it debuts this Autumn on BBC Two.

However, we can now reveal the full celebrity cast list including the final two new A-list stars set to appear. They are...

Liam Neeson and Warwick Davis

Liam Neeson, seen here on set with Warwick...

Helena Bonham Carter with Ricky Gervais

...And Helena Bonham Carter, seen here relaxing on set with Ricky.

Here's the full list of big name celebrities appearing in the show (*deep breath*):

Johnny Depp
Liam Neeson
Helena Bonham Carter
Steve Carell
Cat Deeley
Sophie Ellis-Bextor
Les Dennis
Keith Chegwin
Shaun Williamson

Phew! And if all that isn't enough, here's a message from Ricky and Warwick... dressed as a frog...

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Ricky and Warwick will be discussing the making of Life's Too Short in a BBC Comedy Masterclass in Edinburgh on Friday. We'll be bringing you highlights from the masterclass shortly afterwards. Keep checking the Life's Too Short programme page and Edinburgh 2011 website for more details!

Life's Too Short will air on BBC Two in Autumn.

Three@TheFringe & Live Chat - Tonight, 22.30 on BBC Three!

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Steve Saul | 14:30 UK time, Thursday, 18 August 2011

Three@TheFringe is BBC Three's live TV showcase featuing top acts from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and we want you to join us on our live chat...

Scott Mills, Lee Nelson, Charlie Baker and Russell Kane are hosting a night of live comedy featuring headliners like Roisin Conaty, Adam Riches, Joe Wilkinson, Nick Helm, John Luke Roberts, The Boy With Tape On His Face, Axis of Awesome, Frisky and Mannish, Sam Simmons and David O'Doherty.

We'll be bringing you live backstage access to the stars from our executive portakabin via the miraculous medium of live chat.

Tune in tonight at 22.30, click on the chat blog post and you'll actually be able to banter with your favourite act shortly after you've seen them on stage.

Meanwhile here's a clip of The Boy With Tape On His Face (from an earlier show):

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Join us later tonight!

Funny in 15 Seconds Booth is go!

Steve Saul | 19:10 UK time, Thursday, 11 August 2011


In Edinburgh? Feeling funny? Got a gag that would shame the professionals with it's sheer, undeniable brilliance? Good. Visit our Funny in 15 Seconds Booth...

You've seen our Funny in 15 Seconds clips on TV, right?

Remember this revealing celebratory own-goal of a sketch?

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Or this baby boo-boo by a new dad?

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Well this time we don't want sketches, festival-goers, no. We just want YOU, mucking about in our video booth, for no more than fifteen seconds.

Clicky the linky and Lee Nelson will tell it like it is and explain all.

Whether you're a seasoned professional comedian, an undiscovered gem of a new act or you just fancy seeing yourself on the BBC Three website... pop by the booth and give it your best.

The Funny in 15 Seconds Booth is located at: The Venue, Bristo Square, Edinburgh, EH8 9AL.

We put the booth up through two days of  wind and rain. We could do with a laugh... ;-)

Three@TheFringe is almost here!

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Steve Saul | 17:31 UK time, Thursday, 11 August 2011

As the wind and rain soak festival-goers to their very bones, our Edinburgh Festival venue is almost ready to provide shelter and bring you some top class funny from Three @ The Fringe...


Construction is almost complete.

The main stage is nearly fully erect. Steady. We mean that literally.

The The Funny In 15 Booth (our TARDIS of funny) is primed and ready to record your gags.

Top comedians Tom Rosenthal, Andrew Lawrence, Adam Riches and sketch comedy mavericks Wit Tank have all signed on the dotted line to appear in the week and on next Friday's live showcase. We can't wait to see them in action.

Want a taster of what might be in store? Earlier today we published this sin bin of a sketch featuring Wit Tank member Naz Osmanoglu...

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If you're in Edinburgh and want to know we've got planned, or you're at home and want to know how to catch our highlights from the comedy at the biggest and best festival in the world then visit our Fringe site for all the info.

If you are up in Edinburgh we thoroughly recommend checking out the excellent Edinburgh Fringe website.

#AskRhod returns!

Steve Saul | 11:37 UK time, Friday, 5 August 2011

"Is there life after death?" "Does language enable memory?" "Does tomato sauce belong in the cupboard or the fridge?" Fear not. Rhod Gilbert is back with answers to all the important questions in life for a second series of Ask Rhod Gilbert...

Have you got a question you've always wanted answered?

Have you ever wondered if you could make rain taste like lemonade?

Or whether birds can fly upside down?

Why not Ask Rhod Gilbert?

Rhod returns with a second series of his BBC One show Ask Rhod Gilbert and he’s looking for your questions!

We're looking for people to pose their questions to Rhod live from our studio audience. All questions are welcome, from the bizarre to the banal. We want questions that are unique to your life... the more original the better (nothing you might find on the internet already!).

To be in with a chance of asking Rhod and his panel live on the show, please visit this Be On The Show link.

You can also tweet questions to @bbcComedy (adding the hashtag #AskRhod) or post your suggestions on our Facebook page.

Ideal has dealt it's last.

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Steve Saul | 15:48 UK time, Thursday, 4 August 2011

Johnny Vegas

Sadly, the news is true. Ideal won't be returning to BBC Three...

We've noticed a lot of comments about the cancellation of Ideal on Facebook and Twitter and totally acknowledge and respect the reactions of show's loyal and passionate fans.

Zai Bennett (Controller of BBC Three) praised the Ideal team and explained his decision:

"I'd like to thank Baby Cow, writer Graham Duff and Johnny for seven superb series of Ideal on BBC Three. The channel is very much about new comedy and we have to try to make sure we have the room to give new writers and stars the same chance that Ideal had six years ago."

Cheryl Taylor (BBC Controller of  Comedy Commissioning) also paid tribute to the Ideal team.

"Ideal has become a much loved fixture on BBC Three and we are extremely grateful to Graham Duff for his highly original and engaging scripts. Johnny Vegas for his wonderful Moz and the host of iconic characters who have helped to people this unique Comedy landscape for all these years".

The clip below is one of our favourite moments from Ideal, what are yours? Tell us in the comments below, on Facebook or via the medium of Twitter.

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Read more about the cancellation of Ideal on the BBC News site.

BBC Three@TheFringe

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Steve Saul | 17:15 UK time, Tuesday, 2 August 2011

BBC Three @ The Fringe is bringing you the funny at this year's Edinburgh Festival...

Can't make it to this year's Edinburgh Fringe? Fear not, on August 19th BBC Three is bringing you Three@TheFringe... a live TV show featuring host Lee Nelson and the brightest new hopefuls on the comedy circuit, the jaded seasoned professionals and stellar headline acts like Charlie Baker and Russell Kane.

If you do have the good fortune to be at the biggest and best comedy festival in the world... visit our pop up BBC site (Potterrow, near Bristo Square) and crack wise in the BBC Three Funny in Fifteen Booth - it's a sort TARDIS for funny people to teleport their moment of madness onto their website.

Our professional advice for future Funny In Fifteeners? Have a go before you hit the bar...

Loving live comedy? Visit BBC Three's Blog to read more details about their plans for this year's Edinburgh Festival.

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