Writing for Newsjack: The hunt for the killer premise

Pity the poor Newsjack sketch reader. By the end of Monday they will know every possible horse meat joke in the history of the universe. That’s not to say you shouldn’t send yours as well, but for the  sake of the poor reader do make it original.

So don’t you do what I naturally do – throw some funny lines a into word document, hit it a few times with a stick and hope a sketch comes out. Spend time working out a funny idea for a sketch. Find the killer premise, which is funny even when you’re whole sketch has been rewritten, and you have a very good chance of getting material used. (I have had a whole 2 minute sketch on Newsjack where only one word remained from my original draft. Which seems a bit like cheating. But I’ll take it.)

I now spend more time coming up with the premise for sketches than I do writing the sketches themselves – but once you have a really clear idea of why the sketch is funny it is also much quicker and easier to write.

And don’t do what I naturally do and change subjects half way through a sketch. Stay on target – the sketch should be about one funny idea from beginning to end (or at most two funny ideas that collide).

To find that original idea you will almost certainly have to go through lots of unoriginal ideas. The key thing is to generate ideas. Lots of ideas. Look at the way other stories have been covered in previous episodes for inspiration. Brainstorm. Think of the weirdest and most unusual angles you can. You won’t be able to use most of them but they might lead you to the one idea you need.

So to summarise the things I’ve learned: Come up with lots of potential sketch ideas. Hunt through them for that killer premise. And if you keep hitting your netbook with a stick, you’ll need a new netbook.

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