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Kevin Cryan
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SBS & Cambridge Footlights
« : 26.01.09 at 13:11 »

itv.com Press Centre
South Bank Show
Sunday, 1 February 2009, 10:15PM - 11:15PM
ITV Productions The South Bank Show returns for a new season with a film about the influence of the Cambridge Footlights on television and radio comedy up to modern day.  
Over the past 125 years the Cambridge Footlights has become a finely tuned machine and is still seen as a hugely important breeding ground for both the fringe and television comedy.  
The South Bank Show follows the Footlights through the swinging sixties and to the current Footlights alumni at the Edinburgh Festival 2008. The Footlights is a well-developed process that starts in October with recruitment, takes in a pantomime at Christmas and Smokers throughout the year, where material is tried out and honed before the revue in May Week, a tour and a performance at the Edinburgh Festival - all the Footlights needs is new recruits with vigour and creative originality.  
With an abundance of clips of some of the greatest television comedy of the past 50 years, this is a South Bank Show to savour.  
The Cambridge Footlights has an alumni of some of the most influential comedy writer performers over its recent history and in this South Bank Show past Footlights including: Stephen Fry, John Lloyd, Griff Rhys Jones, John Bird, John Fortune, Jimmy Mulville, Germaine Greer, Clive James, Bill Oddie, David Mitchell, Alexander Armstrong, and Ben Miller.  
Highlights from the late fifties and early sixties saw the first woman performer Elenor Bron, John Fortune, David Frost and John Bird who discovered a new star among the freshmen - Peter Cook.  
By 1963 a new generation had decided that the way forward was to be “funny rather than clever”. John Cleese, Tim Brooke-Taylor, David Hatch, Bill Oddie, and Graham Chapman created a show that, directed by Humphrey Barclay, transferred to the West End. Over the next two years Graeme Garden and Eric Idle joined, making the nucleus of Monty Python’s Flying Circus and The Goodies, providing the cutting edge for television into the mid seventies.  
The mid Seventies saw the Footlights dominated by Griff Rhys Jones, Clive Anderson, John Lloyd and Douglas Adams. The most immediate effect was the reinvigorating arrival of Not The Nine O’Clock News, produced by Lloyd who went on to produce the even more radical Spitting Image. Adams went on to create the highly original comedy science fiction A Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.  
Still a television star, Griff Rhys Jones has been even more important as an executive. With his comedy partner Mel Smith from Alas Smith and Jones, he created the hugely influential independent production company Talkback Productions (Smack The Pony, I’m Alan Partridge, They Think It’s All Over, The Day Today, Da Ali G Show etc.). Two more Footlights members from that era, Jimmy Mulville and Rory McGrath, found success in the newly popular arena of stand up comedy before moving to television and starting Hat Trick Productions (Have I Got News For You, Father Ted, Drop The Dead Donkey, The Kumars at No. 42, Whose Line Is It Anyway?).  
In 1981 the first Perrier Award was given for the best comedy performance at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The Footlights won it – another vintage year with Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Emma Thompson, Tony Slattery and Sandy Toksvieg, all of whom have left their mark on television, film and radio.  
The Footlights machine goes on. In recent years it has produced David Baddiel, Steve Punt and Hugh Dennis (The Mary Whitehouse Experience, Baddiel and Skinner, Punt and Dennis, The Now Show), Mel and Sue, David Mitchell and Robert Webb.  
The latest ‘Footlighter’ to start his bid for comedic television stardom is Simon Bird, who has just won Best Newcomer at the British Comedy Awards 2008.

Postscript from Neil Mullarkey in today's edition of The Times.
Kevin Cryan
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