Hat Trick head honcho Jimmy Mulville has arguably seen everything that comedy has to offer. From being a performer and presenter to running one of the UK’s most successful production companies with Hat Trick, to his valiant but failed efforts to create a new online platform with Funny Or Die UK, he has been involved in almost every niche of the genre for the last three decades.
Rising through the ranks of the Cambridge Footlights Mulville met Rory McGrath and sparked up a close partnership. Mulville eventually co-founded Hat Trick with McGrath and Denise O’Donoghue (whom Mulville married) in 1986 but before then he spent four years at the BBC working in radio before moving over to TV where he worked on script editing and producing Alas Smith & Jones.
In 1983 Mulville co-wrote Who Dares Wins, which ran for five years, The Steam Video Company, and many other radio comedy’s over the years.
Hat Trick was setup in 1986 to produce the radio show Chelmsford 1, 2, 3, which Mulville wrote with Rory McGrath. Mulville and O'Donoghue then met with Dan Patterson and took his radio show Whose Line It Anyway to Channel 4, who commissioned a 12-part series. From there the company really took off and have since produced some of the UK’s best-ever comedy shows including Father Ted, Outnumbered, Drop The Dead Donkey, and Have I Got News For You.
In 2007 Mulville sold a minority stake in Hat Trick to venture capitalists August Equity and proceeded to spend the next two years realising his mistake and wrestling control of his company back, during the same time the company was stuck in debt and earnings were tumbling. If you look deeper into the story of Episodes (a Hat Trick show) it seems to vaguely mirror some of the Hat Trick productions which were falling foul of U.S. Network presidents who cancelled series on a whim. In a revealing interview with the Guardian Mulville speaks about what it was like to get involved with 'purely financial' institutions.
In 2008 Hat Trick became the production partner in the UK arm of Funny Or Die, which was managed by Peter Serafinowicz and launched with input from David Walliams and Matt Lucas. The site quickly became one of the most popular portals for UK comedy, but even though Mulville bullishly claimed that the site could break even within 18 months of launch it closed in 2010.
Still the valiant effort to launch one of the only independent online comedy ventures so far in the UK should be a credit to Mulville and the work that Hat Trick do – even if they have retreated into the terrestrial world for the moment.
Mulville received a BAFTA for Outstanding Creative Contribution to Television and is also a Fellow of the Royal Television Society, achievements which match his influence on comedy broadcasting.