25 Jul 2018

MAKING PLANS Topical Comedy For Radio Day 3*

dave's picture

Yesterday you came up with your ideas for sketches. Hopefully by today you have whittled them down to a couple of strong ideas.
Hopefully by now you've written two rough drafts. You have a twist at the beginning of each sketch - what if everything that the Scottish Parliament spent its money on was Crowdfunded? What if Cocal Cola took over every goddamned high street brand shop that's closed down in the last few weeks, not just Costa but Homebase, House of Fraser, Toys R Us and so on? I know, this is not going to be remembered like Four Candles, but unlike you I didn't have all of yesterday and today to work on this. (And I still haven't got a second twist).
This is probably the crucial point when you discover whether or not writing topical comedy is for you. Let's say you have a stressful day job and you usually use your spare time to recover. Are you going to forgo that sacrosanct lie-in or favourite TV show, to spend an hour or so staring at the sketch you wrote yesterday which seemed quite funny when you went to bed, but now looks about as hilarious as an episode of NCIS? Is that a funny second twist, or merely the funniest joke that is a consequence of your 'what if'?
This is the point where you remember what I said back in the dim distant past of day 1, when all was fresh and new, and the very first thing I did was try and put you off, and you smiled, thinking I was talking to all the other losers out there and not you. Now you see what I was getting at. And this is only a practice run. If you want to write for NewsJack you have to go through this routine every week SIX WEEKENDS RUNNING.
I could go all motivational speaker on you now, I could lie and say You CAN Do It, yes you! All you need is faith and determination and all those other things that are no substitute for sitting and staring at a blank screen, desperately trying to work out the funniest thing to say.
But enough doom and misery, here's the upside. Let me at least ask if you have twelve funny jokes, six in each sketch?  There's no guarantee your sketches will be used, but everything gets read by the NewsJack script editors, and the readers are all desperately looking for new angles, and new voices. If they laugh at your jokes they'll remember you. And at this stage, that's as important as getting your first sketch broadcast.
Here's a chapter from my new book Funny Up, about writing sketches. It's partly to help if you're still struggling to make what you've written look like a comedy sketch. But it's also a reminder of how much work it takes to get there... Good luck!

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