Interview: A Little Bit Racey

After a successful 2015 in which their show was nominated for Best Comedy at the UK Podcasters Awards, improvised panel show A Little Bittle Racey returns this year for a third series. Amy Forsdick spoke with show producer Samuel Hutchinson to find out more.

I read that you began this project on student radio. Where did the idea come from?
There was a group of us in a performance society at Bournemouth University who wanted to test-drive something comedic on our student radio station (which mostly consisted of dubstep shows). One of us, Henry Fosdike, came up with a loose but highly inventive idea which involved performers choosing an object, a companion and a mode of transport, and improvising their way to a given destination whilst another performer improvised obstacles in an attempt to stop them. It was produced as a one-off and sort of worked, but there was no plan to take it on and make a weekly show of it. But I loved it and so I volunteered to take it. No one else wanted it so I slipped into the producer role by default and we worked our way up to a regular show. When I left university, I started producing the show for community radio, but it really flourished when we became a part of Cornucopia Radio in Sheffield – the original idea is still intact, but over time the show has developed into a tight, structured, thirty minute panel show episode format.

How do you come up with all the different concepts for the show? Is it a group effort or does one person take the reins?

We take the lead from some of our favourite comedy writers and write the show in a group – if a few of you find a gag or an intro or a storyline funny, there’s more quality control than if just one individual does. To clarify, while the meat of the show is totally improvised, each episode is held together by a storyline running through it, and there are also lots of intros and outros to write, and objects, companions and modes of transport to conjure up, so there’s lots of work and preparation that goes in from everyone involved.

You explained in an interview with Exposed last year that in terms of risqué comedy you felt “most comedians are very good at instinctively knowing where the line is.” After another year broadcasting do you still feel this is the case?
Definitely. I trust all of my performers completely, whether they’re the ones who have followed me all the way from Bournemouth, or the new additions we’ve had from Sheffield, London, Liverpool and all over. If I didn’t trust them, they wouldn’t be on the show. But, if anything, I feel even more strongly that this is the case. We’ve had a great variety of performers in the last couple of years and I’ve never been in a situation where I’ve had to tell someone that they went too far on a particular subject or were too controversial. Besides, I like comedians to be informative and topical and brave, and I want them to be able to express themselves on the show. And they’ve almost all managed to do these things brilliantly without crossing that line. In fact, if I could change one thing about my performers I’d improve their geography!

How did it feel to get nominated for Best Comedy at the UK Podcasters Awards?

This was a really proud moment for us. To take the show from the dusty corner of a student radio station to the top three comedy podcasts in the U.K. felt great for me personally, but of course it was a reward for the collective efforts of everyone who has been involved in the show over the last couple of years. Not just myself or Peter Beeston of Cornucopia Radio – who has been an essential addition to the team – but every single panellist who we have had on the show, as far as I’m concerned. Everyone. When moments like this happen I think of them all, and I let all of them know so they can feel a part of it. It’s their achievement too.

So you are recording your third series in February. How will it differ from the last two?
We’re really happy with how series two worked out and with the outcome of our special episodes over Christmas (as well as a New Year Special, we also recorded a Christmas Special and a Star Wars Special), so we’ll be tweaking rather than making wholesale changes. We certainly don’t want to go messing around with the strong foundations we’ve spent a long time laying and now seem to be bringing us some success. That being said, we want to build on those foundations; we’re always experimenting with what the show can do, and the wonderful thing about improv is that you never know what might happen. Yes, the “skeleton” of the show is written in advance but, as I said, the meat of it is improvised. In any given episode, anything could happen, and that’s part of the enjoyment. Hopefully, series three will be wild.

Finally, you have before mentioned your desire to broadcast on BBC Radio 4. Is this still the case and if not what are your aspirations for the future?
I still think we’d be well suited to Radio 4, in terms of the show’s style and tone, and we have definitely been influenced by shows on this station. But our aim for now is to keep getting better and better, and to keep reaching more and more people. Ultimately, we’d love go pro and take the show to the next level, which would be wonderful. And, if that just so happened to be with Radio 4, then you wouldn’t catch us complaining! If you’re asking if Radio 4 is my dream destination for Racey, then of course. But, whatever happens, some of the show’s comedians are too good not to go on to great things. James Cottle, Tom Harrison, David Alnwick, Jo D’arcy, Pip Mason – these are a few names people really need to look out for.

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