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Stand-up Carr calls for more new radio comedy

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Jimmy Carr has warned that original writing and performing talent is struggling to break through, and has called for more opportunities for comedy on radio.

The controversial stand-up and TV host said that there was a lack of comedy being commissioned on BBC radio networks, which would create problems in the long term.

He explained: “I’m sure upcoming talent finds it difficult. I think Radio 4 commissions the bulk of new comedy but it is a very specific type because their average listener is in their fifties or sixties. There is lots of room for it – people like comedy and want to hear it.”

His comments come after the Corporation launched two new schemes in August to try and bring more writers and performers in, but head of radio entertainment Paul Schlesinger admitted that traditionally the focus had been “Radio 4-centric”.

“I think that it is a problem and is something that does need to change,” said Schlesinger. “We do some new comedy on BBC7, while Radio 2 has more established performers. On Radio 1 there is definitely potential and it would be good to tap into that. There used to be a late night show called The Milk Run and that showcased every single Perrier nominee from that year.”

Radio 1 had a strong comedy slate in the late eighties and nineties with stars such Chris Morris, Stewart Lee, Richard Herring, Simon Munnery and Rob Newman making their names with shows on the station.

Leading radio producer Will Saunders said that while the BBC made a considerable commitment to new artists, part of the problem for music networks was that comedy was an expensive genre to commit to and did not always have an impact with audiences. These factors have made comedy programming even more difficult for the commercial sector, although industry commentators expect that should Channel 4 secure its bid of a digital radio licence later this year, this will change.

Media consultant Mark Flanagan, a former managing director at speech station LBC, said: “Historically, commercial radio has found it difficult to incorporate comedy into their mainly music-based formats and another problem has also been about money and adversity to risk. However I think if good writers and performers could tailor their material to commercial radio programming, it would be attractive to stations.”

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