• 01 Jul

    No Sex Please, We’re Creating: Gender and Equality in the Writers’ Room

    There was a bit of a hoo-ha recently when it was reported that ITV’s Head Of Comedy, Saskia Schuster has banned all-male comedy writing teams.

    Monty Python (L-R: Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Graham Chapman, Michael Palin, John Cleese)

    Monty Python (less Terry G) 1969: arguably the most famous comedy writing team ever. The Oxbridge graduates used to meet regularly upstairs at Soho’s famous Nellie Dean pub in Soho. Women need not apply.

    This lead to all sorts of misguided and unhelpful online outrage about men being marginalised so women could be fast-tracked into the British comedy industry, regardless of merit.

    Now, as anyone with even a Trump-sized brain knows, this is not discriminating against men. It’s a laudable attempt to redress the balance in what has historically been a male-dominated space.

    The Simpsons writers room

    The Simpsons writers’ room, early 90s. Note: the only female present is cardboard. And a baby.

    Writer and performer Brona C Titley offered this excellent response in The Guardian, which compelled me share my own experience of working in a comedy writers’ room.

    My sole experience is an odd one, and not much fun.

    I worked on a (thankfully) failed attempt to replicate a US late-night talk show for UK audiences. I spent several weeks trapped in a braying sausage fest, all white men, leftovers from Loaded magazine.

    My overriding memory is just how exhausting it was. All the banter about ‘fit birds’ and ‘’aving it large’ (whatever the fuck that means) turning to tedious white noise.

    Funny thing is, I was completely marginalised and ignored throughout the process even among ‘my own kind’, because I was the only one in the room who knew nothing about football and wasn’t a lad, thereby somehow invalidating my input.

    This wasn’t an awful experience because they were all white men, but because they were monstrous arseholes who happened to be white men. But the fact there was no diversity didn’t help.

    You gather together one type of ANYBODY in a room and the experience will nosedive pretty fast.

    I’ve had incredibly satisfying creative collaborations exclusively with white men, exclusively with white women, and with a diverse mix of talented people.

    Crucially, I’ve also had awful experiences working with all of the above.

    30 Rock starring Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin

    Tina Fey‘s brilliant 30 Rock, based on her own experiences as Head Writer in SNL.

    Equality and diversity should be encouraged in every endeavour; Titley’s article is bang on. It’s tragic we still even have to say this. But what irks me is that such dialogue in the public space often rapidly descends into identity politics. Which is a cop out.

    Monty Python, a lot of whose output has dated horribly, will always be a profound influence. As is Peter Cook and Peter Sellers. As is Jerry Seinfeld and Robin Williams. But I don’t admire them because they are all white men. But because their comedic brains resonate with me. Still do.

    The greatest thing about the greatest comedy is that it transcends class, race and gender.

    Alternatively, Fleabag, the best comedy I’ve seen in a long time, isn’t superb because Phoebe Waller-Bridge is a woman, it’s because she’s a phenomenal writer, actor and director. But thank God we live in times where she was given the opportunities to gift the world her brilliantly warped mind.

    Because, as Titley correctly asserts, everyone who works in the creative industry does so because they were given an opportunity.

    Fleabag on BBC Comedy

    Fleabag. Created and written by a hugely talented human. Who happens to be a woman.

    There is no doubt that diversity tends to birth infinitely more interesting work – IF the chemistry is there. And I think that’s crucial for me. That’s how you create your best work and ultimately, it’s the work that counts.

    Bottom line, I don’t really give a shit who is in the room with me as long as they bring something to the table.

  • 24 Jun

    The Fox in the Henhouse: Boris Johnson Will Be Our Prime Minister

    I continue to watch from across the old sea as my country collapses in on itself. Weird times. Strange days.

    Three years ago, when we had the chance to stop Brexit, we failed. Even those who canvassed so aggressively to leave looked as surprised as us ‘remoaners’ when the results came in. Gove, Johnson and Farage stumbled out, blinking into the morning light in utter bewilderment.

    They tapped into the anti-establishment malcontent, patriotic impotence and paranoid xenophobia that had been brewing among the British population following 2008’s banking crisis and years of subsequent austerity, and their barrage of bluster and bullshit actually convinced some people this might dig us out of whatever hole they perceived us all to be in. Well, look at us all now.

    LOOK. AT. US.

    We thought it was bad then. It’s a fantasist’s utopia compared to the toxic clown convention currently seeping amidst Whitehall today.

    Three years on since we cracked open the Hellmouth, unleashing all these foul demons, and Britain still festers as the punchline of a truly abysmal joke. But here’s the topper. A ridiculous, scheming oaf is set to rule Albion.

    We’re about to witness the keys to the Kingdom being handed over to a self-serving shaved ape who lacks the charm or grace to see that he lacks both charm and grace.

    A coiffured suet pudding whose existence is so rarified and exclusive, he equates human suffering with not having that fifth helping of Sasquatch steak and mermaid caviar.

    A conniving boar-bear chimera who mistakes stubborn tenacity for guiding principles, bare-faced mendacity for political acumen and cheap charisma for intellectual savvy.

    A fair-weather politician who switches his views and policies at the drop of his topper to manipulate whomever he is trying to either bully into submission or woo under the jizz-splattered sheets of his extra-marital bedchamber.

    To call him a swivel-eyed loon would be an insult to swivel-eyed loons; he is a dog chasing cars.

    He just wants to clutch his Golden Snitch, all consequences be damned. A glorified journalist with a nose for popular rhetoric and received opinion, which makes him more dangerous than the facade of public buffoonery might suggest.

    At some point in his bafflingly-fascinating life he decided to imitate his political idol Sir Winston ‘it’s complicated’ Churchill.

    He thought he could position himself as the determined British Bulldog, chugging down Blitz spirit as he bulldozes his way through to the hearts and minds of the people and into the hallway of Number Ten.

    After the Bus Debacle and the very public professional evisceration, we all thought he failed. Then This happened. He’s only gone and done it. He’s only gone and bloody done it.

    Despite all those lies, gaffs, tricks and blunders, it’s actually happening.

    The worst part? When this overgrown homunculus lumbers into the top job – which he inevitably will – he’ll feel utterly vindicated in his self conviction. That he was right all along. That he was destined to be Prime Minister.

    Fuck all you naysayers and fuck all your slandering, he proved them all wrong. He’s reached the top of the tree and you know he will only go down swinging. And all we can do is watch this unholy shitshow unfold in hideous realtime.

    There is nothing we can do except witness this monstrous arsehole take the reins and charge the stallions over the precipice.

    This is why I drink a lot of gin.

  • 25 May

    Excelsior! I’ve Signed a Deal to Write a Book About Stan Lee

    Hello world.

    I am thrilled to announce that I have been commissioned by Pen and Sword Books to write a shiny new book about Stan Lee.

    In case you didn’t know, Stan is one of the most important creative forces of the twentieth century. He helped shape pop culture as we know it. The cavalcade of flawed, multidimensional characters he co-created for Marvel Comics (including Spider-Man, X-Men, The Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Hulk and Black Panther) still resonate with millions across the globe.

    His work helped spawn the most successful film franchise of all time; the Marvel Cinematic Universe has collectively grossed nearly $20 billion – and counting. Not too shabby.

    On a personal note, Stan’s iconic work has been a constant in my life. From being an excitable kid prancing around the house in a Spider-Man costume and the hundreds of Marvel comics still gathering dust in my mum’s attic, to bunking off work to catch a 9am screening of the first Avengers film (sorrynotsorry Comedy Central) and now sharing these film with my son, his vibrant imagination continues to excite me no end.

    This is a dream come true for a grumpy ageing fanboy such as myself and I can’t wait to get stuck into the next chapter of my career.

    I’d like to offer my heartfelt thanks to Hannah George, Marc Burrows, Dave Jackson, Matt McAllister and Kate Bohdanowicz for their help in making this happen. Now all I’ve got to do is write the damn thing. Because as the Man says, with a small amount of power, comes a small amount of responsibility. Or something.

    More updates on this, including release dates, to follow. Watch this space.