We are not amused

Despite my blasé tweet:-

    Phew. Relieved I didn’t make it through to the next round of #laughtrack. Workshop on 24th clashed with dentist appt

I was a tad disappointed not to progress to the next stage with my BBC laughtrack TV sitcom competition entry; The Black Hats: about a team of inept Computer Hackers in a house share hacktivating their way to disaster.

    “Black Hats” [blak hatz]: A phrase with origins in western movies for the bad guys who stereotypically wear a black hat in contrast to the hero’s white hat. Now also used to refer to a computer hacker who breaks into networks or computers, or creates computer viruses. In contrast the White Hats develop the counter measures.

But it felt rushed – probably because it was. And that made it clumsy in places where it could have been improved with focused re-writes. With 800+ entries there are bound to be plenty that are more polished and not rushed and I’m competing against all of those and some. There’s definitely a lesson about when writing to deadlines don’t underestimate the time needed for re-writes.

As it happens the process of creating the premise and developing interesting characters and an amusing story was enjoyable, and a good discipline and practice.

A reason it was rushed was because I have several other irons poking into the fire at the moment. One of which is awaiting feedback on a radio audience comedy I submitted through the BBC writers room earlier in the year. I re-read that last night coincidentally and really enjoyed the whimsical nature of it – which I couldn’t replicate in the TV sitcom environment. Whether that means I prefer writing for radio – which I think I might but don’t want to commit to yet – I’m not entirely sure… but secretly I’m hoping for some positive feedback on the radio comedy so that I can write the other episodes I have ideas for.

Live from Kirrin Island Podcast

Back to podcast pages

Plans are coming together for a one-off topical satirical comedy podcast in early summer. It’s the closed season for BBC Radio Newsjack which is one of few open-door radio shows ie where anyone can contribute material and receive a writing credit (along with payment from the BBC) for material that is recorded and broadcast.

There is no shortage of alternative writing opportunities and voluntary deadlines to keep comedy writers busy, but it seems that there is something a little bit special about the immediacy of having a go with Newsjack since the weekly cycle of scanning news, writing, submission and then instant success or failure in the public domain is gripping. The other factor is that it is genuinely high quality entertainment and many believe on par with other total commissioned-writer produced shows such as The Now Show.

So until Series 7 begins in the Autumn, it seemed appropriate to gather for a social soiree whilst keeping our topical writing skills well honed. And hence the Live from Kirrin Island podcast. Recorded in front of a friendly audience (for the laughter track) at my house which – as one complete open plan space with the sofa moved – is ideal for concerts and shows. Complete with a Wurlitzer Theatre Organ and a baby grand piano.

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With all the talent of BBC credited writers, experienced performers and a well tanked up audience, we should be confident of putting together something as good as anything you’ll hear on the airwaves. Watch this space.

    Risk Register:
  • Writers don’t turn up
  • We can’t think of anything funny
  • Audience don’t turn up
  • They don’t find it funny
  • Technical Failure eg recording
    • Mitigating action (respectively)
  • Offer of wine
  • Consumption of wine
  • Offer of wine
  • Consumption of wine
  • Teenagers and neighbours who happen to be BBC Sound technicians.
  • More information here

    Kirrin Island UDI

    Living on an island is a most bizarre – but strongly recommended – experience. From attempted killings to adultery, it’s a bit like Midsummer Murders meets Wife Swap but with less diversity. The upsides are to be celebrated. A view from my bed of the ancient and regal River Thames, the draw of community and the tranquility of no traffic. As I cross the rickety foot bridge (more later) I enter a territory that we collectively call home in a way that other neighbourhoods are unable to achieve. All of these reasons and more are why I could live here for many years to come.

    There are downsides of course; I’d be kidding if there weren’t. Primarily the attempted murders which seem to stem from historic animosity between feuding families. I exaggerate of course – this seems limited to someone scattering tacks on the road so that the only islander allowed to drive his vehicle on the island would crash off the bridge and into the icy Thames. It was a good plot for Morse who would have drunk a bottle of claret before dispatching the Community Support Officers to investigate – and that’s what happened. We’ve now got a sign on the bridge that says Welcome to Kirrin Island – attempted murders in the last six months, zero. Please drive carefully – you know who you are.

    For us lesser pedestrian mortals, I continue to cycle on and off the island and we leave a car on the mainland for reasons of living in the 21st century. Today I shall be mostly ogling the fit rowers and enticing them over with offers of cake. It’s a hard life.

    Oh yes. I’m writing comedy

    So I’m getting stuck into comedy writing and really enjoying it. Ok so I’ve written drama a bit – and currently have a one-act play appearing at festivals – but hey I like a challenge. They all warned me; “Comedy is really difficult to write” they said “You’ll think it’s easy – but it’s not”.

    And they are right of course, but that’s the attraction. So far, a radio audience comedy to BBC Writers Room – still waiting to hear, and I just made the deadline for the BBC Laugh Track TV sitcom competition with a comedy about Computer Hackers.

    But actually it’s sending in material for Newsjack that is giving me most pleasure at the moment. Perhaps it’s the competitive element that drives me – there’s lots of writers I’m competing with to get air time. But really I think it’s the discipline of writing comedy sketches I enjoy. Study news stories, find an unusual angle. And then form the dialogue which is tight, rhythmic and clever – funny even. I write a bit in my day job and this has been the best development training I could imagine – make every word punch above its weight. How does this come across to the reader/listener? Remove the fat – get to the point with impact. I’ve heard other people say, “get in – make your point – get out”. Real writing and comms skills that serve you well whenever.

    So, it’s episode 5 this week of a run of six. And so far my material has been recorded (episode 3) but sadly didn’t survive the edit. Two more attempts.

    I’m going to feel a bit bereft after next week. My current one-act play is set on death row in Florida – not much of a laugh but I did mange to squeeze in two jokes which the audience seem to enjoy (they are appropriate I hasten to add). I feel more comedy calling me.