London Screenwriters' Festival

Send in the Clowns

Posted on: April 4th, 2011 by Anton 1 Comment

By Hayley McKenzie
4th April 2011

So maybe you write drama and you don’t want to write sitcoms or sketch shows, it just isn’t your thing? So you don’t need to know about writing comedy, right? Wrong!

Of course, you could claim that any drama is either a tragedy or a comedy and can’t be both, and it’s a fair point but I’d say that many of the best dramas (Shakespeare, Dickens, anyone?) use comedy and comic characters all the time and nothing’s changed.

So, if you want to write drama, especially in UK television, then you’ll probably need to be able to write comedy as well. Just look at the following dramas, all of which use comedy  – ‘Coronation Street’, ‘Hollyoaks’, ‘New Tricks’, ‘Casualty’, ‘Hustle’, ‘Misfits’, ‘Being Human’, ‘Monroe’, ‘South Riding’ – yes, I did say ‘South Riding’, did you see Mr Huggins and Bessie?

Some shows use it a lot but even those we’d consider to be fairly serious and dark almost always have characters who serve as light relief. If you want to write on ‘Casualty’ then you need to be able to write knock-about banter between paramedics Jeff and Dixie, if you want to write ‘Skins’, you’d better sharpen up your sarcasm and funny put-down one-liners.

It might be a brilliant wit (Monroe) or a clown (David in ‘Heartbeat’) but the chances are, you’re going to be writing comedy even if you never write a comedy show. So come to the Comedy Writers’ Festival, have fun and get good at writing comedy – you never know it might even turn out to be your ‘thing’!

Hayley McKenzie is an independent Script Editor who has developed comedy scripts with the likes of Paul Mendelson (‘My Hero’,’ So Haunt Me’, and Keith Lindsay (‘The Green Green Grass of Home’) and script edited on dramas  such as ‘Casualty’ (BBC1), ‘Blue Murder’ (ITV1) and ‘Hollyoaks’ (C4). Hayley runs script consultancy ‘Script Angel’. www.scriptangel.co.uk.

One Response

  1. Beth says:

    Good advice. Thanks. I am attending the festival mainly with an aim to improve my writing for sitcoms, and do a little networking (with any luck), but I also have three dramas on the go so I will be using all that I learn this weekend to help those projects along too.
    Thanks, Beth

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