Belfast Telegraph

Let's unblock the comedy pipeline

By Joe Nawaz

For a society supposedly steeped in black humour, there's been a "craic-uum" on our small screen in recent years.

Instead we've been treated to the dismal likes of the trades-description-flouting LOL and the all too appropriately named Sketchy (and let's not even talk about The Blame Game).

It's enough to make one pine for some lost golden era of TV funny. Arguably, though, we never really had a golden era, just a Jimmy Young. But a few brief decades ago there was at least a sense of vibrancy about Northern Irish comedy on the box.

Paddy Kielty's stand-up demanded to be heard by a wider audience - he tweaked the nose of the men of terror just when we were on the cusp of telling them to bugger off. And, say what you like about The Hole In The Wall Gang and the sectarian pantomime of Give My Head Peace, at least it sprang from the minds of creative people who wanted to do something different, and, arguably, succeeded for a while.

Perhaps inevitably, former comedy trailblazers like 'The Gang' are part of the current problem, clogging up the TV comedy pipeline.

The killing joke is that the live comedy scene here has never been more vibrant. There just seems to be a lack of confidence in comedy programmers, desperate to ape what they perceive as the successful formulas of (cough) 'mainland' shows.

The end-product often leaves the most valuable resource, funny people with funny ideas, as almost an afterthought, to crowbar into tired pre-set formulas. Contrary to the existence of Diarmuid Corr, we're still funny in all sorts of interesting ways. The hope remains that TV visionaries will cotton on before green-lighting another Monumental mistake. In the meantime, come in Number 2s, here's hoping your time isn't up.

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