I decided over Christmas 2007 that my New Year’s Resolution would be to submit material to The Comedy Unit, who were at that time accepting sketches for their monthly Rough Cuts night in Glasgow’s Stand Comedy Club. Actually, my resolution was not to merely send them material, but to have it accepted and performed. I also sent them some of the same sketches for a radio pilot they did in early 2008 entitled Giggedy/Jiggedy, but none made the grade.
Furthermore, I received an email from them advising me that there was no need to let them see the same material twice. I was a bit disheartened, at the immediate failure of this resolution, and it was another two years before I finally gave stand-up comedy a try instead. In this capacity, I have since met Chris Grady, who rejected my submissions, and told him how, when I wrote my very first attempts at stand-up comedy, this whole experience formed part of the basis of it. I felt it was foolish to attack a Scottish comedy institution so early in my fledgling career, though, and have never performed this stuff on stage. I did let Chris read it, after I’d spoken to him a few times, and am philosophical about it all – some stuff gets accepted, some gets rejected: that’s how it is. If your stuff isn’t deemed good enough, either they know nothing (like the company who turned down The Beatles), or you know nothing. You need the self-belief to persevere, or the self-awareness to focus on just trying again.
Or, like me, you can just be lazy and – having had a go – let it fall by the wayside and do something else instead [I wrote six drafts of a screenplay, adapted it into a full-length novel, and started stand-up]. Here, though, is the initial story, as written for the stage:
I sent a script to the BBC, and they sent it back with a list of books I should read about scriptwriting. //
I decided I wanted to be a comedy writer and sent a letter to that effect to the Comedy Unit. They replied and said I already am a great comedy writer, and with a scrawl like that had I thought about being a GP? //
I sent a few sketches to the Comedy Unit, and I immediately heard nothing back. //
I resubmitted the same material for another of their shows and they told me it was already under consideration – they were considering whether to bin it, or whether to bin it and then set fire to the building. //
They advised me there was no need for me to submit the same material twice, and that in my case even once was more than sufficient.
The bit about the BBC is also true, by the way. I was seventeen when I sent them something I had written, and although their response was largely helpful it was also kind of patronising, which made it funny.
After eighteen months attending and gigging at new material and new comedian nights, and watching a lot of professionals too, I saw a lot of the same topics cropping up. It felt like people at ground level would use the same targets as Boyle, Gervais, Carr – despite there being, to my mind, better and more relevant and deserving recipients of abuse. I found it very frustrating to hear so many jokes about Madeline McCann or Jade Goody, Greggs, Kerry Katona and Katie Price. So I did what I have always done, and what I think I do best – I took the piss out of it.
I’ve always written pantomimes and so-called cod pantomimes, making fun of the inconsistencies and absurdities that I perceive in fairytales and pantomimes I am working on (in the capacity of Stage Crew, most often). The plan, and it was a slow burner, was to develop a character act that would highlight and satirise all that I hate about comedy. After about a year, and with help from friends with their own production company, I wrote and we filmed “Jerry Generic.”
By this time – March 2012 – Rough Cuts had long ceased to exist as a club night, and was now firmly in the digital realm. Series one went out last Christmas, as a podcast series of six episodes. For series two, Chris was looking for new submissions and was kind enough to say he’d seen and enjoyed my short film. I was told that, if I could separate and supply the audio from it, he would happily include it alongside a lot of other new writers/performers, some of them becoming increasingly well-known. That was exceptionally flattering, and I made the necessary requests of the Production Attic, who own the audio/video copyright.
Thankfully, there was no problem ripping the audio. The only major change I suggested (**SPOILER ALERT**) was that we remove the sound effect of the hanging, and replace it with a single gunshot – I thought it would work better, and be easier to follow, aurally. You can decide for yourself.
My short film/sketch was included in episode four of series two of Rough Cuts, as produced under the banner of The Comedy Unit, and so – by clicking the link below – you can share with me the moment when a small part of me finally had a long-held ambition fulfilled.
I’m working, as I write this, on another short film and this one will be about music. I haven’t worked out the story yet, but I do have lines of dialogue and visual gags that make me laugh aloud when I read over the script after months of neglecting it. That’s my favourite thing of all, reading words you don’t remember writing and finding them hilarious. If I can make myself laugh, well, I’m a harsh judge. If I can make myself laugh, then hopefully there’s enough originality in my work to make it stand out on some level. If I can make myself laugh, I, at least, am entertained. Whether you laugh too, I can only hope. In the meantime, you can hear the audio version of “Jerry Generic” about twenty minutes into episode four of the “Rough Cuts” podcast.
Please check out the previous episodes too, there’s a lot of talent out there. 🙂