New Sitcom, New Audience

By Dave Cohen

Independent Filmmakin How To TipsJust starting out in comedy? Writer and performer Dave Cohen reckons the rise of the audience sitcom showcase is good news for you.

For many years the only way to become a professional comedy writer was to win a place at Cambridge University. Join Footlights, watch your mates become performers and BBC producers, then just wait for the phone to ring.

I'm exaggerating of course - but now there are many more openings. Stand-up allows you to find out, almost instantly, if you can communicate 'funny'. If you hate performing, you can always write for a stand-up, or send sketches and one-liners to topical radio shows, set up your own live sketch show, make movies on YouTube, animate...

The one form it's been hardest for a new writer to learn on the job is sitcom. Every great show requires a brilliant script, brilliant characters, believable plots and loads of funny laugh-out-loud jokes. But even that's only half the story. Next you need a chemistry between your actors: then, something that when it airs catches perfectly the mood of the moment. If it's for an audience you have to hope the performance on the night translates into the edited TV programme (if there was a proven formula to make that happen then 80% of audience sitcoms would be hits). Finally, you have to hope your first episode doesn't go out the same time as England-Italy live in the World Cup Final.

Dave teaches 'Write the Sitcom, Sell the Sitcom', Raindance's hugely popular one day comedy writing course.

Take a look at Dave's full article here - on The British Comedy Guide where he goes on to cover Sitcom competitions, and looks at what makes a successful (and unsuccessful) entry.

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About The Author

Dave CohenDave Cohen has been writing and performing comedy for a living for more than 25 years. He was nominated for the Perrier Award in 1984, and co-founded the Comedy Store Players with Paul Merton and Mike Myers. He has written for dozens of radio and TV shows including ‘News Quiz’, ‘Sunday Format’, ‘Dead Ringers’ and ‘Spitting Image’. He is a regular writer on ‘Have I Got News For You’, and has written five series of his hit Radio 4 series ‘15 Minute Musicals’ – which this year won the Writers Guild Award for Best Radio Comedy Show.

He has been a regular writer on BBC1 sitcoms ‘Not Going Out’ and ‘My Family’, and has been asked to contribute to the new series of ‘Life Of Riley’. In 2001 he won the British Comedy Heritage Award for Best Comedy Writer, and currently has sitcoms in development with BBC1, Radio 4 and Channel 4.

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