Greg Davies' missing kidney and Mathew Baynton's testicle: highlights from the BBC Comedy Festival

BBC Comedy Festival comes to our city, taking place on campus at Northern Stage. Is this a sign the BBC wants to invest in comedy outside of London?

Emily Kelso
24th May 2022
Image credit: @SundShortsFilm

The BBC Comedy Festival kicked off at Northern Stage this week, hosting several panels. Household names graced the stage such as Greg Davies, Romesh Ranganathan, Ben Wilibond and Mathew Baynton. The BBC made tickets freely available, which is a reflection of their desire to invest in regional comedy and to appeal to new talent with their 'Regional Partnership Scheme'. Even though comedy is not in my future, I was curious to attend and see what these comedy heavy-weights I managed to get a ticket to two sessions, both of which made me laugh my socks off and also made me look at British comedy in a new way.

The Greg Davies panel consisted of an hour long part-interview with Ash Atalla and part-Q and A with the audience. This panel was hilarious from the get-go as Ash questioned Davies on his missing kidney and rumours Davies had tanned himself before (apparently not). Davies gave a run down of his career, speaking with brutal honesty on his teaching career, how he started as a teacher and "woke up 13 years later." There were some benefits to his time in teaching though, as Davies accepted it gave him the confidence he needed to put himself out there as a performer. As to the creative process, he admitted he preferred having control over the writing and producing of a comedy show, although he sometimes struggled with the stress that came with it. All in all, it proved to be a humbling insight into a literal and figurative giant of comedy.

Events like these are a sign that, in the future, the comedy scene will be more diverse.

The Ghosts Masterclass was a similar dive into the careers of Horrible Histories alumni Ben Wilibond and Mathew Baynton as well as their Ghosts co-star Kiell Smith-Bynoe, who used his YouTube career to break into comedy. Again, there was hilarity from the start with Smith-Bynoe immediately questioned on whether he'd made Wotsits and noodles for a meal once at university. Serious inquiries into how Baynton's career progressed resulted in an unbelieable retelling of how Baynton, for a sketch at the Edinburgh Fringe, wore a very tight costume and had to perform with his private parts on near-public view. The panel had few serious moments (as a comedy festival should be), with a question regarding the tonal differences between the American and British version of Ghosts ending with the remark that the American cast of Ghosts was more attractive than the British cast. The audience launched into hysterics, Baynton mimicked walking off stage and it took a good minute to get back on track. Their recollections of Horrible Histories and Ghosts were a precious thing to witness for someone who has loved their work since they first appeared on my TV as a kid.

Whilst I am sure a comedy career is not for me, to have an insight into the process was fascinating and appreciated. Events like these are a sign that, in the future, the comedy scene will be more diverse. Maybe one day, the Americans who gorge themselves on British comedy will finally realise there is more to Britain than London (although they may not understand the accent...).

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AUTHOR: Emily Kelso
Third year History and Archaeology student. Also a Comment Sub-Editor.

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