Career Level: Mid-Level
What Do They Do?
A Radio Comedy Producer works with comedy writers and performers to put together programming which at its core is funny. This could be a fully scripted sitcom, stand-up show, panel show, clips show or more straight-forward radio programme. It is a very specific role, and with a different skillset from that of a live radio producer’s role.
Comedy doesn’t operate on a daily timeline like many other radio production roles, but roughly instead there are four key stages of production, at each of which the role changes slightly:
- Development. The producer’s job is to write up ideas in a way that makes commissioners buy them (or if you’re doing it independently, so that they work). This could be finding a stand-up and working out what they could talk about; structuring a panel/chat show; or script-editing a sitcom and helping choose episode ideas. You need to make a compelling case for them to give you money to make the show.
- Pre-production. Once the show is commissioned, the producer is responsible for booking actors/panellists/guests and studios (with and without audiences) and for ensuring the writing to get finished in time for the recording.
- Production. On the night, the producer is the floor manager, making sure people arrive and leave at the right time. They are also the director, overseeing any rehearsal and/or performance, and noting when there are any retakes/pickups needed. It’s their job to make sure they get everything they need recorded.
- Editing. Radio Comedy Producers don’t always to every aspect of the edit themselves, but they do have editorial control over the edit, choosing what stays in and what gets cut, as well as directing the sound design (effects/music) that may need to be added.
There is no set time-line with these stages. A Comedy Producer could send a writer notes and then not hear from them for three weeks while they rewrite, at which point they may need to take another day to read the new drafts and then send them back again for more rewrites. Recording days are big days, because they’re not every day - it’s quite rare to do more than one audience recording in a single week - although for non-audience narrative, you might do a solid week in the studio like a drama producer might.
Who Do They Work With?
- The most important relationship a producer will have is with the talent. Their job is to make them be as funny as possible so you need a trusting relationship where you can give feedback and they won’t reject it out of hand.
- A Comedy Producer also needs a good relationship with their engineer because they are the people doing the actual recording and they need to know what you want to hear (is one person on the phone in this scene? Does this comic need a mic with a stand or can they hold it themselves?)
- Comedy Producers often work with a broadcast assistant, who needs to know what’s in their head in order to help you run the production smoothly.
- Comedy Producers also need positive, constructive relationships with Commissioners – as these are the people who will green-light and fund programmes.
What Skills Do I Need?
- Radio Comedy Producers need excellent judgement. Who/what is funny (in a way the commissioner’s audience will appreciate)? How does that sound (will the audience at home get what’s going on)? Does this make sense?
- Radio Comedy Producers must stay calm under pressure – particularly in a live recording environment when unexpected things can happen.
- Radio Comedy Producers need strong interpersonal skills, as they need to support their talent to produce their best work.
- Radio Comedy Producers need to be confident communicators with strong writing skills, as they need to explain ideas to commissioners, and give notes to writers, performers and engineers. The clearer you can be, the more likely you are to end up with a thing that sounds like you wanted it to.
- Radio Comedy Producers need excellent time management and planning skills to make sure that the recording days go smoothly.
- Radio Comedy Producers tend to have curious minds, a fascination with people and a love of story-telling.
How Do I Get This Job?
An extensive knowledge of the current comedy circuit would be required for most comedy production jobs. A deep love and awareness of audio comedy isn’t essential, but will stop you suggesting ideas that are already out there.