Punkanary: Changing The Way Shows Are Made

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Let’s talk about a better way of doing comedy.

And before the confusion kicks in I don’t mean stand-up comedy. That is thriving like never before. I mean sitcoms, sketches. This is about enabling creators to make the shows that fans deserve.

I’m the co-founder of The Comedy Crowd. Over 3 years we built an army of comedy creators, 7000 strong. I’ve seen some groundbreaking, hilarious shows from completely unknown talents. It’s convinced me that it’s time to change the way we make and discover comedy.

TV is in a transition. The number of online platforms is growing, technology has made production more accessible, and viewing habits have transformed. It’s happened so quickly that traditional channels are still scrambling to catch up and realign. They are catching up. Big broadcasters are now looking to exploit the self made audience of online creators, to set up their own short-form focused platforms and even streaming services.

Comedy has suffered in this transition. In the UK in particular, broadcasters have adopted low risk commissioning strategies resulting in a proliferation of panel shows and talent-led sitcoms (so often written about the life experiences of an already established comedian). These shows are attractive to commissioners because they carry little risk of complete ratings disaster. If we were starting again today, building a system to produce great comedy that fans want to see, big broadcasters wouldn’t be in charge of it.

Technology has smashed down the barriers to entry in terms of initial production. Anybody can now make a pilot or a teaser to showcase an idea at relatively low cost. This should be great for comedy. Comedy needs diverse voices because audiences are fickle – it is harder to tickle a funny bone than it is to scare someone, to put them in suspense, to amaze them or excite them. Comedy polarises people. It doesn’t travel across countries and cultures as easily as drama or documentary. Relatability, cultural references and style matter. Comedy needs to resonate. Comedy needs a wide range of distinct, different voices.

The current model will continue to produce a raft of ‘vanilla’, ratings chasing shows with the occasional piece of brilliance breaking through to the mainstream (online or offline). I think we can serve comedy fans better than that. We are building a platform that allows diverse creators to thrive and create the range of styles and formats of comedy that will satisfy the diverse tastes of audiences.

It all starts with a community – Punkanary. This is a place where anybody can set up their comedy as a project. It could be as simple as an idea or a script. The project page is a hub from which the creator can bring in fans to follow the show, seek collaboration, and even raise funds. Engaging with fans is key. If people are following and responding positively to updates then they could be onto a good thing. On the flipside, if they are hearing tumbleweed, then it might be time to move onto something else (without early feedback many creators waste time and money developing something that was never going to find an audience).

Shows that can demonstrate an audience are screened on Punkanary On-Demand, a channel dedicated to comedy. This channel has a simple commissioning policy – if a group of fans love it, it gets shown. No gatekeepers, no subjectivity, no quotas. This gives comedy creators and fans what they’ve been craving. It provides creators a sandpit to test and develop their comedy with a fair, attainable path to actually getting it shown (and making some revenue).

Fans will finally have a channel dedicated to comedy that excites and amazes, experiments and innovates. Maybe it will inspire them to try their hand at comedy…Ultimately comedy needs that. It needs diverse experiences and perspectives, as diverse as comedy audiences themselves, to be reflected in content. Together with creators and fans we’re going to shake up the world of comedy.

Punkanary On-Demand is launching in Summer 2019. Instead of (another) monthly subscription, we offer an annual pass for only £12 – BUT act today and you can get it for £7. Take a sneak peek at the shows exclusively available and secure your annual pass here.

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