News: Adrian Edmondson, Susan Calman, Mark Watson, Deborah Frances-White, Stephen K Amos Pay Homage to Comic Inspirations In New Series

News: Adrian Edmondson, Susan Calman, Mark Watson, Deborah Frances-White, Stephen K Amos Pay Homage to Comic Heroes In New Series

Adrian Edmondson, Susan Calman, Mark Watson, Deborah Frances-White and Stephen K Amos are to present self-penned radio essays on comedy in a new series of audio essays on BBC Radio 3 entitled Top of the Bill.

Edmondson will talk about how rudeness and silliness made him laugh as a child. Susan Calman talks about being inspired by Victoria Wood. Mark Watson speaks of his love of The Simpson. Deborah France-White celebrates Fleabag and Stephen K Amos pays homage to US stand-up Redd Foxx.

Top of the Bill is produced by Caroline Raphael for Dora Productions

Top of the Bill will be broadcaast nightly on Radio 3 at 10.45pm from Monday, February 17 to Friday, February 21.


More details below.

In his essay Adrian Edmondson describes his pursuit of a certain type of laugh, a desperate, untamed, visceral laugh, and in doing so remembers one of the acts from those early days of the Comedy Store. It is one of the funniest things he has ever seen and led to his understanding of what comedy could be. He recalls how the performer played with the audience and their expectations to riotous, hysterical, effect. Except he cannot remember their name. No, really, he can’t.

For those who know Adrian Edmondson’s work with his former comedy partner, Rik Mayall, it won’t come as a surprise that as a child he was delighted by The Goons and by rude words in comic songs. He went on to study drama at Manchester University; the influence of the absurdist dramatists he studied, and the Muppets and the Pythons, are all reflected in his comedy practice. He and Rik were part of the first wave of Alternative Comedy that changed the comedic landscape for ever. He starred as Vyvyan in The Young Ones, the series that blasted its way onto our screens tearing into our preconceptions of what television comedy could be. He co-created and wrote the television series Bottom with Rik which ran for three very successful series, toured as a stage show and was the basis for a spin-off film. Adrian Edmondson is now equally well known as an accomplished straight actor (in the RSC, BBC TV’s War and Peace, Eastenders), and a writer of books for adults and children.


Susan Calman first saw An Audience with Victoria Wood at the age of 14. It was almost by accident, but by the end of the show she had come to realise what she was destined to be. Yet Susan’s career took a curious path to the comedy success that is now hers. She trained as a corporate lawyer and her work took her to the UN in Geneva and Death Row in America. In 2006 she finally gave it all up to follow in the footsteps of her comedy hero, Victoria Wood. In this essay Susan Calman celebrates Wood’s performance and writing skills, marvelling at her precise choice of language, her stage presence and, of course, The Ballad of Barry and Freda.

Susan Calman made an impression very quickly with her Edinburgh Festival Fringe shows and was a finalist in the prestigious BBC New Comedy and the So You Think You’re Funny Awards. Susan is now one of the country’s top stand ups, beloved by Radio 4 audiences on shows such as The News Quiz and in her own sitcom, Sisters, and her four solo stand up shows. She has presented Woman’s Hour, was a contestant on Strictly Come Dancing, is a hugely successful television presenter and has published two books.


Mark Watson was 12 when he first watched The Simpsons. At that time only available on satellite TV, which the Watson household did not have, his father had brought home two VHS tapes each with a couple of episodes from the first series. Initially rather sceptical and wary – wasn’t this just a cartoon about a skateboarding schoolboy prankster? – he was bowled over, and now acknowledges that it has influenced much of his work. Each new endeavour has been motivated by the fearlessness of the creators of this long running show.

Mark is a multi award winning stand up comedian who works regularly around the world and on television and radio. He has had several series on BBC Radio 4 including, in 2011, the first live transmission of a radio comedy show for many years. A fearless act in itself; perhaps almost as fearless as performing 24 hour Comedy Marathons at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, and agreeing to be cast away on Bear Gryll’s Celebrity Island in what turned out to be quite a gruelling experience. Mark is now also well established as a writer having published six novels, and in 2017 he had his first play broadcast on Radio 4.



Comedian and writer Deborah Frances-White booked a somewhat reluctant Phoebe Waller-Bridge to do a ten minute spot in a dusty basement theatre in Soho in 2012. Part stand up, party story-telling, that night marked the first public appearance of the cultural phenomenon Fleabag. It went onto be developed into a full length show and performed at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. It has run for two highly successful series on BBC TV winning huge audiences, critical acclaim and a BAFTA and many Primetime Emmy awards. In this essay Deborah recalls the impact of that first performance, how it helped drive a new revived wave of feminism and how it emboldened her own work.

Deborah Frances-White is an award winning comedian and presenter of the hugely successful podcast The Guilty Feminist which she launched in 2015. Always recorded with a live audience it has been presented around the world including events at the Sydney Opera House and the Albert Hall. To date the podcast has had 70 million downloads. In 2018 the book of the show was published, its sub-title From our noble goals to our worst hypocrisies sums it up beautifully. Her Radio 4 series Deborah Frances-White Rolls the Dice won an Writers Guild Award for best radio comedy, and has run for several series. Deborah is also a renowned improviser and has new theatre and television shows in development.


As a teenager Stephen K Amos’ family left London for Nigeria. There, for the first time, he saw television situation comedies, imported from American, about black families whose lives he recognised. Here were shows where the ethnicity of the lead characters was not central to the story or the punchline to a joke. One of his favourite shows was Sanford & Son and for his essay Stephen has chosen one particular episode and its star, Redd Foxx, who took the lead part of Sanford. As he came to know more about Foxx’s life Stephen began to see the possibility of a life of his own in comedy.

Stephen K Amos started in stand up in 1994 taking his first shows to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 1997. His work has taken him all round the world where his striking ability to connect and talk with his audience, his charm, exuberance, intelligence and warmth have won him huge audiences. He has had his own ‘name above the title’ series on BBC Television, written several series for BBC Radio 4 including the semi-autobiographical What Does the K Stand For and now combines stand up with acting, presenting documentaries and writing. 




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