Black Comedy in the UK,, 2nd April 2008

Black Comedy in the UK,, 2nd April 2008

Was Lenny right?
Julian Hall on the future of black comedy

The recent speech by Lenny Henryabout the lack of diversity in TV raised some uncomfortable and contentious questions about the lack of black comedy talent.

Claiming that talent scouts weren’t digging deep enough for new stars, Henry said: ‘Do they go to the Hackney Empire, or any of the ethnic minority nights put on by Upfront Comedy or Harmony Productions all over the country? Or do they head down to Jongleurs, the Comedy Store, or up to the Edinburgh festival, the same as they always do?’

The resonant point in his speech is the ‘otherness’ of the vibrant black comedy scene, away from what’s alternately described as the ‘mainstream’, ‘white’, or ‘Time Out’ circuit. The two worlds exist side by side and, while some acts such as Rudi Lickwood, Junior Simpson, Gina Yashere and Curtis Walker have criss-crossed them both, the black circuit is an experience seemingly untapped by the TV industry. The recent development of the black circuit, however, promises that this apparent neglect will become more unlikely in the future.

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