School of Comedy

Last night I posted about some of the new shows coming up on E4. One of them starts tomorrow night, comedy sketch show School of Comedy.

In many ways, it’s not unlike any other typical sketch show, but there’s one major difference – the cast is made up of teenagers, mostly around the age of 13 or 14.

Some of the cast of characters from School of Comedy

Some of the young cast of characters from School of Comedy

School of Comedy was formed by after school club drama teacher Laura Lawson when she started introducing comedy to the children’s performances and found them to be very funny. She started workshops named School of Comedy, introducing more adult scripts and allowing the youngsters to develop their own characters and improvise with sketch ideas.

They laughed for the entire hour every week – it was a good feeling. Eventually we started putting on review shows every Easter for parents. They went down a treat, and with our after school club growing in confidence, I broached the idea of taking the children to the Edinburgh festival.

It was at Edinburgh, in 2007, where things really started to take off. This clip from The Culture Show with Lauren Laverne explains:

As you can see, the gimmick of the show is that while it features a young cast, they’re playing adult roles with adult themes and adult language. The festival performances attracted a lot of attention, with the group invited to appear on the BBC’s Comedy Shuffle and Channel Four’s Comedy Lab. From the Comedy Lab pilot the new series on E4 was commissioned.

The show itself is – to use that hackneyed old cliché so gloriously lampshaded by Mitchell & Webb – very hit and miss. Some sketches are very funny while others fail to raise a smile, but what is certain is that the performances are remarkably accomplished and I’m almost ashamed to admit that, yes, sometimes the sheer incongruity of seeing such foul language emerge from the mouths of these kids does make the show much funnier.

The characters are also a mixed bag. Wouldn’t like to say anything too disparaging, as you’d have seen from the clip, the cast created the characters themselves, but some are definitely better than others. Highlights include Eastern Europeans Magda & Karel and bullying teacher Mr. Mills.

Comedy is one of the things we manage to do well in this country, it’s rightfully seen as an important part of popular culture and I think it’s fantastic that it has been taken as seriously as an after-school activity as drama or music. I’d love to think that the series might inspire other young comedy groups to form across the country and help the next generation of comic talent to emerge.

School of Comedy, Thursdays 10pm, E4


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