Ash Atalla – producer

October 19, 2008

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Ash Atalla (born 1972) is an Egyptian television producer responsible for producing several British TV series such as The IT Crowd (in which he has cameoed), The Office and Man Stroke Woman. He has also made cameo appearances in productions such as Ricky Gervais‘ Politics. Atalla made his first appearance on TV in 1999, when he starred in a documentary charting the lives of several disabled people. In 2007, Atalla set up Roughcut TV, an independent production company. Atalla and Roughcut will produce Trinity for ITV2 in 2008.[1]

Atalla developed polio as a baby, and emigrated to London due to his father’s job constrictions.[1] It was Atalla who played a major role in getting The Office on the air, a risky decision which would ultimately prove to be a success.

THE PRODUCER of the hit television show The Office has quit the BBC to join the independent company behind rival comedies such as Bo Selecta! and Da Ali G Show.

Ash Atalla, 31, regarded as one of Britain’s best comedy producers, has taken the corporation by surprise by leaving to join Talkback Thames.

But, as the news was revealed, it also emerged that the BBC was trying to poach the star comedy writer Armando Iannucci who, with Steve Coogan, is responsible for the award-winning Talkback production I’m Alan Partridge.

A BBC spokeswoman said the corporation was “in talks” with Mr Iannucci – who worked for the BBC before going freelance to work for Talkback in 1999 – but would not disclose details of what was being offered. “It is way too early at this stage,” she said.

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Mr Atalla who, for the past six months, has been the commissioning executive for comedy at the BBC, has a long relationship with Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, the co-writers of The Office.

In an interview with The Independent yesterday, he suggested he would be looking to commission work from the award-winning scriptwriters after he leaves the BBC.

Mr Atalla said: “Good writing is gold dust in my industry and I think they are exceptionally good. So of course I won’t be deleting their numbers from my Sim card.”

The producer is today flying to Hollywood to attend the Golden Globes ceremony, at which The Office is nominated for two awards.

Mr Atalla said: “I am in a wheelchair and I have been pushing up and down the same bit of corridor for seven years. I know every chip in the wall and every crack in the skirting board. I feel the need to keep myself fresh.”

Mr Atalla has been credited with playing an important role in changing the way disabled people are portrayed on television, although he stresses good comedy is his main concern.

Peter Fincham, chief executive officer at Talkback Thames, described Mr Atalla as “one of the most talented producers working in comedy today”. He said: “Ash is very interested in half-hour narrative comedy and that’s fantastic for us. Talkback has a rich comedy tradition but it’s tended to be more in sketch shows like Smack the Pony and formatted comedy like Never Mind The Buzzcocks.”

Mr Atalla said that his relationship with the BBC was far from over and that he hoped the corporation would soon be commissioning some of his Talkback projects.

Jon Plowman, the BBC’s head of comedy entertainment and the man who commissioned The Office, said yesterday that he was confident that Mr Atalla would work with him again.

Mr Plowman said: “Ash has been a great asset to the BBC, not just in his production of The Office, and I wish him well in his new role.”

Copyright 2004 Independent Newspapers UK Limited
Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning Company. All rights Reserved.


Disabled comedy aired by BBC

Paul McCann Media Editor

THE BBC is to stretch the boundaries of comedy with a new sketch show written and performed by the disabled called Yes Sir, I Can Boogie.

The new show, which will also have some able-bodied writers and performers, includes such gags as a limbless odd-job man. It will be broadcast next month on Radio 4 and the BBC hopes it will do for the disabled what the award-winning Goodness Gracious Me did for British Asians, by showing disability in a mainstream and funny way.

The show’s comedy comes from a surreal take on the world. The producer Ash Atalla, who is himself in a wheelchair, emphasises that the comedy in the programme comes ahead of tackling disabled issues: “I’ve never really identified with the disability programmes that have been on in the past, they’re all too whingey, too negative. I just think it better to use the slot to make a good show.” Mr Atalla says the show does not make fun of disability, but he expects criticism from some disability campaigners.

Copyright 1999 Newspaper Publishing PLC


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