The comedians Mock the Week helped launch to stardom

The comedians Mock the Week helped launch to stardom: Comics who became household names after appearing on BBC show thank it for helping launch their careers after it was axed by bosses after 17 YEARS

  • The popular panel show has been cancelled by by bosses after 21 series on BBC 
  • It kick-started the careers of comics, including Russell Howard and Frankie Boyle
  • Australian comedian Adam Hills has said he will ‘forever be grateful’ to the show 

Comics who became household names after appearing on Mock the Week have thanked the show for helping to launch their careers after it was axed by bosses. 

The BBC Two panel show, which has been on air for the last 17 years, is being cancelled with its 21st and final series being shown this autumn.

Hosted by Dara O’Briain for the entirety of its run, the programme has shone a spotlight on up-and-coming comedic talent from the UK comedy circuit.

Breakout stars from the series include the likes Frankie Boyle and Russell Howard, while in recent years a new generation of comedians have been brought into the public eye. 

Among those who have helped build their careers in the UK are Adam Hills and Angela Barnes, who have both thanked the show for the impact it has had on them. 

On Twitter Australian comic Hills, who now presents Channel 4’s The Last Leg, wrote: ‘For many years in the UK, I was only known for being on Mock The Week. It gave me a profile on British TV and brought people to my live shows. 

Ending: The comedy series hosted by Dara O’Briain, first aired on BBC Two in 2005 with fans seeing more than 200 episodes over 21 series’

‘I’ll forever be grateful for the opportunities the show (and cast and crew) gave me.’

And Barnes added on Twitter: ‘Mock The Week has been a massive part of my comedy life, thanks for having me along for the ride. 

‘I’ve made many memories and many friends, and will be so sad to wave it off. 

‘On the bright side, I had LITERALLY just run out of ideas for unlikely things to hear in an action film.’

O’Briain, who has hosted more than 200 episodes of the panel show, said: ‘That’s it folks, the UK has finally run out of news. The storylines were getting crazier and crazier – global pandemics, divorce from Europe, novelty short-term prime ministers. It couldn’t go on.

‘And so, regretfully, we are closing the doors on Dara and Hugh’s Academy for Baby Comedians. We just couldn’t be more silly than the news was already.

‘Huge thanks to all our guests over the years, so many of whom went on to huge successes of their own, and never write or call. It was a joy!’ 

Mock The Week’s final episodes will air on BBC Two and BBC iPlayer this autumn, with the BBC saying it wants to make room in its schedule for new programming.

Launching on BBC Two in 2005, Irish comedian Dara O’Briain was chosen to host, with regular panelists Hugh Dennis, Rory Bremner and Frankie Boyle providing a steady supply of jokes.

Since then it has it has seen a variety of comedians make the audience laugh with jokes about the news stories of the week, including imports from the likes of Australia, Canada and the United States.

Who got their breaks on Mock the Week?

Adam Hills

Adam Hills first came to the British public’s attention on Mock the Week and since then has appeared on multiple TV shows including Channel 4’s The Last Leg

A household name in the UK at the moment, Australian comedian Adam Hills was virtually unknown when he first appeared on Mock the Week in 2006.

His performances on the show over the next few series, combined with his appearances on other panel shows such as Never Mind the Buzzcocks and QI brought him to a wider audience in this country. 

Hills was born without a right foot and wears a prosthesis, which he regularly takes off as part of his act. 

In 2012 he was part of Channel 4’s coverage of the Paralympic Games, and since then has hosted The Last Leg, a late night comedy show on the same channel.

After it was revealed Mock the Week is being cancelled by the BBC, he said he would be ‘forever grateful’ for going on the show. 

On Twitter he wrote: ‘For many years in the UK, I was only known for being on Mock The Week. It gave me a profile on British TV and brought people to my live shows. 

‘I’ll forever be grateful for the opportunities the show (and cast and crew) gave me.’

Angela Barnes

Comedian Angela Barnes has made 26 appearances on Mock the Week since making her debut in 2014

Having made her first appearance on the show in 2014, Angela Barnes has since become a regular guest on the comedy show. 

A regular on the comedy circuit before the show, it nevertheless brought her brand of observational comedy to a wider audience.

The London-born comic, who wears hearing aids after suffering from hearing loss as a child, is a regular on radio shows such as The News Quiz on BBC Radio 4 and the We Are History podcast.

After finding out the show was being cancelled, she wrote on Twitter: ‘Mock The Week has been a massive part of my comedy life, thanks for having me along for the ride. 

‘I’ve made many memories and many friends, and will be so sad to wave it off. 

‘On the bright side, I had LITERALLY just run out of ideas for unlikely things to hear in an action film.’

Dara O’Briain

Irish comedian Dara O’Briain has hosted more than 220 episodes of Mock the Week since it started

Already a reasonably well-known comedian when chosen to present the show, Dara O’Briain has since become synonymous with Mock the Week.

Officially tasked with keeping the show on track, he has had to take more than his fair share of jokes directed at him by the panelists.

Speaking on Newsnight after the decision made to axe the show, he said: ”These things have an era.

‘It would have been nice to have carried on, but in many ways when the announcement came, when I found about it, it kind of got engulfed by theatres reopening after the pandemic which in many ways is more important to our working lives.

‘But you can have a moment of reflection and say “we had 17 years of it” – so not a bad innings.’

Frankie Boyle 

Frankie Boyle became well-known for his dark humour when appearing as a panelist on the show

Boyle’s sardonic and dark humour was put on display to the wider public for the first time on Mock the Week, making him a household name. 

During his time on the show he courted controversy for his jokes – in 2008 he was accused of bullying Olympic gold medallist Rebecca Adlington when he said she ‘looks like someone who’s looking at themselves in the back of a spoon’.

Other jokes about the Queen being so old her ‘p***y is haunted’ and barbed jokes aimed at Katie Price and her disabled son Harvey also prompted complaints.

The Scottish comic would leave the show in 2009, and later told the Mirror he was ‘bored’ of the show.

He said: ‘I just felt I’d done it to death, then they could get someone else new in. But it was good fun and they guys are great. 

‘There was no f******g animosity about it or anything.

‘You can stay too long in these things, and I think maybe I’m leaving it a bit too early, but there you go.’ 

Russell Howard 

Russell Howard was one of the first breakout stars from Mock the Week, and has gone on to host multiple shows on BBC and Sky

After making a number of guest appearances in season three, Bristol comedian Russell Howard was promoted to a main panelist in season four.

The almost polar opposite of Boyle, Howard’s puppy-like energy and surreal humour earned him a large fanbase.

He took advantage of this popularity by going on to host Russell Howards Good News, a comedy and topical news show which ran from 2009 to 2015.

He left Mock the Week in 2010, and currently presents The Russell Howard Hour on Sky Max.

Speaking before leaving Mock the Week in 2009, Howard said he was a fan of the format and the atmosphere of the show.

He said: ‘What I love about Mock The Week is that it’s big belly laughs rather than that kind of sneering laugh…

‘The great thing is that it’s topical so every time there’s a new story we have to have a new approach to it’.

Micky Flanagan 

Micky Flanagan appeared on eight episodes of Mock the Week, with his first appearance coming in 2010, a breakout year for the Dulwich-based comedian

Micky Flanagan was nearly two decades into his career in stand-up when he first appeared on Mock the Week in 2010.

The same year he went on the show he also performed on Live at the Apollo and at  the Royal Variety Performance, marking a break-out year for the comedian from Dulwich.

In 2017 his An’ Another Fing… tour was the biggest stand up tour that year, selling 600,000 tickets, and he has since hosted a number of TV shows.

Speaking to Digital Spy in 2011, he said the pressure of having to compete with other comedians on the show was a challenge he relished.

‘Comics generally are a one-man band – the only person you’re competing with is yourself and the audience,’ he said.

‘When you’re put in an environment where you’ve got to be funnier than other people or get to the funny bit quicker than someone else, a lot of comics find it very uncomfortable.

‘I looked at it and thought, ‘I think I could do that’ and gave it a go and found actually it’s not as hard as people might make out.’

Ed Gamble

Ed Gamble was a regular panelist on the show between 2015 and 2021, and noted it had changed since the show first starting airing

After beginning his comedy career while studying at Durham University, Ed Gamble has become primarily known for his appearances on Mock the Week. 

He gained a following in the industry co-presenting The Peacock and Gamble Podcast with fellow comedian Ray Peacock from 2009 to 2013.

This then mushroomed after he became a regular panelist on the BBC Two show between 2015 and 2021.

Speaking to Digital Spy in 2018, the comic said the show he walked into was not the same as when it started in 2005.  

‘It used to be a bit like a machine gun of topical jokes, which is great and I love watching them back,’ he said. 

‘But now there’s a looser, funner element to it, which suits me I think. And because we’re all sort of mates with each other, it’s for the best really.’

‘Apparently it used to be quite stressful work, because everyone’s just tunnel vision, getting their gags in there, whereas now you look forward to having fun and messing around. 

He also praised the show for showcasing up and coming talent from the UK comedy circuit, saying: ‘They’re very good at getting new people on, and especially at the moment. 

‘They really get out there and they watch stand-up and they pick new people to get on the show. And it’s changed the rhythm of the show recently.’ 

Andy Parsons

Andy Parsons was a familiar face to fans of the show, appearing on 14 series of the programme

Among the first panelists to appear on the show, Andy Parsons would go on to appear in a total of 14 series of Mock the Week.

After starting his career in comedy writing for Spitting Image, Parsons appeared on the screen himself in Mock the Week.

He often teamed up with Howard in opposition to Hugh Dennis and Frankue Boyle in early series.

He left the show in 2015 after 10 years as a panelist, and returned to stand-up comedy going on tours across the UK.

On leaving the programme he said it could be an opportunity to ‘make a female comedian a regular’ on the show.  

Sarah Millican

Sarah Millican made her Mock the Week debut in 2009 and since then has become one of the biggest names in UK comedy

Sarah Millican appeared on Mock the Week for the first time in 2009, a year that would see her become a household name. 

Despite only making two guest appearances on the show in total, this combined with performances on other TV shows, including Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow, saw her star rise. 

Her brand of clever observational comedy regarding relationships and body image have seen her become one of the most popular female comics in the UK. 

Since appearing on the show she has gone on to host shows such as Elephant in the Room on Radio 4, as well as The Sarah Millican Television Programme on BBC Two. 

Seann Walsh

Seann Walsh spent three years performing stand-up before appearing on Mock the Week

Before appearing on Strictly Come Dancing, Seann Walsh came to the public’s attention on panel shows such as Mock the Week. 

He had been performing for three years before the show , combined with appearances on Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow, Live at the Apollo and Never Mind the Buzzcocks saw his popularity increase.

He would later go on to appear on Strictly Come Dancing, although his time on the show was mired in controversy after he was seen kissing his dance partner Katya Jones.

Walsh, who was in a relationship at the time, has since talked about the subject in his stand-up routines.

Josh Widdicombe

Josh Widdicombe appeared on Mock the Week a total of 23 times and has since gone on to become a panel show regular

A former sports journalist, Josh Widdicombe made his first appearance on the show in 2011. 

He would make 23 guest appearances on the show in total, endearing himself to fans with his brand of awkward observational comedy. 

Since then he has appeared on other panel shows such as The Last Leg, Would I Lie To You?, as well as creating his own sitcom, Josh. 

His book Watching Neighbours Twice a Day… How ’90s TV (Almost) Prepared Me For Life, was relesaed in September last year and became a best seller.

Rob Beckett

Josh Beckett has appeared on Mock the Week 20 times and has since got gigs on other shows such as 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown

Making 20 appearances on the programme, Rob Beckett saw his star rise throughout his time on the show. 

While appearing on the show he also got gigs as a panelist on 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown, and co-presented I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! NOW! for three series.

He has since gone on to form a TV partnership with fellow comedian Romesh Ranganathan, appearing in  Rob & Romesh vs…, a show where the pair travel the world and take on challenges.

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