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Countdown to the BAFTAs: Scripted Comedy Transcript

Scripted Comedy

Alex: Hello and welcome again to this celebration of television excellence. I'm Alex Zane, and this is Countdown to the BAFTA’S, where in this series, stars, Industry insiders and Expert voices join forces to discuss the nominees in the running for the 2024 BAFTA TV awards with P&O Cruises and the BAFTA Television Craft Awards.  

And today we are analyzing what exactly makes for a great comedy.  

[START CLIP: COMING UP] 

Susan: I remember being sort of being told like, “you need to have a set piece”. And I was like, set piece, okay, cool. And then I was going on with a set piece for six months and I was like, “Who said that?!” And the producers were like “what?”, and I was like… “Who said that? Who the hell said that?!”. Because it can just clip your wings, and it's all about people wanting to play safe.  

[END CLIP] 

Alex: So what does it take to be nominated for a BAFTA? Stay tuned to find out. 

Now the BAFTA TV Awards are voted for by industry professionals, and that voting has now closed. So, anything we say and do on this podcast has no influence on the results. And crucially, we do not know who has won.  

All that being said, we have an important job to do here at BAFTA’s headquarters in Piccadilly. And who better to do it with than actor and writer Susan Wokoma and Entertainment Editor at Heat Magazine, Boyd Hilton. Welcome to both of you. Susan, you've appeared in a fair few scripted comedies over the years from Cheaters to Chewing Gum to Year of the Rabbit, but what are the comedies that make you laugh? 

Are there particular shows that you've enjoyed over the years? 

Susan: My absolute peak pinnacle holy grail of comedy for me is Green Wing.  

Alex: Mm-Hmm.  

Susan: It's just, it's absolutely one of my favourites. It's so surreal and weird, but also has so much heart. You're really rooting for the characters and, you know, the central love story, between Tamsin Greig and, Mac, who I just, oh my God, absolutely loved him, Julian Rhind-Tutt. So yeah, comedy that can make you feel invested in the characters, make you feel, but then it had the absolute ridiculousness of that environment in a hospital. I just think it's genius – the editing, performances. 

Alex: An absolutely incredible cast, which I think unfortunately brought about the end of the show because they, they couldn't rally them all in the right place at the right time - 

Susan: [LAUGHS] Yeah!  

Alex: - 'cause they were all going off becoming stars. But I don’t know if you saw at the end of last year, it's coming back as a podcast! 

Susan: No! 

Alex: Yeah! 

Susan: I didn't know that. Okay, I'm very excited. 

Alex: Yeah. Victoria Pyle, the writer and creator - She made an interesting point, on Radio 4 talking about it. She said that she might have to modify the comedy's sensibilities for today's audiences, especially the sexism they mocked, and this is her actual quote, “The misogyny was permissible because we clearly called the characters out all the time. The difference now is that you can't present such characters even though they do exist”. Boyd, what do you make of that? And have TV comedies had to evolve quite rapidly with changes in society. And is that evident in the shows we're discussing today? 

Boyd: I think she's got a little bit of a point, but I'm not sure if I fully agree that you can't depict characters who are, you know, wrong’uns, basically. I think you can, and people do all the time. I mean, there's a show that's been nominated, Dreaming Whilst Black. That is a show that starts off where the pilot was all about how this guy's working in an office full of people with racist microaggressions that they're embroiling him in and how he reacted to that. And there's no way you come away from that thinking, oh, those people shouldn't have been depicted 'cause we can't cope with seeing that on TV. So, I wouldn't necessarily agree with that. But I do think that there are attitudes that are expressed when you see shows from back in the 70s and 80s that seem excruciating now because it's not clear what the writer or the creators think and what their attitude to those characters are. 

And often that seems to be the joke, like ‘aren't these foreigners funny?’, or something like that. That happens a lot and you get a lot of shows on, you know, ‘Gold’, for example, on TV where, which have to be proceeded by trigger warning effectively, and that's fair enough. But I think in general, bold creators of comedy know what they're doing, and they can create characters who are effectively terrible people. 

Alex: Yeah. I mean, with the number of TV channels out there, if an old British sitcom hasn't been repeated anywhere, you can pretty much call it a wrong show these days. 

Boyd:  Exactly. Yeah. Dodgy show. 

Alex: I know Boyd, Curb Your Enthusiasm, is one of your all-time favourite comedies.  It ended earlier this month. How are you? Are you okay? 

Boyd: I'm okay. I'm a bit bereft, it ended so superbly, I loved the last episode so much, which was kind of a riff on the final, the famously, in quotes, disappointing finale of Seinfeld that Larry David wrote and has been reeling from the critical reaction to ever since. So, he kind of completely responded to that.  

Of course, Larry is the classic character. You know, Larry's attitudes are in some ways, you know, prehistoric occasionally, and he certainly depicts characters whose attitudes are horrendous, but it's done with such a lightness of touch. I think particularly with Kirk, he's just going out for the laughs, that you're kind of laughing at those people, who do and say terrible things. That's one of the great things about that show.  

I actually got to interview him this year for the final series. And it was one of the greatest joys in my whole life 'cause he was so funny and engaged, so I've got over the fact that Curb’s finished by the fact that I actually got to talk to him for 45 minutes.  

Alex: Oh my gosh. And he was nice? 

Boyd: He was. And I was terrified. But he was so nice. He was really charming and funny and lovely. Yeah, he was amazing.  

Alex: Because if he hadn't been, you'd lose decades of Curb forever. 

[ALL LAUGH] 

Boyd: Exactly. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. 

Alex: I mean, on the subject of performances, Susan, we're gonna be talking about specific performances in this episode. What do you look for in terms of what makes a great comedy performance? Is it something you can distill down to something you look for? 

Susan: Oh gosh, no. It's really bloody hard. I think in terms of how I approach comedy, there's so many funny, brilliant, talented people and somebody else could easily do the role that you are performing. So it all comes down to you. 

It all comes down to your sensibility, your, kind of, timings. For instance, Matt Berry is an absolute God. He knows what he can do with his voice, and he can just change, you know, just a slight kind of stress in a word. And it's the funniest thing you've ever heard. He knows that about himself, and he doesn't pretend that that doesn't exist. 

And so like knowing what you can do. So when I see comedy actors and it feels like they're like magicians. They know exactly what they can do. And you feel like you kind of, you can kind of sit back and really absorb that because they understand themselves as as, as a performer, that's what I look for. But that's hard, isn't it? 

Alex: No, that's, that's, that's fascinating. So it's, it is really, 'cause you often think of like, it's the writing, like a lot of the time it's like, well, but the idea that a person, a comedy actor, um, brings their own unique sensibilities and just can alter the way a line is written on the page is, is actually, that's interesting. 

Susan: I think any great comedy writer understands that an actor can elevate your work. and that's the kind of performance that they look for to join their, their cast. I think, um, there's so many things that can be played in one way that's quite safe, which is perfectly fine. But you meet these actors who are very kind of aware of what their gift is, and that's really exciting. Especially exciting to be around. Makes you better. 

Boyd: I think Matt Berry is the, has the funniest delivery in the world, honestly. 

Susan: [Laughs] Oh my goodness! 

Boyd: He is, and he's, he's in the last series of Curb, of course.  

Susan: Is he!? 

Boyd: He has a, he has a guest role.  And I, and I asked Larry about him, I said, you know, and he was like, he's, he's, he makes me laugh more than anyone else, just the way he speaks and the way, so it's a complete, like, he's, he's won over-  

Susan: You know, but he's, he's a real master of it. I remember in between taking, did Year of the Rabbit, he would like, because culturally we're from different worlds, but me, him and Freddy really, really got on and he'd sort of come up to me and he'd start singing, um, Destiny's Child. Say my name, say my name, but weird. Like, I can't, if I try and do it, you would be like, sure. But the way he did it sort of come to me and  [Singing] ‘Say my name, say my name’. 

Boyd: [Laughs] 

like  

that. And  

Susan: would  

make me weep before a take. He's, yeah, he's a genius. 

Alex: Right then, shall we begin our journey? Let's discover the shows being celebrated at this year's BAFTA TV Awards. Here are the nominees we're discussing today.  

[Clip Starts] Scripted Comedy: Big Boys (Rough Cut TV, Channel 4), Dreaming Whilst Black (Big Deal Films, A24 BBC 3), Extraordinary (Sid Gentle Films, Disney+), and Such Brave Girls (Various Artists Limited, BBC3).  

Female Performance in a Comedy: Bridget Christie in the Change Expectation (Channel 4), Gbemisola Ikumelo in Black Ops (BBC Studios Comedy Productions, Mondo Deluxe Productions, BBC 1), Máiréad Tyers in Extraordinary (Sid Gentle Films, Disney+), Roisin Gallagher in The Lovers (Drama Republic, Sky Atlantic), Sophia Oxenham in Extraordinary (Sid Gentle Films, Disney+), and Taj Attwell in Hullraisers (Fable Pictures, Channel 4). 

And finally, Male Performance in a Comedy: Adjani Salmon in Dreaming Whilst Black (Big Deal Films, A24, BBC 3), David Tennant in Good Omens (BBC Studios Comedy Productions, Narrativia, The Blank Corporation, Prime Video), Hammed Animashaun in Black Ops (BBC Studios Comedy Productions, Mondo Deluxe Productions, BBC 1), Jamie Demetriou in A Whole Lifetime With Jamie Demetriou (BBC Studios Comedy Productions, Guilty Party Pictures, Netflix) Joseph Gilgun in Brassic (Calamity Films, Skymax), and Mawaan Rizwan in Juice (Various Artists Limited, BBC 3). [Clip Ends] 

Alex: Okay, so we're gonna break these down a bit. We'll go show by show and then look at any performances that we haven't covered afterwards in our first nominated show is Extraordinary on Disney Plus – Currently in it’s second series, but because the nominees are all from the last 12 months of TV, it's series one released in 2023 that has earned this nomination.  

Boyd, Hell of an opening to season one of Extraordinary, this job interview very much like Liar, Liar, where she can only tell the truth. What a great way to set up your character for the audience. 

Boyd: It's one of the best opening scenes I've seen in years. Um, the Extraordinary, um, first scene. 'cause, yeah, she's trying not to, it's the, it's a job application, it's a job interview, and of course everyone lies in job interviews and everyone's trying to present themselves in a certain way. So it's kind of satirising that. And at the same time, it's introducing us to, to this very, very funny character. Um, and the to and fro between the two of them as she tries to kind of, um, maintain, maintain, maintain some sense that it's fine. 

She is saying the truth, but she's honestly, she could do this job as well at the same time. It's just brilliantly written and brilliantly performed by the two actresses. It's fantastic. So, and, and the incredible, the extraordinary thing about Extraordinary was with that incredibly funny, brilliantly conceived opening scene. 

It doesn't let up from there. It doesn't, it's not downhill from there. It maintains that level I think of wit, and cleverness and brilliant comedy performance we're talking about, you know, Máiréad Tyers’ performance is just phenomenal. 

Alex: It's a world just a, a quick bit about the story. It's a world where every person has superpowers, which they get at 18. Uh, except for our hero, uh, Jen, she has yet to develop a power. She's the only person in the world who doesn't have a superpower. Um, it was directed by Jennifer Sheridan, who I believe also directed your Sky Comedy short? 

Susan: Yeah. Yeah. So we, I met Jen in 2018, I think, and that was, um, Jen is an amazing comedy editor, so she's edited loads of shows. 

She's, um, league of Gentlemen, Taskmaster, which I then went on to do. Um, so she has this amazing innate um, sense of comic timing. And so, I got given the opportunity to, to write this short and got Jen on board in it was specifically because she's so hot on editing. I was like, yeah, I think that you get kind of the, the pacing of it. 'Cause I feel like comedy is all timing really. Um, and yeah. And now she's gone on to tremendous things. I remember when she told me that she was gonna be working on this, uh, job an , she directs the second block of the, of the series of both series one and two. 

And she told me the plot. [00:13:00] I just thought, oh, why didn’t I think of that? 

Alex: [Laughs] 

Susan: It’s so good! Especially in this era of like loads of superhero movies and we're oversaturated, to have somebody who the, their one thing is that they haven't got powers is just brilliant. And also obviously seeing a, a British comedy that has that kind of high concept is, is really, really fun. 

Alex: Comedy, and being funny and we kind of touched on this, I imagine it can be quite a vulnerable place for a performer. How important is the role of a director on a comedy specifically in terms of creating the environment where actors feel comfortable enough to deliver the laughs? 

Susan: Yeah. Oh my gosh. I've been on a couple of sets - not too many - where, um, you see a director trying to keep such a tight hold in everything that there is no, there's no air for levity, which I think is your absolute mistake on a comedy set. 

It's not that you're all just joking all the time, but the energy and feeling comfortable allows you to play because it's playful. Yes, we're all getting paid and you know, we've got pay tax, but it is, it's, it's, it's got to be playful. And those are the sets where I feel- where you feel like you can go, oh God, can I try this? 

Or the director goes, yeah, brilliant. And I love it when I work for director who goes, all right, this is your take. We've done all the. Directing stuff. We'll do one more take. You do whatever you like. Those are the ones where I'm like, okay, brilliant. Awesome. And Jen's very much, very much like that. Um - 

Alex: And you get to explore sort of different things. You're like, look, I've, I've got a different take on this. Something that's a little bit out there, let me just try it. 

Susan: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And I mean, most of the time there's no time, but- 

Alex: [Laughs] 

Susan: Let's be honest with budgets and stuff. But, um, but no, those are the, those moments when a director with comedy trusts you is when you see people really excel. 

And, um, and if you can keep a whole crew laughing when you've been doing it 16 times, then you know you're a winner. Then you start getting really like, really hungry for it. You're like, oh yeah. Brilliant. Gaffer’s laughing. Excellent. I'm still good. 

Alex: You touched on these, uh, performances. It has two nominations, uh, for female performance in a comedy board for Máiréad Tyers and Sophia Oxenham. 

What made them stand out, both of them? 

Boyd: Well, I think they kept, the tone of the show seems to be, to me, like naturalistic, very naturalistic. The, the, the dialogue and the performances and both of those are, but at the same time just slightly heightened enough within this superhero world, to keep it grounded. 

So the comedy comes from the characters I think, you know, and I think they both are just naturally funny and make you believe in this extraordinary situation set in a world of superpowers. So, people have superpowers apart from the one young woman. 

Um, so I think it's just, I think they just, they, they led with the tone. Do you know what I mean? I think the, the performers, I think that naturalism within the world, this fantastical world, works so well. And I think they are kind of like the absolute manifestation of that.  

Alex: It's certainly a high concept, uh, comedy, um, season two is, uh, on right now, dropped last month. Disney, obviously, they, they have deeppockets. They have deep pockets. Um, how exciting is it for you to see this much money spent on, a UK comedy with all the CGI superheroes flying around in the back of shot? 

Is that an exciting thing to see? Would you like to see more of that? 

Susan: Yeah. I mean, God, my, my eye started twitching when you just said like budgets, because I come from the world of like four week shoots, and when we did Year of the Rabbit, we had five weeks and it's, it was period. 

So that means, um, massive crowds and prosthetics and people getting shot. And it was like high concept, but it was like, you got five weeks off you go. We're like, we don't, we need more time.  

Um, and so, and you do see, 'cause I've done a few dramas, and when I've sort of pivoted into drama world. See the schedules are longer and I, my eye starts twitching 'cause I'm like, you guys, you don't know what you've got. 

So just having schedules that honor the work and honor the, the skill that it takes, and that's not just the performers, that is everybody else.  

Something like Extraordinary is gonna have an amazing, amazing production designer. It’s gonna have, all the lighting that they've gotta do, the VFX and everything like that. 

Um, having something that honors that is good, 'cause it means that you can do quality work as proven by the BAFTA nominations. 

Alex: Right. Let's move on from Extraordinary onto our next Scripted Comedy nominee Big Boys. Now this is series two of Jack Rooke's Channel 4 comedy based on his own experience of losing his dad and his subsequent live shows on the subject that has been nominated. 

Susan - I know you worked with, uh, Jack, uh, about six years ago. 

Susan: When I was, uh, writing my comedy short, we, it was with Rough Cut who also produced Big Boys, so he was developing Big Boys then. So it's taken such a long time and we were sort of, I remember sort of being in the Rough Cut offices and sort of going, oh God, like how do you feel about this?And should I do this and da da da. 

And now like, seeing it all flourish is so, oh, it's so satisfying when you know that it's taken a long time. And also it's something that's personal to him. He's a fierce writer though. Like I, I sort of got introduced to him by, um, seeing some of the stuff that he was putting online, like some of the skits that he put online. 

And his voice is so sharp. He, like, no one can write like that. He understands performance’s well. And writers who understand performance, you can really, you can really feel it. And so much heart and just an absolute kind of genius when it comes to things that are hilariously funny and witty, but also like break your, break your heart. 

Um, I'm so thrilled for him! 

Alex: I was gonna say, I mean, I don't wanna undersell how funny the show is, but it is a comedy with real warmth, real tenderness, and obviously based on his own experiences, real authenticity, isn't it? 

Boyd: Completely. It's, it's an object lesson for me, um, in how to balance comedy, which is funny - There are gags all the way through. You're never too far away from a funny line or a funny situation. He, he'll have slapstick, you know, I, I love comedies that embrace the power of slapstick, physical comedy, et cetera. 

But at the same time, he's dealing with really. In quotes, important serious issues like grief, as you said, based on him losing his dad, um, his best friend's character who's dealing with, um, mental health issues, depression, et cetera. Um, and he, but he tackles all those, all of those issues. With a credible lightness of touch. 

And so it never feels heavy handed, it never feels lecturing. And I think comedy, you could almost divide comedy I think these days on TV into comedies that are trying to be very naturalistic and in kind reflect big issues that are going on with people in terms of, um, their health and their, their mental health issues and maybe even political issues, and comedies that just wanna be funny. 

Just out to be funny, like, you know, I'm thinking of Diane Morgan's, you know, comedy. And indeed, you know, Toast, Toast of London. And, and the shows you [Susan] worked with Matt Barry on that, Matt Barry doesn't, isn't make any point about ethic, thank God. 

Susan: As a performer I find that incredibly refreshing. 

Boyd: Oh, I bet.  

Susan: Cause you're just there to have a laugh and there's nothing political and -  yes, I understand that as a black actor, it can be just political when you walk into a room, but it's so lovely to know that you are just there because you're funny. 

Boyd: Yeah. right. I bet. Yeah. Whereas Big Boys somehow it, it's kind of works in both senses. It kind of incorporates, but it can be really silly, uh, boldly, brazenly silly. And at the same time, it's incredibly moving as well. So it's a, it's a fantastic treat that Jack Rooke has pulled off, I think. 

Alex: A couple of comedy shows actually started life, much like Big Boys, as stage shows. I mean, Fleabag is obviously a huge example, Netflix's Baby, reindeer by Rich Gad, which everyone seems to be talking about at the moment, is another example of a stage show turned TV show. Is that something that is a, a, a proven route to get a TV show? Maybe because broadcasters are seeing a sound investment because the people, uh, or person involved, it's like, well, they know what they're doing. 

We're seeing audiences turn out for this. I don't wanna make TV commissioning of comedy horribly clinical - But is that what makes it quite a good route into TV? 

Susan: I think so. Being able to see. the thing. And also, I think the thing that's very clever about, um, sourcing shows from, um, live theater or comedy shows is that you can experience what the audience feel when you are sat there. And I've seen that sometimes where you get, these execs kind of get whipped up with everybody else so they can feel that, rather than just sort of doing a, a pilot, which then gets watched in a like horrible room, and people sort of going, ‘I dunno, it's funny.’ 

You get the, you get the reaction from everybody. So it's, I think it's, it makes complete and utter sense. I think that also as well, um, having a really clear authored voice. Like I saw Baby Reindeer and it was one of the best things I have ever seen on stage, um, funnier than, than the show. But, but in a way I really applaud. 'Cause Rich is also a fantastic actor and I really applaud him sort of taking it seriously. There are, there is lightness of touch when he talks about Edinburgh Fringe Festival in it a few episodes in, but it, yeah, it makes complete sense. You get to see that authored voice. You crucially get to see the audience reaction. 

Alex: Um. If opening, uh, a new show, beginning a season one is difficult, delivering a second series is another big challenge as we've seen from Big Boys. It can be, it can be done very well with season two being nominated for the BAFTA.  

Susan, from your experience in TV comedies, how challenging is it following up a successful season one with that second season, and what does that second season have to do? 

Susan: Oh, it's difficult, second album! It's really hard, especially if you didn't see the, the success coming because I think television success has changed so much. You know, we used to just have four or five channels and, um, you would get that viewership and it would be very loyal. But now you're competing with all sorts and all sorts of really great artists from film now who sort of come and watch television. 

So you just hope that it reaches somebody. But I feel like the. The scope of a successful show now can be international and that's pretty scary. Um, that's pretty exciting, but also really scary.  

I think that, not getting too caught up in like, the internet discourse as a writer. Like you really - I've seen this happen - where, um, I don't know whether I want to talk too much about it, but there was an experience where, um, there was casting announcement of me in a show and the writers in that, the team, they watched the discourse. It worked in my favor. 'Cause it basically was like, ‘Susan should play the lead!’ 

But then they started changing the script to sort of boost my role. And I was like, but that doesn't come from what you're trying to say in the show. You're just doing it because the internet has had a bit of a hissy fit that they'll forget in 24 hours. And so I think that if your  show really takes off in that new, international way, which it does now, always going back to kind of the stories that you want to tell the characters and not getting too caught up in kind of what people want or expect. It's hard though because the internet is loud. 

Alex: Oh yeah. 

Boyd: It's, that's really interesting though, ‘cause whenever I, I often interview writers of comedies who are- when they come to do second series of something and they, they often say it's much easier to write second series because you've established the who the characters are and you know what the performers are like, and they write more for the performers’ version of that character that they conceived in the first place. 

I know Jack Rooke, I think, has said that himself, that he found it easier to write subsequent series. And there's always had a lot of different episodes in mind, like, wanted it to be an ongoing thing. Yeah. And I think, I think the second series was better than the first series. Um, so I think, yeah, I, I can see that kind of what I can see if you're reacting to the internet being a terrible thing, but if you're reacting to the actual, what you've achieved with the character creation and performance, that's, that's really good, I think. Maybe, maybe they were just reacting to how brilliant you were. That's what I'm saying. 

Susan: Maybe. That's what I wanted you to say. [Laughs] Actually. I suppose that's the whole point of that, little bit of compliment. 

Alex: Now the BAFTA TV craft awards were on Sunday and Jack Rooke won the BAFTA for Writer of Comedy, and he spoke to Countdown to the BAFTAs, shortly after picking up the trophy.  

[Start Clip] 

Jack: Hello everybody. My name is Jack Rooke and I've just won the writer comedy award for Big Boys, and I'm very, very stressed about it. It's stressful to win.  

Even though it deals with big issues and things of mental health and grief, still always has a joke around the corner and I really feel, it's a comedy first and foremost. And comedy is my like, you know what, what I've been invested in the last 10 years of my career. 

So it's really about trusting people, trusting your collaborators, knowing that people want you to succeed. And if you're a nice person, you're a kind person and you are empathetic and collaborative, then people will root for you and you'll feel that support. 

And I certainly do. And I feel very, very lucky indeed.  

I'm very proud to come from a live comedy background. I'm proud to come from places like the Roundhouse that looked after me as a kid and put me on young people's writing courses and bursaries and scholarships. I'm a real Arts Council kid. I'm a bursary boy, and I'm very proud to come from a live performance background because I think that's where the most interesting stuff is born and, and, and comes out of. 

So, yeah, it's an amazing... It feels at the end of like 10 years of my career. You know, big Boys is the sort of cherry on top. It's the final thing I'll probably make about grief and my dad and my mum and stuff like that. I'm ready to do something completely non-autobiographical, something less self-indulgent next time.  

Alex: That was Jack Rooke.  

Also in contention for scripted comedy is BBC Three's Such Brave Girls, which I think very firmly, even though it deals with some big issues, it does it as a sitcom. It's not a comedy drama. This is pound for pound. I'm just gonna come out and say it. This is absolutely brilliant. Created, written by and starring Kat Sadler. It's about a dysfunctional family of a single mom and her two daughters, Kat Sadler, also won a craft award on Sunday as an emerging talent in fiction.  

It, in my opinion, is genius, you know, comedy's subjective, in my opinion. I haven't laughed as much as I did watching this in a long time.  

And on that note, Boyd, what did you think? 

Boyd: I agree. It's absolutely fantastic. And it's almost like the pitch for this, well, I don't know if this is true, but I, I imagine in my mind the pitch for this was Kat saying to people ‘Yeah. It's all about mental health and I've experienced some terrible, terrible things and I have a hard time, but it's gonna be the funniest thing you've ever seen, I'm just gonna go hell for leather with the laughs. And it's just so funny. Um, and yet you're kind of constantly aware of, should I be, you know, is okay that I'm laughing at this stuff?’ But she's great at it. She's great. Great. These characters, they're hilarious. The mum, Lou Brealey is the mum, I mean, she's hysterical. 

I've always, I've loved Lou Brealey. She's, she's brilliant in Sherlock. You know, she's, she's done loads of great stuff. But this is like, I think the role of her career 'cause she's just hilarious every single scene. The dodgy guy, the dodgy is he-isn't he boyfriend guy who's just a creepy, horrible, um, every, everything about it's fantastic. 

But the performances are fantastic. And her, but her writing, um, making sure it is relentlessly, relentlessly funny, I think is such a triumph. 

Alex: It's so abrasive and unapologetic and at times quite niche. In the first episode, there's a joke about Mirtazapine, an anti-anxiety drug.Without explanation. It just, it, it requires you to know what that is to go. Oh, okay. And it's very funny, it reminds me a little bit in terms of the humor of, uh, the legendary, uh, Julia Davis show ‘Nighty Night’. 

Susan: Mm-Hmm. 

Alex: I dunno whether you agree? 

Boyd: Of course. yeah, 

Susan: Yeah, yeah, yeah, big fan. I think that, do you know, sort of talking about, um, uh, comedy dramas and comedies that explore sort of darker subjects. I feel like Such Brave Girls has come at a time where you can do that. 

Where you can go, okay. We, there's a lot out there that handles mental health issues in a really, you know, kind of sensitive, caring way. And not that there isn't care with Such Brave Girls, but now I feel like the kind of, right now we're gonna do this and it's gonna be gag, gag, gag. I feel like the timing is a really good example of the timing of the show. 

Alex: Absolutely. Absolutely. Um, Kat herself described the show's conceit as being about narcissistic losers who are pathetically obsessed with what people think about us. 

Um, when it comes to getting laughs. Uh, as a, as a performer, do you prefer Susan, playing sympathetic characters or complete assholes, or are the best characters kind of an amalgam of both those things? I, I, I'm thinking, you know, sympathetic, but an asshole. David Brent, Basil Fawlty- 

Susan: Yeah.  

Alex: Hyacinth Bucket, Fleabag. 

Susan: Yeah. Yeah. I feel like the key is that you don't think that they're an asshole, but if, if they're doing asshole things like go for it. But you have to work out the psychology of why that's completely fine. 

Um, and that's where the funny is. Um, I, I, I tend to just kind of fall into a bracket of playing weirdos. Just really strange, kind of lonely, isolated people, which I love. But the, the kind of challenge of playing somebody who's out and out is kind of awful. And the freedom that I get. I'm a huge fan of Julie Davis in Nighty Night, is a one of the greatest examples of that. 

And also knowing that she's having the best time ever, that looks fun, I would love to play someone who's a psychopath. 

Alex: Right. Finally, for Scripted Comedy season one of BBC three's Dreaming Whilst Black is up for Scripted Comedy as a show, and for the performance of its co-creator and star Adjani Salmon. Uh, this is another interesting route onto TV, Susan. It started as a webcast, then became a pilot for BBC Three, 

now there's a second season in the works. Susan, do you think that long process of, uh, Adjani Salmon, what he's been through, gives the show what I think is just a really unique and distinctive voice? And he seems so at ease in the middle of this show. 

Susan: Yeah, I mean it's, it's quite something to create something and then be in the center of it. And I think that, again, sort of what I said before, the authored voice is like, if you lead the way and you say, ‘I know what this is’, clever people will let you do your thing. And that's what it feels, it feels very assured. 

It looks gorgeous. It looks absolutely stunning. And I love, I always get a little bit touchy about things that are about the arts or like about, you know, but somehow manages to toe that line and make it really relatable and fun and gorgeous. And yeah, you can tell that it's really coming from him and that he's been allowed to, to do his thing. 

I hope that the second series is, is the same. 

Alex: Let's, let's talk about that rule. 'cause you're absolutely right. I mean, any, any writer anywhere is told never write a sitcom about being a writer. 

Susan: It's the big rule isn't it? 

 Alex: And yet he's, he, I mean, granted it's a film he is writing, but at the same time it's, it's the same ballpark really. If something's well done, none of the rules apply, just do it well! 

Susan: I think so. I really do think so. I think that like, I, I remember sort of being told all like, you need to, it was for film and writing, you need to have a set piece. And I was like, set piece. Cool. And then I was going on with a set piece for six months and I was like,Who? Who said? Who the hell said that? And you just start going- 

Boyd: What? What even is this set piece? 

Susan: I dunno. Like someone's on like a, I dunno, a Ferris wheel and you're hanging on like, ‘Whoa.’ I dunno. I was like, cool. How does that filter into this? 

I think that every kind of rule should be thoroughly investigated. because it can just clip your wings and it's all about people wanting to play safe. I think. 

Boyd: I think he, I think he smuggled in by stealth the real story of Dreaming Whilst Black. Because in the, the pilot, which is one of the, a great, great half hour of comedy, it kind of feels, it's all, it's like the office discussing racism particularly that he faces in this office, and the characters in the office are hilarious.  

Um, but the, once the series came along, it didn't, wasn't about that at all. He leaves that, that job. And it's all about his creative journey and his adventure, trying to become a filmmaker and all of that. And that I loved! 

So it's like, I, I think he kind of did that deliberately. That's my theory because it's like, oh, we all think it’s an office sitcom to start off with, but it's not that at all. And it ended up being absolutely hilarious and funny. And I think we grew to love him and follow his adventures in this world. 

But I think it, it, it, it worked from that point of view to start with. 

Alex: Yeah Needed a set piece in my opinion. [Laughs] 

No, it's brilliant. It's very, very good.  

Uh, let's look now at some of the other nominees for Comedy Performance and see what interesting nuggets we can define from the list. Uh, BBC One’s Black Ops, a comedy about two low level police officers who are out of their depth when assigned deep undercover to infiltrate a drug gang. 

Uh, a comedy that to borrow a joke from the show ‘gets into some real line of duty shit.’ Uh, both it’s stars Gbemisola Ikumelo and Hammed Animashaun are up for BAFTAs. Uh, you both liked this show, I hear so, uh, Susan, tell me your thoughts on this. It's quite special chemistry between those two leads! 

Susan: Oh, it's they're just, they're the funniest people. As soon as it was announced that they were creating the show, I was like, that's genius. That's genius. Getting those two into the room. 

I remember I saw the trailer, I was like, need. That's exactly what I need. It looks silly as hell. And that's what I love about it. I think that a lot of the time as black performers, I don't wanna speak for everybody, but like, I can often feel like, oh, you know, I have to sort of show this side of humanity so that people get me. 

This is just like, we're funny, we're doing this. We've got the conceit. It's also something that, you know, um, uh, estates and drugs and, and, and having two people who are absolutely outside of that world and like, we don't- we, we, we have to infiltrate because it seems like we would know what's going on and all the lingo and whatnot, and actually they're completely out of their depth. 

It's, it's absolutely brilliant 'cause it's playing on things, stereotypes that we know that we've heard of, but also it allows them to run free and also have like kind of big, like high stakes shootouts and stuff. Like, do you know what I mean? 

Alex: Yeah, yeah, yeah! 

Susan: That's, it's really clever 'cause it makes them, I love it when you see performers get to do all the things. Uh, rather than just like you're stuck in a kitchen. 

Alex: It’s cool to see a comedy and, and as we were talking about earlier, I think you mentioned this under the banner of a, a purely funny sitcom, uh, that has action in it, that has gun fights- 

Boyd: Set pieces. It's got set pieces. 

Susan: It has got set pieces.  

Boyd: I, I'm just saying, you know, yeah. 

Susan: Maybe they're right. Maybe they're right. Maybe set pieces what gets you a BAFTA. 

Alex: It's a, it's a sitcom set entirely in a laundrette. 

Apart from Act three, which always has a car chase! [Laughs] 

Uh, Uh, they do work really well as a, as a double act. Uh, it feels like they've been a duo for years. I mean, you, correct me. I'm, I'm  almost certain this is the first time they've worked together though on screen? 

Susan: As far as I know, I think it's the first time. But I've, um, uh, like  separately been following their work, Gbemisola since, um, Famalam, brilliant sketch show, and Hammed I've known primarily from theater, amazing theater work. 

In fact, we were both playing, there was one year where, uh, 2019 and I got cast as Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Deam. Thank you very much. At Regents Park. I was like, ‘oh, this is gonna be great’. It was also that Summer that, like, there were 12 other productions. It was so annoying.  

He was in one of the other productions at the Bridge Theater playing Bottom. 

I was like, ‘that's really.. Ahhh'. Our, um, run was slightly shorter than theirs. So I went to go and see him. It's one of the best performances I've ever, I was -considering I'd just done it as well and I was watching going, ‘should have done that. Should have done that.’ But again, he could only do that and he's really like, so skillful, kind of like with Matt, like he knows how to de deliver a line in this way that you're like, yeah, I read the same thing and I didn't get that. Um, just yeah. Delighted from them both. 

Alex: They work perfectly as, as a double act. You’d believe they'd been a double act for years watching them in black ops! Um, well, and it's fair to say we don't really see that many double acts um, in sitcoms anymore. There's no, there's not. Often we find, you know, your Rik Mayall and Ade Edmondson doing Bottom, or even, I couldn't believe it when I looked this up, but, uh, House of Fools Vic and Bob,  that was 10 years ago! 

Boyd: Oh God. Was it? Oh, that makes me feel even older than I am. Yeah, they, they are absolutely brilliant. 

Like, I love the fact that it's built round these two hilarious people, um, who are completely, um, different to all the other characters. You mentioned this-  and they populate the show, by the way, don't they as well, with kind of like veteran comedy stars. Um, which, which is a brilliant idea to, to do, and I just think they're, they're incredibly lovable as well as being fantastically silly all the way through. 

And so, they bounce off each other and they bounce off the supporting characters as well. Fantastically well, but I agree. The, the tone of it, I love the out on out preposterousness of the whole situation. It's a caper, isn't it? It's a good old fashioned comedy caper where ridiculously stupid things happen constantly. 

But because it's so well written and because it's so hilariously performed, you go along with the whole thing. All the way through. But I, I, I, it's, it's fantastic. Yeah. It's such a breath of fresh air, actually. 

Alex: The performer lists are a mix of, uh, of both standup comedians cum actors, uh, Bridget Christie, uh, who is, uh, wonderful in Channel four The change, uh, Marwaan Rizwan, nominated for his BBC Three sitcom Juice. 

Uh, we've also got actors with a theatrical background, Taj Atwell in Channel Falls, HullRaisers, Roisin Gallagher in Sky’s The Lovers. You just touched on this briefly. I mean, when you were talking about performing on stage, A Midsummer Night's Dream, all of them have some experience of being in front of a live audience, whether it's theater or, or standup. 

Do you think there is a skill set that comes from that, an experience that comes from being on stage that really helps when you're in a, a, a cold studio? No audience, the crew being quiet, to still understand the comedy in a scene? 

Susan: A hundred percent. Because if you've ever done anything on stage, you know what happens when you fail. [Laughs] That, that I think, um, I think that's very true of comedians because it is, you, you are sort of using your own material. 

One night will be great. One night it will be awful. Um, anything with live performance like with A Midsummer Night’s Dream, you know what you gonna do if a pigeon - it lands on stage? You have to sort that out. Everyone's looking at the pigeon, they're not looking at you. Are you gonna pretend the pigeon's not there? No, you're not. You're gonna interact with the pigeon, then it's gonna fly off, and then you're gonna forget where you are and everyone's gonna laugh. And then after a while they'll go, she doesn't know what she's doing. And I'm like, I'm lost.  

Alex: Um, it feels like you're flashing back to- 

Susan:  No, no no! That's merely an imaginary set piece. 

Um, no, but, but no, live performance is, is dangerous. And I feel like when you have that experience, actually comparatively a set where everyone's being very respectful and they've worked very hard to do the set and do all that, you know, you can get on with it, I think, in a way that's much more controlled. 

Alex: To look down that list, I, I just mentioned Boyd, um, are there performances that, that jump out in you? I mean, I, I personally, I thought, um, The Change as a, a TV show with Bridget Christie that she wrote and created as well, I mean, such a unique show. I mean, we were talking about, um, Dreaming Whilst Black and how well that was shot and what it looked like. 

Um, this show's it's beautifully sharpened, amazing score! What did you think? 

Boyd: Yeah, it's great. And, and also it's another show that I think started off, um, as one thing and you kind of thought, ‘oh, I know where this is going.’ 

It started off with her family and her kind of husband and her wanting to break away from them and celebrate, you know, being an older woman, a woman of a certain age, to use that very terrible, terrible phrase. Sorry. 

Uh, but then it ends up with her going to see this community, this kind of like rural community of weirdos, frankly.  

Alex: It goes a bit ‘Wicker Man’ doesn’t it? 

Boyd: Who expected that from the first? You'd never expect that from the first episode, nor indeed from the kind of premise that you're sent as a, as a TV critic you’re sent, you know, the press release and you think, oh, you know, yeah, I, I can see where this is going. 

And Bridget course talks about this, all of this stuff, uh, in her standup, but actually this show was a completely different thing entirely. And it was about this weird, as you say, ‘Wicker Man’ style community and her finding her role within it. It was a totally different thing, but fascinating. Um, and, and she's, and I think, you know, it's almost like her standup style melded completely with her performance style and her and, and her acting in this show because she was completely hilarious in it. And yet at the same time, creating a kind of an interesting version of herself, a version of the standup persona we know so well. So I thought she did a brilliant job in it. 

Brilliant.  

Alex: In amongst, um all the comedy, uh, sitcoms and comedy dramas. Uh, there's one sketch show, uh, nominated, uh, for performance. And that's Jamie. Dimitriou is, uh, nominated for his Netflix One-Off Sketch show. I don't think you can fault his ability as a performer, which is what he's nominated for, to inhabit such a variety of hilarious characters. 

Boyd: I, I really, I really loved it. I have to say. Um, I, and I do think, you know, it's like this, this is a different one because all the other nominees are narrative. They're either old fashioned sitcoms or they're comedy dramas or whatever. They essentially narratives, ongoing narratives. He's created this hour-long festival of characters, an incredible array of bizarre, fantastic, hilarious, silly people. 

And you, and, and I love the variety of the different performances that he gave. I mean, I love him in Stath Lets Flats completely, of course. But this shows his extraordinary range, comedic range, all kinds of different ideas and, and themes and, and moods and tones within this one out hour long special. I thought it was absolutely brilliant. 

Like, how do you compare him pulling off all of these different performances to these excellent people in narrative comedy is doing one character at a time? Which is fair enough. So I think he has to be a very strong contender just because it, I just, I, I mean, I love more than anything - talking of slapstick as I did before - the, the, the, [moment where he is] the coming in with coming into the office and throwing his, throwing his bag down. I mean, that's one of the funniest things I've seen this year.  

Alex: The bag getting caught on the door, every single, time!  

Boyd: It's one of the most stupid, slapstick concepts for a sketch ever. But he does it so brilliantly. He completely wins you over and it just works. 

Alex: So, yeah, I know you, I know you, uh, you mentioned that, uh, you wanted to highlight a couple of other performances, uh, nominated, uh, David Tennant for his work in ‘Good Omens’ 

Boyd: Yeah!  

Alex: This is his first BAFTA nomination. 

Boyd: Is it?  

Susan: I know. I couldn't believe that! 

Boyd: That is incredible! David Tennant is one of the funniest, uh, people you'll meet and he's just kind of like an absolute delight. And I think we've seen that in recent years, and I think you're associating with playing Macbeth, you know, or Hamlet and, um, being incredible in all of those shows. Dr. Who of course, um, but he's in recent times, he's really shown his comedy chops that show he does with Michael Sheen is hilarious.  

Susan: Staged!  

Boyd: And I think in, in this show, he's just funny all the way through. And again, he has a double act. Michael, you're talking of double act. This is a double act, really. Absolutely. And that's a double act that, that now has been in different shows essentially. And Good Omens kind of uses their chemistry, which is fantastically watchable and lovely to see. 

So I think I, I, I'm really pleased for him. Not that he needs any help, he's doing fine, isn't he! 

Susan: thrilled [Laughs] 

Boyd: But to get a BAFTA nomination for a comedy performance is great for him, and fully deserved. 

Alex: And just to round it off, because we haven't mentioned him by name and it's absolutely worth mentioning him, Joseph Gilgun at his fifth BAFTA nomination, fourth for his role in the show he co-created Brassic, which is in its fifth series, an amazingly enduring and very funny series. 

You're a fan Boyd? 

Boyd: Yeah. Brassic is like a phenomenon because, you know, who'd have thought Sky would kind of put all this, you know, amount of backing behind such a kind of, in some levels gritty, you know, working class, um, origin story in a way. 

And that's really refreshing of Bob. 'Cause you still don't see, talking of people you don't see on TV very much, working-class people. Still incredibly rare to see, uh, uh, that those stories on television. So it's brilliant from that point of view. He's just a  complete maverick, loose cannon of a performer I think. 

And I love that about him. So I think you can see why he's been nominated so many times. I also wanted to mention Mawaan Rizwan again, just because I love juice so much and for him to come up that is, talking of unique, I think. In the BAFTA judging sessions, you're often, you're reminded one, I think one of the big criteria is something truly original or different. 

And that juice is so original. It's, I've never seen anything like it. And that is really rare. So I think we should acknowledge, and I love the fact that he as a performer, he's just wild and almost uncontrollable, and yet he's controlled it enough, in Juice to create a really funny, um, thing again with some incredible set pieces, I think. Sorry. 

Susan: Alright. They work, hold on everyone.  

Alex: Uh, and finally there are three BAFTA shorts with a comedy leaning nominated, uh, that we wanted to draw your attention to. Uh, two BBC comedy shorts, Mobility and Where it Ends. And A one-off short film on BBC IPlayer, The Skewer: Three Twisted Years. Uh, what did you make of, um, these shorts? 

Did anything jump out at you as, as, as a, as a, a voice and something to look at for the future? Although I, I, I say that The Skewer is a, a multi nominated, multi winning, uh, multi-award winning radio production. 

Boyd: Um, they're great. This, they're, they're all really interesting. But my, my Mobility is the one I think that stood out for me. 

I think Jack Carroll, Jack Carroll came second, I think in Britain's Got Talent when he was 14 years old. Yes. Incredible. 

And, um, he has flourished, he's, he come through sheer determination, I think, and skill and talent. He drove through the production of this short. And I think it's fantastic. And again, talking of people you don't see at, at all on tv, people with disabilities, incredibly rare. 

It's, it's really out, kind of scandalous, how rare it's to see people with disabilities on screen. But the way he deals with the whole issue of disability in this short is absolutely hilarious. And the banter between the three characters on this school bus is just fabulous. So I think it's great. I'm not sure if it's been commissioned as a series, I think. 

I hope so. It must be, you feel like it's a great gem and it needs to be, I need, I want to see a six-part, 30-minute series of these characters and, and what they get up to. So I thought that was a fantastic triumph for him. 

Alex: I, I, I will, I will say of The Skewer, um. As I said, a multi-award winning radio four series. Uh, the film, it's all this nightmare-ish montage sampling news and current affairs for a satirical effect. 

The reason I'm, it stuck with me. Do you remember Chris Morris's series Jam? It had overtones of that. Very disconcerting, quite upsetting at times, but in a very interesting way. Yeah, that's The Skewer: Three Twisted Years, uh, right then. We are almost done for this episode, but before I let you both leave BAFTA HQ, I'm asking you and indeed every guest my regular quickfire questions. 

So first question, Boyd, you're gonna have to pick a different answer. You've done this once before.  

What was your most memorable moment or set piece from the past year of TV in general? 

Boyd: If I'm taking one one takeaway it’s set piece are so important.  

This is a set piece actually that's come to mind, which is the Doctor Who regeneration of David Tennant in those. So they did those three specials. The Russell T Daveis wrote to bring David Tennant back as David Tennant was an amazing doctor. Yeah. But for, for them, for him to transform into to Ncuti Gatwa was doctor, um, was a fantastic and he did it. It was a real surprise 'cause you obviously you knew Ncuti was coming. We’d known for months, maybe even like a year, 18 months that he was the next doctor. 

But what we didn't know was that he'd do this thing where they'd both be appearing on TV on, on, in the show at the same time. They kind of like became two parts of the, of the whole of the Doctor. And you got, and you got to see about 10, 15 minutes of Ncuti’s doctor at the end of the episode, which I loved so much. 

It was so exciting. It was just a thrill to see a, I'm a big doctor who fan, in case you haven't realized.  

So it was amazing to see a different regeneration, something completely new and different and kind of outrageous and funny and bold. 

Alex: Uh, okay, Susan, uh, what is your most memorable moment from the past year in TV in general? Doesn't have to be comedy. It can be comedy, anything at all. 

Susan: It would have to be Baby Reindeer. I think uh, I saw the original show in 2019, and, um, knew it was in development because, um, Clerkenwell Films, um, have made it and they make a show that I'm in called Cheaters,So I knew that it'd been shot in like 2022.  

So I've been waiting, wait, wait, wait, waiting like a punter, like I know Richard, but I'm like, ‘come on, don't talk to me about your life. What's going on?’ So, um, the fact that it's, it's out there. I mean, this is so recent, um, and the effect and that the way that it was so different to the, the stage show, but equally as, um, as important and harrowing for me, absolutely hands down is just an amazing achievement. 

Alex: Wonderful. Well, uh, that might have answered the second question already, but what are you watching and loving right now? 

Susan: I've just, I've actually started watching Fawlty Towers. 

Yeah. The first time. Wow. Which is an experience. 

Alex: And?! Are you enjoy it? 

Susan: It’s a bit, because there's a stage show of it. That's, that's coming out soon. And I saw the poster and I was like. I've been dodging that, I should get to know what that is. Right. And so, yeah, I've started watching Fawlty Towers for the very first time. 

Boyd: Right. Well that's funny 'cause it's, it's BBC Two 60th anniversary. They just celebrated and that was one of the all time great BBC two shows, which it started on BBC Two, not on BBC One. Yeah. 

Alex: Uh, finally then Boyd, for this episode, what are you watching and loving right now? It Can’t be Ripley which you picked last time. 

Boyd: And and I'm trying not to say Baby Reindeer, you know, the one show that is my, it's not, I hate the phrase Guilty pleasure. It's not guilty, but it's a reality show, really. It is Race Across the World, which is one of the great formats in TV history. It's so brilliant 'cause it's completely lovable. Like you've got these duos, mother, mother, daughter, two best mates, whatever they are. Doing this incredibly difficult challenge to go tens of thousands of miles in, in Asia from one place to another. 

And there's just, it's just a real love of kind of travel and of eachother, uh, within the duos. And it's just a lovely, lovely show. Like, it's kind of like the antidote to horrible realitytv. if, if you like.  

It's a competition, but it's just heartwarming from start to finish, honestly. 

It's brilliant. So that's the show that I'm loving at the moment in real time, watching on TV week by week as it plays out. 

Alex: It seems like we're in an era of nicer TV right now. It's,  

Susan: Please.  

Alex: Yeah,  

Boyd: I think so 

Susan: Yeah. We don't need cruel TV. 

Alex: Well, good, good evolution. Well done TV. Uh, and that's says done. My thanks to Boyd Hilton and Susan Wokoma. Hit follow right now to get the inside take on the rest of the TV nominees up for contention this year. 

We'll be dropping new episodes twice a week, leading up to the BAFTA TV awards with p and o Cruisers on the 12th of May on BBC one and iPlayer hosted this year by Rob Beckett. And Romesh Ranganathan. You won't want to miss it. Also, thanks to the producer of this series, Matt Hill at Rethink Audio.  

I'm Alex Zane, this was a BAFTA production. I'll see you again as the countdown to the 2024 BAFTA TV Awards continues.