Why Leeds's Larry and Paul needed to set up Northern Imposters comedy company

Say the names Larry and Paul to anyone in Yorkshire with an interest in comedy and, in all likelihood, surnames will not be necessary.

But presenters Mr Budd and Mr Dunphy, of Leeds, have developed a large and loyal following in recent years for their prized sketches.

They may be best known for works - available to see on YouTube - such as the Royal Television Society Yorkshire award-winning Newsreader Nightmare, Every Political Debate Ever, which has been featured on BBC Radio 5Live, and The ISIS Closing Down Sale, made for BBC Comedy.

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Larry and Paul.

Northern Imposters launched in early March to develop scripted TV and radio comedy.

It feels like a huge step for the duo, who hope the company can be a vehicle for collaborative working in the region at a time when the media industry - following Channel 4's move to Leeds - is flourishing in Yorkshire.

Larry, 39, said: "For me it was simultaneously the most exciting thing I've ever done and the most terrifying as well.

"There's absolutely no guarantee anything will happen at all - but there's the possibility we could be making something tremendously important."

Paul added: "I have a mindset that it has to succeed - there's no plan B - so when you do these things you have to have the ill-advised blind faith to know that it works."

"We're at the absolute right time to do it because nobody is doing what we're doing," Larry said.

"When we make it a success we're in absolutely the right position."

Always one for top comedic timing, Larry, who left his contracted job at the BBC earlier this year, says his P45 came through on the same day that the Government announced 80 per cent of wages for employees unable to work during the coronavirus crisis would be paid - provided they are kept on and furloughed by their employer and enrolled in the pay-as-you-earn (PAYE) system.d

However, like those working across the industry, the pair stress the very serious implications Covid-19 is having on creatives.

"There's going to have to be a lot of help," said father-of-two Larry.

"When so many people are at home watching telly...what they're watching has been made almost exclusively by self-employed people."

Larry and Paul have steadily worked on their comedy since their days at Radio Aire in 2007, when they decided against pursuing podcasts as "there was clearly no future in it," deadpans Paul.

However, the need for a larger platform for themselves and their peers in the north was becoming more evident.

The pair met with Sally Joynson, the chief executive of Screen Yorkshire, a fan of their comedy and a leading figure in the regional media industry, who helped them with contacts.

Larry said they were told: "There are no comedy production companies in Leeds or in the north because BBC Comedy left a few years ago."

They liked the name Northern Imposters - suggested by Larry's wife Michelle - "because we both considered that the north imposes itself on the comedy scene".

And Paul, 35, who is originally from Peterborough but attended the now-closed Bretton Hall in Wakefield as a student, had "fallen in love with the north".

He said: "There's something about the north that's always been a great breeding ground for comedy, like the League of Gentleman or Steve Coogan."

"There is something in the water that breeds funny people and the north is different from the south".

Larry said he thinks "there's a bravery in northern comedy", citing performers at the Not So Late Show.

"In a way, they don't care [how they come across] and do what's good and creative letting their imaginations [go]."

"It seems to me the industry should go that way and not going the other way round."

He added: "It's the question I've always hated in radio: 'Guys, how do you think that sits with our audience?' That's not my job."

Meetings about prospective projects in London would be "long and drawn out and nobody's making any money", and Ms Joynson suggested they set up their own outfit.

Since launching, the level of interest they have received is "far more than we could possibly deal with," said Larry, and the pair are hoping that the company will be part of collaborative efforts rather than a singular launchpad.

Included among the acts whose work has interested the pair are Eddie Izzard, Tim Minchin, the late Victoria Wood, French and Saunders and American duo Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele.

Larry actually became a radio presenter after his then girlfriend, now wife, needed a professional sounding newsreader for a university project, so he copied Chris Morris, who played a presenter in The Day Today and Brass Eye.

"She got a note saying well done on getting a newsreader," he said.

Coogan was of course another big name.

"You can't be in radio and not worship of the altar of Alan Partridge," said Paul.

He says that the pair often hear about how the political climate is currently "too much" even for satire.

He said: "People say it's so out there, you can't make comedy [out of it]. You can. You can make fun of everything.

"Nothing is past having pomposity pricked out of it."

And the rise of the far-right as well as the left and "cancel culture" - public figures being disowned for expressing certain views or alleged past misconduct - are ripe for comedy.

"As long as you're conscious about who you target," said Paul.

Larry added: "I think comedy is a great defence. As a comedian there's lots that you can say that most people can't."

"You have to be sensitive and brave at the same time, which is not always the easiest line to tread," he said.

"I hope people give comedians and creatives some sort of grace there."

The pair wished to thank all the parties, big and small, that have helped them to set up.

Larry, who is father to Flo, six, and Primrose, three, said: "We're really impressed with how supportive the industry's been even for two blokes that are starting up."