26 February, 2009

Sanjeev Kohli, comedy writer, interview

While the 7 on 7 details were on the Deadlines Calendar opposite within minutes of it being announced ages ago, I've only just got round to reading the interview which is brilliant. Whether you're going for the opportunity or not, I think it's worth a read.

BBC Writersroom:

"I've been writing comedy for ten, eleven years now. And I think I've probably only found a definite voice the latter half of that.

Whether you like or hate the stuff that I do, I'd like to think now that no one else could have written it. Whereas the first two or three years I think I spent just writing all my influences out till I found my own voice. To the extent that I actually wholesale nicked a sketch. I didn't know I'd done it until afterwards. I used to write for a sketch show called Chewing The Fat, and one of the sketches I wrote was called something like "Photocopying my arse with". "And today I'll be photocopying my arse with blah de blah de blah". And it was a full five years afterwards I was watching reruns of Fry and Laurie, and there was the sketch. It lodged in my brain and I somehow fooled myself into thinking oh that's my idea. It wasn't at all. It was Fry and Laurie.

It just shows that the first few years you do, you probably are just expending what's in your head already. I'm assuming everyone here is a comedy fan and probably have a style of comedy they like and you'll subconsciously ape it for ages before you get it out your system.

In a lot of ways your writing is just a reflection of who you are and what you like. I still find in my writing strong elements of Armando Iannucci, and Morecambe and Wise, and The Two Ronnies, and Kenny Everett, and the Young Ones. They'll all be there in small doses. A lot of Victoria Wood. If you can spread the influences so that no one can see them, then that's quite a good trick. And then try and add a bit of your own."


Michelle Goode said...

My attempt at comedy pretty much refelected my own cheesy humour, and was based on people I know, so I was using original characters, but just found it so hard to write... well... funny! Its true that you learn how to write comedy through watching comedy, and you have to be careful not to replicate too much.

It's a good idea using funny events that have actually happened to you and others as material, but can be easier imagined than written... It's a lot harder than you'd think to comedify/scriptify your own experiences...

Great post. Made me really think!

Robin Kelly said...

Although watching comedy you like critically is useful, it's writing and re-writing lots of sketches that's going to help the most, I think. One friend used to write a sketch a day, whether there was a competition coming up or not.

If a sketch isn't funny it could be because the comic idea or conflict isn't all that funny and even a comedy god wouldn't be able to make it funny.

However, usually, making a sketch funnier is about putting the words in a different order or using different words; making the punchline stronger and having gags along the way to that punchline.

I agree that writing about our own experiences can be difficult, I try to avoid it whenever possible. :)

We need distance really and you can get that through time or through changing the characters enough so that they're not exactly like us and the people involved.

We also need to heighten that comedy and exaggerate what happened.

Spilling a cup of tap water on a friend is funny but a character spilling a bucket of very cold water on another character is funnier.