Channel 4 announces creative partners for bold new short-form comedy showcase

Category: News Release

Five production companies will work with new and diverse talent from across Britain to deliver punchy distinctive comedy for online audiences

Channel 4 has announced the five creative partners who will produce content for its new short-form comedy pipeline. The initiative will provide a platform for exciting and distinctive emerging voices from across the UK to produce a series of bold, experimental comedy shorts. All the content will be showcased exclusively across Channel 4’s portfolio of social channels, including YouTube and Facebook.

The production companies selected in this commissioning round, which is dubbed ‘Sparks,’ are: Very Nice TV; The North East Comedy Hot House; Merman & Mermade; Mother’s Best Child and Blink Industries.

Each producer has been selected based on their strong and original creative ideas that will pack a punch and engage online audiences, as well as their ability to harness diverse talent from across the country, providing a launch pad for fresh comedy talent.

They will produce a combined total of 120 innovative and hilarious shorts honing in on the interests and experiences of young audiences. Tone will range from the risky, to the mischievous to the feel good, creating new styles of sketch comedy, as well as referencing stand up, mime, musical comedy or animation.

The shorts will land on Channel 4’s social channels from late Autumn 2019.

Laura Marks, the Channel 4 Commissioner for the project said: “Showcasing new writers and talent from across the country and providing a platform for them to try the things they wouldn’t normally get the opportunity to do is hugely exciting for us. We look forward to unearthing the comic voices of the future and seeing how our online audiences respond.”

The content producers

Very Nice TV

Glasgow-based Very Nice TV was founded by Andrew Robertson and Henry Imbert in spring 2018 as an entertainment specialist based in Scotland.

Robertson and Imbert have a wealth of entertainment experience between them and aim to produce innovative, exciting shows and formats across a plethora of platforms. They met 10 years ago in Endemol's Digital Media department where they were responsible for ground-breaking multi-platform content including creating The Million Pound Drop play-along game; Webby award-winning dramas and transforming Big Brother’s online strategy.

Very Nice’s first commission, Mirror Mirror for BBC Scotland’s digital channel, is a popular and critically-acclaimed series where honest and humorous conversations are filmed with a hidden camera behind the mirrors of Scotland’s hairdressers with no topic off-bounds. It has just been recommissioned for a further 12 episodes.

Henry Imbert will serve as Creative Director on the comedy shorts and Andrew Robertson, as Executive Producer.

Henry Imbert said: “We are passionate about working with and developing new talent from across Scotland. We see our role as aiding and empowering up and coming comedy actors, writers and directors to break through onto TV and Online.

“We've brought in the brilliant Rab Florence for workshops and readthroughs with the team to use his talent and expertise to help build the confidence and skills of everyone we are working with. In time our plan is that the characters and ideas we're helping the teams develop now will go on to help create sustainable careers for those involved.”

Andrew Robertson said: “We're so excited to be working with Channel 4 on this project. The writers, actors and directors that we are collaborating with have already proved themselves worthy of becoming the next generation of brilliant Scottish comedy talent.”

The North East Comedy Hot House

The North East Comedy Hot House is a new development initiative created in the North East, to support and nurture comedy talent, both on and off screen. A collaboration between Northern Film + Media (NFM) and scripted comedy executive, Emma Lawson, it aims to be the home for growing new talent and production companies from the North East and Tees Valley.

The Hot House model, which will see content produced by and starring only local talent, is unique as it has involved sub-commissioning production companies as well as the talent.

Alison Gwynn, acting Managing Director of Northern Film + Media said: “Everyone involved has two things in common: they live in the north east and they make us laugh. It’s been great working with Emma and Channel 4 and linking them with some great production companies, to deliver these shorts, including: Roundhouse Pictures, Couch Potato Films, Tri-Hard Films, Candle & Bell, FNA, MCC Media and Beacon Films thus far. We hope this is the start of a great and long running relationship with C4 and the comedy community in the region.”

Emma Lawson said: “I'm thrilled to finally have the opportunity to develop and showcase the rich on-screen and programme-making talent in the North East. The humour here is mischievous, inventive and has a strong sense of place, so it's a dream first project for the North East Comedy Hot House to be partnering with a broadcaster like Channel 4 on, and we can't wait to get cracking.”

Merman & Mermade

Award winning production company Merman,  producers of Motherland (BBC) This Way Up (C4), There She Goes (BBC) and many more, and digital sister company Mermade, will be co-producing their shorts. Mermade specialises in the creation of non-broadcast content of all shapes and sizes, in scripted and non-scripted, and is committed to fostering new and original voices. 

For their shorts, Merman and Mermade will be collaborating to break the new wave of female comedy talent, through relatable sketches and character comedy. Bringing an exciting gang of new, diverse voices and perspectives under the guidance of the makers of BAFTA award-winning comedy and short form.

Mermade's MD, Joshua Buckingham, will executively produce the shorts along with Merman’s Clelia Mountford and Sharon Horgan. The producers will be Charlie Laurie (Andy & The Donald, Sky Arts) and Olly Cambridge (Pls Like, BBC and Elli & Natasia, BBC) The director will be Rosie Gaunt-Mathieson (Luisa Omielan: Why Hasn’t He Texted Me Back? BBC Three).

Joshua Buckingham, MD of Mermade UK said: “This is a truly joyous commission; online sketches, a brilliant broadcast partner in Channel 4 and superbly funny comedians creating hilarity.”

Mother’s Best Child 

Formed in 2012, Mother’s Best Child’s bold and distinctive style of comedy has gained over 300 million views and has been broadcast in over 47 different territories worldwide. Their

‘The Real Housewives of Isis’ sketch was debated in mainstream media all over the world.

Mother’s Best Child was founded by Guy Davidson and Daniel Clarke who will be writing, directing and producing all their comedy shorts themselves, drawing on everything from pop culture to current affairs to create original, contemporary comedy that takes risks. They will be using the grammar of the internet and clickbait headlines to deliver a fresh and unique way to do sketch comedy, all whilst showcasing some of the UK’s most exciting emerging talent.

Guy said: “We're very excited to be working with C4 on this ground-breaking comedy experiment.”

Dan added: “It's not often that you are encouraged to create something new that satirises contemporary culture and modern Britain, so we're especially pumped, at how fun it's going to be.”

Blink Industries

Blink’s comedy shorts will be produced by Charlie Perkins, a producer with 10 years’ experience across live, radio and TV production, who focuses on identifying and supporting alternative, artistic comedy talent. With her own long-running experimental comedy night Charlie gets to meet and collaborate with a huge number of exciting comedians and filmmakers from the UK and internationally.

James Stevenson Bretton is the Founder and Creative Director of Blink Industries, he will serve as Executive Producer for the shorts. He founded Blink Industries in 2015 having run Blinkink, one of London's top animation production studios, for 10 years.

He has produced a number of award-winning animated and live action TV commercials and music videos and won the Cannes Golden Lion three times. James produced the BAFTA-nominated "The Grumpy King" for Cartoon Network and Exec Produced the Don't Hug Me I'm Scared YouTube series.

Blink Industries' batch of shorts will be a showcase of exciting, innovative and experimental comedy talent performing a mix of stand-up, sketch, character, mime, musical comedy and everything in-between. Each performer has the same format and visual rules to play with and the series will harness the energy, pace and excitement of a late-night, anarchic comedy gig.

Charlie Perkins said: “As huge fans of the alternative comedy C4 is historically and currently synonymous with, we're excited to get the opportunity to make a bunch of shorts that combine the visually distinctive comedy Blink Industries is known for, with the work of an insanely talented group of comedians we love.”

This new content pipeline, the current round of which is dubbed ‘Sparks’, forms part of Channel 4’s previously announced comedy sandpit strategy, which will see £1m invested in nurturing new talent harnessing short-form content.