Where Can I Send My Sketches?

As part of my work for Writers’ Block I run 1-1 mentoring sessions for writers, many of whom are writing sketches. And they all want to know – where can I send them? Sadly, there don’t seem to be many places in the UK that accept unsolicited sketches, but there are one or two opportunities to keep your eye on.

Cofilmic Sketch in the City

What is it? A monthly live showcase of new sketch writing. Currently limited to writers in the North of England. Submit your 3 minute, three character sketch and maybe it’ll get performed.

Will it help my career?

The best of the crop, selected from each night, will be submitted for the COFILMIC Comedy Film Festival live sketchwriting competition on 29th October 2012. A panel of top industry experts (as
well as the audience) will vote for their favourite and the winner will have their sketch made into a short film for the following years competition!

You never know…

Link: Cofilmic Sketch in the City

The Treason Show

What is it? A slick and irreverent satirical topical comedy sketch show, based on the news and current affairs. Written by a team of over 40 writers and performed by a team of multi-talented satirical sketch performers.

Will it help my career? Can’t hurt.

Link: Treason Show Writers Guidelines


What is it? Newsrevue is a weekly, fast-paced show of hilarious sketches and songs based on absolutely anything in the news—politics, sport, celebrities—from The Lords to Lords, from the Middle East’s Jordan to the Sun’s Jordan.

Will it Help my career?

Over the years, the show has won the Fringe First Award and a Perrier nomination in Edinburgh, won rave reviews from the national press, recorded many TV & radio specials and helped begin the careers of Rory Bremner, Michelle Collins, Josie Lawrence & Bill Bailey.

So… perhaps!

Link: Newsrevue writers page.

Where Else Can I Find Out About Opportunities?

It’s as well to keep an eye out on the BBC Writersroom, in case a show like Newsjack is seeking sketches.

Also the Writing Opportunities section on the British Comedy Guide forums will often flag up interesting stuff.

Basically, though, if you can somehow take control of your own sketches, by joining or starting up a sketch group, doing live shows, making short films, anything that gets your writing off the page and into a form that can be experienced rather than read, you’ll find your own voice much quicker, and you’ll have sketches to show people, which is always a step up from having sketches for people to read.

Do it yourself! Punk rock! Revolution! Seize the means of production! Or write a funny song about how fat John Prescott is for NewsRevue. Whichever you’d prefer.

Writing a Sitcom – Creating Characters

If, for example, you were writing a sitcom, and you were researching your favourite sitcoms to find nuggets of character-creating inspiration, this is the sort of stuff you might find. If you were doing that.

Here’s Dan Harmon on creating characters:

Write your pilot before you know everything about these people. Let the story establish little pieces of them, don’t fill your script with facts about fictional strangers, fill your script with things happening to fictional strangers. Bring the atoms into collision and let your audience get glimpses of their nuclei as they repulse, neutralize and bond with each other. If you are capable of knowing exactly who these people are by the end of your pilot, you are probably writing a bad TV show. The good news being, I predict much success for you.
But if your goal is to create a TV character with depth, it’s the same as if your goal were to create a tree with height: you’ll have to be patient and surrender a lion’s share of your control. God doesn’t make a tree with hammer and nails. He makes a seed. Likewise, actors and audiences and time are the things that are going to give your characters depth, the best you can do as the writer of a pilot is provide the reader with evidence of that potential.

Mitch Hurwitz on the genesis of Arrested Development:

Someone told me once about this paradigm that exists: matriarch, patriarch, craftsman, and clown. It’s this quartet that resonates through history and popular culture, and you can find it as a diagram in everything from The Beatles to ‘Leave It To Beaver’ to ‘Seinfeld’. In The Beatles, you can kind of see it the clearest. You know, Paul is the matriarch, John is the patriarch, the craftsman is George and the clown is Ringo. So I wanted to get that in there, and I thought, “Maybe that will be the four kids. I’ll do a show about four kids.” As it turns out, Michael and Lindsay would be the matriarch and patriarch. The craftsman, to me, is Buster, because he’s a scholar and he’s serious, and the clown is Gob, because he’s a magician, and clowns literally are magicians. [Laughs.] Oh, there are some magical clowns out there. But I don’t want to make this an advertisement for clowns.

There’s an interesting breakdown of archetypal sitcom characters over at TV Tropes.

It is important to note that, unlike the Five-Man Band, it isn’t strictly necessary for each show to have a representative member for each archetype. Keep in mind that, just as in Real Life, the world of Sit Coms is awash in many various and diverse personalities, of which this is hardly an exhaustive list; so there’s no need to shoehorn characters into these categories. Some shows will utilize certain archetypes and leave out others, or may have characters who don’t fit into any of the listed types.

Of course, even when dealing with archetypes, it’s important to remember, as Garry Shandling puts it (when describing a Hank Kingsley character moment)

Everybody’s stupid, everybody’s smart. Everybody’s bumbling, everybody’s intelligent… We’re all different things at different times.

And that’s when your characters become human, I suppose.

MS Paint

If I could live my life over again, I would post about this before it happened rather than after. Ah, hindsight. Anyway, the lovely AJ and Rebecca of Peg Powler asked if I’d do some pictures for this, and I did, and they stuck the one of the cow to a wall at ARC. There were some other beautiful MSterpieces in the exhibition, too, by the likes of Gus Hughes and Bob Fischer. I think maybe they’ll be up for the next couple of weeks so if you get a chance go look.

MSPainting is fun and I might do some more. Just so you know.