Monday, September 22, 2008

How To Write Complete Bollocks (And Still Get Paid)

Emblazoned across the top of today's Guardian front page:


(Picture shamelessly stolen from Andrew Collins's blog.)

Here's an excerpt from Catherine Tate's introduction to the advertised 'How To Write Comedy' supplement (most of which, it turns out, has actually been written by Richard Herring):

'I suppose what I'm saying is I don't feel in a position to give advice about writing, because, technically, I'm not a writer.'

No. Still, no reason not to accept a commission to write a guide on 'How To Write Comedy', eh? Especially as you don't actually have to write it at all!

So, given that one of our 'top writers' admits to not being a writer, what are her three top tips for the country's would-be comedy scribes? Something about pacing, maybe? The best way to format a script? How to create a killer punchline? Ways to convey an idea more economically?

Let's see:

Trust yourself. You have to start with what you think is funny before you can have the confidence to write to anyone else's brief.

Have confidence in yourself...good...good... *makes notes*

Give a gag three chances to work, if after three (separate) attempts they're still not laughing, bin it.

Hmm, perhaps la Tate thought she'd been commissioned to write a guide on 'How To Do Stand-Up'. Still, don't let that stop you taking her expert advice about writing to someone else's brief.

Don't take criticism personally, take from it what's useful. Apply it and move on to something better. And be brave. No one got anywhere by being too scared to open their mouth in case nobody laughed.

Well, there's where I've been going wrong: I never realised that writing was done by opening your mouth. Truly I have learned much about the craft, thank you, Guardian supplement!

The title of this instructive piece, incidentally, is 'Joke's On You'. Hmm.


UPDATE: Meanwhile, Billy takes a methodical approach to critiquing the Guardian's 'How To Write A Novel' supplement...

14 comments:

Valerie said...

Hrm. Perhaps that "gag" should be the cloth-tied-around-the-mouth type. I'd be happy to give that three chances to work on her...

oyebilly said...

Yes, we're both writing about these silly Guardian supplement things! As is Andrew Collins.

patroclus said...

Valerie: Never mind that, look at your foxy photo!

Billy: Yes, I just saw Andrew Collins's post, which says it all much better than I have. And he's got a scan of the front page. Classy.

patroclus said...

...which I have now stolen. I hope he doesn't come to 'get' me.

John Cowan said...

Assignment #37: Compare and contrast this post with Wikipedia's page on "complete bollocks" in your copious spare time.

Jayne said...

Ah, but at least it distracted you from the pain of breastfeeding!

BTW, did you see the brilliant bit of marketing for the new Collins dictionary via The Times. Instead of the usual "new words we have added" thing they've announced a list of antiquated words they're dropping and you can to vote to save them. Plus celebs will be championing some words and using them in text or on TV - it's reality programming with lexicography! I don't know if I should be depressed or impressed. All I do know is that one of the endangered words is one I use occasionally - which makes me feel 100 years old.

*crawls away*

Geoff said...

"Make 'em laugh, make 'em laugh, make 'em laugh!"

LC said...

Oooh blimey - Harry and Paul just did a sketch in the alleyway right outside the front of our old office!

You know, while we're all talking about comedy and that.

Valerie said...

Aw thanks... (scuffs feet)

Boz said...

I suppose what I rally against is the notion that La Tate makes the big cover because she's better known than Richard Herring, despite only writing the intro. Damn the media and it's mission to sell more copies.

I sort of like Ms Tate because she seems really insecure. I'm sort of with her on that. And the whole post-natel depression gig is brutal.

Which has nothing to dow with the supplement, of course. I did the proper failed-fiction writer thing and did an evening creative writing course. I think the aim was to group together a bunch of people in a room who would never normally cross paths to see if they'd write about each other.

The girl who came because the guitar class was full was my favourite. Along with the octagenarian who couldn't see the whiteboard.

Boz said...

Also while we're at it, journalists eh? Kuh and tsk.

realdoc said...

I'm still waiting for the 'How to write obituaries' section.
Hope the cabbage leaves are working, make sure it's savoy cabbage, the white ones don't work as well and chard is a bit messy

Malc said...

I've warned you about the Grauniad before.

Good old committee journalism. Sitting around in the editor's office desperately coming up with half-arsed ideas in a futile effort to impress instead of getting out there and finding some real stories. Ooooh, it makes me cross!

How about a piece on 'How to write a half-decent newspaper story' - or are they too far gone?

Fat Roland said...

Weasel / weasle bollocks, indeed!