Stare Into Space

BBC Writing Workshop

Posted on | March 11, 2009 | 6 Comments

I was too tired and lazy to write anything about this yesterday but, if you’ll remember, I was in London for a couple of days to attend a writing workshop with the Beeb.

Looking back, the whole thing’s just a whirlwind of planes, dodgy hotels, writing and ladyboy escorts.  I turned up at the Beeb on Monday morning and I, and my fellow writers, were thrown in at the deep and pointy-rocked end.

“You’ve got 15 minutes to have a think about a sketch and then you need to pitch it to us”, we were told.

“Zoinks!”, I said, inwardly.  On the surface I was a cool, coy-filled, pool of Zen calmness.  With flop-sweat.

Fifteen minutes later, I stuttered something about pirates and knobs and then it was all haste to the laptops. When the time was up for first drafts, I actually submitted two sketches for ridicule and scorn.

Then, we had a bit of a talk from Gareth Edwards, Head Of BBC Radio Comedy.  He played us some sketches and told us why they were funny.  Sounds like it shouldn’t work but it was actually very enlightening.  He chatted about the advantages of comedy for radio and give the astonishingly good advice of not writing stuff that you don’t personally find funny just to ‘fit’ a particular show.  Obvious, but I bet everyone who’s written sketches has done it.

When he was done, GULP, the feedback.  A game of two halves really.  They loved one of my sketches and told me not to change a thing but found the other one had a few too many ‘whores’ in it.  Censored by the BBC – I am Russell Brand (except not so annoying, stupid-haired, and skinny).  In fairness, their feedback was spot on and once mentioned, I could see where they were coming from.  Off to rewrites, although the pressure was off for me as we were each just getting one slot and I had one that didn’t actually need any work.  Hurrah.

Another talk, this time from Micheal Jacob who is the Head of the BBC Comedy College.  Talk about pools of Zen calmness.  He mainly did a Q&A and I got the impression that he’d have been completely unfazed if we’d just sat there staring at him for an hour.  He was completely unrufflable.  Serene and yogi-like (not the bear). He also had a noodle full of good information and he happily imparted some to us.

That was the workshopy bit over with.  Off for a quick shower and a cheap burger before heading to The Albany for, DOUBLE GULP, the performance.  Yep.  The damn sketches we’d written were going to be performed.  To real people.  And not just real people.  Who should turn up and take a seat in the front row?  Only David bloody Mitchell, that’s who.  David Mitchell is going to watch the stuff we’ve just written?  No pressure then.

As it happens, the four performers doing our stuff were fantastic.  Everything went down really well and Mr. Mitchell didn’t seem ready to gouge his eyeballs out at any stage.  He even laughed.  Which was nice.  My own sketch seemed to go pretty well and I was happy with the response (in no small part, due to the excellent performance).  It had laughter in the right places which I’m taking as a good sign.  Mitchell left pretty sharpish after the final sketch so I didn’t get a chance to ask him for any money.

Had a couple of beers and some pleasant chat with some of my fellow workshoppers, including Jason Arnopp (who has a coat with the most capacious pockets I’ve ever seen – I understand that one was being rented to rich businessmen looking for a place to cheat on their wives).  Incidentally, Jason’s blog has a much more thorough run-through of the days happenings than I could be arsed doing.

That was it.  A pleasant stroll back to the Hotel Unhygenic, clean up the hooker’s body, a quick fix from her stash and to bed.

Thanks should go to Ed Morrish and Sam Michell from the BBC for organising and running the workshop – cheers guys.

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Gerry Hayes

Gerry Hayes

I mostly sit around all day and drink tea. Occasionally, I write stuff and send it to strangers so they can humiliate me and deride my efforts. Other than the self-harm to dull the shame of failure, it's not a bad life. Like I say, there's tea.

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