Not good enough for the BBC part 3

Good morning world! (If you are indeed reading this in the morning)

I think I will loosen up my fingers this morning with another post about my failed topical one-liners. If you haven’t read the first two parts, check them out now! (and then I won’t have to go into the description of how these jokes were submitted to the BBC Radio 4 Extra topical comedy program ‘Newsjack’ and were not used… even though I did get a couple used. Oh, well there we go, I’ve done it now.)

So, all these are from my last page of submissions for the last episode in the series. Starting with the return of the pun!

‘Hundreds of scratch & sniff cards containing the scent of cannabis are to be sent out in order to help people identify cannabis farms in their area. The scheme has been set up by the Police and Crime-stoppers as part of a joint operation.’

This is one of those jokes that make you want to grab people by the collar and shout ‘JOINT OPERATION! JOINT! Get it?!!’… and that may have been the problem. Funnily enough, when I saw this story, the first thought I had was of people using the cards to make roach with (the little circles of card that are used instead of filters in joints), but I couldn’t think how to make that sound funny, and I wasn’t sure how okay with that sort of thing Radio 4 would be… as it happened, they used exactly that joke from another writer and I didn’t think it was one of the best, so my better judgement prevailed. Though it would have been nice if they had of used my superior gag instead. (Joint operation?! I mean, come on!)

Anyway, next up.

‘Tony Blair has said he has ‘no regrets’ over his decision to take on a tyrannical monster all those years ago, and despite all the difficulties that followed, he and Cherie are still going strong.’

Blair had been stroking his ego on the Andrew Mar show on the 10th anniversary of the Iraq invasion… yes that’s right, invasion, not rescue mission. I tried to do a ‘make them think it’s about one thing and then come in with another’ style joke, which I’m sure there is a snappier title for. Maybe Cherie Blair jokes are a bit old-hat, but any opportunity to poke a bit of fun at war-criminal Blair is welcome, even if it didn’t get used.

Moving on…

‘This week a Greek footballer was banned from playing for his national team when he did a Nazi salute to the crowd. The footballer defended himself by saying it was an accident. Yeah, Reich. Oops! I mean… right.’

… So this is another one that depends on the reading. I like the idea that when reporting about someone who ‘accidentally did something Nazi’ that the reporter would do it themselves. The word ‘Oops’ jars a bit – I presumed that it would be interpreted differently from the page to the microphone. Not much else to say about this one really.

Getting down to the desperate last scrag ends of the submission page…

‘Doing something funny for money was taken to new records last Friday when millions and millions was raised by normal people (BEAT) in Cyprus.’

For those of you unfamiliar with scripts, ‘BEAT’ is really just a pause/breath. You try not to use them too much, as it can be seen as dictating to the actor/director how they should interpret your words, which is their job, not yours. However, I though this was needed here at the time but in hindsight this sentence could have ran in one flow. I was of course, combining Comic Relief with the Cyprus ‘levy’ atrocity. Could have been better I think. I was desperately trying to think of funnies about the Cyprus affair, but it made me so unbelievably angry it was hard. (they’re coming after our bank deposits now! Yay!)

So last of all in this post, which may be the last, I don’t know…

‘Boris Johnson’s sister has said that David Cameron still looks up to Boris, much like he did back at Eton public school when Boris was head boy and Cameron was his junior. The only difference is that nowadays he doesn’t have to lick his shoes clean and warm the toilet seat for him at the same time.’

So this is a bit unwieldy (like the one ring to rule them all…). Too many words to make too slight a joke. But still, it was worth a shot. More time and practice and I would have boiled this down or found something better, but then, I heard worse on the show (though mostly I heard better) – so I think it does come down to the person reading the submissions being able to ‘hear’ the joke in the their minds-ear, and I think they get that wrong sometimes too. It would be wrong to say that Newsjack is consistently hilarious, as with all comedy shows, it has it’s hits and misses. Who knows if these one liners would have been hits? It is really hard to tell from the page. For example, this next, and last, joke is the second one I did get broadcast… who would have thunk it?

‘Scientists are now saying that it’s not just about how much you weigh, it’s about where you store your fat. Apparently if you are storing it in your body, that’s bad’

Success! And it came from a scientist joke (again) and it got a big laugh from the sound of it (Justin Edwards delivered it perfectly).

So there we have it. Not good enough for the BBC, except for the last one, which was…

Newsjack is back in the Autumn I think, and in the meantime there is another new submission show on the way featuring sketches on a theme. All my submissions are made and I eagerly await the upcoming round of rejections, and who knows, possibly, a hit.

Garry x

Not good enough for the BBC – Part 2

Hello again.

If you haven’t read part 1 of this blog, then basically, I sent off a lot of jokes and sketches to the BBC for Radio 4 Extra’s ‘Newsjack’ series that recently aired. I got a couple of hits, but a lot more misses. So, in these blog entries I am sharing some of my misses… (For more info read the intro to part 1!).

So here we go again!

This first one highlights the trouble with ‘gags’. You see a news story, you realise there’s a gag in there, but you worry it’s just too damn cheesy. Then you panic because you want to get something in for the deadline and include it anyway!

“Guerilla Knitting groups in Leicester are hoping to reduce crime by hanging pom-poms from trees in notorious crime spots to make the areas look more cosy and safe. So far the scheme has been a success and the police are hoping other communities will soon cotton on.” 

I mean – it’s not bad I don’t think. Perhaps part of the problem with this one is that the news story it’s based on was just so damn weird in the first place! They may not have believed it was genuine. You see, you always find yourself looking for the quirky local or magazine style stories that offer up these kind of angles.

Next up – During the time I was writing these jokes, Justin Beiber was all over the press as he was touring the UK. I was slightly loathed to have to read the articles and enter into that fake-pop world, even briefly, but then this wasn’t about me, it was about the news, and the news was full of him.

“There was anger this week amongst music fans and parents when after a delay of two hours at the 02 academy,  Justin Bieber actually turned up.”

I think on a good day this could have got through, but it was probably one of several hundred Bieber jokes they had sent in. There was at least one in a few of the episodes, so it was worth a punt.

This next one is an example of where I think it could be funny, if the delivery was right. So there’s no big punchline or gag, but the performance could carry it through. Problem with that is that you need whoever reads the scripts first to recognise that. I obviously have every faith in the performers of the show to realise anything they were given, but didn’t get chance to find out if this one would have ‘worked’:

“In a rare newspaper interview, Syria’s embattled President Assad has accused the UK of ‘bullying’. Foreign secretary William Hague has responded with new sanctions to cut off the President’s supply of milk and dinner money. In a statement he said ‘Are you going to cry? Are you? Who’s a little cry baby?’”

Okay, one more for now I think. This is another where the idea was there but perhaps not the wording. I imagine (and the tips on the BBC website make this quite clear) that if you don’t get your wording spot-on, your gag is unlikely to make it through unless the concept and idea are so strong it’s worth a re-write… Well…

“The Lancet has published a report saying that the UK is lagging so far behind the rest of Europe when it comes to health that they think it has probably sat down for a minute or two to catch its breath and then gone to the pub for a pie and a pint instead.”

In my head, I had the idea of the various Europeans running a race and Britain lagging behind with a stitch and deciding not to bother. Perhaps I didn’t get this across, but it was worth doing anyway to see how it came out. As I said in part 1, you may as well get something in. The worse that can happen is some script reader just puts it on the slush pile and moves on to the next writer. You’re not going to get blacklisted or penalised for something that doesn’t get made! (I think, unless your material was really inappropriate!)

So there we have it. Some more jokes that failed to hit the mark, which was good for Mark (bless him), but not so good for me.

Garry