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Comic clips Comedian Shane Todd trawls the BBC archives in Belfast for new show

Among his choice of clips of the maddest Man United fan and a wrestling reverend, he came across vintage footage of ordinary people who’d made the news because they kept lions, tigers and even an alligator as pets.

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Don't rule out some baby jokes: Shane and his wife Stacy have recently become parents

Don't rule out some baby jokes: Shane and his wife Stacy have recently become parents

Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

Don't rule out some baby jokes: Shane and his wife Stacy have recently become parents

Comic Shane Todd has taken a walk on the wild side of TV history for his new series.

The comedian was let loose in the BBC archives for Previously with Shane Todd and discovered Northern Ireland had a rare taste for rare breeds.

Among his choice of clips of the maddest Man United fan and a wrestling reverend, he came across vintage footage of ordinary people who’d made the news because they kept lions, tigers and even an alligator as pets.

“Back in those days there was always someone in your street with peacock or an alligator,” says Shane.

“There were guys walking about with tigers and all sorts. It’s very surreal.”

He dreamed up the archive show and filmed a rough pilot which was made into a one-off episode two years ago. When it was shown again at the start of lockdown in March the response was so good, he was offered a three-part series, still the comic’s dream despite his podcast and stand-up success.

“When I first got into comedy about 13 years ago to have something on the BBC was the ultimate thing and that hasn’t really changed,” he says.

“I still love the online stuff and that’s what I do with most of my week.”

He discovered that all the BBC archive is stored in the Blackstaff Studio in Belfast and went to work finding the oddest news items. Sometimes the footage didn’t need his tailor-made jokes, like roving reporter James Boyce’s interview with a woman who smokes a pipe, confessing that when she can’t afford her habit, she smokes her tea.

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Guru: Shane with Nadine Coyle

Guru: Shane with Nadine Coyle

Guru: Shane with Nadine Coyle

“With comedy you try and write things to be as funny as possible. With a lot of the archive the reality is funnier than you could write,” he says.

Shane also found some unexpected faces among the old footage. Tony Hall, former Director General of the BBC, pops up as a young reporter interviewing a man about his obsession with buying antique clocks.

“It’s not just the people and the places and the clothes and hairstyles, you can see how the place has changed. And I think we’re a nostalgic people.

“I liked the ‘and finally’ stories at the end of the news. They were great. You went away with a smile on your face.”

The 32-year-old, who worked in a call centre before going professional, has attracted a massive online following with his characters including North Down estate agent Mike McGoldrick. He also created the self-obsessed PR guru Laurence Lyle for sitcom Soft Border Patrol, pushing genial Gerry Kelly’s buttons and rubbing Nadine Coyle up the wrong way.

Shane was gutted when his 2020 tour dates were cancelled because of Covid restrictions and poured his energy into his regular Radio Ulster slot and his Tea with Me podcasts.

His relaxed chat with Jamie Dornan made headlines in April and he says the Fifty Shades actor is a star off screen too.

“He was brilliant. I’ve known him for a couple of years, both being from Holywood.

“The bigger the star the more down to earth they are, and he didn’t act like a celebrity,” says Shane.

He still feels the need to perform and did some back-garden gigs as well as his podcasts to stay busy.

An unexpected accolade came his way when Shane learned he’d made Apple’s top 40 podcasts in the UK.

“There are a lot of other big names in the top 40. I never would have thought that would happen – it was brilliant.”

As well as celebrating his first TV series Shane has an even bigger reason to remember 2020 – the arrival of his son with wife Stacey.

The comedian hadn’t intended to mine parenthood for comedy but found that some things are just too funny to pass up.

“I wasn’t planning to talk about the baby but of course when certain things happen, they do have to go down on paper,” says Shane.

  • Previously with Shane Todd starts on Friday on BBC1 at 10.45pm.

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