18 Jun 2014

Surrealism: There's Something Fishy About It

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"He's fallen in the water... Spam! Spam! Spam! Spam!...What's on the end of the stick, Vic?"

Up until about twenty years ago you rarely saw the word 'surrealism' used to define anything other than a certain type of painting, more recently it has become a form of shorthand to describe a great deal of modern comedy. Do you have a flair for surrealist comedy? Would you like to be able to write and perform more of it? More to the point, have you any idea what 'surrealism' means?

11 Jun 2014

What Can We Learn From Rik

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Funny how things work out. I've written a piece about surrealism that I was going to post today. So I'd been thinking last week, for the first time in a while, about 'The Young Ones', and the bomb it exploded under British comedy.

It's been difficult over the last two or three days to avoid the tributes to Rik Mayall, just about everybody I know in comedy has either commented on the Rik they knew, or the Rik that inspired them to do comedy. Is there anything more to be said?

04 Jun 2014

Learn From The Best

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Since I started writing these pieces a few weeks ago, I've been thinking about the kind of role models you should be looking to if you want a career in comedy as a writer, or performer, or both. Whichever you wish to be, there's one person who stands out, and whose 30 plus years in the business continue to be an inspiration and education. If you want to know how to 'do' comedy well, then it’s time you started paying serious attention to Mark Steel.

22 May 2014

I Coined A Phrase But I'm Not Minting It

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Immortality. That’s why we do this isn’t it? Since landing on the moon and appearing on Top Of The Pops have vanished as options, being remembered for saying or writing something clever is pretty much all we have. And you can quote me on that. No writer ever knows which phrases will stick.

15 May 2014

The Joy Of Specs

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I've been asked by a comedy writer friend about writing spec scripts of comedy shows. These are scripts you write of sitcoms that already exist, that you send off in the hope of showing off your sitcom-writing ability to comedy producers. The script is written for free, and on speculation of getting work, hence the name.
08 May 2014

Time For Your 15 Minutes

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I've spent some time working through the new free BBC ebook - 'How To Write Radio Comedy' (link at the end of this article) - and I'm a little surprised by the number of omissions. A few weeks ago I mentioned its lack of information with regard to sketch writing, apart from about specific shows on air at the moment. There's plenty of useful information, and some insights into the kinds of shows the Radio Comedy department are not looking for, but I couldn't find any mention at all of one of the biggest growth areas in Radio 4 comedy - the 15 Minute episode.

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).