Competed against comedy legends
A comedian who formerly lived in Congleton has just missed out on a top award — though he was competing against two far better-known performers.
Phil Ellis, who lived on Antrobus Street and worked for the Britannia Building Society in Leek before moving into comedy professionally, was shortlisted for the BBC audio drama awards 2020, for his show Phil Ellis Is Trying, written by Mr Ellis and Fraser Steele, which was broadcast on BBC Radio Four.
He was up against two comedy legends: Mark Steel’s in Town, the Forest of Dean edition, and Phil Wang’s Wangsplaining, both also from Radio Four. The three fought it for the best scripted comedy (longform) prize, eventually won by Mr Wang.
The winners were announced at a ceremony in the Radio Theatre at BBC Broadcasting House, London, last Sunday.
The awards, presented by the BBC together with the Society of Authors and the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain, celebrate the “range, originality and cut-through quality of audio drama on air and online” and give recognition to the creativity of actors, writers, producers, sound designers and others who work in this genre.
Best scripted comedy (sketch show) was won by Alexei Sayle’s Imaginary Sandwich Bar — Mr Sayle has appeared on Mr Ellis’s show.
Mr Ellis was a graduate of Staffordshire University where he obtained a degree in media production. When his student life came to a close he wanted to be a writer.
Back in 2008, he told the Chronicle: “(Writing) is easier said than done when you are an unknown and to make a name for myself I decided to turn to stand-up comedy.” After immediate success at independent clubs and small venues in Manchester, he became a regular at the Comedy Store in Manchester and in London.
When asked how his talent emerged, Mr Ellis said: “I wasn’t a very funny child, in fact I was quite moody and I looked like Winston Churchill. My brother was always funny and I always used to try and copy him.
“It wasn’t long before I became the class clown and if you look at my school reports that my mother has kept, they generally say Phillip would do very well if only he would stop fooling around.”
He was influenced by Spike Milligan, Tony Hancock, and Peter Cook but his two favourite comics were Vic Reeves and Rick Mayall.
His anarchic show Funz And Gamez won the Fosters Edinburgh comedy award — formerly the Perrier comedy award- panel prize at the Fringe in 2014.
Funz And Gamez, a spoof quiz show, was broadcast as part of BBC Radio Four’s Fresh From The Fest, as well as part of BBC Comedy Feeds (BBC Three). The show went on to have an 18-show run at the Soho theatre, slots at all major comedy festivals, as well as a further run at the Udderbelly on Southbank. Mr Ellis himself presented the BBC’s Fringe podcast for two years.
Phil Ellis Is Trying is a sitcom about a man desperate to succeed in a world he does not fully understand and has so far run for two series.