Thursday, 28 February 2013

Newsjack: Recorded but Cut

Today, I just got the most awesome email from Newsjack.

From what I am aware, my sketch on ways to avoid a drone attack was definitely recorded :D
The pope sketch may have gotten recorded but it's unclear.

Gutted that I wasn't at the recording but thrilled it was good enough to get recorded.

As I said, i will post the sketches up soon.

Email I received is below.   Happy days :)   My writing is defo improving.


Dear all,

We're just writing to say that, although you didn't get anything into last night's programme, you got something into the recording script. We always over-record, and there could be many reasons why things get dropped - they might not quite work out loud, or the audience might not get it, or simply we needed to lose thirty seconds. Whatever the reason, we did think your stuff was good - but we've only got twenty-eight minutes of airtime...

So, thank you for contributing to the recording - and please do keep submitting material - we look forward to reading your stuff next week.

Lyndsay Fenner & Ed Morrish
Producers, Newsjack.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Sketches I've written this weekend

Okay, so following from last week.

I wrote two new sketches this weekend that I have submitted to newsjack.   I will post them up at some point.   The two sketches are:

  • 22 ways to avoid drones
  • Pope's last day at work
So, i think i have covered one major story and one minor story
  • Pope's last day (major story)
  • 22 ways to avoid drones (minor story)
In these 2 sketches, I've worked on making it sound right (especially the pope one).   
  • I've read them out loud, doing the accents that i think are appropriate
  • I've considered the voice talents of the cast (pope voice, boris johnson voice)
  • I've covered one major story with some fresh angles on it (hopefully, i.e. the pope).
  • I've avoided the typical interview style (pope one is a conversation, 22 ways is a public service broadcast)
  • I've made sure that where possible voices are gender neutral except where avoidable (i.e. the pope).   So the pope's aide could be a male or female voice
  • I think they are funny
All in all, i think my writing has improved from the week before.   Will it be strong enough for newsjack   I dunno.   I have also submitted the drone one to newsrevue and treason show.   They are a slightly different version with more visual jokes and some extra jokes that would work outside of the radio format.  I will probably send the pope one to newsrevue also.

I don't expect any of these to be performed yet.   It would be nice if they were but at the moment I am just glad my writing is improving.   As I said, i will post them up soon.

I may write one more sketch this weekend if something funny is inspired.

The major stories that I would expect newsjack to cover this week include:

  • Downgrading of UK AAA rating
  • Oscars (hopefully i will write something on this)
  • Foreign Doctors must speak english (i suspect loads of people will do sketches on this)
Stories that are big that they probably won't do a sketch on for taste reasons (unless a tasteful sketch is written)

  • Oscar Pistorius
  • Cardinal O'Brien
  • Nick Clegg and Lord Rennard (i suspect this will be covered though probably from the nick clegg angle rather than the lord rennard angle)
  • US forces to leave afghanistan
And of course anything that happens on Monday or Tuesday (covered by the writers room or anyone who writes a sketch on a story that occurs before 12)

UPDATE - Monday 25th of February

Wrote one more sketch last night called , which is a parody on the adverts on britain losing it's AAA status

Useful links for writing topical / non topical sketch comedy

This is an article from newsjack producer lyndsay fenner on submitting sketches

I guess the key thing to take out of this is be original and be persistent.

Mitchell and Webb
This is mitchell and webb talking about sketch writing.

Key points:  Strong premise and Strong characters

Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong

I haven't watched this one yet

BBC Academy

This was pretty helpful too.  I need to relisten though, forgotten the points, oops.

Sitcom Pilot Scripts

This is kinda cool.

I'm not planning to write a sitcom, as i said trying to crack sketch comedy.  However found a collection of pilot scripts for sitcoms.   I'm interested in them as I'm hoping it will help me improve the way i write for speech and characters.

it's got some pretty cool ones like:

  • 30 Rock
  • Big Bang Theory
  • New Girl

Also BBC Writers room has some good scripts like:

  • Miranda
  • Mrs Brown's Boys

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Newsjack - more thoughts on sketches


Having performed a very brief analysis of tbe last episode 2 and episode 1 of series 8 of newsjack there are some points that I kinda feel that I have to cover.

12 & 13 sketches
In a episode of newsjack there are around 11-15 sketches in episode (in those 2 episodes it was 12 & 13).

28 Minute show
Newsjack is a 28 minute show.

24 minutes of sketches and 4 minutes of one-liners and jackapps
According to this posting from the producers about jackapps and one-liners.   Basically they are aiming for 24 minutes of sketches.

Average of 2 minute sketches
Therefore we can assume that based on average of 12 sketches within a 24 minute period.   Newsjack are looking for around 12 sketches of 2 minutes to fill that 24 minutes.   Now, nobody ever complains about a short sketch.   So if you submit a 1 minute sketch, awesome, that will mean that you could have 13 or 14 sketches.   Are they likely to have 24 sketches of 1 minute.   Somehow I doubt it.
More importantly, are they likely to take a sketch of 5 minutes.   Hahaha, no ways.
So aim for a 2 minute sketch.  If it's shorter, cool.   If it's longer, time to edit.  Do you really need that joke?

12 sketch average
So this is something, I have been getting really wrong.   And it's kinda obvious.   They have 12 sketches to cover the news.   Therefore if you are covering minor news items for your sketches, you are reducing your chances of getting on the show.   I kinda thought that if i covered less well known stories then I would have a better chance of getting on the show.   Totally wrong!!!!!!   I'll talk about this a little more on the next posting.

Major news stories
BUT, think about this.  They have to cover the major news items.   They have to!!!  Wouldn't it be weird for episode 1 for them not to have some sketches on the pope, or horsemeat?   You couldn't have 12 sketches taken up by minor news stories.    So write sketches on the major topics.   Now that's not to say that if you write a brilliant sketch on minor news stories that it won't get on.   I think good writing will probably get on regardless.   But you are making it harder for yourself.  I think.   Just my thoughts. And the producers seem to confirm this on one of their videos, where they talk about people sending in minor stories.   They said they want fresh angles on the major new stories.

So, write sketches on major news stories with fresh-angles.   Confine smaller stories to oneliners and jackapps.

Will talk about this a bit more in a next posting.

So i want to the recording of episode 1, and did my analysis.   So one of the things, I am learning about writing sketches.   And I haven't yet cracked this.   It's not really about the funny lines.
It's about an interesting and fresh premise and angle.   However it's all about the characters.   Listen to the show.   How does Justin speak.   What voices does pippa or nadia tend to do.   What impressions does lewis like to do.

Some of them are pretty obvious.  within 2 episodes Ed Milliband, Brian Cox were both covered by lewis.  Look at previous episodes, Silvio berlusconni and boris johnson appeared.     So if a news item appears where one of these characters are prominent, you can probably bet your ass that you have a better chance of getting on air (if you write to the character, do fresh jokes, and give it an interesting angle).    Same sort of point for Nadia, if you can have characters that bring that bring out her voice talents, do it.   Interesting accents, geordie / norther accents, playful gurlie accents etc.

Will talk about this a bit more later!!!

Use the cast
4 cast members.   2 are female, 2 are male.   one male cast member does lots of impressions (lewis).  one male cast member has a serious voice and mainly does interview style stuff (justin).  3 female members of cast.  Pippa tends to do the more serious voices, nadia tends to do the more playful gurlie voices (she's closer to lewis).    Sorry to offend if I am wrong, I am just saying what I have seen from the 2 episodes.   I haven't seen margaret perform so i can't comment.
So, my point is if you don't write to this cast, you have a problem.
If you just write male roles, you ain't getting on.   If you are not wrting to their talents, you ain't getting on.
Make interesting sketches that can be performed by male and female performers and use their voice talents.

It's not about dialog
Again something, i missed and my own writing doesn't reflect.   When you listen to the show.  Every sketch is about the character and the voice.   Funny dialog doesn't necessarily doesn't translate to a good sketch.  Every sketch has interesting voices etc.  You have to write for the characters.

Anyways, I hope this helps me improve my writing in the future and maybe you

Friday, 22 February 2013

Newsjack Series 8 Episode 2

A quick breakdown on the type of sketches in newsjack series 8, episode 2

Justins Intro One liners
Asteroid Size Sketch Scene
Private School advert Sketch Advert
Reintro of 10p tax rate, ed milliband Sketch Scene
Story on Ducess of Cambridge Sketch Interview
Jackapp Jackapp Jackapp
Diary of pandas about to have sex Sketch Diary
Meteorite Sketch Scene
Australian Tourist Board Sketch Informercial
Asteroid with Brian Cox Sketch Interview
Jackapp Jackapp Jackapp
Return of silvio berluscionni Sketch Speech
Chucky Checker Apps Suing Sketch Advert
Morrison buying blockbuster stores Sketch Scene
Orchestrated Tweets Sketch Interview
Corrections Corrections Corrections
This week This week This week

my thoughts on this later

Newsjack series 8 episode 1 breakdown

I thought I might list the type of sketches that were aired on this episode.   Might help me figure out the beat of the show.   Basically what I should write for what format.

Pre Intro Punwatch
Justins Intro One liners
Pope Resigination Sketch Scene
Ed Milliband - 2nd job declaration Sketch Scene
Barclays bank Job cuts and being more moral Sketch Interview
Disneyland amusement park Sketch Advert
Jackapps Jackapps Jackapps
Diary of Chris Huhne Sketch Diary
David Attenborough refusing to show gay animals Sketch Interview
Page 3 girls out of date tweet Sketch Sketch
Newsjack guide to driving in the cold Sketch Infomercial
Childrens Road Safery Advert Scrapped and foxes Sketch Infomercial
Terrorist Social Media Sketch Unsure
Jackapps Jackapps
Old Popes Home Sketch Scene
Gnomes in Chelsea Flower Show Sketch
Wooden Horse Lasagne Sketch Scene
Corrections Corrections Corrections

Will post some thoughts on this later.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

2nd Week of Submissions of newsjack

So, the jury is in for my 2 sketches this week.   Unfortunately my writing will still not be gracing the airwaves.   I sent 2 sketches in this week:

  • Lunchpod
  • A supermodel is for life not just for fashion week

I will publish them up at some point.   So do I have any thoughts on this.   I guess there are a few possibilities.

  • Picked some topics that are minor news stories (fashion week and jonny ive getting a blue peter badge)
  • Not funny enough
  • Better sketches sent in (possibly on bigger topics)
  • Doesn't read out-loud well

So, as I said in an earlier posting.  I think these read better than my previous submissions and I think they are funnier than my week one submissions.   Are they funny enough, that i can't answer, i thought they were.   Do they read out loud well.   Again not sure, not heard them performed so hard to tell.   When I read them out-loud they sounded better than the submissions of the week before

However, what I do know, i definitely picked minor topics and not the major news stories.   And the newsjack team talking about wanting fresh angles on major stories not the minor stores.   See this video for useful tips:

So, this weekend, it's time to focus on sketches for the bigger stories.

Also, I am still trying to find the beat for newsjack, so this weekend.  I think i'll do some quick analysis on the topics.   Hopefully will help me find that beat for topical sketches.   Might even try and perform them myself.

Will publish the results of my analysis later.

It's definitely a learning experience this.

Monday, 18 February 2013

The first sketches I ever wrote

So last week, I wrote 3 sketches for Newsjack.   I am pleased to say that none of them made the show.  I am also pleased to say that none of them made the recording process.

Why am I pleased?   Well, when I wrote the sketches, I thought they were good enough.   And then I went to the recording to see the show.   I quickly realized that my sketches weren't good enough and just sat back and enjoyed the show, lol.

Here are the titles of the 3 sketches, I wrote:

  • Disneyladen
  • Jocklands
  • And it just goes on aaaaaaand on
I don't know the actual reasons the sketches never made it onto air but I have a pretty good guess.

  • Somebody else had a better script on the same topic
    • I think this was the case for Disneyladen
  • The jokes weren't funny enough
    • I'm pretty sure this was the case for "It just goes on aaaand on
  • It doesn't sound natural
    • I think this was the case for Jocklands
  • To much FX
    • I think this was the case for Disneyladen
  • Concentrating on the jokes and not the premise
    • I think this was the case for all 3
I was pretty proud of the 3 sketches,  there were some funny lines.   But now when I look back (one week later).   I don't think they quite hung together properly into a sketch.   I will post them later and you will see what I mean.

So I went to the show.   I got a better idea of the subjects.   I got a better idea of the recording process.   I have a better idea of the cast.  Guess what, they have to read your sketches out loud (so you should too).   It's a radio show, your sketch has to be performed not just read.  The cast are very talented but they can only work with what they are given.   So you need to give them something that sounds natural and funny.   I think I lost sight of that.
  • Read your scripts out loud.    
  • Think about how the character will sound.   
  • Don't just write funny lines
  • Tell a story / have a point
  • Have a punchline
  • Have lots of jokes
  • Be original
  • Have an angle

So I submitted 2 sketches this week.
  • Lunchpod (a sketch on Sir Jonny Ive receiving a gold blue peter badge)
  • A supermodel is for life not just for fashion week (you can guess what that's about)
I think these sketches are much tighter, sound more natural and are better concepts.   I think they are quite funny too but I am biased.

Will they make the recording or even the show?   I dunno, it's only week 2 of my sketch writing, i have a long way to go.   And there are some really talented writers submitting to Newsjack.  

Are these sketches better than the ones I wrote in week 1.   I think they are a lot better!!!! 

I think my writing is improving (I will post all 5 sketches at some point) with my thoughts on each one.

Hopefully one day I will crack this nut.   Have to admit, really enjoying writing.   I just hope I improve enough to meet the standard.

Personalizing a joke

So in the last post I was talking about treating victims like victims but we're not saints.   I guess when writing a sketch, you're gonna poke fun / comment on individuals.   So where is the line.   In all honesty, I'm not sure but I have some idea.

I guess if you're in the public eye.   You're a little bit fair game.   See Celebrities, Politicians etc.

You can even push the line a little bit:

Good examples (non sketch):

Mock the Week: Kerry Katona jokes
Have I got news for you (any politics show): Nick Clegg jokes.

And these are generally okay unless you move to cruelty.  See previous post for the piers morgan example.

I think this is the line that is too easy to cross and I suspect sometimes I will go too far but I will try not too.

If you wanna poke fun at somebody who isn't famous (apart from the news story), what's the point?   The chances are nobody will know who they are / get the joke.

I'm not saying this to be a saint!!   I want it to be funny!!!   I don't want an audience to be uncomfortable.   And I want to be able to sleep at night knowing I made people laugh.   Not made someone cry!!!

They're victims, treat them that way!!!

So i probably rambled on a bit in my last post about sketches that i won't write about

But that's okay as this blog is primarily for my own benefit.   Help me figure out a framework for writing sketches.  If you find it useful, great.  If nobody ever reads it or finds it useful (apart from me) that's okay.

I guess one of the points I didn't make clear.

If they're a victim, treat them that way.   Give them space and respect!!!  Don't try and make fun of them (unless they really deserve it).

Now this is a line that I will cross frequently but hopefully not too badly.

For example, i won't write sick topical sketches about the murder of somebody, see the previous post.

Sketches about Piers Morgan are fair game however.   If something stoopid happened to Piers Morgan, game on!!!

However if something tragic happened to Piers Morgan or his family.   It's not funny (for me), no matter how much of a twat Piers Morgan is!!!

I guess it's common sense.

Setting a moral line - the easy choices

At the moment I am writing some topical sketches and sending them to a topical news radio comedy show on the BBC called Newsjack.   Basically I'm hail mary sending them and hoping I the find the beat they are looking for.    I am also writing some non-topical sketches too.  The more I write the better I get and hopefully one day I will get one on air.

I guess the thing about writing topical sketches is that you need to find a topic to set a sketch about.   In other blog postings I'll talk about the type of sketches I'll write about but what i am finding that even though i have only been doing this for 2 weeks, there are topics I won't talk about.

To do that, let's look at the headlines today and over the weekend.  I'm gonna pick some obvious stories that I wouldn't touch in a million years.

Voices directed beheading suspect
You know what, do I need to spell this out.  I don't think there is a way you can ask an audience to find beheading this funny.   Where do you go with this.   What I would say is that if you really feel the need to write a sketch based on beheading.   Maybe set in the 18th century or something.   Do a non-topical sketch and don't be graphic.
For topical comedy. no ways.  it's in bad-taste, it affects a single person directly.   basically it's a no-no for me.  I'm not saying you can't do a sketch on it.  I'm just saying, I won't.

Oscar Pistorius faces murder charge
There is just no way to make this funny.   Either this was murder or a very tragic accident.   At the end of the day a famous sportsman killed another famous model.   It's just not funny.   The tragic death of a girl isn't funny.   I just won't write it.
Strangely enough at the weekend when I read the news, a sketch idea popped into my head.   I felt ashamed but I really wasn't look for a sketch.   Did I write it, no!  Because it could never be funny.   I didn't find the news item funny but sometimes you can't help where ideas come from.   BTW, the main premise of the sketch was Columbo (peter falk not oscar pistorius).
However, I have moved the topic to a non-topical sketch.  changed the characters, the premise and rewriting it to something that is tasteful and funny but nothing to do with this news article.   I guess my point is, sometimes an idea will come.   I guess the trick is to repurpose it.

Jury fails to reach verdict in Rachel Manning murder
Same point as above.   Its a murder.  It's not funny.    I have no idea who Rachel Manning is to be honest.   Again you are asking people to laugh at something very uncomfortable.   So, if an idea pops in to your head, perhaps some sketch about a hung jury or something.   Well, change the characters, make it non-topical, do it another time and write a funny unsick sketch.

Woman killed as Rally Car hits crowd
Same point as above.    A real person died.   If you need to write a funny rally car sketch.   Make it non-topical and do it at another time.  It doesn't need to be this week.

I think you get the point:

Murder Stories
Death Stories
Sexual Offence Type Stories

Not funny!  And I ain't gonna write about it.   I hope I'm better than that and I hope that my one day potential audience will be too.   I guess if you find that sort of stuff funny, there are plenty of shows and comedians who will satisfy you there.    I don't wanna be one of them.

These stories are easy to keep a moral line though.   Unfortunately sometimes you get carried away and the line isn't so clear.   I'm sure I will cross the line (you have to push boundaries) but hopefully never that far over the line.  

Maybe in one of my next posts, I'll look at where the line becomes less clear

Aspiring Sketch Comedy Writer

I guess I could say I'm an aspiring comedy sketch writer.   When I say aspiring.   I started writing sketches exactly 2 weeks ago.

I'll maybe explore my thoughts as we go along.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Hello world

I guess this is where I'll be posting some thoughts about stuff