23 Jan 2014
basac's picture

 

Hello everyone, and welcome to this first post on my new blog, offering advice on how to Be Averagely Successful At Comedy.


You may be wondering what purpose might be served by the arrival of a new blog. A blog with tips about how to do something creative, from someone you may not have heard of, someone who may have a long list of writing and performing credits but no certificate of qualification as a teacher.


There are already quite a few useful blogs telling you how you can become a stand-up comedian, or a sitcom writer, or a comedy screenplay writer, or a producer or performer or start-up internet comedy company. There are many blogs offering tips on how to write movies, 283,000 for every movie ever made at the last count, but there is nothing, you hear that NOTHING (believe me I’ve checked the entire internet and I haven’t found it) giving you an overall insight into the world of professional comedy you are hoping to enter.


This matters. It’s all very well wanting to be a stand-up, but if you think that learning the craft, sweating away for five years for no money, finally making a breakthrough, and beginning to earn a regular income from it after seven or eight years is enough, then you’re wrong. If you think getting your sketches on a radio show, meeting other writers and producers and getting commissioned to write more sketches for more shows is enough, you’re wrong.


You may think you know what you want to be, as I thought I did when I gave up my day job and moved to London 30 years ago, at the end of 1983. Actually I remember exactly what I wanted to do, I'd had two ambitions that had kept me going through years of being a jobbing trainee journalist, two wild and crazy dreams that I hoped I could one day in my lifetime achieve: I wanted to write comedy sketches for Radio 4’s ‘Week Ending’, and I wanted to be a journalist for the NME. That was all I had ever wanted to do, for about ten years. Within a month or so of arriving in London, I had achieved both.


There I was, 29 years and nine months ago, living in a squat in London, 24 years old, having achieved everything. And I had absolutely no idea what to do next. I certainly wasn’t expecting to become a stand-up comic, partly because at the time in London there were hardly any comics or clubs. But I’d played comedy songs at Workingmens’ Clubs and folk dives up north so I knew I could make audiences laugh, and here was a chance for some free pocket money.


I ended up doing stand-up for ten years before packing it in and becoming a full-time writer. I did it well enough to make a living for a decade, but when it stopped being fun I didn’t want to do it enough to work out what was going wrong and continue. So stand-up was, for me, a ten-year diversion.


And I loved it. Maybe if I’d had a bit of self-discipline, and hadn’t smoked so much dope in my 20s, I might have tried harder to do what I do nowadays, which is to analyse what happens when things don't work out. And I try to do this with a clear professional eye, attempting to disentangle whatever emotional feelings of rejection and humiliation may be wrapped up in that failure. It doesn't always work, and sometimes the keyboard is stained with tears of self-pitying anguish "why me?" or more likely "why not me? Why him or her? I'm much more talented."


It's bloody hard, but at least I have some idea what I’m doing. I’m trying to make a living at comedy, and I’ve had 30 years of experience of it, so I’m hoping that it might help you too, or at the very least you’ll enjoy reading this blog, and that after each one you’ll come away with an idea of what you think you should, or shouldn’t be doing.


Here's a list of some of the things this blog won't specifically be about, mainly because other people are already doing this very well indeed: this won't be a blog about how to be a stand-up, because that's covered very well by

Jo Caulfield http://www.jocaulfield.com/things-ive-learned-as-a-comedian 

and

Stuart Goldsmith's podcasts: www.comedianscomedian.com

 

If you want to read about how to write sitcom you should principally go here - http://sitcomgeek.blogspot.co.uk/ James Cary does this better than anyone, although I will write here from time to time if I feel I've something to add to what he's said.


Some of my posts may occasionally overlap with those of fringe comedy specialist John Fleming, and ace comedy journalist Bruce Dessau, but mainly because they're so bloody prolific.


I won't be telling you about American baseball radio commentators because Ken Levine has that niche covered - but you'll want to read his blog anyway because his day job for 30+ years was writer on three of the greatest sitcoms ever - 'M*A*S*H', 'Cheers' and 'Frasier'.


This will be a blog that discusses how it may or may not be possible to make a living at comedy. Feel free to ask me any questions along the way. I'll be back again soon, no idea what with, but, as has tended to happen for me since November 1983, something will turn up.