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MediumTelevision, theatre, radio
Years active2004-2009
GenresSketch comedy
Notable works and rolesCowards (radio series)
Cowards (television series)
MembersTom Basden
Stefan Golaszewski
Tim Key
Lloyd Woolf
Former membersRick Edwards
Alex Horne
Mark Watson

Cowards are a British four-man comedy act, composed of Tim Key, Stefan Golaszewski, Tom Basden and Lloyd Woolf.[1] The group has created eponymous radio and TV series of their sketch comedy.


The Cowards met at Cambridge University's Footlights Dramatic Club where they worked together. Basden, Golaszewski, and Woolf performed in a show directed by Key and Mark Watson. It later emerged that Key was not studying at Cambridge University and that he had misled the society when auditioning. This was discovered when he got into the tour show Far Too Happy but the Footlights agreed to "keep up the charade" until the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.[2] In Far Too Happy, Key performed alongside Mark Watson and Sophie Winkleman and they were nominated for the Perrier Comedy Award for Best Newcomer.[3] Key later described the period as "life-changing".[2]

Basden, Golaszewski, Key, and Woolf moved to London and started working together as Cowards. Cowards initially involved Rick Edwards, Alex Horne, and Mark Watson but they agreed that the group would not work as they had different styles.[4] Cowards began working as a four-piece group in October 2004, writing and performing new material each month.[4][5] In 2005 and 2006, they had sell-out runs at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, performing at the Pleasance.[6][7]


The group first appeared on radio with a BBC Radio 1 show called The Milk Run which incorporated some Cowards material. As a result of working on The Milk Run, they were asked to do a one-off special, which led to a Cowards series being commissioned.[4] Their first radio series was broadcast on BBC Radio 4, beginning on 17 April 2007, and a second series was broadcast in autumn 2008. Each series contained five episodes. The show was well received, with the British Comedy Guide describing it as "very funny" - though also stating that it suffered from "some less amusing filler".[8] Both series have since been released as CD Audiobooks by BBC Worldwide.[9]


Cowards took over the BBC Three website on 25 January 2007 and built their own "comedy world". Presented as living inside the website for a six-week duration, Cowards would walk on to the screen and encourage visitors to click through to their comedy area. In that area users could view a range of pre-filmed sketches and animation, as well as ‘overhead’ sketches filmed to give the impression the act are ‘living’ on the site. As part of the BBC 360 degree development strategy the material was used as a pilot for a TV series. However, BBC Three decided not to commission a series.[7][10]

In early 2008, BBC Four commissioned a three episode TV series, produced by Angel Eye Media. The series (also called Cowards) was shot with director Steve Bendelack and was broadcast in January 2009.[11] The show was critically acclaimed,[12][13] and received a nomination for a BAFTA Scotland Award in the "Best Entertainment" category.[14] As a result of the television series, Esquire magazine named the Cowards on its list of "60 Brilliant Brits Shaping 2009".[15][16]


While the Cowards have not appeared together for several years, all four have continued to write and perform. Basden and Key often perform together as sketch duo Freeze![17] as well as being resident musician and poet on Mark Watson's radio series Mark Watson Makes the World Substantially Better.[18] Basden has written several plays, including Party which was performed at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2009, winning the Fringe First award[19] and later being adapted into a well-received radio series[20][21] . Key's solo show The Slutcracker won the Edinburgh Comedy Award for Best Show in 2009.[22]

As a director, Golaszewski has won the Edinburgh Comedy Award for Best Newcomer twice: in 2007 for Basden's solo show Won't Say Anything and in 2009 for Jonny Sweet's show Mostly About Arthur.[22] Golaszewski has also written a BBC Three sitcom called Him & Her, starring Russell Tovey and Sarah Solemani, as well as writing a play Sex with a Stranger that was staged in the West End in early 2012.[23] Woolf has performed in BBC Three series The Wrong Door,[24] the short films Nightwalking[25] and How Much For My Brother?,[26] and various television adverts.[27] More recently, Woolf has co-written Parents, a six-part sitcom which aired on Sky1 in summer 2012.


  1. ^ Dean, Will (20 January 2009). "I'm not afraid to say I love Cowards". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 1 April 2012.
  2. ^ a b Owen, Alex (12 February 2010). "The fraudulent Footlight". Varsity. University of Cambridge. Retrieved 1 April 2012.
  3. ^ "Best newcomers". Edinburgh Comedy Awards. Retrieved 1 April 2012.
  4. ^ a b c Bosanquet, Theo (4 March 2010). "Brief Encounter With ... Party Animals Tim Key & Tom Basden". Retrieved 1 April 2012.
  5. ^ "Comedy Interview: Cowards". Londonist. 24 July 2006. Retrieved 1 April 2012.
  6. ^ Merritt, Stephanie (14 August 2005). "Revenge of the 'blasphemers'". The Observer. Retrieved 1 April 2012.
  7. ^ a b Briggs, Caroline (30 January 2007). "Talking Shop: The Cowards". BBC. Retrieved 1 April 2012.
  8. ^ "Cowards - Radio 4 sketch show". British Comedy Guide. Retrieved 1 April 2012.
  9. ^ "Cowards". BBC Commercial Availability guide. Retrieved 1 April 2012.
  10. ^ "Bold move for Cowards". Chortle. 28 February 2008. Retrieved 1 April 2012.
  11. ^ "Steve Bendelack's credit list". PBJ Management. Retrieved 1 April 2012.
  12. ^ "TV Review: Cowards, BBC Four, Tuesday 20 January, 10pm". TV Scoop. 21 January 2009. Retrieved 1 April 2012.
  13. ^ Watson, Keith (18 August 2010). "Cowards really does the funny business". Metro. London. Retrieved 1 April 2012.
  14. ^ "Cowards nominated for Scottish Bafta". Glorious Management. Retrieved 1 April 2012.
  15. ^ "60 Brilliant Brits Shaping 2009". Esquire. London. July 2009.
  16. ^ Groves, Nancy (26 November 2009). "Brief Encounter With ... Stefan Golaszewski". Retrieved 1 April 2012.
  17. ^ "Freeze! - Cold comfort". The List. Edinburgh. 7 August 2008. Retrieved 1 April 2012.
  18. ^ "Mark Watson Makes The World Substantially Better". British Comedy Guide. Retrieved 1 April 2012.
  19. ^ Baluch, Lalayn (28 August 2009). "Final winners of Scotsman Fringe First Awards announced". The Stage. London.
  20. ^ Hemley, Matthew (16 February 2010). "Tom Basden's Party adapted into Radio 4 sitcom". The Stage. London.
  21. ^ Mahoney, Elisabeth (11 March 2010). "Party". The Guardian. London.
  22. ^ a b "Poet named Edinburgh comedy king". BBC. 29 August 2009.
  23. ^ Taylor, Paul (7 February 2012). "Sex with a Stranger, Trafalgar Studios 2, London". The Independent. London.
  24. ^ "Full cast and crew for The Wrong Door (2008)". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 1 April 2012.
  25. ^ "Nightwalking". British Films Directory. 4 May 2011. Retrieved 1 April 2012.
  26. ^ "How Much For My Brother?". British Films Directory. 25 January 2011. Retrieved 1 April 2012.
  27. ^ "Artist profile: Lloyd Woolf". Glorious Management. Retrieved 1 April 2012.