One Way To Break Into Radio Comedy

Hot on the heels of my last post about having a sketch broadcast on this week's episode of Laurence & Gus: Hearts & Minds, I've had more good news confirmed. I'm going to be on the commissioned writing team for the next series of Radio 4's comedy sketch-show Recorded For Training Purposes. Very excited about this, as it's a fine show, broadly employing the themes of modern technology and communication.

If you've been reading this blog since the beginning of last year, you may vaguely remember the path that's led me here. But maybe you've only just landed, having typed "writing for comedy sketch shows" or "oiled-up lesbians" into the Google machine. And besides, why should you have to recall stuff? You're my guest here, so sit back with a cup of tea and a macaroon and I'll do the legwork. Here's a recap, for those who are interested in writing for radio comedy, probably with some new details if I remember them:

DECEMBER 2008: Recorded For Training Purposes issues an open call for sketches, asking for a maximum of three. I send in two and hear good things back from producer Ed Morrish, who invites me to a "non-com" writers meeting, attended by 15 writers out of the original 1500 applicants. "Non-com" refers to non-commissioned writers, ie writers who are not guaranteed any airtime unless they produce sketches which make people's jawbones fall off with mad laughter.

LATER IN DECEMBER: The meeting happens, in which Ed and RFTP's three script editors dispense fine sketch-writing advice.

JANUARY 5, 2009: One of the two sketches I originally sent Ed, System Of The Damned, is performed and recorded at the BBC Radio Theatre. I blog about this here, as well as tardily listing some of the aforementioned sketch-writing advice.

JANUARY 22: The episode of RFTP featuring System Of The Damned goes out on Radio 4. Champagne corks strike ceilings, chez Arnopp.

MARCH 9: It becomes pleasingly clear that there is actually a system in place in the BBC Comedy department, regarding writers. And no, not the big bad system that some folks like to imagine is conspiring to keep them out, but a system in which producers develop writers. Today, I attend a BBC radio sketchwriting workshop and blog about it here. It ends with a live comedy evening at The Albany pub, where all of the workshop attendees see sketches they've written during the day performed onstage. Nerve-wracking - especially as David Mitchell's in the audience - but great fun and vital experience. I specifically blog about that evening session here.

MARCH 13: Further evidence of a system being in place, as Ed recommends me to Colin Anderson, producer of Laurence & Gus: Hearts & Minds. I'm among the writers called in for a meeting with Colin and cast, then sent away to fashion our most side-splitting treasures. The next couple of months are all about delivering the best stuff you have within your funny-bones, then attending try-out nights and recording sessions to see if you've got anything into the show. Luckily, I really like the show, so am guaranteed a good, ticklesome time whether I have material in or not. I write about this whole process here.

AUGUST 4: Success! A sketch in tonight's episode of Laurence & Gus. By this point, I also know I'm going to be on the RFTP writing team, but can't yet make that public. Lots of internal hoorays going on.

So what does it mean to be on the writing team of a radio comedy show? Basically, it means I'm commissioned to write a minimum amount of air time, attend meetings and work more directly with Ed and the script editors. Beyond that, who knows? I'll find out next month when the meetings kick off.

Hopefully, though, this post offers hope that there absolutely is a way in, and people who care about, and have a vested interest in, developing scribblers. Like most mediums, radio is hungry for the right writers. So make sure you're the right writer in terms of skill and attitude. Keep your eyes peeled in handy places like the Writersroom's Opportunities page, scanning for open calls which will allow you to prove yourself.

For a splendid piece on the Radio 4 Commissioning Process, enjoy a good soak in Michelle Lipton's torrent of insight and advice here.
And dear lord, she's just posted a new fountain of truth, in the shape of a piece about the practicalities of writing for radio, here.

16 comments:

David Lemon said...

Good stuff and well deserved.

Helen Smith said...

Hoooray!

Jonathan said...

Nice one! Inspiring stuff...

Robin Kelly said...

Congratulations, sir!

davidmelkevik said...

Congratulations Jason and thanks for sharing how you "got in" -- I can now abandon all work on my paper mache Dan Tetsell mask.

Janice Okoh said...

Wonderful news. Well done!

Phill Barron said...

Awesomeness abounds.

Gerry Hayes said...

Well done, you splendid bastard. Was it the beard that clinched it? Tell me it was.

drettworlb said...

Good work buddy - and good to see that this come about thru a lot of hard work and determination. Certainly is inspiration to keep going.

Piers said...

Goodness. I leave town for a week and all sorts of success occurs.

We must meet soon and celebrate.

Yes.

evil twinz said...

Aaaha, more nuggets of wisdom for my LIST OF WONDER under the Radio" section, I see

Nice one sir. Expected nowt less of course : D

Catherine Randle said...

Great news you is now a bncw! Are you still keeping your day job? Loved your journey on the blog inspiring stuff!

Niel Bushnell said...

Very inspiring and useful, just like you! Well done squire.

Lucy V said...

I see I am listed as Evil Twinz, had 'em staying and the little bastards left their screen name on my Macbook, damn them, didn't even notice at the time due to your comment moderation -- tho actually that would make it YOUR fault Jase, lol.

So anyway: that was actually ME congratulating you sir and archiving you in the LIST OF WONDER. Just in case you hadn't guessed, like.

michellelipton said...

I've said it before but I'll say it again, hooray, hooray, hooray!

Chuck said...

Yeah, yeah, all very nice for you. But what about me? I've come here after searching for "oiled up lesbians" and there's nothing but all of this writing non-sense!