The immense talent behind Father Ted and The IT Crowd is Graham Linehan. His recent appearance at the Edinburgh International Television Festival saw the creator of Moss and Father Dougal give a “masterclass” (a word he doesn’t like) in the art of sitcom writing.

The Guardian’s John Plunkett has very kindly paraphrased the details of the session:

1. Don’t be afraid to procrastinate
“It is a very important part of the process,” said Linehan. “Even something like playing a computer game is valuable. The subconscious goes to sleep and when it wakes up it panics. The point of procrastination is to get the subconscious thinking.”

When Linehan procrastinates he likes to get a box set of his favourite TV comedies and watch three, four or five episodes in a row. Brilliant! I do this already! Currently he’s watching Frasier. “Hopefully I will get all that stuff into the blood stream and use it later.”

2. Don’t be precious
“Writing is rewriting. The first draft is not important, it is something to work on.”

3. Censorship is good
Just because you can say wank, fuck etc – you don’t have to. “The Two Ronnies had more words for breasts than eskimos have for snow,” says Linehan. As an example, he uses an episode of Seinfeld which was all about masturbation – but they never said the word in the show. “That is where the craft and the fun lies.”

4. Cutting is not a bad thing
“When you are cutting good stuff it means you are on the right track.”

5. Don’t try to compete with the web
Linehan said it was a mistake to try to imitate the shock tactics of some of the things you see on the internet. “Television is competing with the web and aping some of its worst qualities.”

6. Taboos can be fun
One of Linehan’s favourite films is Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. “It is about treating disabled people terribly, but in such a way that no one can be offended.”

7. Classic moments
In each episode you need two or three “classic moments” – and a bunch of gags to link them together. He makes it sound so easy! “The way of writing sitcoms is to think of these set pieces first.”

8. Show don’t tell
If your show has a cynical lawyer, don’t introduce him as the “cynical lawyer”. Show how he is cynical in the plot. That’s part of the fun!

9. Find someone to write with
“Writing with a partner is paid socialising. Writing on your own is work.”

10. Go against the grain
Linehan wrote The IT Crowd as a traditional studio set comedy because, after The Office, no one else was doing it. What to do next? He suggests a sketch show with different sketches every week. He hates sketch shows where the same characters return again, and again, and again. “It drives me mental.”

11. Don’t write a treatment
“You are reviewing a show that doesn’t exist yet. How do you know you can write a sitcom until you write one?”

Hopefully, the writers of Lab Rats are reading this.