Coogan slams TV execs

"They don't understand populist comedy"

Steve Coogan has criticised TV executives, saying they don't understand populist comedy.

The star, pictured above in Alan Partridge guise, was talking about how the BBC turned down his production house's programme. The Sketch Show, later picked up by ITV.

"How do I say this without sounding like I have a chip on my shoulder? In the TV industry there are a lot of Oxbridge people... and there's a lack of understanding about populist comedy.

"They understand the clever stuff - Alan Partridge and so on - but they don't quite know what the broader audience wants and they don't particularly watch it."

Coogan says he set up his company, Baby Cow (as in Calf - the surname of his first hit character Paul), with Royle Family writer Henry Normal because he accepts his fame will be limited.

"I didn't want to become someone who listens to the sound of his own nails sliding down the blackboard of fame as he tries to cling on," he told The Financial Times.

"We all have a shelf-life, there are lots of new talented people coming through and rather than being usurped by them, I felt it would be better to work with them.

"It's very important that the first programmes we make receive critical acclaim. They may not have brilliant viewing figures, but that's not a priority at this stage - we need a good creative reputation first.

"Even though we want to make quality programmes, that doesn't mean were are elitist esoteric snobs. Mainstream comedy, as presented in The Sketch Show, has been very much neglected, and therefore there was an opportunity there. It's very important that we do something that can appeal to a mainstream audience - for both creative and financial reasons."

Commissions the company have already landed include Human Remains and Dr Terrible's House of Horrible, which stars Coogan and launches on BBC2 on Monday.

Normal added that they want Baby Cow to be the biggest comedy production house, as well as the best

He said: "When you actually look at what comedy is on the television, there's not much. At least four nights of the week, there's nothing on. It seems ridiculous that there's not something well written and very funny on TV every night, on every channel."

Published: 6 Nov 2001

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