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Part 3 of the Fascinating Evolution – The Evolution of Comedy In The United Kingdom

In the UK, the evolution of comedy is somewhat different.

While it’s true, good money can now be made with British comedy, it’s still a much smaller market than America.

Therefore, even hit TV show, the salaries won’t comed close to what their USA counterparts earn (Especially if you work for the BBC where salaries are fixed on the basis that it’s a publicly funded corporation)

So why has the UK developed such world class comedy, exported internationally, when it’s a much smaller market, smaller than many many countries in the world, yet seems to be a powerhouse of comedy?

The English have always been obsessed with words.

Remember, we were the first ones to publish the Bible, as a result of our split from a Catholic church instigated by King Henry VIII who was furious that the Catholic Pope wouldn’t let him divorce his wife.

So the King came up with an ingenious solution – he threw out the Catholic church and creating his own “Church of England” also known as a Protestant church.

Part of his revenge was to use the brand-new invention of the printing press to print and mass distribute copies of the Bible which had previously only been made available to Catholic priests.

In fact, it was large part of the Catholic priests’ power that only they had the written “Word of God” available to them and could reveal/preach it to the masses.

This chain of events, an angry king wanting to marry a new wife kick-started a revolution in England which made as one of the most literally accomplished nations on the planet (yes, of course, the UK now has the advantage of English being a global language, but that wasn’t the case back then).

The fact that English is now a global language is about 90% due to the fact that we also colonized a large parcel world to the extent that the sun that never sets on the British empire was a true apocryphal statement that existed.

Because of this mad love for words and literacy that the English have, humor often play on words or the expression of novel ideas, has also evolved very rapidly in the UK to the extent where sitcoms are often written by two mates sitting in their underpants, in their mom’s basement, writing a funny script together.

Now, this is somewhat of an exaggeration of course, but the amount of hit shows written by two friends for shits and giggle in the UK is quite astonishing.

Fawlty Towers, Peep Show, Blackadder are just a few examples of British comedy hits exported around the wolrd.

Often these scripts are written “on spec” (i.e. they have not been commissioned) because this comedy culture is so strong in England, that Brit friends are willing to sit down and write a funny sitcom just for the fun of it.

Completely unlike, the American system where it is all institutionalized with unions and pay grades and universities that even teach comedy writing, like UCLA (https://www.uclaextension.edu/pages/writing_journalism_literature/)

But back to the UK, if these “spec” shows are picked up by broadcasters and they become hits, the writers are very decently rewarded for their efforts, again not on the same level as their American compatriots, but nevertheless the love of comedy drive the Brits to write fantastic original sitcoms.

Another interesting difference is that American sitcoms are often written by committee, by a series of writers who take it in turns maybe to write an episode each or a whole team of writers overseen by show runner who’ll write the scripts together using table reads and writing rooms, is very organized, it’s almost corporate and industrial in its efficiency.

It does create some amazing comedy like F.R.I.E.N.D.S and Seinfeld and Frasier.

They can also produce in boring, cut and paste, cookie cutter, forgettable, trying too hard to be funny and failing sitcoms that are literally have the same love and care as a sausage made in a factory, ie. none. 

The UK generally produce more quirky comedy; The Office, Blackadder, Father Ted, Fawlty Towers, Steptoe and Son, weird eccentric characters, Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em – the list is endless.

Again, this reflects the weird esoteric way that sitcoms are written in the UK, two mates getting together, having a beer, writing some nonsense.

What can we learn from both of these writing methods? 

Quite a lot and in fact we intend to combine the best of both worlds to create unique, wonderful sitcoms around the world.

Sitcoms that are unique in each culture, Channel X Global exist in.

First off, we’ll use team writing principles. We intend to use Mentors (talented comedy writers) from the West to initially produce scripts. 

Those will then be adapted by local writers in each country to give local flavor, like language obviously but local references and idiosyncrasies.

After a year or two, we will hopefully be in a situation where the Emerging Markets that Channel X is in, will be able to produce their own sitcoms from scratch, but initially we will institute the 80-20 Pareto’s Law to produce scripts quickly and efficiently.

We believe that the creating sitcoms on a mass scale in cultures that haven’t seen them will create new quirky, weird and eccentric characters and situations, more commonplace to the UK style of producing comedy.

Again, Channel X Global is a bridge from the genius, experienced craftsmanship of comedy writing in the West married with the unique cultures of Emerging Markets to create something brand new and exciting for the youth in these nations.

 

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∙ Authored by Quilliam Potter
∙ For TV Consultancy Work or General Enquiries about Channel X Global, email quilliam@billiondollartvrevolution.com