Channel 4’s Comedy Lab is now in its seventh year. I was lucky enough to be part of C4’s entertainment department at the time of the Lab’s inception and launch in 1999. It’s proved to be an extremely successful strand, if not entirely high-profile, and has launched the successful careers of many of Britain’s leading comedians (Peter Kay, Dom Joly, Jimmy Carr). The invite for applications for this year have yet to be announced but now’s the time to start thinking about any potential project that you think might make a good Comedy Lab.
Essentially, the programmes are comedy pilots to embrace new and exciting talent: to see if the particular situation in the pitched sitcom is engaging or if the comedy performer in question suits the format given to him (panel show, stand-up, sitcom, off-the-wall etc).
"Cutting-edge", daring and alternative ideas are very much encouraged, although there is a lot to be said for standard formats like panel shows and sitcoms. Animation might get a look in but no-one's ever sure about animation so they generally try to steer clear. It would really have to be very good indeed.
While the brief is very much focused on comedy performers and writing talent, it is with the former that proposals will gain more favour. In addition, proposals that come with a production company already attached will have more of a chance than an individual/lone writer submission. And a production company with a proven track record, or a regular comedy supplier to the channel, will also be more favourably assessed than other wannabe proposals.
Production companies to consider and approach include Hat Trick, TalkBack Thames, Objective Productions and Absolutely Productions. There are many others but these would be a good start. Ask to speak to a comedy producer (get their name preferably beforehand), chat to an assistant and get the lowdown on what they might be interested in and what they want. Send your proposal and wait for their reaction. Now’s the time to do this as everything inevitably takes longer than you expect so getting the ball rolling sooner rather than later will be a plus.
To check out last year’s comedy brief, follow the LINK, then click on ‘Commissioning’, then the ‘Comedy’ section. For some reason, the direct link to this page doesn’t work.