Odd thing about this blog is that I find it hard to just be me, rather than the writer guy who is doing well. Guiding people through the world of tech is one thing. It’s not what I see myself doing long-term, however.
Instead, I want to write novels. Maybe comic strips. Perhaps even movies (I have a short sci-fi film in early stages of development, which I currently plan to direct myself). But I’m pretty certain that the thing that will satisfy me the most, is writing comedy.
I couldn’t say when I “wrote” my first joke, but it was almost certainly plagiarized from “3001 Jokes for Kids” (or similar), which I spent hours reading, from age 8 or so. A few years later, after creating little club magazines for my gang of friends and putting on short shows for the kids nearby in our back garden, I wrote a revue (of course, I didn’t know it was called that at the time).
When I started primary school, I was struck by the junior kids doing a show at the end of term. By the time I hit 11 (what they now call “Year 6”) and we were set to leave for comprehensive school, I suggested our year could do a show for the younger kids. I’m not certain how many people were involved, or what they did (there may have been some violin playing…), but I know my own segment, aided by two friends/stooges, got the laughs, and the biggest round of applause.
After all, it had the most work put into it. Gags, impressions (mainly from Fawlty Towers, enjoying a repeat run at the time) and even an exploding TV prop – this slice of pre-pubescent amateur comedy had it all. The scripting was straightforward: gags lifted from joke books, and inserted into typical sketch scenarios.
A few months later, though, it was all forgotten. I was at “big school”, one of just 10 boys in the top set (we had streaming, not dissimilar to grammar school) and there was a bit of pressure on me to perform academically.
Indeed, it was all forgotten for a good 35 years until I discovered the script in a box recently.
Unfortunately, I didn’t seem to do much comedy writing after that. There was a radio show project in English which featured some good laughs (but too many impersonations of Operation Yewtree suspects), and after that all I seemed to want to write was what is now called Young Adult.
All for my own consumption, of course.
In fact, it went on like this for years, until around 2000 when I decided to try stand up, entering the BBC’s New Comedy competition, having a go at the heat in Newcastle. This was at the Hyena comedy club, and the night was compered (if memory serves me correctly) by I, Daniel Blake star Dave Johns. Sadly, while the gags were okay, I drank too much (I was on last) and missed out a good 90 seconds of my 5 minute routine.
Great, yeah? A lack of focus, typical of my 20s. I didn’t bother trying again after that, although I contributed to the occasional silly website, wrote some well-regarded (but not front page) spoofs… and left it there, really.
A few years later, I gave comedy another go, this time with a script. By this point I had been the main writer on a popular Doctor Who blog, and contributed to what is now known as a “content farm”. In 2010, “The Riding Officer”, the script of which you’ll find to read on this very blog, was performed as part of the Manchester Sitcom Trials. I’m reasonably pleased with how it turned out, although it didn’t win. There have been several iterations of it since, in full 25/30 minute format, but I’ve been unable to find my footing with the main character, Edgar Rice Paper.
A version of The Riding Officer was submitted to the BBC’s Writers’ Room in 2017, but like many scripts was unsuccessful. Not my only lack of success with that initiative. And with me singularly failing to get anything on NewsJack since 2012, I’m beginning to think that the BBC has something personal against me…
Conspiracy theories aside, I’ve been a regular listener to the Sitcom Geeks podcast for a couple of years now, typically listening in the bath, or on long solo drives. Its hosts, James Cary and Dave Cohen (IMDb links), are knowledgeable about the topic,and are both regularly working as comedy writers. They offer some insightful tips and observations.
The podcast also offers a Patreon subscription, and for just £10 a month you get additional episodes PLUS a free reading if your script’s first ten pages (which I found very useful for one of my efforts, “Bus Stop”). There’s also a Facebook group for subscribers.
So, guess what I did…
James and Dave are full of good tips, and I’m certainly a better writer from listening to the show. It doesn’t really seem to make things any easier, however. On the plus side, there is at least the benefit of feeling part of a small, frustrated group of writers via the Facebook group and the occasional script reading podcasts.
Will I ever write anything funny that people enjoy? It seems unlikely at this point. But then, it maybe doesn’t matter. Just as long as I’m enjoying writing it.