16 April, 2006

Comedy Day: Writing for Television

Comedy Day: Writing for Television
Saturday April 29th

"A unique one-day course held at RADA to enable aspiring comedy writers and those who work with comedy to g et the inside track on how to break into - and stay in - television comedy.

What makes successful comedy is something even the most popular comedians and comedy writers struggle to explain – so what hope is there for emerging writers and those interested in this key genre?

The decline of new British sitcoms in this decade compared to the 1990s or those before is a growing worry in the industry. Greg Dyke recently said, "The difficulty is finding the writers and artists who want to do more traditional fare," harking back to the days of Steptoe and Son, Monty Python, The Likely Lads and Fawlty Towers .

To combat the downturn, Scriptwriter Magazine has gathered together four comedy giants to give specific advice on different areas of comedy, with the aim of drawing out new talent and helping to breach the walls of the comedy establishment.

The day will start with c hildhood friends and Arsenal supporters, Laurence Marks & Maurice Gran, who started writing together following their attendance at British Drama League's writer's group. They worked on BBC Radio but it was ITV's acceptance of Holding The Fort that launched them into television comedy. They penned various sitcoms before launching Birds of a Feather, one of the longest running sitcoms on British TV, and later Goodnight Sweetheart. Marks and Gran will be discussing the centrality of character in comedy.

Brother to Oscar-winning Anthony, Dominic Minghella script-edited the first series of Hamish Macbeth , and wrote episodes across all three series. He has also written radio drama ( Matt Black and Chrome), sitcom (Holding the Baby), adaptations ( e.g. The Prince and the Pauper for Hallmark) and wrote and created ITV's hit comedy-drama series, Doc Martin. Dominic's current project is the BBC's ambitious Robin Hood, a 13-part series he has created for Tiger Aspect. From drama dwarf to comedy giant, Dominic will be charting his own journey and sings the praises of American-style showrunning.

Paul Mayhew-Archer started out by writing plays in school and later at Cambridge University. "I wrote shows for mental homes, prisons and hospitals, anywhere where the audience couldn't get away." His big break came when he won the job of BBC Radio comedy producer (replacing Griff Rhys Jones, who had left to do Not the Nine O'Clock News ) making seven comedy series a year. He has worked on Spitting Image and co-wrote The Vicar Of Dibley with Richard Curtis.

Currently a consultant to the Head Of Comedy at the BBC, Paul will examine the idea that the key to comedy is simplicity, as well as the pitfalls you should avoid when creating a sitcom.

Ending the day on a light note with Raymond Allen! Born on the Isle of Wight, Ray was originally a reporter before joining the RAF. After 15 years of mixing part-time jobs with midnight writing, 40 rejections had almost killed off his dreams, and he was cleaning toilets for a living when he got his big break. The BBC accepted his situation comedy, Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em , which has since been shown in over 60 countries. He's also written material for various comedians including Frankie Howerd, Dave Allen, Little & Large and Jimmy Cricket.

Ray's talk is entitled: Are You Trying to be Funny? Or How I Escaped from the Toilet and Nearly went Round the Bend.

ScriptWriter Comedy Day Masterclass: Tickets £90.
Date: Saturday 29th April 2006.
Address: RADA, Malet St, London WC1E 7JN.
Time: 10am-5pm (9.30am registration).
Book now at RADA Box Office 020 7908 4800.

10% discount for Scriptwriter magazine members

For more information: www.scriptwritermagazine.com

For queries: Janice Day on 07748 652 194 "


Chris Allen said...

I went to this one (along with about 100 strangers). They were all good speakers but Paul Mayhew Archer was exceptional. He gave an energetic presentation of the state of the British sitcom and the anatomy of the industry. Value for money IMHO.

Robin Kelly said...

I'm glad you enjoyed it. PMA has such a lot of respect in the industry for his script development work and training but doesn't get as much credit as he should for his own writing. His Last Laugh script was way ahead of any of the other writers.

Check out the transcript I made of a talk of his on my website - under C4 Sitcom Finalists - which he hands out apparently.