Friday’s Short Story

storytellerGentlemen. Domestos. It’s not performing.

History lesson: When I was a kid, when you were a kid, Domestos had the famous slogan “Kills 99 percent of all known germs… Dead”, which was quite a boast even in those days, when there were actually only three known germs. (In fact, as it later turned out, one of those germs, the deadliest of the three, wasn’t even a germ at all. It was a midget with a gun.) Still, 99 percent of three is a lot of germs, proportionally speaking.

But where could they go from there? All its competitors could come back, year on year, advertising that they were now 50 percent improved, 39 percent stickier, 76 percent more blue. Domestos, no matter how hard it tried, could only ever be 1 percent better.

Oh, they got there. When I joined the company Domestos was marching under the slogan: “Kills Germs Dead”. Great slogan. Brutal. Definitive. You can’t get better than that. That is job done, for a bleach. We had achieved bleach perfection. We’d reached the top, and had to stop, and that’s what’s bothering me. Unless…

Gentlemen. I have a modest proposal. The time has come to broaden our remit. I’ve been doing some research and I think that if we are to remain vital and competitive in the 21st century we need to move into areas in which progress is once again a possibility.

In my experience Domestos will kill most things smaller than a rabbit… Dead. No, no. I’m not suggesting that this is an appropriate fact to hang an advertising campaign off. People are not scared of rabbits. In fact a lot of people quite like rabbits, so even if Joe Blow was to find a rabbit in his toilet his first reaction would probably be “Aww, there’s a rabbit in the toilet”, not “Mrs Blow! Get the bleach! And not that cheap own-brand shit, either. We’re going nuclear. Get the Domestos.”

If next year we announced that Domestos would definitely kill even quite large rabbits I can’t see sales improving too much.

But what about this: “Domestos! Kills a good 3 percent of tigers… Dead. If you aim it right and use enough of it. (Your face and body may be at risk. If you get even a small amount of tiger in your eye flush with water and await help.)”

People are scared of tigers. I know I am. I’d be comforted to know that if a domestic tiger event was to occur my chances of survival would be upped even marginally.

And then the following year we, the fine folks at Domestos, could announce that our product, still one hundred percent germ-killy remember, was now 6 per cent more deadly to tigers, and also had a more lemony fragrance, why gentlemen! We could sit back and watch sales grow and I could look forward to the day when I can release myself from this anti-tiger cage and rejoin society.

And then? Gentlemen, then we go after the fucking polar bears. Who’s with me?

by Harris
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The Works – live sketch show booking now.


The Works: I got a sketch in this, I did. Wee!

The Works is a team-written sketch show that combines the crème of established comic writers and exciting new talent. It’s a unique venture giving comedy writers the chance to show off their very best work live on stage.

Performed by David Armand, Mathew Baynton, Isabel Fay, Katherine Jakeways, Nick Mohammed, Renton Skinner, Isy Suttie and Rosalyn Wright.

Directed by Justin Edwards

Written by Stuart Beale, Blakewill & Harris, Burge & Way, Carter & Cooke, Crockatt & Scott, John Foster, Ben Green, Ali Griggs, James Harris (I’d make it flash if I could), Harrison Banks, Lee Henman, Scott Kingsnorth, Giselle Melanson, Jonathon Morris, Dale Shaw, Siddons & White, Rob Smith, Tim Smith, Vincent & Allen and Catie Wilkins.

Tickets available here: Ticketweb (£8/£7 in advance, £10 on the door)

Newsjack – showcase for new comedy writing


Newsjack Website

Newsjack is BBC Radio 7’s new topical sketch show, which seeks to comically scrutinise the news, views and issues of the day.

And they have an open submissions policy.

What they’re after:

Regular Features – Part One

We will include stand-alone sketches but are also looking to establish some recurring features, which you can write for:

Your Voice
These Vox Pops (in which we pretend to ask the great British public what they think) are a great opportunity for one-liners or quick jokes.
In the pilot we chose to theme them around MP’s Expenses. In the series we have decided they can be about any prominent news issue. These vox pops will be heard throughout the show.

From the Archive
Every week we delve through the archives and find out how a fictional show from the past covered topical events of their day.

Miles answers listeners’ letters and emails. These could be topical or just silly, long or short.

Regular Features – Part Two

Celebrity Diary
Try writing a “sneak peak” into the inner thoughts of someone who’s been in the news recently.

A nice opportunity for our cast to do an impressions. e.g. Michelle Obama or Peter Andre’s diary, Joanna Lumley’s blog.

Miles Undercover
Miles does an undercover investigation related to a specific news story, a la Donal MacIntyre

Newsjack does its own parody version of “youthy” fast-paced, bite sized news such as Newsbeat and 60 second news. Hosted by 1 male and 1 female “youthy” presenters.

Another good opportunity for one-liners. At the end of the show these ‘corrections’ pretend to address any mistakes we made in last week’s show.

But don’t let us be prescriptive: you may have characters that you would like to create, a funny movie reviewer or mad royal correspondent, for example.

We would be very happy to include any amusing characters or features that you come up with. And of course, something you come up with could become a regular item in the show.

The submission deadline each week is Monday midday – we will not look at sketches that arrive any later.

The submission deadline for the Vox Pops is later. It allows us to be more topical with those. Please submit these by Tuesday 5PM – we will not look at vox pops that arrive any later.

More info at the website…

Absolutely Audition Sketch

I remembered this as being much funnier than it actually is, but as a sometime actor and director, I can relate…

Absolutely followed the Python format of having the sketches run into one another, so again, no big punchline, although I did like the complete pointlessness of the actress’ part at the end, so hey. Who’s complaining? Not me. I’m not, no.

Mr Show Audition Sketch

Head Shot (see below) got me thinking about auditions, which got me thinking about this sublime sketch from Mr Show. It’s one of those sketches where you kind of know what’s coming, but it’s still funny anyway.

If you’ve never seen Mr Show, it’s well worth tracking down. Pythonesque absurdity and theatricality, and, oh, I don’t know, David Crossity and Bob Odenkirkity.

Borat: Working hard for your funny

Apparently it’s “interesting article” day on Ramshackle Charm. Here’s an interesting Vanity Fair interview with Dan Mazer, Sacha Baron Cohen’s long-time writing partner.

A particular eye-opener is the amount of work that goes in to creating a character like Borat:

How deep is the background for these characters? How many pages are we talking about?

We probably have a file of scripts and jokes that extends to about three thousand pages. We write so much material for each three-minute segment. And Sacha is brilliant at keeping it all sort of filed together in his head. He’s able to access any joke instantly and brilliantly. There are jokes from years ago that Sacha will be able to call on.

How important are the other elements for these characters? For instance, how much thought goes into picking out the costumes?

A huge amount. The outfits have to appear authentic for the characters. But at the same time they have to appear humorous and interesting. We test hundreds of outfits. We’ll say, “No, that hat is too much.” Or, “No, that ring is a little too eccentric.”

Of course, with Borat it’s a little different, because he’s worn the same outfit for six years and not washed it. So the decision to wear that suit is difficult only because of the smell.

The suit has never been washed?

Never been washed. Sacha goes to extremes with each character. If he’s playing Borat, he won’t shower the night or two before an interview. It’s an amazing devotion to detail. Even Borat’s underwear is authentic for the character. It has a Russian label on it, so that if Borat strips and somebody catches him, his underwear won’t say “Wal-Mart.”

The level of authenticity is incredible. Even the shit in the baggy was real in the Borat movie. With considerable debate, we realized it had to be real. We didn’t want to take a chance and have them call Borat’s bluff. We didn’t want them to say, “Hold on, this is fake shit.” Then, all of a sudden, our cover would be blown. So one of us had to muster up some shit for the bag.

So. Do you have what it takes? Would you shit in a bag for comedy? Hmm? Well, would you?

BBC Comedy: Playing It Safe?

An interesting article on Broadcast asks whether the BBC are risk-averse when it comes to comedy commissioning.

One recurring issue is the sense of a paint-by-numbers approach to comedy commissioning. Jeremy Salsby, head of development at So Television and executive producer of the Bafta-nominated CBBC sketch show Sorry, I’ve Got No Head, says: “Comedy has to be instinctive but recently it feels like it has become too prescriptive. Too much effort goes into trying to work out the science of it and into safe casting and safe writing and producing – so actually what you end up with is more of the same.”

His views are echoed by a frustrated up-and-coming writer who says BBC commissioners often demand a show set in a specific location – say, a workplace – and insist the lead characters are a certain age or gender. Half a dozen writers begin work on the idea but only one is chosen.

Lucy Lumsden, BBC controller of comedy commissioning, doesn’t recognise the charge. “We never put down [prescribe] a subject matter – the whole point is that we welcome a range of ideas… 20% of the strategy is, ‘Here are the bits of the schedule that we need to fill’ and 80% is, ‘What have you got?’

Read the full article on Broadcast.