Not Good Enough For The BBC! Newsjack Series 11 – PART 6!

newsjack

So that’s it for another series of Newsjack. I’m happy to report that all in all I got my second ever sketch credit and I think my 10th one liner in this time. It’s hard to believe that I’ve been in the last four series (my first attempts and credits came in series 8). Where does the time go? Nowhere. Because it is an abstract concept. (Or is it? I actually don’t know. Ask Brian Cox if you’re so interested).

What now? Well, I am writing my second fiction book, but that’s another matter. As far as comedy goes, especially radio comedy, I am going to start drafting a long festering sit-com idea and work it up into a treatment. I have done this in the past with a previous idea (I wrote a pilot episode) and was told by David Tyler of Pozzitive productions that it was ‘better than most’, but not quite there yet. So I did what any writer should do… nothing. Actually, I got distracted by other projects and never returned to writing a comedy script (apart from Newsjack submissions). But I’m going to have another go with a new concept and see what happens.

I guess it is good advice to work on something in your spare time, no matter if there is an open submission programme waiting for it or not. Being a writer simply means writing something down, so all of us can achieve that – being a successful writer is objective, and really depends on who you are and what you want out of life. Start with step 1 – write something, and go from there.

I think that this series of Newsjack has improved on the last (not that there was anything wrong with the last, but things can always get better). It seems like the new production team and host have settled in and got a good idea of the direction and personality of the show. I have no idea if they will be moving on for the next series, but if they do, I think they have all done themselves proud. It must be a hell of a challenge just to get anything out in such a short time scale, let alone something that more often than not makes you laugh. There have been some very good sketches this series, and it makes me feel a little better (and more determined) when my material is passed over for such clever little laughter nuggets.

I might do one more blog next week on some of my unused sketches, but for now, here are my final, unused, one liner submissions for episode six of Newsjack. Well done to everyone involved, even those who submitted with no luck. Having the confidence and discipline to send that email in is an achievement in itself I reckon.

Thanks for sticking with me throughout this blog. I blog every week, on a variety of subjects, so why not click the subscribe button and see what I get up to between series of Newsjack? Or even better, buy my book advertised in the top right corner of the screen? (Just a thought). Bye!

 

ONELINERS EP 6

BREAKING NEWS:

  1. Tree of the year competition accused of blatant exploitation as finalists appear naked in Autumn photo shoot. (I thought this was my best chance this week! I always order my  one liners in what I think is the best shot… but am usually proved wrong every time they actually use on).
  2. The UK’s chief scientist is surveying sea life after fears that man made emissions are turning the oceans to acid. “Don’t ask me, I’m a space unicorn” says fish. (Acid water? Get it? I did. No one ever uses my drug-reference jokes…)
  3. Google boss Alan Eustace sets new world record by going 25 miles above the Earth to file his tax returns. (okay, so you need to know the story about how he set the new skydive record for this one to work – and make the link between that and  tax havens… Maybe this needed more!)
  4. Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody is said to have healing powers, leading to fears that new James Blunt album could be the next Ebola. (Why not? I knew this story would be popular, and I think they did a joke in the end based around the Bohemian Rhapsody lyrics, which was, admittedly, better than this.)
  5. First ever transplant using a dead heart is completed. Patient regrets not going private. (I like the idea of the NHS sticking crap organs in people to get us all to go private… This might have been the seed of a sketch, but I didn’t think of that at the time.)
  6. Afghanistan complains about the mess left behind now the UK has pulled out at the last minute.  (My girlfriend complains that I always put at least one sex based joke in my submissions, but they always seem to come up. Ha. ‘Come up’. Anyway…)

 

TV/RADIO LISTINGS:

  1. Is it a spoon? Is it a fork? Sue Barker investigates this Friday at 8pm in ‘A question of Spork’. (I had it in mind that we could do a series of Question of Sport based jokes. I already tried ‘A question of Spores’ and there was another one used in one of the episodes by a different writer. It was a blind hope.)
  2. Mystery abounds as several victims are found choked to death on blue cheese in the Roquefort files, this Monday at 3pm. (As I said before, I struggle with these a little! The TV listings are a quickly exhausted supply of source material. After six weeks of going through them you realise everything is just repeated every day pretty much).
  3. Every evening at 7.30 on ITV, watch more hilarious home video footage of people accidentally setting fire to themselves in ‘You’ve been flamed’. (You see what I mean?!)

Good Enough / Not Good Enough For The BBC! Newsjack Series 11 – PART 5!

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Success! I got my second credit this series in episode 5 of Newsjack last week, hence the slight alteration in the title of this week’s blog instalment in this running feature, an introduction to which you can find here: https://garryabbott.com/2014/10/01/not-good-enough-for-the-bbc-newsjack-series-11/

I managed to land a one liner this time, which is nice, seeing as putting them together can take me almost as long as writing the three sketches I also submit each week (that’s two ‘full’ sketches and a 30 second advert, if you are wondering – check out the submission guidelines if that sounds weird to you, it’s a new feature they added this series).

But, as always, to get the two credits this series so far, I have submitted ten sketches, five 30 second adverts, thirty ‘breaking news’ one liners, and fifteen ‘TV listing’ jokes. That’s the full compliment allowed so far, with one episode left to go (which I have also submitted for and not included in the count above for some reason). So it is a lot of work, and not always as fun as you would think writing a load of jokes and sketches should be… For one thing I have sometimes had to resort to reading the Daily Mail website for ideas, which would be okay if it wasn’t for having to bathe my eyeballs in acid afterwards to wash away the residual filth.

Below then is last week’s submissions (one liners) that weren’t included, AND the one that was… with notes and thoughts. See if you can spot the joke that got broadcast. I’ll give you a clue, it’s the one where I’ve clearly stated that it got broadcast.

Good luck to everyone who submits for the final episode this week! I will post my final instalment in this series next week, and then a feature about the series in general and sketches in  the weeks following I think, but don’t hold me to that, because that would be weird and I do this for free.  Cheers!

ONELINERS EP 5

BREAKING NEWS:

  1. A sculpture of a sex toy in Paris has caused angry demonstrators to stage a sit down, stand up, sit down, stand up, sit down… protest. (There was a similar joke used in the episode, but not this one. Some news stories are just begging for it.)
  2. A fan dressed up as a cleaner to get close to Miley Cyrus backstage at a concert. All the security guards at the venue ignored him as they thought he was just another person who Twerked there. (Hoorah! Who would have thought it? A Miley Cyrus joke landed me this week’s success. It seems Twerking still has life in it yet, to the shame of the human race.)
  3. Internet trolls are to be banned from Twitter and face longer sentences as apparently 140 characters isn’t enough to tell someone they are fat and ugly. (thought there was a better way to word this but ran out of time to find it. The news headline itself was almost a one liner “Twitter trolls to face longer sentences”, almost said it all anyway. Silly BBC news.)
  4. Chinese state media has warned its citizens moving to England not to take on western names that could see them mocked, such as Dumbledore, Satan or Boris. (Bit of a stretch this one if you didn’t know the original news story. The first two names are genuine examples of names the Chinese media has warned its citizens against using, the third one is (meant to be) my funny addition.)  
  5. Radio 1 has been found to have breached licensing laws when children listening to a Lilly Allen concert broadcast in the early afternoon definitely heard a lot of shit. (Don’t really care for Lilly Allen’s music personally, and thought her antics swearing her way through a Radio 1 road show aimed at younger audiences was a bit sad and worth a jest. How I laughed, to myself, as no one else heard it anyway.)  
  6. Tony Blair says that all schools around the world should teach religious respect, apart from the ones with all them Muslim terrorists in them, which we should definitely bomb. (I think this would have worked better built into a sketch with someone doing a Blair impression. The very thought that the mass murdering war criminal wants to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony, is joke enough I suppose.)

 

TV/RADIO LISTINGS:

  1. Every day at 12.45, it’s Fifteen to One.  (I suddenly worried after submitting this joke that it had already been used previously? These things can happen when we are all using the same source material to try and think up jokes. I hope it was used before because I think it’s a really neat little one liner and would have gone down well. If someone knows if this joke has been used before, let me know and put my mind to rest!)
  2. Tonight at nine, Anne Robinson looks at a Labrador in Watchdog. (Certain amount of barrel scraping going on with the TV listing jokes by now…)
  3. This afternoon on BBC2 Nigel Farage and David Cameron debate their plans for the NHS in Flog It! (and again… as I’ve said before, my personal approach is to get something in, even if you aren’t convinced it’s the best thing ever. You never know if the producers/cast will see something in it that you haven’t, and we’re working against the clock without immediate feedback, so there’s not always time to find the very best jokes.)

 

And that’s it! Once again, if you enjoyed this blog, and reading in general, then why not take a look at my ridiculously cheap eBook ‘The Dimension Scales and Other Stories’ that is available now for just 77p ($0.99) through the link at the top right of this page?

Thanks for reading. See you next week.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not Good Enough For The BBC! Newsjack Series 11 – PART 4!

newsjack

 

Here we go again! My weekly digest of the jokes I wrote that didn’t get used on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Newsjack’, the topical comedy, open-door writing policy show! (That’s a mouthful)

If you haven’t seen this before, perhaps reading the intro to part 1 will help: https://garryabbott.com/2014/10/01/not-good-enough-for-the-bbc-newsjack-series-11/

Unfortunately, still no more hits since episode 1, but an opportunity is an opportunity, is an opportunity, is an opportunity? Right? The word ‘opportunity’ doesn’t imply guaranteed, or indeed, any success, just the possibility. So, undeterred, I continue, as you should too if you are reading this and are feeling down heartened by it all.

Here are the failed one liner attempts from last week (Episode 4) with added notes  as per usual, and no sketches, I will do something with them at the end of the season I think.

 

BREAKING NEWS:

  1. Police have said that an attempt to steal a statue of comedy legend Eric Morecambe wasn’t wise.  (I thought this had a chance as it is neat and brief, and, dare I say it, a little clever? They ended up using a joke about it being taken apart piece by piece but not necessarily in the right order… which was a good take on it anyway)
  2. The Salvation Army reports that nearly 500 people are being trafficked a year for labour. “We need all the help we can get” says Ed Miliband. (just pounced on the double meaning of ‘Labour’ there…)
  3. After nude photographs of former Dr Who Matt Smith are leaked online, fans are disappointed to find that he is smaller on the outside. (wasn’t entirely sure that this made any sense! They used a joke about fans being disappointed that his nude photo turned into Peter Capaldi in the end… just goes to show that some of these stories are having lots of variations submitted, so it is hard to be the one that gets the take on it that they go for.)
  4. Nigel Farrage has been invited to join Cameron, Clegg and Miliband for a mass debate. Afterwards they may even talk about politics too.  (okay, okay, this was just childish filth. Sometimes I just think, let’s give it a go, who knows? Well I know now. Now I know. I know now. Do I? Yes. I know. Now. I do.)
  5. Microsoft Boss Satya Nadella has apologised for his choice of words when he said women should have faith in the system and not ask for pay rises, commenting that what he meant to say was that they shouldn’t worry their pretty little heads about it. (like I mentioned last week, another attempt to make a bad comment sound even worse for comedy affect. Maybe it’s just me who thinks this is some kind of device!)
  6. Scientists have discovered that consuming capsules containing frozen faeces could help prevent potentially fatal gut problems, or in layman’s terms, we should all eat shit and live. (I felt there was a better way to word this, but couldn’t find it. Literally the news story is about eating shit. Eating shit. How could I not have a go at it?)

 

TV/RADIO LISTINGS:

  1. Join Matt Dawson and Phil Tufnell as they struggle to answer questions about the reproductive cycle of fungi in ‘A Question of Spores’ tonight at nine. (Why not?)
  2. The walking dead are back! In this weekend’s double episode of Dad’s Army. (Trying to tap into the return of ‘The Walking Dead’, but I guess it’s not actually officially out yet in England. Not that I watch it by some other method over the internet or anything.)
  3. A new documentary follows the chancellor George Osborne as he trains to run the 400 meters in ‘Ready, Steady, Cock’ coming soon. (it just feels nice to call George Osbourne a cock. It would be a dream come true if I could do it officially on broadcast media. It would make my year. So it may not be the best joke, but at least I tried. He is a cock, by the way. But I’m sure you know that already.)

 And that’s it! As usual I will leave you with a plea to consider buying my book as advertised in the top right corner of this screen! Only 77p (or $0.99) – it is a ‘quirky’ collection of 14 speculative fiction short stories in the vein of Philip K. Dick / Isaac Asimov and even a bit of the dark and twisted as inspired by Roald Dahl’s AMAZING short stories for adults.

Good luck to everyone who is trying again this week for episode 5, and I guess, see you next week! Thanks for reading.  

 

 

Not Good Enough For The BBC! Newsjack Series 11 – PART 3!

newsjack

 

Okay… so you know the drill by now. Week three’s unused ‘Newsjack’ jokes are here. If you want an introduction to what this is all about, read this: (https://garryabbott.com/2014/10/01/not-good-enough-for-the-bbc-newsjack-series-11/)

I still haven’t got another credit this series since my early win with a sketch in episode 1, but still I continue to write and submit each week, and that means I am writing at least twelve more jokes and three more sketches than I generally would, which has to be a good thing.

For those of you out there who have never had a credit, or are a long time waiting for another one, I can only offer you the same advice as I keep telling myself each Thursday night when greeted with an empty inbox and no broadcast glory… just keep writing. After all, I’m guessing that getting a credit or two on Newsjack isn’t the be all and end all of your hopes and ambitions, so it must be contributing towards your wider goals? Hmm?

Even if you are not trying to become a comedy writer, putting words together in some particular order that may be understood by another human is always good practice, as barely demonstrated in this sentence.

So, without further ado (whatever that is), here are last week’s unused one liners, with notes, and apologies.

 

BREAKING NEWS:

  1. Radiographers are set to strike over NHS pay and working conditions, saying that they are fed up with the lack of transparency. (PUN ALERT)
  2. (ROMESH) There has been a marked increase in companies drug testing employees. I can believe that, the BBC drug tested me last week, I scored ten out of ten and was asked if I wanted to host QI. (thought that might be a nice little joke for the host, but then, maybe he doesn’t want give the impression he is taking illegal drugs – and I’m sure he isn’t, being a family man and all).
  3. According to an industry survey, young people lack the skills required for the workplace. A spokesman said, “Kids turn up fresh out of school, wide eyed, enthusiastic and ready to enjoy their working life. Something is going terribly wrong.” (ah, satire on the modern world).
  4. The European Space Agency has released data that allows people to 3D print their own model of the Rosetta comet. Space enthusiasts hope they will also soon release detailed plans of a girlfriend. (poking fun at geeks, even though I am one really. Picard out.)
  5. The Nobel prize for physiology has been awarded to three scientists who located the brain’s built in GPS system. When asked how they found this, they explained, “Turn left at the hippocampus, second exit.” (liked this one…)
  6. After accusations of racial stereotyping, the boss of John Lewis has whole-heartedly apologised for calling France “hopeless and downbeat”, saying that the comments were not meant to be taken seriously and that the frogs would have realised that if they had a sense of humour. (trying to ‘turn around’ an apology for an ill conceived comment by making the speaker sound worse than they were originally. Tried something similar this week with another high profile gaff, but we’ll see how it gets on…)

 

TV/RADIO LISTINGS:

  1. Watch as Jeremy and the boys embark on a white knuckle high speed chase out of Argentina followed by an angry mob intent on killing them in this week’s ‘Top Fear’. (Ever the critic of my fine comedy attempts, my girlfriend told me this was a bit rubbish. She was right).
  2. Get ready for a new reality TV show that pits the UK’s best pub brawlers against each other in ‘The Great British Back Off’ coming soon.  (…I liked this one. Nearly worded it ‘The Great British Back Off Mate’ but changed my mind. Probably wouldn’t have made the difference).
  3. This Sunday evening on BBC 1, Professor Brian Cox asks, are we just the filling in a trans-dimensional galactic sausage? In the ‘Big Banger Theory’ at 9pm.  (just being a bit random here. I notice the occasional whacky one liner gets on, and I thought I’d try and be a bit  more zany. I am a big fan of surreal humour, but can never quite bring myself to submit things like this to a topical news show… On this occasion though, I thought I’d give it a try. And failed. Back to jokes about Ed Pickles being fat then…)

And that’s it! I hope that the rather nice amount of you who seem to be reading this each week are at least  slightly amused by some of these here words. If not, I’m sorry you appear to have wasted irretrievable valuable moments of your life getting this far or even clicking on the link.

Goodbye!

(Ps – If you want to buy me ridiculously reasonably priced eBook ‘The Dimension Scales and Other Stories’ – a collection of 14 speculative fiction tales… please check out the link in the top right corner of this page. Thank you.)

 

 

 

Not Good Enough For The BBC! Newsjack Series 11 – PART 2!

newsjack

 

I had a great response from last week’s post about the jokes that didn’t make it into episode 1 of BBC Radio 4’s open-door submission topical comedy show ‘Newsjack’ (find it here –  https://garryabbott.com/2014/10/01/not-good-enough-for-the-bbc-newsjack-series-11). I was therefore delighted when I found out that none of last week’s entries made it into episode 2 of Newsjack at all!

Of course I wasn’t really. Part of the whole process is the weeks where you just don’t make the cut (and there are generally more of those). In the first episode I had already struck ‘credit’ gold with my second sketch ever to be broadcast on national radio, so I know from this point on anything else is a bonus. That doesn’t stop me slaving away over a hot BBC news website every weekend trying to fill my quota though, so inevitably, when nothing gets on I still feel a tinge of disappointment.

But then, being a self employed writer and musician, dealing with rejection is an almost daily, if not hourly, affair. The world of speculative creativity (sending out scripts, releasing books, bidding for work, etc…) is a harsh one, and not for the faint hearted who like to know where basic things like money and food are coming from, but that’s a whole different blog!

For now, while Newsjack is still running over the next few weeks and I have a store of unused topical jokes that are getting more outdated with every minute that passes since the news story that inspired them broke, shattered, and was swept away by the celestial caretaker of current affairs; I will continue to share a selection of them with you. And it really helps me find something to write each week. I’ve been doing this blog for over a year now. Can you imagine how hard it is to find something new to write about each week?!

So, without further ado, here are last week’s unused one liner entries for Newsjack Episode Two. This week with added notes!

BREAKING NEWS:

  1. Defecting to UKIP is ‘utterly nuts’ says Boris Johnson as he zip wires down Big Ben dressed as a chicken, wrapped in a union flag.
  2. The University of East London has announced they are to give first year students a free tablet, and some water to make sure they don’t get dehydrated. (note – ecstasy jokes anyone? Is that too sub/drugs culture?)
  3. The national institute for health and care have recommended that obese people limit their use of TV to help lose weight, saying  that they should eat their dinner off plates like normal people. (note – should have changed the last line to ‘everyone else’ to make it snappier and not repeat the word ‘people’)
  4. After criticising Ed Miliband for forgetting some of his speech last week, George Osborne appeared to make a similar gaff at the Conservative party conference when he forgot all shreds of human decency. (note – yeah, Osborne you monstrous evil dickhead. I wrote this one as much to vent than anything else.)
  5. Apple has said that bendy iPhones are a myth, like leprechauns or corporate taxes. (it was so hard to find a way in to the bendy iPhone stories… this was the best I could do!)
  6. Disgraced Tory MP Brooks Newmark has said he was a fool for sending an explicit picture of himself in paisley pyjamas to an undercover journalist, adding that he would have looked much better in a black silk robe. (note – low hanging fruit, I know. I had a hard time last week filling the quota, it just wasn’t flowing so well. This week felt easier to write. Sometimes you are not in the right mood or frame of mind, but deadlines don’t really care about that. I still recommend that you get something down at least, even if you aren’t feeling it. You never know, it may look better through someone else’s eyes.)

TV/RADIO LISTINGS:

  1. Find out what Spanish resort restaurants are passing off as chicken to tourists in Gordon Ramsay’s Kitten Nightmares. (Can’t believe they didn’t use this one. KITTEN NIGHTMARES? Come on!?)
  2. This Saturday on Sky Atlantic from 9pm to 9.55pm, The Game of Thrones title sequence. (This idea tickles me but perhaps doesn’t come over so well in a one liner. Those of you who watch GOT will know that each week the title sequence seems to get longer and longer and longer and longer and longer… until one day there will be no actual show, just the title sequence and end credits.)
  3. Join Ricky Gervais and Frankie Boyle as they hilariously poke fun at the disabled in the latest episode of Mock the Weak.  (not really got that much against Gervais and Boyle, but needed to find two controversial figures to try this gag on.)

 

So that’s it! Like I mentioned previously, I am not posting sketches for now, I will do something about them after the series has ended.

I still find the TV listings a bit strange. They aren’t really topical. It’s hard to be topical with them. These could have been submitted any week of the year really, although this week I have managed another one that does cross-over with a news story, so we will see.

Good luck to any other contributors out there who are still submitting every week! Thanks for reading.

Oh and, hey – why not buy my eBook? (sidebar – top right – speculative/science fiction collection – on offer at 77p / $0.99!). Advertising. Food. Money. Survival. Thanks.

Bye!

Not Good Enough For The BBC! Newsjack Series 11!

newsjack

For those of you who don’t know, ‘Newsjack’ is a topical radio comedy that is broadcast on BBC Radio 4 Extra and has an ‘open door’ writing policy (anyone can submit material). It is the BBC’s flagship show for encouraging and recruiting new comedy writers by giving everyone a chance to get their material performed, recorded and broadcast.

Each week writers can submit up to two sketches, nine ‘one liner’ jokes, and now also a ’30 second advert’ sketch. I always try to send everything each week as it pushes me to get better at writing to deadline and under pressure.

So far I’ve had quite a bit of success and managed to get writing credits in the last four series. I think the current count is 10 one-liners and 2 sketches (having just got my second sketch broadcast in episode 1 of series 11 last Thursday – find it here at 17:07 the ‘Reverend Welby’ sketch and intro: http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/newsjack).

But still there are always those jokes that didn’t make the cut, and it seems a shame to let them languish on my hard drive when I could be inflicting them on you good people. So here it is again, the return of ‘Not Good Enough For The BBC! Newsjack Series 11’.

I’m only going to post the one-liners. I might do something about unused sketches after the current series has finished. Just so you know, there are now only two categories of one liners that we can write for; we can submit 6 ‘Breaking News’ lines (comedy headlines basically) and 3 ‘TV Listings’ (continuity announcers type stuff… Tonight at 9pm on ITV etc…).

I find the TV listings much harder as they aren’t really ‘topical’, they are more ‘pun’ based usually, unless you can find a current news story and TV show that work well together. As you will see from my submissions below, I actually managed that last week with the Tesco losing £250 million pounds story set up as the ‘£250 million pound drop’ game show. A version of this joke was actually used last week with slightly different wording, but it wasn’t mine! Unfortunately for me, another writer had the same idea and must have been higher up in the reading pile. This also happened to me last series with a TV listing joke about ‘The Great British Sewing Wasp’, which another writer submitted as ‘The Great British Knitting Spider’ and got the credit for!  These things happen when over 700 submissions are boiled down to only about a dozen writers. That is why it is important to be as original as possible or just avoid the big news stories (and therefore possible duplication/competition).

So, here they are. Enjoy! (And make sure you read them with funny voices in your head… you know the ones, the funny voices in your head. Let them read them and don’t be scared).

BREAKING NEWS!

  1. As Strictly fever sweeps the nation, President Obama pledges 10,000 troops to help stem the threat.
  2. Australian man fends off crocodile with a stick when drunk. Where the crocodile got the alcohol from and why it used a stick leaves zoologists baffled.
  3. The first man to buy an iPhone six who was filmed dropping it on the floor has said it wasn’t an accident after all, he’d just found out that the entire U2 back catalogue had been pre installed.
  4. A controversial law in Florida to ban baggy trousers that expose the buttocks has been overturned. Police fear this will lead to more crack on the streets.
  5. As Alex Salmond declares his support for Nicola Sturgeon to become the next leader of the SNP, rival candidates complain that there’s something a bit fishy about all this.
  6. Ed Miliband disappointed to find out that the coalitions policy on house inflation doesn’t mean everyone gets to live in a bouncy castle.

TV LISTINGS:

  1. Coming soon to ITV, the stakes are set even higher with the new thrilling game show: 250 million pound drop! Sponsored by Tesco’s.
  2. This week on ITV, Davina McCall presents, everything.
  3. This Saturday on BBC1 at 6.30pm, any old rubbish with some celebrities jumping about for an hour to kill the time before Doctor Who starts.

Newsjack Series Ten Critique with BONUS JOKES!

By Garry Abbott

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As you may or may not know, the topical ‘sketchbook’ comedy series ‘Newsjack’ has just finished its tenth series on BBC Radio 4 Extra.

The show has an ‘open-door’ policy for writers, allowing anyone to submit sketches and jokes each week to be considered for the script. Over the last three series I’ve had credits in 9 episodes (two in series 8, five in series 9 (including a sketch) and two in series 10). I would say I’ve been lucky to get these credits, but that’s not entirely true – I’ve also been really disciplined.

Each week I prepare the maximum number of sketches and jokes they allow you to submit. I spend all week keeping an eye on the news, making notes if I spot something with potential. I then spend a whole day getting my sketches together and the best part of another day writing one-liners. Basically for six weeks I lose my Sundays and a good part of Monday to topical writing!

The format of the show changed a bit this year. I was invited down to Comedy House in London to attend a briefing where we were introduced to the new format by the new producers. I got to meet a bunch of other writers. The BBC provided beer. We all went to the pub afterwards. It was good.

The new format was challenging. Less submissions allowed, a strict format for one-liner jokes, and a new ‘feel’ to the show. A lot of these changes were centred around the new host, stand-up comedian Romesh Ranganathan, who now opens the show with his own routine before the rest of the cast join him to start performing the submitted material.

There was some unease at these changes, hence the writers briefing I think. It felt initially like we were losing nearly ten minutes of potential joke placement to Romesh’s monologue, and that the prescribed one-liner formats were stifling (previously you could just submit as many jokes as you could fit on a page, in whatever style/approach you felt like – now you are allowed three jokes in each of three categories – ‘coming up’, ‘breaking news’ and ‘listings’). However, things change and people must adapt – and I got the feeling that most writers (like myself) just knuckled down to the new show and vowed to see what happens.

So what did happen?

To start with the positives; I liked Romesh’s opening monologues. It feels fine to me that a show that is designed to bring people up through the ranks should do the same for the cast and crew as it does for the writers. I’ve already heard Romesh appearing since on the ‘News Quiz’ (Radio 4) and hopefully thanks to Newsjack we will hear/see more of him in the future. The change-up to one liners worked quite well – breaking up sketch features and keeping the show interlaced with snappy jokes between longer sketches. As per usual, the rest of the cast did a sterling job with most of the sketches, especially Lewis Macleod and Morgana Robinson (who joined the cast this year, a steal for the producers I reckon). And most of all, it did what it set out to do: showcasing material by none-commissioned writers from across the country who otherwise wouldn’t have had the opportunity.

I think there is a general reluctance amongst the writers to say anything negative about the show in the fear that they may never get a broadcast credit again! However, what sketch show have you ever heard which doesn’t have its ups and downs? The famous hits and misses? And naturally, there were a few things that didn’t quite work for me. I think most of them generally stemmed from a bit of an identity crisis throughout the series. I registered a shift away from satire towards goofy-entertainment style stories – but then I think it went back towards satire again towards the end. This is understandable when the new producers had a vision for the show and were willing to test things out to see what does and doesn’t work. This may have led to come sketch/joke choices for the purpose of fitting the new vision, rather than being the best of the bunch. But under such pressure to collate, choose, redraft, rehearse, perform, record and edit the show each week, I think we can forgive the odd groaner or sketch that didn’t land quite so well. Also, Romesh isn’t a character actor, so we only had one male voice that could do diverse characters (in the form of the vocally-talented Lewis Macleod), so some sketch options felt thin, and there was a lot of one-to-one interview style sketches in order to give Romesh a role to play (as himself). These often worked quite well, but I think another male character actor would of helped a lot here to broaden the options.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the old format was also not perfect, because topical sketch shows often aren’t (even the ‘Now Show’ has it’s off-moments). So all in all, I think it hit the brief, raised more smiles than not, and explored some new territory at the same time – all good work for when they start planning series eleven (I hope).

Anyway, I’ll leave you now with a few of my jokes that did and didn’t make it into this series (I haven’t included the sketches here, I will put them up another time). Well done to all those who got stuff on, and all those who didn’t but stuck at it anyway.

 

Series Ten Hits:

BREAKING NEWS:

“Michael Jackson to release a new album in May, proving it really doesn’t matter if you’re black or white… or dead.”

LISTINGS:

“Later tonight, The Archers, at whatever time you’re not expecting it and can’t get to the radio to switch it off in time.”

 

A selection of my series ten rejects:

BREAKING NEWS:

“World plans to celebrate a hundred years since the first World War by starting a new one.”

“Studies have found that obese children may be slower thinkers because they take more time to answer questions in class. That’s a bit unfair if you ask me, it’s hard to talk with a mouth full of Mars bars.”

“Misunderstood threat from Obama laughed off by Russians who say their asses are already frozen.”

“MP John Mann warns Labour not to be ‘too clever’ if they want to win the next election – ‘not a problem’ says Ed Miliband as he cleans his ears out with his tooth brush.”

 

COMING UP:

“As the row over the upcoming budget escalates, we’ll be investigating if George Osborne has got Balls on the ropes, or if he just keeps them in his pants like everyone else.”

“Following the announcement that 100 year olds in the UK have increased by 73%, we’ll be investigating how they got so big”

“Grant Shapps will be trying to explain why he doesn’t think it was racist to refer to the UK as Bingo Bingo land.”

“Plain packaging on cigarettes: we’ll be investigating if it would be a more effective deterrent to only package cigarettes in actual planes.”

 

TV/RADIO LISTINGS:

“New to ITV! Lawrence Llewellyn-Bowen goes head to head with Kelly Hoppen to try and redesign a town house in only twenty minutes! That’s: Game of Throes, coming soon.”

“This Friday on ITV2 – ‘Birds of a Fuhrer’: Long suffering Eva is in for a big surprise when her new husband tells her what he’s got lined up for their honeymoon.”

“Radio 4 has assembled the coalition cabinet to ask what songs they would play if they were ship-wrecked: in ‘Desert Island Dicks’ – tonight at nine.”

“Can you guess the celebrity just by taking a look around a triple heart bypass? Find out tonight in ‘Through the Keyhole Surgery’ on ITV2!”

“Join Jeremy Clarkson and friends as they score some high quality drugs from a bloke round the back of a pub, in Top Gear, tonight at nine.”

Health & Safety & The Fall of Humanity

healthandsafety

Hello!

This week sees the return of a couple of projects all aspiring writers should have a go at it, namely ‘The Show What You Wrote’ (TSWYW) and Newsjack’ – both on BBC Radio 4 Extra. Links here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/writersroom/opportunities/the-show-what-you-wrote

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00kvs8r

When I say the return, I mean that the deadline for TSWYW is this Friday, ready for recording later this year, and Newsjack series 10 starts accepting weekly submissions as of next Monday.

I was lucky enough to be invited down to comedy house in London and attend a briefing about Newsjack this week. I got to meet a lot of other writers and the producers, plus drink one free bottle of San Miguel (I could have had more but was busy listening) and then join a mass exodus to the pub (which seemed so right for a room full of writers, like we were all at home again somehow).

Anyway, today I’ve just submitted my sketches for TSWYW. Unlike Newsjack, I’ve not had any material on this show yet. The last series was the first I think, and nothing got in that time. It’s very different from writing topical jokes/sketches as each episode is based on a theme and they don’t want parody/spoof pieces. It’s one of those briefs that’s almost so broad you have to be very self disciplined to get something together for it. (For example, one of the new series episodes is simply called ‘Geography’, which can mean pretty much anything on the planet).

So today I thought I’d share with you one of my misses from the last series. I know why it didn’t get in. It was way too long, over ambitious and sprawling. I had adapted the idea from a spoof musical I started writing last year (still in the pipeline) and inserted a character who causes the fall of humanity through his fastidious health and safety inspections throughout history. Yeah, it was a bit ambitious, and is basically three sketches, so if they didn’t like one, that was my submission quota for that episode done.

Anyway, I’ve reproduced it below ‘as is’, without any editing or omissions. At the very least, if you are looking to write sketches for these shows, read this and use it as a way to know what they’re not looking for! That said, I still quite like some of the ideas in here, and any writing is good practice and worth doing. Every rejection is the next step to acceptance. (blurgh)

Enjoy! (Hopefully)

Health and Safety and The Fall of Humanity.

Brief Synopsis (sketches below).

A series of three separate but running sketches featuring health & safety inspector ‘Mr Nomad’, a man who values the prevention of minor injuries and inadequate lighting above all else, while simultaneously causing major catastrophic accidents that shape the future of Humanity. I would imagine him to sound like a mix of ‘Gordon Brittas’ and Kayvan Novak’s ‘Dufrais Constantinople’ character. We move from the genesis of the Zombie apocalypse, to the fall-out bunkers of a post-apocalyptic Earth, to the advanced genetic science labs of the future. Although presented in a series, each individual sketch could work stand-alone.

 

SKETCH 1 – Health & Safety & The Zombie Apocalypse.

 

Cast

V/O:                           Dramatic voice over introducing the sketch.

Mr Nomad:               Health & safety inspector. Pedant. Jobs-worth. Self satisfied.

Baron Zipman:         Owner of Zipman chemicals Co. Think Texan oil baron.

Sandra:                     Baron Zipman’s level headed secretary.

Alarm:                       Pre-recorded ‘warning alarm’ voice, female.

Supervisor:               Voice on telephone, inept supervisor.

INT. OFFICE.

V/O:                In the executive offices of Zipman Chemicals Co, Multi Billionaire owner Baron Zipman is about to find out he has failed a health & safety inspection.

Sandra:            Mr Zipman, I have a Mr Nomad here to see you, he’s from health & safety.

Zipman:           Health & safety? Pen pushing toe rags. Well, you better show him in.

Sandra:            He’s already here sir, it’s this man standing right next to me.

Nomad:           All I’m concerned with Mr Zipman is what’s written here in my report. I have to say, it makes for some very interesting reading.

Zipman:           Not if you can’t read Mr Nomad… not if you can’t read.

Nomad:           Allow me to summarise. Item 1! I was shocked to discover this particular breach in the testing laboratories where I am led to believe you are conducting highly volatile and sensitive chemical research on behalf of the military?

Zipman:           That’s right. What of it?

Nomad:           A desk, Mr Zipman, a metal desk.

Zipman:           So? We have lots of desks.

Nomad:           Yes but are they all, (BEAT / SWELL OF DRAMATIC MUSIC) 5 inches closer to the nearest fire exit than is permitted by regulations? Are they?

Zipman:           Oh god.

Nomad:           Indeed. Your staff could really hurt themselves on that. Right in the thigh.

Zipman:           Ok we’ll fix it. Sandra, memo to sector 3, make the testing lab 5 inches wider.

Nomad:           And that isn’t all. I refer you to item 2 regarding your staff canteen…

Zipman:           We have a canteen?

Sandra:            Yes sir, you had one installed in one of the decommissioned storage facilities where we used to keep the unstable compounds. You saved money by using the old storage tankers to hold soup.

Nomad:           And very nice it is to, it’s just a shame about the (BEAT/MUSIC) loose floor tiles! A slight trip is the gateway to a bad fall. I’m very disappointed.

Zipman:           I can assure you that we will sort it straight away. Is there anything else?

Nomad:           Let’s see, just one last little advisory note here, it seems that the containment unit for your prototype molecular mutation compound Zeta666 triple X has a critical flaw in the pressure fail-safe that could lead to leakage of raw materials into the vicinity of unprotected workers. Nothing major, sure it’s the kind of thing you deal with everyday.

Zipman:           Well thanks for mentioning it all the same. Could you please ask my Secretary to come in on your way out Mr Nomad?

Sandra:            I’m here Sir. I’ve been here all the time.

FOOTSTEPS – DOOR CLOSES

Zipman:           Right, now he’s gone, is there any way around this?

Sandra:            We could seal off sector 2.

Zipman:           Sector 2?

Sandra:            Where we keep the Zeta666 triple x compound.

Zipman:           What? I mean about the desk and the tiles.

Sandra:            We could just fix the tiles sir… and move the desk.

Zipman:           That’s why I hired you! See that gets done would you?

Sandra:            Very good Mr Zipman. While I’m at it, shall I have them look at that little matter of the faulty container?

Zipman:           What? Yes, whatever…

FOOTSTEPS OVER:

Sandra:            (under breath) Oh my God oh my god oh my god…

DOOR CLOSES. PHONE PICK UP

Sandra:            Hello, sector 2, it’s Sandra here. Just a quick one, you haven’t noticed any problems in the containment facility for the Zeta666 triple X compound, by any chance? Namely the pressure…

Supervisor:      (Phone filter) Well it’s quite hard to tell you see. When we put it in we made the pointer on the dial rather large and the warning display quite small.

Sandra:            What’s it indicating now?

Supervisor:      Green…

Sandra:            That’s good.

Supervisor:      … and amber… and red.  Covers them all really. Pointless.

Sandra:            Well does the container by any chance have large amounts of steam coming from it and is it leaking a kind of glowing green ooze?

STEAM HISSES, GURGLING LIQUID NOISES

Supervisor       As it happens…

Sandra:            We need the engineers down right away.

Supervisor:      No can do I’m afraid, the only two guys who can fix this have gone home.

Sandra:            Why?

Supervisor:      Well Steve, he tripped over in the Canteen, caught himself quite bad I hear, and Dave well…

Sandra:            Ran into a desk on level 3?

Supervisor:      Right in the thigh! How did you know? It’s a death trap this place I tell you.

WARNING SIREN/ALARM

Alarm:             WARNING. HIGH LEVELS OF CONTAMINATION DETECTED IN SECTOR 2. WARNING.

Supervisor:      (Phone Filter) What’s that now? Bloody drill again I expect. Oi lads! Stop playing in that slime, you Muppets.

SOUND OF ZOMBIES MOANS

Supervisor:      Lads? Lads? LADS!!! (screams)

 

SKETCH 2 – Health & Safety & The Nuclear Fall-Out.

 

Cast

V/O:                             Dramatic voice over introducing the sketch.

Mr Nomad:                 Health & safety inspector. Pedant. Jobs-worth. Self satisfied.

Heston Bramcake:      Heroic leader of the UK nuclear survivors.

Alarm:                         Pre-recorded ‘warning alarm’ voice, female.

 INT. NUCLEAR RESEARCH SITE

V/O:                Following the Zombie apocalypse, the few remaining humans retaliated with Nuclear weapons. In a devastated and baron world, they were forced into underground bunkers to avoid the toxic fallout. The leader of the UK survivors, Heston Bramcake, is just about to find out that his network of bunkers has failed it’s health & safety inspection.

COMPUTERS BEEPING/KEYBOARDS TAPPING

Bramcake:       So this is control. The hub of the operation. The satellites are out of commission but the old cable lines still work, well some of them anyway, enough to allow us to communicate with other survivor groups around the world. We have 50 men and women here, working day and night. Sharing scientific data, passing on medical advice, and sometimes just being that friendly voice to keep them all going. God knows they need a friendly voice in these dark times, eh Nomad?

Nomad:           It’s a bit stuffy in here.

Bramcake:       Yeah well, we ain’t exactly able to turn down the thermostat are we?

Nomad:           Why? Is it broken?

Bramcake:       It isn’t broken. It doesn’t exist. These places were never designed for long term use, so we got to make do.

Nomad:           But, doesn’t that mean people suffer from hot flushes and mild fainting?

Bramcake:       Occasionally. Though it’s hard to tell it apart from radiation poisoning. They’ve got bigger things to think about.

Nomad:           I’d say! Look at those chairs. There’s no way they’re getting the necessary lumber support, and is it just me, or are there no wrist-rests on any of these terminals? Repetitive strain injury is the enemy of productivity!

Bramcake:       Maybe you’re right. We’ll see what we can rustle up.

Nomad:           Right, good. See that you do.

Bramcake:       You know what Nomad? I thought having you come here was going to be a real pain in the arse, you know, health & safety in a post-nuclear fall-out shelter?! I mean c’mon! But you’re making some good points. We shouldn’t neglect the little things or they’ll come back and bite us on the… Nomad?

SOUND OF CLAXON/HORN

Nomad:           (Shouting) Ladies & gentlemen, this is a fire drill. If you would like to all calmly and steadily make your way to evacuation point A as indicated on the laminated maps I’ve left by the exit, thank you.

Bramcake:       Where are they all going?

Nomad:           Evacuation point A. I noticed you didn’t have any procedures in place so I took the liberty.

Bramcake:       There must be some mistake, this map shows the old car park, topside.

Nomad:           Yes, evacuation point A.

Bramcake:       But that passage is sealed…

Nomad:           Was sealed… and may I say, very low. There should be a good 5 inches clearance height but I’ll overlook that for now, as long as the drill goes well.

Bramcake:       But… if they follow that map and open the outer doors, we’re all going to die!

Nomad:           That’s the spirit. Realistic role play. Here you go, put this on.

Bramcake:       What’s this?

Nomad:           High vis. Go on. (Proud) You’re a warden now.

Bramcake:       You’re insane! I’ve got to stop them! Wait!

SOUNDS OF RUNNING FOOTSTEPS

Nomad:           Oh dear. Running in the corridors. Shame. Real shame.

WARNING SIREN/ALARM

Alarm:             WARNING. RADIOACTIVITY EXCEEDS SAFE LEVELS. LOCK DOWN, LOCK DOWN.

Nomad:           Bit loud that. Where’s my decibel counter?

 

SKETCH 3 – Health & Safety & Genetic Engineering

 

Cast

V/O:                            Dramatic voice over introducing the sketch.

Mr Nomad:                 Health & safety inspector. Pedant. Jobs-worth. Self satisfied.

Professor Scott:          Chief scientist & leader of the ‘Darwin Delta 1’ research facility.                                                   Female.

Alarm:                         Pre-recorded ‘warning alarm’ voice, female.

 

INT. SPACE STATION

V/O:                The year is 2115. The most advanced genetic engineering research centre ever to be built, Darwin Delta 1, orbits Second Earth by the light of a red-star. The station leader, Professor Scott, is about to find out it has failed a health & safety inspection.

SOUNDS OF AUTOMATIC DOOR & ORGANIC SQUELCH

Nomad:           So, Professor, what is the first thing you think I noticed when I walked in here?

Scott:               The Alien hybrid embryo in the transparent egg-sac?

Nomad:           The what?

Scott:               That pulsating slimy sphere over there – you see?

Nomad:           Well no. No I don’t see. And that’s the problem. Inadequate lighting Professor… Inadequate lighting.

Scott:               We have to keep the conditions in this room just so. It’s very important research into creating a genetically modified predator race I’m afraid.

Nomad:           I am afraid Professor! I’m afraid for the safety and well being of your staff trying to negotiate their way around a dimly lit facility! Darkness is the friend of twisted ankles you know. Are these the main lights?

Scott:               Yes but I really wouldn’t…

CLICK OF LIGHT SWITCH

Nomad:           That’s better! I can see myself think again.

ORGANIC SQUELCHING GETS LOUDER

Scott:               My God. What have you done? It’s photo-sensitive you fool! It’s going to get out!

Nomad:           You’ll thank me when you see the reduction in minor injury referrals to the Med Lab. You and the rest of the inhabitants here. How many people are there here again?

Scott:               Thousands! Families! Children, babies! Oh no. If it gets to the babies it’ll have a host…

Nomad:           (serious) Babies? Where are the babies?

Scott:               The maternity ward is on the 5th deck. Right above us.

Nomad:           I though the 5th deck was catering?

Scott:               It’s a shared floor. Oh god it’s coming out!

Nomad:           This is terrible.

Scott:               I know! We need to do something!

Nomad:           I bet you they’re not correctly colour coding the cleaning equipment for medical & catering shared use. I’ll take them up some laminated reference charts.

Scott:               Quick, the waste airlock, we need to blast it out into Space, it’s our only hope. I’ll distract the creature while you open it up, it’s just down there, by the door. Hurry, there isn’t much time.

Nomad:           Here? By the door?

Scott:               Yes! Quick! Open the hatch! Pressurise the lock!

Nomad:           It’s a little close to the door, wouldn’t you say?

Scott:               What? I can’t hold it much longer…

Nomad:           One mo

SOUND OF TAPE MEASURE

Scott:               What are you doing? Are you measuring?

Nomad:           As I thought. This is very bad. An air lock within 5 inches of an access point? There’s nothing for it, it’s going to have to be immediate shutdown.

Scott:               But the other specimens will escape! This could be the end for humanity as we know it! I beg you, I implore you, I…

SCOTT IS CUT SHORT BY SOUND OF BEING EATEN

Nomad:           Oh dear. Someone’s going to have to clean that blood up. You could have a nasty slip. Looks like a blue cloth job to me, or is it the green mop? Best check my laminated reference chart, just to be sure.

Yeah, it’s my end of year thing for 2013 OK?

I know, I know – ‘end of year review’ e-mails, blogs and updates can get a little tiresome. But why? Maybe it’s because they intuitively conjure up lots of words that have the word ‘self’ as a prefix – congratulatory, obsessed, centred. It’s a curious thing that we shy away from sharing our own successes and challenges – maybe it’s cultural – but for whatever reason, I’m not going to let it stop me, this having been a landmark year for me personally and professionally. So you have been warned, this is an end-of-year review and will as a result be tediously reflective and upbeat. So there.

Obviously, it isn’t actually the end of the year yet, but very nearly, and near enough for me to want to clear the decks and not have to worry about doing blogs and such like over the next couple of weeks. So, unless I am struck by an uncontrollable wave of inspiration, I will make this the last blog of 2013, and try to have a ‘holiday’ until the new year.

A new start, long awaited.

In February this year I ended a decade of working in the wrong job. I say ‘the wrong job’ because it was, for me, the wrong job. I worked in a bank (formally a building society) as a ‘thingy’. A ‘thingy’, is a technical term for someone who isn’t able to answer the question “what do you actually do?” with any degree of clarity or precision. It’s not particularly good for your soul that situation, and the world is full of ‘thingies’. I was a kind-of technical specialist, I was a kind-of legal (compliance) specialist, I was a kind-of trainer, a kind-of auditor, a kind-of quality controller, a kind-of project worker, a kind-of data-entry clerk. One day I could be in meetings, discussing requirements for a multi-million pound computer system, all the while thinking “I’m not getting paid enough for this” and the next I could be endlessly tapping numbers into a spreadsheet, thinking “I’m getting paid too much for this”. There were many things I wasn’t quite, and many more things I’m quite sure I shouldn’t have been, but still it took ten years to break away thanks in no small part to the rut/routine that a (fairly) decent wage and a none taxing job can collude to create when you are busy figuring out who you are and what you want to be.

So that was the end of that. I left by my own accord, having hung on for a few years with the possibility of redundancy that never materialised, and unable to ‘get on’ with our new pay-masters: The Co-op, and their shambolic management (an assessment that I feel very much vindicated for, given the events of this year).

When I left, I had a few things lined up, which really helped me to get straight on with my new life as a self-employed writer & musician (you see – that’s much easier to define, isn’t it?) I had been running my creative activities alongside my old job for several years anyway, but I always suspected that I would need to let go of the comfort (and boredom) of the office job if I were to really ever fully embrace my aspirations. So far, I have found that to be true, and long may it continue.

 

Unearthed

The first ‘big’ job, which lasted throughout the year (at intervals), was the ‘Unearthed’ project. This was being drafted in as a supporting artist to help develop and produce community engagement with a new memorial sculpture in my home town of Stoke-on-Trent (specifically in the town of Hanley – if you are confused by that, it’s because we have this whole weird, six towns into one thing going on over here – look it up). As part of this project I got to do several awesome things. I got to write, narrate and score an animation that was then shown at several public locations and continues to be available as an online resource. I got to write my first choral piece (set to the words of my own poem) that was then rehearsed and performed by students of a local sixth form college at a memorial ceremony with city dignitaries in attendance. And I got to work with the real words of the people we engaged with the project to produce an oral sound-piece, used to accompany an original composition and dance routine at the unveiling ceremony of the sculpture. This project took me to places I hadn’t expected, connection with history and communities though art, a sense of integrity and responsibility with story-telling and representation of real world events that I had never considered or encountered before. It was a great experience and I can’t thank Nicola Winstanley and Sarah Nadin enough for involving me in their excellent project – I am a ‘Dashyline’ fan! (Visit the project website, here: http://www.unearthed2013.co.uk/)

The Audio Mill

There was also a continuation (and I fancy a building momentum) of my composition and production work alongside my good friend and collaborator Kieran Williams as part of ‘The Audio Mill’.  This year we have produced several pieces for fashion houses River Island and Mr Porter for use in their viral campaigns. From a professional development point of view, working to brief to compose and produce original music in a variety of styles really helps you to hone your technical and creative abilities. So far (as I know) they have been very happy with all the work we’ve completed for them, and the videos our music accompanies are popular and well received. Obviously, the world of fashion houses feels miles away from me in my small office in Longton, laying down rhythms, bass lines, guitar licks and melodies, but thanks to Kieran’s ever fruitful move to London, the chance to showcase our abilities to a larger audience through an established outlet, is a welcome one, and I look forward to more work like this in the new year. Examples here: http://www.theaudiomill.co.uk/

Newsjack

My first BBC broadcast credits happened this year, in the form of several one-liner jokes and a sketch used as part of Radio 4 Extra’s topical comedy show ‘Newsjack’. There have been two series this year, the first airing while I still worked at the bank. However, I managed to get two one-liners into the first series anyway, and given the extra time and emphasis of self-employment, was able to up that score to 5 one liners and a sketch in the latest series! This is very satisfying work when it happens and takes time and practice to get right – the business of joking seems to be a serious one. This is an aspect of my work that I want to take forwards into 2014 one way or the other. I will, of course, continue to submit to Newsjack when it comes back, but one eye must be kept on ‘where next?’ – building on the successes and reaching for more regular and guaranteed work. I’d be happy if I could find a way to get some one-liners onto other radio 4 programmes (shows like the ‘Now show’ and ‘News quiz’ often have writers that have started through ‘Newsjack’ – it’s just finding the link in or being a persistent bugger I suppose). I have also tickled some light interest with a sit-com script this year – falling short of the mark but getting good feedback and encouragement from an industry insider. If the right idea comes along, I will be writing and pitching new series next year, as well as looking to contribute to more programmes. Watch this space. (well not this space, this space won’t tell you anything new – I’ll be more specific about what space to watch when we come to it).

 

Poetry

Poetry is something I do rarely, and am quite self-conscious about, but that might change following the publication of one of my (very few) poems written this year in a collection. The poem ‘I’m alright Jack’ was chosen out of 600 odd entries to form part of a collection of 50 poems by the publisher mardibooks called ‘The Dance is New’. It is a genuinely good collection, and naturally, I would urge you all to buy a million copies each from here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Dance-New-Michelle-Calvert-ebook/dp/B00FL887N8 (I promise you I am one of the authors! For reasons of Amazon weirdness, my name is not listed at the top of the page, but I am linked at the bottom – I am in there basically).

                This is another area I intend to return to and perhaps ‘force’ a little more poetry out and onto the world (that’s not a bad thing – so much writing takes effort to get down on the page, just waiting for inspiration is not at all conducive to career development).

The Dimension Scales

Did I mention that I gone written a book? No? Well I have. It has been in development all year (and most of last year), a collection of short stories that will be released in 2014. This has been my favourite part of this year’s work. I finished my creative writing studies a few years ago, and this feels like the first piece of work that really puts all my learning together into one collection. I’m sure you’ve heard me go on about this before, and as of yet, there is nothing new to show you, but soon, very soon. I’m hoping that I will learn a lot of lessons from the release of this collection next year, and that a new work will be hot on its heels when I’ve had chance to digest the experience.

Education

I was thrilled and a little shocked to have achieved a distinction in two Open University modules this year: Philosophy and Arts History. Both form part of a BA degree I am working towards. Currently I am studying the last two modules (a higher level philosophy course and social science), and these will complete in 2014, at which point, I will get my degree. I started this education journey with nothing but the desire to learn more about creative writing (the first two modules that I completed three years ago now) – and was overcome by the education bug. I have since chosen subjects that I hope have informed me and my work in a positive way. History, social science and mostly, philosophy, are all helping me to get a deeper understanding of the world and myself. I would recommend to anyone who feels they might have ‘missed out’ somewhat during teenage years to revisit education if they can, or have the inclination. Learning is fun when you’ve chosen to do it and the subjects interest you. I don’t know if I will continue after the degree (I might leave it a year before deciding whether to do a Masters), but I hope to take the subjects I’ve chosen forwards into my work and life at every opportunity. They are already paying dividends.

Gravity Dave

My band ‘Gravity Dave’ have had a solid year as we’ve welcomed a new drummer to our number, written some great tunes, and gigged fairly regularly throughout the year. We have basically written and rehearsed/performed an album’s worth of material this year, and I think 2014 is the year to take this to the next step with quality recordings and more and more gigs. The main thing is that we all still find it really fun, creative and rewarding, so we’re not going to stop, and the music’s gonna keep flowing. I need a band, it is part of who I am and what I do, and I feel privileged to be part of this one with such great musicians. We’ve had a bit of a lull just in the last month or two due to problems with rehearsal space and health, but we will be back next year, and I promise, it will be bigger than ever. www.facebook.com/gravitydave

 

Anything else?

Well, this blog for one thing. When I started this, I didn’t know quite what it was meant to be, and I still don’t. All I know is that I enjoy it, and so do other people it seems. It’s quite a mixed bag as I’m sure you can tell. But it feels very important to me to keep on at it. It’s a bit like a digital sketch pad, a place to vent and experiment, reflect and celebrate. I hope those of you who follow this blog are generally entertained by it, at least enough to keep coming back. I have had some brilliant feedback from people directly, and I want to thank everyone who comes here and reads this. It’s kind of spooky that more people read this than I am aware of (according to the stats), but anonymity is the readers prerogative, and I appreciate your time spent reading my words greatly.

Another unexpected but fun development has been the rise of ‘ADMIN CAT!’ – a silly cartoon I produce to keep myself and some passing social network types entertained for a few seconds each week. This has potentially led onto some exciting developments for 2014…

 

And a happy new year!

I’m sure that as soon as I’ve finished writing this I will remember a whole bunch of other things. I have supported some great people and endeavours this year in a number of other ways not listed here. I occasionally still ‘do the spreadsheet thing’ for small businesses, and special mention has to go here to Misco Chocolates (www.miscoschocolates.co.uk) who are a constant inspiration to me in their attitude to life and work, both as business people and friends (as are all my friends, I must say).

You may notice a lack here of any personal details about the rest of my life! That is for two reasons: this blog isn’t really about that, and it hasn’t changed much (in a good way!). I live happily with my partner and my cats, and I love them all very much (even when they do bring in dead mice – the cats that is, not my partner).

So, all that is left is to wish you all a very merry Christmas and a happy new year! Please feel free to drop links to your end of year reviews or any  other work into the comment boxes – it is the least I can do to read yours if you have stuck with this! I do write really long blogs, but I don’t care, this isn’t Twitter. Thanks, as always, for reading. Here is a picture of me in a hat as a Christmas treat:

Image

Garry Abbott.

Not good enough for the BBC Returns!

Well it’s that time again. The BBC radio 4 Extra series ‘Newsjack’ has returned, and with it, equal amounts of excitement, rejection and frustration.

For those of you who don’t know, ‘Newsjack’ is a weekly topical comedy that has an open-door submission policy, so basically, it is written my members of the public rather than an established and closed writing team.

I was lucky enough to get two ‘one-liners’ broadcast during the last series and I’m hoping for at least one ‘hit’ again this time around. However, as with all writing, it is tip of the iceberg stuff. I must have submitted nearly 50 jokes last time and a handful of sketches, just to get two very quick puns into the script. I don’t mind this, and if I fail to get anymore on, that’s fine, there are literally hundreds of people doing the same each week, so it’s not easy or statistically very likely.

However, the whole process is enjoyable (if frustrating) and examining your misses can be fun. I’m yet to have a sketch broadcast, and I don’t write very many anyway (favouring puns), but I do have a go now and again. Last week I was struck by the idea of the news that Voyager 1 had left our solar system as being a bit of a ‘sounds-exciting-but-is-actually-quite-dull’ story, and tried to write something. I ended up with two versions of the sketch, both of which I have reproduced below for you lovely people.

Firstly, I wanted to do a Star Trek parody based on Voyager 1 – so I did:

***

 

Voyager 1 Sketch – Garry Abbott

Cast:

Host –              Newsjack host.

V/O –               Star Trek style voice over

Robot –           Monotone robotic voice of Voyager 1 probe.

Host:              People often say fact is stranger than fiction, but is this really true? As the   unmanned space probe Voyager 1 officially left our solar system last week and heads off to the nearest star, is science fact really stranger than science fiction?

ATMOSPHERIC MUSIC

V/O:                Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of er, Voyager. Its 40,000        year mission to explore strange new worlds, well one strange new world, maybe, if it ever gets there, and if it has any power left to tell us what it’s like, which it won’t, and we’ll all be dead by then, and even if it did, it would take years for any signals to reach us, but anyway…To seek out new life and new civilizations, scratch that, to seek out                       fluctuations in radiation from our sun and measure the density of charged protons amongst other low level spectral analysis by instruments designed in the early Seventies. To boldly go, no that’s not technically right is it, split infinitive, to go boldly? Whatever. Just to go out into interstellar space where no unmanned space probe has gone before,                             possibly because, well, there’s nothing there is there?

DRAMATIC MUSIC INTRO

FX – BEEPS / SPACE SOUNDS

Robot:             Voyager Log. Star-date 19th September 2013. Thursday. Reading an                    increased density of charged particles in my vicinity, thus indicating I have reached             interstellar space. All instruments normal. Power levels holding within acceptable parameters. Nothing additional to report.

PAUSE

DRAMATIC MUSIC

V/O:                Join us next week for another exciting adventure when the unmanned             space probe voyager encounters what appears to be a slight reduction in solar wind activity and runs its regularly scheduled self diagnostic.

THE END.

***

The idea behind that was that it is short and sweet and the joke comes from the under-whelming notion of a battered old 70s space probe being placed in the dramatic ‘Star Trek’ setting.

Next up, I wanted to write a sketch of a reporter being sent to live cover the exciting event and being similarly underwhelmed. I have to admit I had a very strong Alan Partridge style reporter in mind when writing this, so to play this down, I changed the gender of the news reporter.

***

Live from Houston Sketch by Garry Abbott

Cast

Justin – Newsjack Host.

Mazy – Exasperated science correspondent.

Prof –    Boring pedantic NASA scientist.

Justin:             Marking a giant step in space travel, scientists confirmed this week that           the Voyager 1 probe has officially entered interstellar space. To bring you all the exciting, up-to-the-minute developments, we’ve sent our correspondent Mazy Upton to the NASA control centre in Houston for this special live report.

Mazy:              Yes thank you Justin. I’m here with Professor Derek Hedger who has all             the latest information live from the voyager probe.

Prof:                It’s not live actually.  Because of the vast distances involved it takes at               least seventeen hours before the signals reach us here in control.

Reporter:       Seventeen hours? What network are you with? You know what, it doesn’t           matter. What we really want to know is, have you found any aliens yet?

Prof:                No, no aliens I’m afraid.

Reporter:       Well what about strange new worlds then?

Prof:                No new worlds yet, strange or otherwise.

Reporter:       Really? No new planets? But I thought you’d got like, really far away?

Prof:                Yes, but basically we’re now in the space between solar systems, having           just left ours. That’s what interstellar means.

Reporter:       You’ve only just left our solar system? When did it set off?

Prof:               Voyager 1 was launched in 1977.

Reporter:       That’s rubbish.

Prof:                Excuse me?

Reporter:       That’s like, 36 years and you’ve not found any aliens or new planets yet?

Prof:                We’ve found out lots of very important things during the mission.

Reporter:       Like what? Go on. Amaze me.

Prof:                Well, for example, recently we’ve seen a hundred fold jump in protons per       cubic square of space, that’s actually how we knew that-

Reporter:       Protons? We have those on Earth don’t we?

Prof:                Yes of course, but –

Reporter:       No. Not good enough. This isn’t working. When will it reach the next interesting thing? Anytime in the next 30 seconds by any chance? Just a little something to make my two day journey from Surrey to Texas worth the effort, and the licence fee?

Prof:                Well, it will reach the nearest star in around 40,000 years.

Reporter:       40,000 years? Are you kidding?

Prof:                But by then the power will have ran out so the probe won’t be sending              any signals.

Reporter:       Hang on. So it’s taken it over 30 years to get out of the bit of space we               already know about, and now it takes seventeen hours to tell you that it’s in a bit of new space that’s empty anyway, and it will take forty thousand years to reach anything interesting, by which time we’ll all be dead and even our descendants won’t be able to contact it?

Prof:                Well, when you put it like that, I suppose but –

Reporter:       Actually, come to think of it, since Voyager was launched, Pluto’s been               declassified as a planet hasn’t it? So the net gain of interesting things found by Voyager is minus one planet. Is that what you’re telling me?

Prof:                It picked up some interesting fluctuations in radiation levels from the sun       once-

Reporter:       Stop. It’s just not enough Professor. Too little, too late. We’re out of time.

Prof:                Sorry.

Reporter:       Well there you go, Space. Big, boring and void of life, just like the                       Professor here. Back to the studio Justin.  I’ll see you in two days you Bast-

Justin:             Yes thank you Mazy.

THE END.

***

Reading this back it’s a lot of waffle to get to the joke that actually we are minus one planet since voyager launched, and we’re not going to be able to contact it anyway once it gets anywhere exciting!

As I said, sketches seem a lot harder, and even though I could ‘hear’ the delivery of the lines in my head, it’s hard to know if anyone reading it could get the same idea from the plain words on the page. That’s always a problem though, someone like Steve Coogan could make the words ‘Ford Cortina’ sound funny by his delivery, but on the page it wouldn’t ‘seem’ like a joke.

So there you have it, the only two sketches I’ve written for the current series, neither of which got in, and probably rightly so, they just aren’t yet good enough. Turning an idea into a reality that properly represent it seems to be the key to this, and I guess, most other things!

I will keep you updated over the next few weeks with any successes and failures that I think are worthy of a bit of re-examination.