Evil Dead

I hate orienteering!

I hate orienteering!

Comparison is stupid. Comparethefckinwhatever.com makes us fat. Compared with describing something on its own terms, comparisons are just lazy. And I know I just used a comparison. I am stupid. I am fat. I am lazy.

This isn’t a comparison of Evil Deads.

This is a list of the cripplingly obvious horror clichés that the new Evil Dead waves in our face while it runs cackling into the night with our cash.

And I’m going to avoid spoilers. There are more awful clichés in the film than those listed here but I would hate to be accused of ruining it for anyone. That honour should be bestowed on the makers alone.

So here is what constitutes the most terrifying experience you will ever…emm….ehh, experience. If I missed any, feel free to add your own.

  • The Mirror Scare. The fckin Mirror Scare? Really? Have a good look at yourselves.
  • The Hand Out The Ground Scare. The Hand Out The Ground Scare burns in Hell!
  • Being Distracted By Something While Driving, Look Away, Then Back To Driving Only To See Someone Has Magically Appeared On The Road Ahead. Shock. Swerve. Crash. Yawn.
  • A Girl In A Dress With Long, Greasy Hair Hanging In Front Of Her Face. Just standing there. Not moving. But look away and, by the power of Avid Media Composer (or Final Cut Pro if you’re an idiot) she’s gone. Ghosts and ghouls that can jump cut.
  • The Powerhose Vomit. Fuck off I’m full!
  • Disfigured Rednecks. If swear if I see one more lipless gummy grin in a film, one side of my face will try and slide away from my milky eye too.
  • Possessed People Suddenly Talking And Looking Normal As They Plead For Mercy, ONLY FOR IT TO BE A TRICK. This is as surprising as a Kinder Surprise containing a shitty plastic toy.
  • Flickering Flashlights. Flickering Light Bulbs. My eyelids are flickering.
  • Possessed People Being All Twitchy And Jerky While We Hear Their Bones Grind. It’s a little known fact that a side-effect of possession is rheumatoid arthritis. Demons wear magnetic copper bracelets.
  • Possessed People With Potty Mouths. Oh the language is shocking. Well it would be if was said to someone other than PEOPLE IN THEIR EARLY TWENTIES!! When I was twenty three I swore more than I spoke.

Right, now, this next one happens over and over and over again. This is the laziest, shittest thing in the film. It constitutes about 74.2% of all the attempted scares…

  • Look Left…Nothing. Look Right….Nothing….Look Left AgaiOH SHIT SOMETHING’S THERE!

And again. And again.

There’s also…

  • The Nerd
  • The Dumb Blonde Cannon Fodder
  • The Joke Shop Contact Lenses
  • The Creaky Doors That Slowly Close On Their Own
  • Ooooh What’s Behind The Shower Curtain?
  • The Demonic Voice That Sounds Like Barry White Through A Loudhaler Who’s Batteries Are Going
  • Hey Possessed Person, Whatcha Doing Crawling On The Floor?

And my favourite….

  • ONLY USE THREE COLOURS IN THE GRADE. It makes everything look all cool and moody and CHEAP! Get a DoP!
Shhh. You ain't seen me, right?

Shhh. You ain’t seen me, right?

Like I said there are more but they are somewhat plot-dependant and I don’t want to spoil the plot. It’s not a great plot. But it’s not mine.

But I swear ALL these clichés are in the new Evil Dead. Some of them more than once. Some of them endlessly. There is not one new idea in it. Which is why I was so disappointed. As well as being fat and lazy, I am admittedly quite old but I can still be terrified and delighted by a horror film. Just not this one.

And with the budget, support and good will of this film, that papercuts my perineum.

Then again, if none of the above made any sense to you, Get along to the new Evil Dead. You’ll fcking love it!

Posted in Horror | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Horror

Here’s The Horror. A horror sketch show.

Posted in Comedy, Horror, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cherish The Gems

“How the fuck did this get on the telly?” You’ve said it haven’t you? Eh? Shouted it probably. I have. Many times. Today. Many times today.

Well here’s why it’s ended up shitter than anyone really wanted. Of course, there’s the chance that it was always a shit idea, shittily written, directed by a shit, featuring shits. But let’s say it wasn’t…

Here’s how many people are involved in making a telly show. There’s often more. Now, what are the chances that every single one of these people is perfect? That they do their job to the absolute best it can be done, without a hitch, or a mistake, during the entire process?

Let’s pick one at random. The Script Supervisor. No special reason other than all the Script Supervisors I know are perfect. Plus I reckon I could take them all in a fight. So I’ll risk their wrath and use them as an example.

Here’s how they can make your show shitter.

Oh no! The Script Supervisor has miscalculated their script timings. Before you go out filming it is their job to break down the scenes of the script, assigning each a guesstimate of screen time. Hopefully there’ll be a readthrough or two giving the Script Supervisor an even better idea of the duration of the material. This is then used as a benchmark during filming, ensuring that you shoot enough to fill each show, while not trying to shoot too much. But here they’ve not assigned enough time for silly comedy business, or they thought the dialogue would be delivered a lot quicker, or they didn’t leave time for laughs. Whatever.

They have underestimated the script by 2 or 3 minutes. During filming you might get an inkling that this is the case as you struggle to film everything in the schedule. So you rush a bit. You cut a corner or two. The schedule might start to change. You lose favourite locations. Or that nice crane shot. It becomes a bit of a scramble.

Your show gets a little shitter.

Of course, the only time you know for definite that they have fcked up is when you edit all the scenes together. Then you realise you have a sitcom that is 32 minutes long for a BBC slot of 29 minutes. What do you do then?

You have to cut stuff.

Say our two protagonists have snuck in to an old girlfriend’s bedroom to retrieve a wallet that one left there the night before. They really need it back. After a bit of searching…

THE BOYS APPROACH THE DRESSING TABLE
FUNNY FRANK:
It must have fallen down the back of this…Quick, pull her drawers off.
HILARIOUS HARRY:
I bet we’re not the first guys to say that in this room.
FUNNY FRANK:
If I give this a yank can you get your arm right in?
THE BOYS THOROUGHLY SEARCH THE DRESSING TABLE, PULLING IT APART
HILARIOUS HARRY:
Hopefully we’re the first to say that though.
FUNNY FRANK:
Come on.
HILARIOUS HARRY:
I’ve got it.
FUNNY FRANK:
Right let’s go

Now, as shit as that dialogue is, what would you cut from the scene to help get the programme duration down to 29 minutes? You can’t cut finding the wallet because then the later, hilarious wallet-based scenes won’t make any sense.

So you MUST CUT THE (admittedly shit) JOKES!!

Leaving you with…

THE BOYS APPROACH THE DRESSING TABLE
FUNNY FRANK:
It must have fallen down the back of this…
THE BOYS THOROUGHLY SEARCH THE DRESSING TABLE, PULLING IT APART
HILARIOUS HARRY:
I’ve got it.
FUNNY FRANK:
Right let’s go

Because the Script Supervisor has fcked up their timing just a little, you will have a program with lots of story and fewer funnies.

Shitter, if you will.

But it’s worse…

They’ve gone and got a bit of continuity wrong. Yes, their job is also to watch the continuity on set, from which hand the policeman used to punch the granny to ensuring two parts of a scene match, even if they are shot three weeks apart. But today, well, maybe they had a hangover or they were still writing their notes from the last scene, but they’ve missed a tiny thing. Like an actor sitting down at different times during a scene. It means you can’t edit it properly. You have to use shots you don’t like. It feels wrong. Again your choice is to leave a wrong thing in or cut it out, including the joke that was being delivered at the time.

Your show is a little shitter.

And it gets worse.

It was raining, at night, and everyone should have been finished half an hour ago. The Script Supervisor marked the shots improperly on their notes. These are the notes that are sent with all your lovely footage to the editor, a record of what the Director was thinking during the shoot. But because they wrote the wrong thing in the wrong column, you end up with the editor using the wrong takes, the less funny takes. As Director you might not question it in the edit 6 weeks later, shrugging with a “I thought that was funnier when we shot it”.

But your show is shitter.

And it gets worse.

In the scene with the kissing goldfish, everyone was enjoying the funny funny performances so much, they weren’t watching the script closely and the cast jumped a few lines. A few brilliant lines lost in a long scene. They’ve gone forever. The show is shitter. Then the actors changed their lines ever so slightly between takes so that now, in the edit, the conversation no longer makes sense and you have to lose a chunk of otherwise hilarious hilarity.

Shitter

There are a bunch of other administrative things that the Script Supervisor does, but that’ll do for now. One error in their guesstimate timing at the start and three or four one-off mistakes during 6, maybe 8 weeks of filming, working over 60 hours a week. It’s not a disaster. It’s understandable. No one is perfect.

But the show is shitter.

And the audience won’t know any of this. Or care. They won’t know how the final show could have been better.

But this is just one person on the team. There’s so many people working on a show, with the ability to slip up in tiny, tiny ways. I mean, imagine how much damage a crap Director could do. Eh? A crap director? Eh? Imagine that.

This is why it’s kind of a fluke that any telly shows turn out to be good at all.

Not really.

But kind of.

So cherish the gems. Really really cherish the gems!

Posted in Comedy | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

BBC Scotland vs BBC network

Why are Burnistoun, Limmy’s Show and Gary: Tank Commander not being shown on network BBC? Here’s why….

You want to make a comedy show.

Say you go Channel Four, and you talk to the Head of Comedy, or perhaps their commissioning editor. You pitch your idea. Maybe it’s a script. Maybe you made a taster tape. Maybe they saw you do stand-up and want to make you a star. Whatever. They love you. You then work with them to develop the project further, maybe they’ll give you some cash to help along the way, and eventually the Head of Comedy signs off on the final concept. Then the hard work of actually making the show begins.

Go to the BBC and it is slightly more complicated. Thanks to the size of the organisation and the number of channels, there are a few more people to deal with. You’ll pitch to an Executive Editor, who will love your idea/script/performance/face and they in turn will try to convince their boss, the Controller, Comedy, that you are worthy of the corporation’s uniquely funded funds. If that happens, and why wouldn’t it, the Controller, Comedy then has to get the go-ahead from the Controller of the Channel you all think your show should be on. That’s called the Two Tick System. Tickey Tick and off you go.

Smashing.

Now then….Scotland.

Someone in the dim and distant past decided that the many regions of our fair land should have a little part of the BBC that is especially for them. This might be a local radio station. Or a regional news bulletin. Or in the case of BBC Scotland, a whole separate structure, complete with it’s own budget, making television and radio for a Scottish audience and only a Scottish audience. On the radio side there’s a complete channel, BBC Radio Scotland, broadcasting music, chat, news, sport, drama and comedy every day from, and to, Scotland. While on the TV side, though there’s no independent channel, there are slots on national BBC1 and BBC2 that BBC Scotland can fill with their own programming. This is called opt-out programming. So, for example, currently on Monday nights, following the news and weather, BBC1 network watches A Question of Sport. But BBC1 Scotland opts out and Scottish folks get Burnistoun.

And BBC Scotland has one commissioning editor. One. They have no boss, no second ticker. They are the only one you have to persuade of your comic genius. If they like you, and there is the money, and there’s available opt-out slots in the schedule, they have the sole power to make your dreams come true.

Which is lovely. Purely from a comedy point of view, there is a great deal of freedom involved with working with BBC Scotland. The downside involves smaller budgets. Much smaller budgets. But hey ho, swings and roundabouts and all that.

But can a successful show move from BBC Scotland to BBC network?

Technically, yes. It has happened before. BBC network offer to pay for the show, rather than BBC Scotland, and the show is broadcast to the entire BBC audience. So the show becomes the same as every other on the BBC network.

However…..however…..however….

The BBC has no process to facilitate this. There is no clear route. It is no one’s job to see this happens.

Until recently, the job of the BBC Scotland commissioner was simply making Scottish shows for a Scottish audience. A few months ago, a change in this post now means that they must keep an eye on providing shows for the network too. Hurrah. Future shows have a chance. Let’s hope it doesn’t destroy that lovely creative freedom.

Also, it is not the job of the Executive Editor, Comedy (Nations and Regions). They take new ideas to the Controller, Comedy, whose job it is to make comedy for the network. But shows on BBC Scotland have nothing to do with either of these people. If they were brand new ideas, looking to go straight to the network, bypassing BBC Scotland, that would be a different matter. However, if a show has already been made and broadcast, then it is actually “an acquisition”, and not technically within these commissioners’ remit. And both network commissioners already have a massive slate of their own fresh, new, sparkly ideas that they have worked up to wow the Channel Controllers with. The BBC Scotland shows have already been on the BBC somewhere, and were someone else’s projects, and are not part of these network commissioners’ job.

So there you have it. As fucking maddening as it is…..It’s not racism. It’s not anti-Scottish. It’s not that the shows aren’t good enough. It’s not even that the BBC isn’t trying to get regional shows on the network. Commissioners are pushing hard as we speak, wandering outside their job descriptions.

It comes down to the delightfully idiosyncratic structure of an organisation the size of the BBC. And human nature. Pisser eh?

Unfortunately it means some shows don’t get the audiences, and budgets, they deserve. And audiences don’t get the shows they really should. However, it does mean more comedy on the BBC iPlayer.

(I’ve tried to be as accurate, and fair, as I can. Which explains the dullness. And the truthful bits are only true for independent companies. If you work with BBC in-house, then, well….I dunno how that works. They seem to have different rules. Very different rules. I might rant about that one day)

Posted in Comedy | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Human Centipede Vs Slumber Party Massacre

Right so there’s this centipede. He’s called Arthur Pod. He hates his life, his job as a grape treader and the little room he rents from his Aunt Enna. Then one day a giant creature wielding a metal spade turns poor Arthur’s life upside down, literally. As he is falling among and back to the earth Arthur thinks “Here’s somebody who gets things done. A go-getter. A person in charge of their destiny.” So he sets off on a quest to become a human.

Ahh if only. If only.

The actual The Human Centipede’s finest moment was when you first saw the poster and thought “what is tha…..oh holy fuck!” That’s all it has. After that image there’s nothing left to threaten you with. It spunked it. No surprises, no shocks, no twists, nothing. And the remains don’t really constitute a film. But, fuck ye, if you must watch it…

Imagining centipedal combinations of your friends, colleagues and family will get you through the first fifteen minutes of dullness. Just don’t imagine all your friend’s mums in an ass-to-mouth line. I said don’t imagine the mums! Sake! You’re so disrespectful!

That should get you to the crazy scientist. Someone made a Christopher Walken out of grey, knotted pipecleaners and plonked it in Germany. Kristofer Volken. He’s great.

But he’s in an episode of Casualty. Honestly, Saturday telly is gorier. And boasts more “oooooh what’s going to happen?” If that rusting drainpipe on the school gable end falling on the granny picking up litter could cause gross-out torture and vague comedy then you’d have no need to see The Human Centipede.

Fuck it, you’ve no need anyway. Look at the poster again. Get creeped out. That’s yer whack.

SO THANK GOODNESS FOR BOOBS

Calm down. It’s okay. Slumber Party Massacre is written by a woman and directed by a woman. Which means that the boobs are totally guilt-free. Well done women. Thanks.

Boobs aside (which is a scene in Human Centipede 2) Slumber Party Massacre is a riot of a Halloween rip-off. Escaped maniac. Girls in houses of an evening. Hilariously bad dorks. Jocks with endless jaws. Killing. Lots of killing. Good jump scares, a couple of show-off shots to smile at and a handful of drill-related slaughterings that deserve a wee round of applause.

There’s only one real issue…. a murderer in a denim outfit?

Really? Denim jacket and jeans? Is that what women writers and directors find scary?

Okay he has a big drill. A big penile drill. But the killer is mincing and twee. Salt’n’pepper hair. A dancer’s shuffle as he creeps forward. Like one of the cast of Cats. “The Magical Massacre Mistofelees. His drill leaves a big Macavity in your chest.” He either humps the film or makes it that extra bit special. I can’t work it out.

But Slumber Party Massacre II is now on the list for next Gubbins Night. Definitely.

Posted in Horror | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Story of Chocolate

You’ve only gone and invented a new chocolate!

How amazing is that? A delicious, deep and agreeable treat that, though fresh and exciting, feels like the kind of thing any chocolate-lover would be eager to try. And who knows, it might just grow to become the nation’s favourite chocolate. But first you need some help.

So along you trot to the country’s biggest chocolate producer. Having sent some samples and sycophantically discussed how great their chocolate is, sweet-talked them if you will, you finally get to meet somebody in charge. Let’s call them Joy. And, calm-your-beating heart, Joy likes your chocolate!

Being the expert that Joy is, she knows it’s not perfect. She suggests a couple of changes. Some of these suggestions are intended to improve the quality of the chocolate, others to make it more appealing to the public. After working on the chocolate by yourself for so long, this input is like gold dust. Here is a person who deals exclusively in chocolate. They’ve developed and created some of the best-loved chocolate over the years. They really know chocolate. And they really want to make yours.

How excited are you? All that hard work, all that massaging of crazy ideas, all those ingredients that needed balancing. And now, thanks to a combination of your own talent and the intelligent mentoring of a leading authority on chocolate, you are on the brink of unleashing your creation on the world.

There’s only one thing.

For reasons that no-one can quite explain, this giant company, this behemoth that makes most of the country’s chocolate, operates what they call a “two tick system”. Your chocolate expert Joy has a boss. Let’s call them Jonah. And no matter how enthusiastic, how berserk, how damned sure Joy is about your chocolate, nothing happens until Jonah rubberstamps it. And Jonah is not an expert in chocolate.

You see…. the company makes more than simply chocolate. Much more. Consequently, Jonah is in charge of a lot of departments, all with their own Joys, all trying to convince Jonah of their favourite projects.

But poor Jonah can’t be an expert in everything. That’s not his job. He might dislike chocolate. He may only enjoy one particular style of chocolate. Whatever. The bottom line is that the system demands he give a “second tick” to any project before it can go ahead, no matter how convinced his departmental experts are.

And guess what? Jonah doesn’t like your chocolate. Sorry

You feel betrayed. You and the head of the chocolate department both worked hard on the chocolate. You both had complete confidence in it. It was a winner. Joy might even whisper that her boss is a no-nothing-dick. But no matter what they call their “two tick system” it’s still a “single tick system”. Jonah has the only tick that matters, and you didn’t get that tick.

Bye bye.

Of course, you now have four choices.

  • Get a new job.
  • Stick your chocolate in a drawer and wait for the day when Jonah is replaced.
  • Take your chocolate elsewhere, but having a chocolate turned down by the biggest supplier is like having a green-nostrilled child sneeze on it.
  • Ditch that chocolate, develop another and start the process again.

And that’s a story of how chocolate is made.

Actually…..what an idiot….no it’s not. Sorry. Here, do this….

Posted in Comedy | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Amok Train

Right, here’s what I am looking for. I want a horror film that rivals the genius that is Gymkata. I am aware that no other film could have anything as spectacular as the poor, aged extra in this clip getting leathered by a horse.

Go on watch it again. I did. And again.

But there must be some horror movie out there that comes at least close to the…What? What’s that you say?

A batshit Italian film shot in Yugoslavia with American actors? Yes please!

And it’s a completely unrelated sequel to the Beyond The Door films? I’m there!

A virgin with a horned birthmark worrying about her college classmates liking her as she is led by a creepy professor on a trip to batshit forest? Elderly Eastern European villagers dressed in black, each and every one of them uniquely ugly? And they’re knocking stones together in a creepy and batshit way? Sign me the fuck up!

What? The students then escape a pointless fire, a potentially plot-destroying, film-ending fire for no reason other than to get them onto a train so that it can, in turn, run amok? And you have your actual actors actually jumping onto the actual moving train? Wouldn’t those actual actors actually die if they actually mistimed their actual jumps? Oh, you actually don’t give a toss? Smashing. I’m double in!

A batshit monk who only plays a pennywhistle? A batshit thief girl who wears a leather flying helmet for no reason? A cheery conductor who isn’t really batshit but only hangs around long enough to explode like a Ribena Piñata? Sold and sold!

One of the students tearing her own face off? Live maggots stuck to the actors faces by big dollops of glue? One solitary slow-motion scene shot on utterly different stock from the rest of the film? Another student being cut in two by swinging chains, resulting in a wondrously batshit half-body dummy, replete with hanging entrails and a swivelling head? I couldn’t be more on board!

You have more? Model trains? Laughably batshit model trains? Explosions? The train going off-rail to plough through a swamp and behead a canoeing student? Bombs? Skewering torsos? A disregard for plot, dialogue and good old common sense? A cackling milky-eyed witch with back-combed hair and a penchant for reaching up the heroine’s skirt to check she’s still a virgin? Hook me up man. Hook a brother up!

And finally a floppy-fingered Satan in a glass David Blaine box?

You had me at “batshit”!

Posted in Horror | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Many A Mickle Makes a Chuckle



I thought you might be interested in how many people are employed in the making of a comedy show. Or maybe you couldn’t give a toss. Maybe you already know. Fair enough. I’ve been wrong in the past. Ten minutes in the past actually. I thought I had cleaned the grill pan to a satisfactory level. My girlfriend pointed out how very wrong I was.

Anyway, for this clip of Gary: Tank Commander….

You will need…

  • A Location Manager to find the location, which happens to be an OTC building. They also help organise the Unit, all the vehicles, catering, generators and drivers required to house and feed a crew of up to 40 for the day.
  • A Director of Photography to discuss with the Director where exactly to shoot, in this case operate the camera and light the scene.
  • A Focus Puller making sure the camera is in focus all the time. There’s also a Camera Assistant to carry all the gear.
  • A Lighting Gaffer and, on this day, one electrician. They place every light where the DoP wants them, careful not to overload the electricity supply. For this shot they also lay the track for the camera and push it along.
  • Someone from Make Up to apply then maintain that smashing tan under the heat of the lights
  • Someone from the Wardrobe Dept has to be there to provide the uniform and make sure it looks the same in every shot.
  • A Sound Dept consisting of a Boom Operator and his boss the Sound Recordist who constantly mixes what is recorded.
  • A Stand-by Art Director and Stand-by Props to ensure the background is nice and pretty. They are working underneath the Production Designer who designs the entire series. The Art Dept also has a Prop Buyer and an Art Director, as well as a few Set Builders.
  • A Script Supervisor to watch that Greg doesn’t miss any of his lines. Normally, they also watch continuity between shots, but as this is one shot, that’s not required.
  • A 1st Assistant Director to run the shoot, making sure all the departments are working to the schedule so that all the monologues we need to shoot that day actually get shot.
  • A 2nd Assistant Director who administrates each day’s schedule and ensures that Greg is ready to be shot when the crew are ready to shoot.
  • A 3rd Assistant Director who assists the 1st AD on set, picking Greg up in the morning, running about assisting whoever needs it, and hassling council workmen who want to do some pneumatic digging outside.
  • A Production Manager and various production staff to watch the budget, hire everyone and everything, fix all the Director’s problems and, most importantly, book the wrap party venue.
  • You will need someone to write the script. Greg wrote all the monologues for the show, although this particular one was made up on the day. Greg, the Producer, the Script Editor and I discussed some ideas 2 minutes before, then Greg sat down, everyone pressed rec&play and he made it up as he went along.
  • An Editor to trim the start and end, using the notes the Script Supervisor has prepared. Then they add the onscreen text.
  • A Colourist tweaks it to look a little bluer and give it a vignette.
  • A Dubbing Mixer cleans the dialogue and matches the sound level of the rest of the show.
  • You’ll need me, the Director. Although to be fair, I’m just the monkey dancing on the organ.
  • And Greg to say the words.

I won’t bother with all the accountants, commissioners, lawyers, executives, technical staff and general office people required to do their bit for the show. It might take the count into the hundreds.

So there you are. All these people working hard for less than a minute of what I hope is funny. If it’s not then you know who to blame. All these other people.

Okay, if you have any other questions I’ll be at the sink scrubbing a grill pan.

Posted in Comedy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Laughter Tracks are Great

Ever used the phrase “canned laughter” when discussing modern television comedy?

Then you’re a pie. Yes, a pie.

Ever complained about shows having a laughter track, perhaps because you don’t need to be told where and when to laugh, or because there’s no way that anyone could find this show funny? Then you are also a pie.

Laughter tracks are great. Here’s why.

Laughing is a social event. When I am alone it takes a Conan-the-Barbarian-esque hero of a joke to make me laugh. If I am in good, joyous company, I’ll laugh at any old pish. Laughter is infectious. Try watching comedy with friends. It’s fun.

Laughter makes the show feel warm and inviting. Come and enjoy some merriment with us. Everyone’s here. Join in. Why do you think that most mainstream entertainment shows have an audience? From quizzes like Millionaire, to shiny floor shows like Strictly, X Factor, then Harry Hill, Graham Norton, QI, blah blah. All of these shows would work without an audience. The content would be near identical. And it would be cheaper to do without an audience. So why have one? And why record/transmit their reactions? Think on.

Back to comedy shows. Here’s something from Graham Linehan (either from his blog or Twitter I forget/can’t find which). I’m going to embolden it.

Knowing there will be a laughter track makes writers write jokes.

Simple. They have to put enough good jokes in to make the live audience laugh out loud. And keep laughing. And this applies doubly if it is studio-based; acted and recorded in front of a live studio audience (that sounds familiar). Who wants to leave comic actors blethering through a couple of pages of dialogue without a joke? A idiot, that’s who.

So, shows with laugh tracks tend to have more jokes. A good thing no? IF “no” THEN GOTO fuckyersel.

And as we are talking about studio comedy, there is little in life as sweet as watching a performer timing his/her delivery along with an audience’s laughter. One laugh suddenly becomes many. What should be a two second joke becomes a minute-long masterpiece. These hilarious extra pauses and looks and tweaks only exist because there are actors in front of an audience.

Selfishly, I love the nights when we record audience laughs. I write to tell jokes. I direct to tell jokes. I want people to laugh at these jokes. My loft does not boast a creaking pirate’s chest overflowing with scripts I was happy enough to write but am scared to let loose. Fuck that. No one has ever laughed at a joke in a drawer. They’ve never hated a joke in a drawer either but hey, grow a dick. Which makes an audience night amazing. It’s exciting. You get to watch people laugh at your jokes. Hear them laugh. There’s no waiting for viewing figures, or the scribbling of critics, or the phonecall from your mum. The response is immediate and honest. Beautiful.

Which also helps with the final editing process. After filming, most shows have too much material and an audience night is as harsh and helpful a guide to what I should “mark in, mark out, extract” as I could want. Wheat/chaff and all that.

There are a couple of other reasons, like how the sound of laughter helps smooth out picture edits, but that’s enough. I was bored of the argument before I started. And I’ve exhausted my monthly quota of “laughter”, “show” and “audience” usage.

If you want to add your own reasons feel free.

Oh, and I know there are great shows without laughter tracks. I’m not a pie.

Posted in Comedy | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments

My Name is Region, For We Are Many.

I live somewhere. Outside this very house is somewhere. No, honest, I can see it out my window. Somewhere. An actual place.

So why doesn’t comedy?

Remember that Executive Comedy Editor for Commissioning Editor Executives? Well, at a comedy briefing someone from the audience asked why there were so few comedies with regional accents. He replied that….Actually, fuck that, I was going to skirt round it…but fuck it.

Here’s what actually happened. Last year, Scotland produced three opt-out comedy shows. Opt-out is when a BBC region broadcasts a different show from the rest of the country. It’s why every non-Welsh rugby fan scours the multi-channels looking for BBC Wales, where they can see Scrum V. So anyway, there’re these 3 comedies that Scottish punters got to see that the rest of Britain, iPlayer aside, did not. On the whole, the audience received these comedies kindly. Some loved them, some hated them, but they were successful enough to get second serieseses. So far, so fuck.

Well, at this briefing, a brave soul asked why network BBC didn’t broadcast these shows? Any of them? Even as a cheapo repeat? On any network BBC channel?

Here’s the pisser…Apparently, according to the visiting TV Tsar, there are people “in the south” who are turned off by the accents. They just won’t watch. They find it hard to understand. He tittered that Fawlty Towers would never have been made if everyone in it spoke like Manuel.

My, my, how fucking droll!

Ignoring the offensive parallel between regional accents and a comedy foreigner who can barely speak English, this scaredy cat spectacularly missed the point.

Actually placing a comedy somewhere adds flavour. The accents, the references, the attitude, the backdrop, the swearing, the history, the slaggings, the stereotypes…All these things make this somewhere, although different, an actual somewhere like my very own somewhere. Which makes me love it a little more.

Obviously you can have comedy set nowhere. It’s not obligatory. Who the fuck am I to say that every comedy should be set somewhere? But the only people who are against it, actively frightened of something from somewhere seem to be those at the top. Isn’t that a rusty pipe to the teeth?

Recently, off the top of my head and avoiding sketch shows, we’ve had…

  • Benidorm
  • Big Top
  • Coming of Age
  • FM
  • Gavin and Stacey
  • Getting On
  • How Not To Live Your Life
  • Krod Mandoon
  • Last of The Summer Wine
  • Lead Balloon
  • Miranda
  • Moving Wallpaper
  • My Family
  • No Heroics
  • Not Going Out
  • Outnumbered
  • Peep Show
  • Plus One
  • Psychoville
  • Pulling
  • Rab C Nesbitt
  • Reggie Perrin
  • Rev
  • The Gemma Factor
  • The Inbetweeners
  • The IT Crowd
  • The Life of Riley
  • The Old Guys
  • The Thick of It
  • Two Pints of Lager

There are some works of genius on that list. There are some shows that boast some lovely accents on that list. And, yes, there are a couple on that list that really do feel like they exist somewhere. But slap me sideways and call me Barbara if there aren’t too many nowheres on that list.

Or maybe I’m just getting old and miss hearing about Partridge’s Norwich. And Trotter’s Peckham, And Arkwright’s Balby. And Fawlty’s Torquay. And the Likey Lad’s Newcastle. I even miss the imaginary Walmington on Sea, Slade Prison, Craggy Island and Slough.

Naah fuck that. I want a new Geordie, Irish, Scouse, Yorkshire, Brummy, Welsh, Cornish, Bristolian, Cockney, Essex boy, Lancashire comedy. Any will do please.

UPDATE – Thanks to the media mastermind that is @gusman, I found out about this piece on yesterday’s BBC News website. It would seem that Jana Bennett, BBC director of television is linked to me telepathically.

Posted in Comedy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments