Top Tips For Comedy Writing: Take Your Partners!

As my little blog edges up to almost FIVE THOUSAND VIEWS (I know, can you believe it?) I’ve taken a tiny break from Mrs David Dando rewrites and studying to bring you another post in the spirit of Blod, Sweet & Tears – the story of my comedy writing & online networking journey. Although, I confess I only had to look up from the excellent On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft from Stephen King for a second, because this weeks guest contributor did all the work. And yes, I do urge the novelists among you to read Stephen King’s book. It is the greatest manual for writing I have read to date.

Q: What happens when you decide you can write comedy, but can’t find anyone who also decides you can write comedy and offers to buy some of your stuff? I don’t know. But Keith R Lindsay does.. and he’s one of the lovely folk I have pestered for advice over the past two years. Yet he still talks to me 🙂

Keith R Lindsay started out in the world of television situation comedy, team writing on the highly successful ‘Birds of a Feather’ series and signing an exclusive contract with producers Alomo Productions to contribute material to their portfolio of shows and create original concepts.

He has written for sketch shows including ‘Hale & Pace’ and stand-up material for Rik Mayall and has storylined for ‘Crossroads’.

He collaborated with the late, great John Sullivan (‘Fools and Horses’) on the ggghomespin-off series ‘Green Green Grass’, featuring the characters Boycie and Marlene, and co-wrote episodes with John for the third series including the 2007 Christmas Special.

Here is Keith’s story:

“So you want me to tell you how I got started?

First I found a writing partner, sort of by accident, sort of planned – we’d performed some comedy stuff together so writing the funny seemed like a natural progression for us.

A partner has his or her uses: you can bounce ideas off them; you have an instant, though usually wrong, second opinion; they help you get over the fear of the blank page; and when it comes to bitching about rejection two mouths are better than one.

As for how you work together, that’s something you’ll have to work out for yourselves, Galton and Simpson put it like this: one types and one walks around a lot.

The thing about partners is, they’re like wives, don’t expect them to necessarily be there forever – one of you is bound to have the bigger ego and well…I refer you to what I said before about ‘usually wrong’.

The next step – we wrote something: a radio comedy which we entered in a BBC contest, it didn’t make the cut but it was well remembered by a producer when we tried to sneak it back in later – his encouragement helped enormously: cheers Pete Atkin.

Step three we wrote something else, and equally as importantly we finished it; rule number one you don’t get far by trying to pitch your fabulous ideas to people – writing is about, well, writing.

This time we wrote a film script, badly constructed, it required a Spielbergian budget to make, but, and this is the important bit, it showed we knew funny. It always amazes me how many budding comedy writers don’t bring the funny in their scripts.

We knew we were funny, yes we knew we were arrogant too, but we knew because we’d written comedy material and tried it out on real audiences to see it they laughed, the true test of comedy, and they did.

Having finished the script (see what I did there, repeated the word finished because it’s so important, and look I used finished again…and again…ok point made) we were specific in our targets.

Rule number one, again, it is really, really, important to try to get your script into the right hands.

Ok so we had a reply form Yorkshire TV, as was, which amounted to a feck off, so perhaps our targeting was a little awry there but…we were invited to a writers workshop at LWT, as was again, by the lovely Robin Carr who at the end of the day asked if we had an agent – a big ‘no’; then further asked if we’d like one – ‘hell yes!’.

The man crammed us into his Toyota jeep thing and drove us to meet his agent there and then. Suddenly we were represented writers, and the first thing our new agent told us was that we should always remember that comedy writers are like gold dust.

The same script opened the door for us at Central TV, yes as was, and we received a letter from Marks and Gran asking ‘do they let you have sharp things in there?’ The letter also asked us to call them; we did and were invited for lunch.

Quick aside here, it’s a rule that I have yet to have had broken – if the person inviting you to a meeting puts out for food you have the gig, if they only offer you a beverage, the job’s not coming your way.

So back to Marks and Gran, over lunch they explained our film script was going nowhere, true, but that we were funny and situation comedy was where it was all happening. Long story short we were invited to work on Birds of A Feather.

Was all this luck and timing? Some of it yes, but we worked hard too, we actually did the writing, did the research and most importantly found out first if we were funny.  When it comes down to it comedy isn’t like religion, you can’t just take it on faith that you’re funny.

And if you are funny, you have to bring your best funny to every script you write; and I mean ‘your’ funny, you should only write your own version of funny and look to find enough likeminded souls to laugh with you.

It’s more than possible you’re the only one who finds what you write funny, but please don’t let that put you off writing since I’d much rather a sociopath like you at home in front of your laptop typing away and laughing demonically than have you out of the streets.

Is that enough?”

Keith regularly runs sitcom writing workshops in London and will travel for groups on ten or more countrywide. Well worth a look if you are serious about your art – Find out more HERE

NEWS: I was very pleased to be asked to take part in a radio interview for Universidad Europea de Madrid which I hope to be able to share with you via a podcast link in the coming weeks. Look out for that one! Authoress in training 🙂

 

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3 thoughts on “Top Tips For Comedy Writing: Take Your Partners!”

  1. Thanks for this post! May look into one of Keith’ s workshops. Where are you based Heather? Just wondered whether you’ ‘re linked into London Comedy writers?

    1. Hi there, no I’m based in Scotland. I couldn’t make one of Keith’s courses but he also offers script advice/appraisal and has given me some wonderful advice & feedback on one of mine. I would recommend you look him up. He is on Twitter @keithrlindsay

  2. I know this is really really strange…BUT..
    I have a huge collection of true stories, and the mischief is certainly something that should see the light of day..
    I have been told over and over about the situations that have happened, and that they should be developed..
    To give you an idea, here is just one incident of thousands…

    Let me know what you think..
    Kindest regards
    David

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