Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Oddly moving...

I had a look at the fan page for Ken Campbell this afternoon. As I've come to expect one of my photos of Ken performing for my stag do in 1997 was there. He's wearing a T-shirt I made for him as a silly thank you. I then scrolled through a few more photos and found him wearing the same T-shirt in the last run of photos there about 10 years later.
Still a hero. Still barging unbidden into dreams. Still moving me to laughter and tears.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Going for the Jocular

A very interesting day today, if a long one. Up at 6am, out the house at 7, not home 'til just before midnight, a train, a taxi and 9 hours on National Express coaches entirely populated by bronchial tributes to Ratso Rizzo from Midnight Cowboy in the middle. The reason for all this being that there comedy writing masterclass with David Mitchell at Broadcasting House in the afternoon.

There were 15 of us there, selected from 900 or so applicants apparently, and I was pleased to find myself sitting by another of Gill Isles' protégées quite by chance,
The afternoon, which focused on sketch writing, broke down into an illustrated talk on types of funny from Gareth Edwards, the BBC's head of radio comedy, a discussion between Gareth and David (resplendent in a range of complementary browns from the Colour Me Autumnal range and quite as nice a chap as you'd hope) followed by questions from the group, a mock writer's meeting for a topical sketch show involving us all, and a little ever so slightly stilted socialising at the end.

All pretty good fun and useful too, though I'm not sure the mock meeting was an entirely comfortable part of proceedings for most of us, because a) we hadn't known it was happening in advance and were thus unprepared, and b) we seemed to be mainly shy solo writers rather than habitual team writers with shared history that would have allowed us to bounce ideas around more easily. Possibly the slightly stilted socialising should have happened first,
I was gobbier than I needed to be in this part of proceedings to compensate for finding it awkward, for which I apologise if you were one of the others present. It was either that or clam up entirely.
I got homework from this bit for my pains, so that'll teach me, and have had to buy a copy of OK magazine for research on the way home. I felt soiled.
I concealed it as best I could in a copy of the new Doctor Who Magazine which I perversely feel is a more acceptable public purchase and then read that on the way home instead. There's a piece by Andrew Pixley on the 60s Dalek series that nearly was in there, which is great if you like that kind of thing, and I definitely do.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

A Tale of Two Mitchells

A good day.

Firstly, I ran further, faster and longer than I did on Monday. I'm inching slowly back towards the fitness level I was at a year ago, before I piled on a depressingly large amount of weight in a hilarious typing at great length and drinking to get to sleep afterwards experiment.

Secondly, documentary producer Paul (who I'm meeting in sunny Bradford tomorrow) has made an exciting little breakthrough on the Bill Mitchell documentary.

Thirdly, I've been invited to a comedy writing masterclass with David Mitchell next week.

I'm particularly pleased about the third because it came from sending off three sketches written on spec to the BBC Writersroom in a day or two in February. No attached rubric, no CV, just the sketches.

Comedy is incredibly easy to fail at, all it requires to be bad comedy is someone not being amused. A drama can actually get by quite well and be considered a moderate success without extracting any noises from the audience, jokes don't survive so well on rapt silence (so if you're ever amused in a comedy audience please remember a hundred wry knowing smiles sounds like death but a giggle's a victory).

So it's a genuine comfort to get even slight approval from strangers and know someone somewhere in the BBC finds me moderately amusing and I might even be allowed a go at jokes on the radio again one day.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Chevron and Fanfare

So farewell then the Yorkshire TV studios on the Kirkstall Road, Leeds.
My inlaws saw Countdown there, it did make them happy.
I spent a few happy times there myself. Oh the sights I saw- the scene dock doors from which Dusty Bin still beamed down like the residing Numen of the place, the monthly update of the caption at the end of the Catherine Cookson obituary, mechanical advert cart carousels, grumpy continuity announcers, the empty studios graced by Rag Dolly Anna, Hadleigh, those two ladies off Farmhouse Kitchen, Miriam Stoppard, Rob Buckley and Magnus Pyke and the one truly great ITV sitcom Rising Damp, the URSA telecine suite, the archive full of unseen extra Whicker in Haiti and Yellowthread Street, wonders unimaginable.
Here it was that Whiteley was bitten by a ferret and made for life. Here there was once a village called Beckinsdale. Here Jess Yates stole chunks of sets from The Main Chance to make Stars on Sunday look better. Here Rory told the Kwackers his stories. Here Junior Showtime troubled camera crews more than it should. Here Les Dawson and John Cleese bridged the Oxbridge/Clubland divide.
Yorkshire was never quite the ITV company Baverstock dreamed of, but it deserves our respect for what it was.

Message in a Bottle

Dear Pughs,

Hi, hope you're well. In about 1992 you lived in the Bowden Court halls in central Manchester. You may recall we went to the Ozric Tentacles gig at the International II which Google suggests was probably on the 23rd of November 1991 (when the Universe was less than half its present size and Doctor Who was only 33 years old). After the gig I seem to recall you talked a fair amount about Tom Lehrer, Professor Colin Blakemore, the Liberal Democrat Party, and played us some Scott Walker, 13th Floor Elevators and quite possibly some KLF or Orb related ambient bits and pieces all rather nicely mixed on the fly in your flat.

Obviously, at that time we both hung out a bit at the Grot bar, and I believe it was there that I lent you my copy of the collected Watchmen, signed by Alan Moore and David Gibbons.
Not signed to me, just signed. I didn't know them so it seemed silly somehow, sillier even than queuing at Odyssey 7 book shop for the book to be signed anonymously. I didn't really get the idea of autographs then, as you can tell. I just wanted to see the men who'd done it and be grateful in front of them.

Anyhow, I know I said when I lent it you that I was in no rush for its return, but I do quite fancy another look at it now if you've finished reading it.
How have the last seventeen and a bit years treated you?

All the best


Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Writing Exercise

I’m running again, which is almost exactly like writing in a number of respects:

It doesn’t need half the specialist equipment some people make on.

You spend ages putting off doing it.

You spend a lot of time warming up beforehand and warming down afterwards, some of this is actually slightly different to the whole putting off thing.

It’s actually a little unpleasant to do and particularly unenjoyable at the beginning.

Even though it hurts it does begin to be fun in a perverse way while you’re doing it.

You get more from if you’ve got targets in mind, and can measure your achievements against those.

It’s often easier to do if there’s someone observing you from a little way off making you feel guilty if you stop.

You do get better with practise but it never stops being particularly unenjoyable at the start.

You often feel a pleasant sense of achievement when you stop and look back at what you’ve done, although quite soon you’ll be beginning to pick away at yourself, analysing how exactly you’ve been deficient in your performance.

It always takes longer to do than you think.

The main difference is that running doesn’t seem to make you quite as fat as writing.

And on we jog.