EP56 – Robert Popper – How to “make it” in TV.

Ask The Industry Podcast Comments

EP56 – Robert Popper – How to “make it” in TV.


Total run time: 1 hour 08 mins 58 secs.

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About Robert Popper…

Robert (@robertpopper) is comedy producer, writer, actor, and author, best known as co-creator of the mock BBC documentary Look Around You, and creator of Channel 4’s sitcom Friday Night Dinner. He also wrote the books The Timewaster Letters, Return of The Timewaster Letters and The Timewaster Diaries under the pseudonym Robin Cooper.

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Here’s a list of questions we covered…

TV work / jobs…

  • What was your first job in TV? [0 mins 0 secs]
  • How did you progress to get your stuff on TV? [13 mins 10 secs]
  • Do you think being the Commissioning Editor for Entertainment and Comedy at Channel 4 helped you learn the style guide for the channel better to develop future shows? [28 mins]
  • Which channel / brands do you think are doing the most for stand up on TV? [29 mins]
  • What do you see the future of TV being like?
  • How does he see the future of TV? [1 hour 9 mins]
  • Would you agree with Iain Coyle from Dave that commissioners are generally ad men rather than commissioners as they have to  think about the profitability of the channel ahead of some creative choices?
  • You’ve had several different roles in TV and I think to an outside there’s a lot of crossover between the roles so I wanted to know your definition of the following jobs – [3 mins 13 secs]
  • Producer
  • Editor
  • Director
  • creative consultant
  • script consultant
  • program consultant
  • Script Editor
  • Writer
  • How he separates the writing role, and the more objective script editing role. How hard is it to avoid stepping in the write the thing himself?? [9 mins 50 secs]
  • What opportunities are there for young comedy writers to get their work to be seen by somebody in the industry? [40 mins]
  • Often my pilots are disregarded and not even looked over in the slightest. I have turned to self producing, does he see the online video sharing medium a legitimate way of getting recognised by TV professionals. Does he think a sitcom on places like YouTube could be easily transferred to TV?

Show questions…

  • The Big Breakfast, writing for comedy puppets, Zig and Zag. What was it like writing for puppets? [14 mins 30 secs]
  • Your commissioning credits include the series Bo’ Selecta!, Black Books, Spaced and Bremner, Bird and Fortune. What was the business choice behind these shows? [21 mins]
  • Were there any shows you wanted to commision that you turned down which other channels picked up? [25 mins 16 secs]
  1. Dr Horrible  

Popper Productions…

  • Doesn’t accept unsolicited scripts, but do you scout for content / projects and if so how do you go about it? [31 mins 40 secs]
  • Your company says it is setup to produce content for the internet, do you think that’s the future? [31 mins 40 secs]

Everything else…

  • What are the best books on comedy, writing, stand up etc you’ve read? [ 1 hour 16 mins]
  • Best show you’ve ever seen? [ 1 hour 16 mins]
  1. Fawlty Towers
  • What’s the biggest mistake you’ve ever made and how did you get over it? [ 1 hour 16 mins]
  • What is the most interesting thing you do that nobody else ever seens? [ 1 hour 18 mins 30 secs]
  • Who do you think is the most underrated person in your industry? [ 1 hour 18 mins 30 secs]
  1. Ross Lee
  • What do you think is the biggest problem in the comedy industry and how would you go about solving it? [ 1 hour 18 mins 30 secs]
  • Best bit of advice you’ve ever been given? [1 hour 20 mins 15 secs]
  • Best bit of advice you would give a comedian who wants to make a career in comedy? [1 hour 20 mins 15 secs] 
  • If you could go back to give yourself one bit of advice before your first gig… what would it be?










Simon Caine is a comedian, author, podcaster, writer and social media manager. He's the host of the Ask The Industry Podcast (iTunes link) , writer of jokes for Twitter and teller of gags on the London comedy scene. He's also the person writing this and it is taking all his willpower not to make a "Simon Says" joke.
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