This is a tale of how I had a parody concept for a song, being performed on a stage in London, with a co-writing credit and I didn't discover that for two weeks after the first performance, as I didn't read my e-mail carefully enough.
NewsRevue claims to be London's longest running comedy show. For over forty years, for several nights a week, four talented performers, plus equally talented directors and musical directors, act out a series of topical sketches, one-liners and songs. It's a grand night out, at their home, The Canal Café, in Little Venice, London and I would recommend anyone who loves comedy to go. A lot of very talented people have been involved. Go look.
NewsRevue, run an open submission policy (i.e. they welcome material from any comedy writer for consideration). A peer, colleague and friend on The News Dump, suggested that I should send some material in. This was while we were swapping a few rejected gags for radio shows we have been writing for, this is becoming a weekly ritual. So I sent some examples of what I can do to NewsRevue, they got back to me and invited me onto their writers list. It was suggested I go see the show to get the feel/flavour of what they do, so one night in late October I did just that. I was mightily impressed, with the structure and the energy of the performers.
One aspect I particularly liked about the show was the use of music and I pretty much decided that could be a potential outlet for myself. I've always enjoyed song as a way of getting a comedy idea over. In the days of MP3 Players and iPods my device was full of Rambling Sid Rumpole, Bernard Cribbins and a whole host of other comedy songs, some by artists we are still allowed to mention. A week later, The General Election was called and whilst out walking our dog, contemplating the horror of a Conservative landslide, I just could not get Robbie William's "Rock DJ" out of my head, except I had this idea for "Stop BJ", "BJ" being none other than current 'lovable' (at the time of writing) Prime Minister Boris Johnson. I started writing that afternoon and listening to the original song , several times, to get the timing right. After a couple of hours it was done and I sent it to the then NewsRevue Director, Alex Dowling. To my surprise, Alex very kindly responded (because he is a jolly nice chap) saying they would have a look at it and suggested some presentation formats that would help them (that could actually be an instructional blog piece in itself). I heard no more and just assumed that it wasn't quite right for them……………however.
Each week, The Canal Café send out the running order for the show to the writers. I quickly skimmed, my next e-mail and "Stop BJ" wasn't on the list and I just consigned it to the 'Rejected Pile'. When I received the following weeks e-mail I barely looked at it, as I had sent nothing new in, but failed to notice "Rock BJ" and a co-writing credit alongside Musical Director Chris Thomson. Another week and another 'quick scan' and this time I did notice my name.
I stared at the screen. I called my wife's name, with the tone of shock and bewilderment that I haven't had since I accidentally won nine-hundred pounds on an online bingo game in 2009 (now that is another story, but it will probably appear in Episode Four of my, as yet to be commissioned BAFTA award winning situation comedy). It was then I looked back through my e-mails and discovered that the song had actually been in the set the previous two weeks! With only one performance of the show, with the current directors and cast left, I called the Canal Café on Saturday evening, who very kindly sorted a writers complimentary ticket for the next night and twenty four hours later I found myself in Little Venice, sitting at a table waiting to see "Something Humorous I Wrote" . I got to speak to Alex before the show and it turns out the cast and the directors liked the concept, took my idea, made it snappier, used some of my words and added some more. The result was in the show. My first stage writing credit was born.
I've not experienced seeing any of my material being performed live before and to see how it was treated in the hands of professional performers was as much of a joy as hearing the positive reaction of the audience to the piece. Knowing I was partly responsible for their laughter is a great feeling and yes it is addictive.
The show was just as funny as the one I saw four weeks previous. Material is cycled in and out constantly to keep it fresh.
So a big thank you to Director Alex Dowling, the cast, Dylan Allcock, Lucy Gape, William Ross-Fawcett (who was a brilliant Boris) & Fiona Sherlock, but especially to Musical Director Chris Thomson, who did a fabulous job of moulding my original concept and making it a workable presentable piece.
So there it is. My first stage performance credit. Another personal landmark in what is turning out to be a very surreal year as I (finally) have a go at writing professionally…now back to my yet to be commissioned BAFTA awarding winning situation comedies, oh and writing for "Breaking The News"
Something happened today. My 100th piece on The News Dump was published. It's here if you are interested.
My The News Dump journey started one Saturday afternoon back in April, when, just nine days after I finally decided I would pursue my desire to be a writer full time, I joined The British Comedy Guide (BCG) as a "pro" member. My motivation was to seek opportunities in the comedy writing world, whilst I was getting my script ready for a BBC submission window and the opportunities section of BCG provides just that for its members. So at 1:30pm on that Saturday I paid for my annual membership; by 2pm I saw that "The News Dump" were looking for writers and by 2:45pm I sent them an e-mail with an example of what I could do (I doubled checked those times with the e-mail trail……I used to be a Quality Assurance Professional you know).
Monday morning there was an e-mail from The News Dump's creator and founder Adam Hunt, inviting me to chat a week later. I looked him up. He has quite an impressive CV. To cut a very long story short. One week later I was in and on the roster.
My first piece went live on the 16th April, it was a piece on the Notre Dame fire with a "Love It or List It" angle and since then I've covered….. well go look for yourselves. We live in 'fascinating' times and I thank my lucky stars every time Johnson, Corbyn, Farage, Trump, Rees-Mogg and the host of other Inadequates in power (elected and inherited) open their mouths. Researching the background to these people is fascinating. I encourage you all to do that for yourselves. As a consequence, my association with The News Dump has made me far more politically aware and informed, probably more than I have ever been.
Apart from giving myself an outlet for my "Comedy Muscles" as I call them, The News Dump has given me much more. I've met and come into contact with some fabulous writers, all doing what I'm doing, most are far more advanced in their careers than I am and I've learned a lot just by watching them. Writing can be a lonely business, but it's never felt that way for me because of the daily virtual contact and the amazing support of my peers. The News Dump has also given me the opportunity (and confidence) to spread my wings, in other areas. Firstly, through its sister venture "White Label Comedy" (I wrote more about that here when WLC very kindly profiled me back in September), but also indirectly by learning from the other contributors about different outlets (e.g. BBC Scotland's 'Breaking The News', Pitch, Comedy Wire, Write Label and Maida Vale's excellent live show NewsRevue).
So thank you The News Dump. I'm one hundred not out and just getting going and if anyone else reading this is thinking about going "Pro" on their British Comedy Guide account, all I can say is that after seven months as a member, it has actually paid for itself many (I'm not saying how many), times over.