The North East and comedy have a long and diverse relationship - from stage to screen, stand-up to sitcom, this (Ross) Noble profession has found a safe Hebburn in the region, and doesn’t plan on saying Auf Wiedersehen, Pet yet. (You can take your hands away from your eyes now.)
The latest jokers to emerge from the area are taking their prospects very seriously. Comedy trio Hot Gulp are hoping to give television viewers more than just a taste of their home-grown hilarity.
After meeting on a beach, the threesome of Patrick Low, Sean McKenna and Hal Branson have been working together for the past three years, and recently secured funding from Channel 4 to develop their sitcom ideas.
“We actually first met camping on a beach at a friend’s birthday party,” says Patrick, a PhD student at the University of Sunderland. “It was one of those awkward situations where a friend told us we’d find each other funny, and that’s always a recipe for not getting on.
“Luckily they were right and a seed was sown, and when another mutual friend was leaving Newcastle we chipped our comedy teeth on making a funny leaving video; we dressed up as minor celebrities, including Andre Agassi, Vanessa Feltz and Colonel Gadaffi. It wasn’t comedy gold but it was fun, and thus Hot Gulp was born.”
In addition to a team from production company Bonafide Films, Hot Gulp have been working with script editor Andrew Ellard, who worked on comedy greats such as Red Dwarf, Miranda and The IT Crowd.
Elaine Gracie, Head of Comedy Development at Bonafide Films, says: “Bonafide Films are committed to working with dynamic, fresh talent, and North East trio Hot Gulp have bags of potential in that category.
“In collaboration with C4’s Alpha fund, we’re developing some exciting scripted TV ideas, with the boys inspired by their weird and wonderful style, and are very much looking forward to where their raw exuberance will lead us next.”
Last month Hot Gulp were runners-up in the best sitcom category at Cofilmic – a comedy film festival that exclusively screens sketch, sitcom and short film, held at the Comedy Store in Manchester.
Patrick says: “We had two sketches and a sitcom nominated for awards - we had previously won their live pitch award for a series idea, which ended up being one of the ideas we have been developing with Bonafide and Channel 4. This time we finished runner-up for ‘Seabastards’ – a sitcom about a fictional coastal town.
“Roddigan’s Cusp is the town they forgot to close down. The townspeople include The Lobster Boys - a local crabaret act, Pasty Belafonte - the Human Lighthouse, and Karen Shoes, who runs the Yewtree Pub and Hotel.”
While Sean McKenna is a filmmaker and associate director of the Northern Stars Film Academy at the Tyneside Cinema in Newcastle, and Hal Branson is a freelance filmmaker and stand-up comedian, Patrick stands apart from these more related areas with his PhD.
He added: “I’m looking at Capital Punishment in the North East between 1750 and 1880. Bizarrely there is a lot of humour around execution, hence the term Gallows humour, so it’s not completely disconnected - having said that I tend to keep comedy out of my university work.”