BBC chief: Our comedy should ruffle feathers

We've not been neutered, says Freeland

BBC comedy chief Mark Freeland says the corporation shouldn’t be afraid to court controversy with the humour it puts on air.

He denied that BBC comedy had lost its teeth following the compliance clampdown in the wake of the ‘Sachsgate’ affair – and said his aim was to ‘ruffle feathers’.

And although he accepts the corporation probably wouldn’t have made Frankie Boyle’s Tramadol Nighs, he points to Psychoville and Stewart Lee's Comedy Vehicle as recent examples of ‘bold’ programming that has made it to air.

In an interview with the Guardian, the BBC’s head of in-house comedy added: ‘People were saying comedy had gone into its shell. But it hasn't retreated from saying the unsayable. As long as your processes are right and you've made a judgment call that you can back up... I find the fact that I'm sitting on a very combustible slate very exciting.

‘I fully expect people not to like stuff we do. If some people were not getting antsy about some of our output I would worry.’

However, Channel 4's head of comedy, Shane Allen, said the BBC should have defended Jonathan Ross more vigorously – as he has done with Boyle.

‘Comedy like this definitely doesn't get a fair crack of the whip. Alf Garnett or Little Britain can do it but people seem more reluctant to understand the context of a comedian like Frankie,’ he says Allen. ‘Maybe class is at the root of it – he is from that working class Glasgow comedy tradition and so… is not allowed to get away with it.’

>> The Guardian interview

Published: 21 Feb 2011

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