Some questions about Newsjack and writing comedy from Richard Fisher

When wading through a pile of spam comments finding a real comment from a real human being is… well, I guess this is what a Newsjack script reader feels like when they read a funny sketch…

Anyway I got this definitely-not-spam comment (the give away is that it is spelt correctly and/or not in Spanish) from Richard Fisher with so many questions in it I thought an answer deserved it’s own post.

Hi David. Interesting to read about your success with Newsjack – I have ambitions in that direction myself. I have only just looked at your blog so some of these questions may become apparent later on but……are there any transcripts of your submissions (both successful and unsuccessful)? They would be very interesting to read….would also be interesting to know how you write. For example do you set time aside each day and try to write funny or do you just do it when inspiration strikes? I have submitted several one-liners and a couple of sketches to Newsjack but so far have been unsuccessful. To be fair I’m new to it and definitely finding my feet but I like sitting around trying to make the news even more ridiculous than it already is (most items these days come pre-satirised – see pasty tax/fuel “crisis” if further elaboration is needed, which I’m sure it isn’t!). Anyway, I shall investigate your blog further and well done for getting stuff on Newsjack – it must be a brilliant moment when you a) hear something of yours being broadcast on national radio and b) hear strangers laughing at your jokes. Good work!

So to take it one question at a time…

…are there any transcripts of your submissions (both successful and unsuccessful)?

Not at the moment. Although lots and lots of people do post their Newsjack stuff up in the British Comedy Guide Critique forum. I do post things there sometimes but not as much as others. Always worth having a look on the BCG forums anyway – there are lots of writing opportunities up there. Be warned that some comedy producers and script editors have been known to hang out there so I would suggest being polite and not running down anything or anyone. Especially if you use your real name on there like I do!

I’ll also think about posting one or two things up here. Trouble is, after all this time sketches that seemed hilarious at 3 in the morning before a Newsjack deadline seem rather flat in the cold light of day… Still it can be just as useful reading an unsuccessful sketch as a successful one – if you can work out where it went wrong.

 …do you set time aside each day and try to write funny or do you just do it when inspiration strikes?

Regular writing. That is the key. The more you do something the better you get. I’m lucky in that I commute to work on the train – which is an excellent way to carve half an hour out of a busy day (I’m writing this on a delayed train right now!).  I wish I was more disciplined to write when I’m at home. Although during Newsjack season I usually sacrifice a large chunk of sleep to get my sketches done.

… I have submitted several one-liners and a couple of sketches to Newsjack but so far have been unsuccessful…

Don’t worry. Most of us sent a lot more than that before our first success. The more you write the better you get. James Kettle (one of the Newsjack script editors) also gives the excellent advice to write 6 sketches and submit the best three. It makes you write more (which is good) and you’re best three of six will be better than the first three things you thought of. Oh and make sure you give your sketch at least one really good hard edit. Do those things and you’ll probably find yourself in the top 50% of those submitting I would think. But you need to keep working hard to get in the top 5% to get on air (and eventually the top 0.5% to get noticed).

…I like sitting around trying to make the news even more ridiculous than it already is (most items these days come pre-satirised – see pasty tax/fuel “crisis” if further elaboration is needed, which I’m sure it isn’t!)…

Another good tip I’ve been given is: Don’t always focus on the big stories of the week. They often use sketches and particularly one liners that are on quite obscure stories. (I often haven’t come across them and I’ve been scanning the news for potential jumping off points.) I try and make at least one of my sketches on something more obscure. If nothing else, it means you are not competing with all the other “David Cameron and Nick Clegg” or “Ed Milliband” sketches they got that week.

…it must be a brilliant moment when you a) hear something of yours being broadcast on national radio and b) hear strangers laughing at your jokes…

Yes it is. But watch out. It’s also addictive.

Thanks for the questions. And enjoy writing comedy. Make sure you enjoy it because you certainly shouldn’t do it for the money!

 

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10 Comments on "Some questions about Newsjack and writing comedy from Richard Fisher"

  1. Alex Baker
    27/06/2012 at 11:30 am Permalink

    Dude,

    Long time no chatting. I am enjoying the website. Would you mind sending me your email address – I have a question to ask you.

    A

  2. david
    27/06/2012 at 7:29 pm Permalink

    Great to hear from you! I have emailed you.

  3. Vivienne Riddoch
    28/06/2012 at 7:19 am Permalink

    Hi, David

    Thanks – this is really useful. I’d also be interested if you have any tips on how to break into NewsRevue. I’ve been to one show to get an idea of what they’re looking for, and have sent a few submissions in but no luck so far…
    Regards
    Vivienne

  4. david
    28/06/2012 at 7:56 am Permalink

    Hi Vivienne.

    Thanks for the comment. You’ve already done the first thing I would suggest – seen the show. That’ll give you an idea of what they do, but bear in mind that cast and director change every six weeks. Which means the style can vary a bit. But, if one particular cast and director don’t go for your material there is a chance that the next will.

    The other thing is persistence. Remember that they are not picking the “best” sketch in some academic sense. They are looking for something funny to fit the needs of the show. Perhaps the have a story to cover. Perhaps your sketch is funny but the story has already been covered in the show already. Maybe they already have too many sketches for the two boys (it is usually that way around!). So submit lots and don’t be afraid to cover the small stories.

    A while ago I posted some general tips on writing for News Revue here Writing comedy sketches for News Revue: A few tips.

    Also remember that the directors and cast are usually (from my observation) middle class, artsy kids in their twenties – if that helps you target your work at all!

    Good luck and keep going. If nothing else you will learn by writing so it’s never a waste!

  5. Richard Fisher
    22/07/2012 at 9:05 am Permalink

    Hi David! Wow! I wasn’t expecting such a comprehensive and helpful answer to my questions! The advice is very useful and I will try and follow it the best I can. I suppose I ought to be getting into regular writing practice with a series of Newsjack upon us again in the autumn (I hope!). I hope it’s not too rude but I would like to mention that I have just started a page on Facebook called “Newsrind” where I am trying out bits and pieces – most of it is news-related as the title would suggest, but other bits are just accounts of personal experiences (for example buying a new vacuum cleaner). I’m a fan of Tim Dowling so I guess the latter is an attempt to mimic that style of writing (but not really as I have my own style). Please feel free to “like” the page, and many thanks again for taking the time and trouble to pass on the benefit of your experience to an aspiring satirist! Richard.