There are many ways to start your career as a comedy writer, but nothing gets you noticed faster than being able to write topical jokes for the radio.
Times have changed, as James and I noted in the latest edition of Sitcom Geeks. The opportunities for a successful topical comedy writer are no longer as bountiful as they were when James and I started out – but it’s still a great place to meet young radio producers.
Why do you want to meet young radio producers? Because like you they are starting out in the business, and don’t yet have that many contacts. Unlike you they will go on to become slightly older TV producers. At which point they’re going to need writers. It will be a great help if they already know you.
Top writers including Simon Blackwell (Veep, Back, Private Life of David Copperfield), Mark Burton (Madagascar, Wallace & Gromit) and Georgia Pritchett (Succession, The Shrink Next Door, The Thick Of It) all began their careers this way.
While the topical door closed slowly over the last decade it has been blown open again in recent years.
A number of great opportunities have appeared for new writers: Breaking The News, BBC Scotland’s topical show that runs for 30 weeks a year is seeking material from writers with no previous credits.
And fabulous, multi-award winning The Skewer is guaranteed a place on Radio 4 for at least 15 weeks a year. Here’s what producer, creator and all-round topical comedy genius Jon Holmes has to say about his show: “Nothing has made me prouder than being able to bring new writers into comedy.”
Add Noising Up, another Scottish show and DMs Are Open, BBC Radio’s replacement for Newsjack, and you can barely move for the bloody things.
In recent times all news was like pulling teeth. What fun was there in making jokes about Trump and Brexit? Year in, year out. Not a lot, judging by the interest in making topical comedy at the time.
Covid wasn’t exactly a barrel of laughs either, but the demise of Donald and the implosion of the Tories seems to have brought a new creative spurt.
This is not the place to argue about whether there are any funny right-wingers. Or why most topical comedy traditionally skews left. Better instead to celebrate the fact that the shows out now range from the traditional six-gags-a-minute stand-up fest of Breaking The News to the aurally innovative genius of Jon Holmes and his superb brainchild The Skewer.
In 2021 Jon joined us for a Sitcom Geeks Masterclass about how to write for the show. And with the help of Dave and Dan’s topical comedy writing course, a number of them achieved their first comedy writing credit on The Skewer.
Starting next month we’ll be running our topical comedy writing course designed to get you into the best habits of writing like a professional – hopefully bringing you a credit or two along the way.
“Work ethic is something I’ve struggled with in the past. I was a massive procrastinator. Doing the course with you both taught me that the only way to get on is to just do it and put the work in. Which sounds silly but by doing that, I got the most fun out of it too!” Duncan Ladkin.
Dan Sweryt has become a regular contributor to both shows. When he first heard The Skewer he couldn’t imagine he could write for it, but, he says “You can! Also it’s multiple award-winning and who doesn’t want to write for a multiple award-winning show?”
In October 2021 our first intensive course garnered several BBC writing credits for many new writers.
Eleanor Hayward took that course. After scoring a string of credits herself, she’s joined our team in helping to bring new writers forward.
You don’t have to be a news nerd, but it helps. While that matters, the most important skills are learning how to get into THE ROUTINE and THE HABIT of writing topical. And how to REWRITE your jokes.
The six-week course that will help you break into topical comedy writing. And while the course is running we’ll be pitching ideas and jokes for both shows.
Be warned – it’s a lot of work. But the credits are worth it. For Breaking The News, you’ll want to have time available between Tuesday afternoon and Thursday morning. And The Skewer will eat into chunks of your weekend.
Writing for The Skewer begins Thursday 2 Feb. Writing for Breaking The News starts Tuesday 14 Feb
If you’d like to sign up it’s £149 for both shows, or £99 for one show. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
“The course was excellent! Putting aside the credits on Breaking The News which was an unexpected bonus, I really learned about crafting jokes and the routine of producing them” Joanne Cunningham
“It was absolutely brilliant in every way. I ended up with writing credits on two shows which was a huge confidence boost and gave my writing career a valuable breakthrough. Worth the money many times over. Plus they were super supportive and encouraging, and gave really useful expert feedback. Your gag writing will improve whatever level you’re at. Fantastic and highly recommended.” Alice Bright
…The course and feedback on gags has been brilliant Uttom Chowdhury (credited on both shows)