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Laura Elwood: Invisible television comedy force
Producer Laura Elwood has helped TV programs like Roast Battle and Whose Line Is It Anyway? to become ratings hits.

It's puzzling how we can be so similar to someone and yet quite disparate in certain aspects. For example, the lineage between us Americans and our British cousins is still fresh in recent memory but we've developed individual differences that only intersect at certain points.

Finding the union of these can be rewarding and beneficial for both. Producer Laura Elwood has delved into this arena in her involvement with comedy shows that have proven successful in both countries. It's much more difficult than it sounds as the comic sensibilities of each country have their own identity. Two of the most successful comedy productions are Roast Battle and Whose Line Is It Anyway?, both of which have been the recipient of Laura's guiding hand. Having a keen awareness of the comedy dispositions of these two cultures and the production community of each location has made Elwood an invaluable asset to these shows and said productions industries themselves. Her childhood years of sneaking down to watch Whose Line Is It Anyway? may not have proven obedient to her parents' rules but it definitely gave her insight and led to a successful career in television comedy.

Roast Battle is an immensely successful television program which has received public and critical praise. In addition to the show's popularity with viewers, it has the distinction of being Comedy Central's highest-rated UK commission and has nominations for Best Comedy Programme in the Broadcast Digital Awards (2018). Elwood confirms that it was a lot of diligence, hard work, and talent that led to this notoriety. Some of this talent is easily visible on screen via host Jimmy Carr and judges Katherine Ryan, Russell Brand, and Jonathan Ross. Still, a great deal of what we as an audience witness is due to the work of professionals like Laura. When Comedy Central wanted to bring the Comedy Roast idea (Americans are familiar with the original Comedy Central Jeff Ross Presents: Roast Battle) to the UK, they knew that cultural differences would necessitate some modification. Laura was enlisted as producer due to a resume of successful comedy productions with a keen understanding of what British viewers would find amusing and just as importantly…what they would not. With the show's writers and staff, Elwood wrote detailed pitch documents to secure established talent. She actively cased the live comedy scene and produced try-out nights at venues like the notable Angel Comedy Club in London, developing strong relationships with agents and discovering up-and-coming comics who were ready to showcase their skills on TV.

While Laura's work was just as active during taping and post on Roast Battle, viewers were unaware aware of the extent of preparation involved as each episode made for easy viewing and also managed to keep that "live" feeling. This was the most obvious impact of the producer on the show and highlighted the difference from its American counterpart. She describes, "American audiences are a little more accepting of a knockout style approach but we didn't feel this would work for British audiences, so we presented stand-alone battles between friends where all the jokes delivered were personal and unique to that pairing. Our viewing audience were seeing on screen the kind of jokes they would make to their mates on WhatsApp but wouldn't air on a wider social media platform. The reason each battle worked despite joking about these sensitive subjects was because almost every pair of comedians that went against each other were friends (or even partners); they knew everything about each other and what they were saying on screen was the same level of banter they'd throw at each other at the pub." 

Not only has Laura had success in "translating" the nucleus of Roast Battle for the UK , she's also applied a British production mindset when working in the US filming the improvisational comedy television show Whose Line Is It Anyway?. In addition to numerous tasks to ensure the production was manifested with ease, Elwood liaised with technical staff at the LA studio and two post-production edit houses in London. Dan Patterson (MD of the company Angst, co-owner of the format, and one of the original creators of Whose Line Is It Anyway?) is known for being particular about who is overseeing his creations and made it a requirement for Laura to travel to LA to as producer. Her ability to comprehend and navigate the differences between US and UK humour became a major asset yet again. She relates, "In general, British humour is a bit more self-effacing and lacks the more open and feel-good humour of America. British audiences can also be quite judgemental and are waiting to be impressed by a comedian or a show. American audiences are more open minded than those in the UK. They'll give things more of a chance to bed in. It's very refreshing. What's more, American production teams are well resourced to make a show run smoothly. I know it's a cliché, but Whose Line Is It Anyway? was such a great experience, it barely felt like work." Whether working in the UK or the US, Elwood is a sought after figure in TV production as Suzi Aplin (Executive Producer, Roast Battle) declares, "Laura is ridiculously smart, funny, creative and passionate, with no idea how incredible she is. I feel very privileged to know her and am grateful for her endless brilliance and extraordinarily high standards."

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