The 11 O’Clock Show (Channel 4, 1998-2000)
Over the years, there have been several attempts at creating late-night topical comedy shows that are also durable in this country. Several of them haven’t really succeeded, mostly because of the demands of having to produce so much quality material, and so little time to do it in, but this show was a better attempt than others, and is also notable for boosting the careers of a lot of comic talent.
The 11 O’Clock Show was usually shown three times a week, and the original hosting line-up included Iain Lee and Daisy Donovan. Lee liked to do voxpop interviews with the public, usually asking them bizarre questions. Donovan often liked to do this too, but with politicians, and several ended up baffled. They would also reflect in the studio on what was happening in the day’s news, usually in a rather brash style.
Also occasionally featuring in some series were contributions from Mackenzie Crook and Ricky Gervais (taking some time off from shouting at people and laughing too much on his XFM radio show), offering their skewed views on the world, and they would work together later on The Office, the rather successful sitcom. But even they didn’t attract the biggest attention from viewers.
This came from Sasha Baron Cohen and his character Ali G, who was supposedly representing the youth of Britain, and once again, he asked the questions to prominent figures that others wouldn’t dream of. This became popular enough for there to be the spin-off comedy series Da Ali G Show, and there was a film too. It was great, innit. This character was left behind after this though.
By the fifth and final series though (which was always shown much later than 11 o’clock by this point), Lee and Donovan both departed, and a new hosting duo was quickly put together, consisting of Jon Holmes (who later became known for perfecting being sacked from various radio stations for his antics), and Sarah Alexander (best-known at the time for Coupling and Smack The Pony).
However, they ended up struggling somewhat as the idea had run out of steam by this point, with over 100 editions in just two years. After this, Lee has contributed to various TV shows, radio stations, and magazines, while Donovan made more shows for Channel 4 including the documentary series Daisy Daisy, and she also hosted the short-lived comedy panel game Does Doug Know?