The reaction from some of those who didn't make it into the Comedy College has been a tad silly. Read the discussion at the end of Micheál Jacob's last post, if you don't believe me. Phill has written a must-read response regarding the right attitude for us all to have.
According to Jacob, "A few people expressed their disappointment quite forcefully, which is understandable". I reckon a reaction like that suggests what they'd be like to work with. If someone can't imagine there might be other scripts better than theirs then how will they take notes? "It's perfect as it is, just fuck off and produce it!"
One way of channelling that aggression is through an anonymous blog which is closed for comments. That's the Bitterness Speaking by "Failed Comedy Writer" suggests that even the pilot of Fawlty Towers would be turned down by Micheál Jacob/Lucy Lumsden.
That seems unlikely as it is a comedy classic but James Henry reminds me that it was actually turned down once in similarly negative terms. However, let's not pretend Fawlty isn't faulty and couldn't have done with a damn good script editing. I bought the box set excitedly to study the magic and learn from it but it simply wasn't as good as I remembered it was.
This was partly due to the 'reality' thing "Failed Comedy Writer" would like producers to ignore: there is no logical explanation why Basil hasn't sacked Manuel or Manuel hasn't resigned. Their relationship was to enable easy funny foreigner jokes and easy slapstick gags. Would it really have been less funny if they made up a reason why Manuel continued to work there or made him less obviously unemployable? Fawlty Towers is popular in spite of the logic flaws and the obvious contrivance and not because of them. We should still try and get rid of them in our own scripts if we can.
Anyway, I got into the top 40 of Comedy College and was chuffed to get that far. I believe I was number 21 and so just missed out on the shortlist but no-one has told me that officially or unofficially or hinted at it in any way. I just know.
I chose to submit sketches for my application because I had more chance of making them laugh with six different comic premises then with the first ten pages of one sitcom. I actually read a sitcom which didn't make the top 40 but which was very funny and ticked all the other boxes too. It's got the writers a meeting at the networks but the first ten pages didn't really do it justice and needed punching up and being clearer as to what was going on. It was still better than the first ten pages of most comedy scripts but there only had to be forty better out of 1400 to stop them progressing in the competition.
Jacob believes that you can't teach funny. I believe you can teach it as the first draft of my sketches was shite and people can learn how to make things funnier. Even now, I can still see ways of improving them which might have got me one place higher and into the top twenty.
It's true that 'funny' is subjective but only once you get to a certain level. There are no comedic masterpieces rejected at a lower level with a first, second or third stage writersroom letter. We might be able to write witty lines which make us chuckle every time we re-read them but are there several laugh out loud moments a page? Is there a good story and good characters that viewers will want to spend time with? Does it honestly have the potential to be a returnable comedy series worth investing millions of pounds in? Or is it just funnier to you than [insert name of sitcom you don't find funny]?
As clever as I thought I was, for next year's college I'm submitting a sitcom but ensuring a high gag rate as I reckon that will impress more. Nothing slow burn and too subtle that could be mistaken for a comedy drama or a drama - which I've done in the past.
Sometimes with competitions people want to see what the scripts that progressed further than theirs were like. It's only natural. We're hoping that they'll be much worse than ours so we can blame the readers and rest easy. Understandably, Jacob won't publish submissions "because I will not expose writers to trial by Internet, even if they were willing".
While you can't see the top 20, here's what I submitted, number 21.
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