In the current episode of Sitcom Geeks (https://www.comedy.co.uk/podcasts/sitcom_geeks/episode_157/) James Cary and I talk about the importance of reading. James discusses it in its noblest form – you read to expand your knowledge of the world, not just to confirm your prejudices as you scroll down your reading machine of choice.
More important you should read actual books, the things you can hold in your hands that require the extra effort of turning pages, and also lack the distraction of being able to tell you the weather outside your window or the exact current location of the latest parcel of must have cardboard and polystyrene you ordered three days ago.
I agreed with James but went off on a slightly different track. It happened that before we recorded the episode I’d been thinking about reading in a much broader sense, as in interpreting. “Read the room” as the current saying goes. I mentioned how before I wrote my first novel I turned up my novel reading by several volumes. Every novel is different of course but it gave me a feel for the rhythms of storytelling in a genre I hadn’t worked in before.
One of the most useful ways you can learn more about comedy writing is to read scripts by other comedy writers and to watch comedy shows – not just the shows you like, but those you think you won’t, and those you never get round to watching because as we all know there’s never enough time to –
– I saved a few seconds there, fill in the gaps yourselves when you get a moment. But I get this all the time. I’m the same as everyone else, and since I began teaching a whole bunch of students in January I’ve discovered there are whole genres of TV sitcom I didn’t even know about.
Wanda What The Next Big Thing Will Be…
Even where I do know, do I have to get another bloody subscription to join in the fun? This time last week I had never heard of Wandavision and I bet most of you hadn’t either. But the word has now entered my vocabulary and I understand I’m going to have to now seriously consider adding Disney Plus to the growing list of unwieldy direct debit bills threatening to topple my already structurally unsafe bank account.
However, thanks to the wonderful BBC and the magic of iPlayer, there is a massive library of unwatched sitcoms awaiting my perusal. And yours too.
Starting next Tuesday 26 January at 830pm GMT, and every Tuesday for the foreseeable future, I’ll be watching a new (or old favourite) sitcom in real time while commenting on Twitter, and I’d love as many as possible of you to join me. Frankly I’ll feel a bit of an idiot if I’m doing it on my own.
There are so many shows to choose from on iPlayer, and many say they’re available for at least a year, so we’re not going to run out. We could do this game seven days a week and still wouldn’t get through everything.
I started “reading” sitcoms in this way towards the end of last year when I launched the Sitcom Geeks “How To Write A Scene” competition, the results of which will be announced shortly. I found a random scene on the internet from an episode of Blackadder The Third that helped to illustrate everything I wanted to see from the competition entrants.
Soon after I ran a series of emails about about comedy drama, and subjected a random episode of Fleabag to the kind of Sitcom Geekery which helped to give us our podcast name.
My friend Andrea Mann who was subscribing to the emails suggested I attempt to do the same thing on a regular basis. And she was right. Thanks Andrea! Here we are.
All you have to do at this stage is turn up to our @SitcomGeeks page on Twitter, every Tuesday 830pm GMT, armed with your iPlayer primed, your Tuesdays Are Funny Hashtag, #TuesdaysAreFunny or #TAF, and an open mind. We’ll all switch on the episode at the same time and see what happens.
Feel free to comment using the #TAF hashtag as long as you have something constructive to say. Criticism is fine but trolls, snarks and “this is shit” 30 seconds into the credits will receive an instant block. Although we might not have a lot of time to dwell on the credits as we’ll also be watching a sitcom episode possibly for the first time. It might almost be like tweeting along live during Bake Off, only without the cakes.
MBB Isn’t Only Men Behaving Badly
We’ll try and get some of the key people involved with the show along – writers, producers, performers, to pick up some inside information.
Our first show will be next week, Tuesday 26 January 830pm GMT with… I haven’t decided yet, such a massive choice, available far into the unknown. What would you like to see? There’s plenty of current or recent shows to choose from – not Going Out, Ghosts, Back To Life, Detectorists and yes, Mrs Brown’s Boys, don’t try wriggling your way out of it, if I can read a Dan Brown novel for research purposes then you can force yourself to watch one episode of the most popular sitcom on TV for the last decade.
But there’s also an incredible range of classic old shows including Vicar of Dibley, Butterflies and the entire 149 episodes of Fresh Prince of Bel Air.
Keep a lookout on our @SitcomGeeks twitter site this week, I’ll be running some polls to see which show we choose first. Any ideas now? Leave your comments here and state your case.
See you on Twitter… #TAF #TuesdaysAreFunny