08 May 2014

Time For Your 15 Minutes

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It’s always been hard to get your comedy writing broadcast, it’s getting harder now and BBC Radio are even cutting back their comedy slots. The BBC has been making cuts as long as I’ve been writing for them (first credit November 1983) but this feels more like amputation.

01 May 2014

Writer? Don't Fear The Writer-Performer

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Last week, on his consistently wise @sitcomgeek blog James Cary wrote two very thorough pieces about the rise of the writer-performer in comedy, and how this has had an effect on sitcom. (links at the end of this article)
James makes many good points. Of course he does, he always does, he's James Cary. The first, and what prompted him to write about it, was the current obsession in the comedy industry with ‘talent’, meaning the faces in front of the camera as opposed to ‘talent’, the massive team effort required to turn a good show into a great one.
23 Apr 2014

Controversial I Know, But …

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I don't normally recommend other writers or books, and I'm sure you all have people you read and follow who provide you with hope and inspiration for your own work.

This week I’ve decided to be a little controversial and suggest you read a much-derided author rarely, if ever, lauded in our world of comedy, but perhaps now ready for rehabilitation. I'm talking about William Shakespeare.

09 Apr 2014

Write What You … No!

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I’ve had cause to revisit a phrase that has always irritated me, the first one every writer is told when they are starting out, which is ‘write what you know.’

03 Apr 2014

Bye Newsjack... Now What?

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As we approach the end of the latest series of Newsjack, you may be wondering what the point is, now, of a blog piece on comedy sketch writing.

The answer is that sketch writing is arguably one of the most important skills to learn when starting out in comedy. There are other shows on Radio 4 extra taking work from new and non-commissioned writers, and you need to know how to write sketches about anything, not just the news (although that helps).

27 Mar 2014

The Blog Tour: 4 Questions

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THIS WEEK I was going to pay another visit to Newsjack, and talk about the mechanics of sketch writing.

Then a massively significant story broke that no one seemed to care about, which was that non-payment of the BBC Licence Fee is about to be decriminalised. I've always tried to remain optimistic about the BBC but this sounds like a disaster... if you know you won't go to prison for withholding your licence fee, who's going to bother paying? It's not like gas or electricity, where non-payment means you get cut off.

20 Mar 2014

A Perfect Ten

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Recently I was asked to read the first ten pages of a bunch of sitcom scripts, then meet and chat with the writers. While it’s impossible to tell from such a small sample of work if your script will be a hit or miss, there are plenty of things a script reader can learn that will tell them whether or not the script has potential.

12 Mar 2014

How To Not Care About Failing To Crack Newsjack

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Two things happened since I last wrote. Well, of course, more than two things happened, but they're less relevant to this blog. The first was the 30th anniversary of the airing of the first episode of 'Spitting Image', and the second was the return of Radio 4 Extra’s topical show 'Newsjack'.

How we look at the news, and how we make jokes about it, has changed radically over that time, but the fact remains that if you want to make a living writing comedy, doing topical jokes remains the quickest and most efficient way in.

06 Mar 2014

Is This The Moment Everything Changes?

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My first reaction to the news that BBC3 was being moved online was ‘that’s a terrible shame.’ There’s been some fantastic comedy in the last year on 3, including ‘Uncle’, ‘Bad Education’, ‘Bluestone 42’, ‘Revolution Will Be Televised’ and loads of others I’m sure will come to me later.

Then I thought, well at least it’s not being totally axed. As radio producer Steve Doherty pointed out, it’s bound to lead to budget cuts, but at least there’s still a budget to cut.

27 Feb 2014

What's New

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Earlier this week I got half-heartedly involved in one of those Facebook discussions that take up way too much of everybody's time. There'd been an article in 'The Guardian' about how a bunch of young feminist novelists had hit upon a whole new way to write about women, which was to make them less like Bridget Jones - characters whose whole point of existence wasn't just to find a boyfriend.