You may think this is just another end of the year, self-congratulatory post, but you would be correct. I’m fairly certain this has been my most successful year to date as a comedy writer and producer and if you think I think it makes for an interesting read, you would be correct again.
The backbone of my year has consisted of writing jokes for New Zealand’s two highest rating TV comedy shows, comedy game show 7 Days and late night talk show Jono and Ben. I only wrote for the last three episodes of the year on the latter, but I’ve been a big fan of the show since I first came across it, so I was very excited to contribute.
This year we made 36 episodes of 7 Days and it was the third year I’ve written for the show. Even though the stress occasionally aggravates my psoriasis and my relationship, I love being in the weekly grind of writing for a topical comedy show.
For the second year in a row on 7 Days, I won the Top Overall Spec Writer award for getting the most number of jokes on air out of the show’s 34 writers. (The producers count the number of jokes we get on and we are paid accordingly). Sometimes it’s hard living in Melbourne and writing for a New Zealand show, because I would love to meet some of the other phenomenal writers on these shows. I’m especially grateful to people like Josh Samuels and Sam Smith, who helped get me the job on 7 Days in the first place, as well as Ed Caruthers, who was so generous with his advice when I was a baby writer on the show.
I’ve always felt a little ashamed of loving the one-liner form and trying to figure out how to write the funniest ones I can. In the comedy community of Australia, I feel there is a social stigma that one-liners are somehow not as worthy as a half hour sitcom or a 5minute episode of a webseries. In film school, nobody ever told me that one-liners could pay my rent. But for the last three years, that’s exactly what’s happened. No one is more surprised than I am. In a search for role models – people who have primarily built their careers by writing in the one-liner form – I’ve had to look overseas. A few months ago, I reached out to Bob Hope’s former head writer, Gene Perret, whose comedy writing books were a major source of inspiration when I first started to learn how to write comedy. This is an extract from his response:
It sounds as though you’re doing things right. Working for two high-rated comedy shows is a good beginning for any career. It’s also encouraging to hear that you enjoy the work so much. That can be a big part of it, although there will come those times when you’ll have to make an effort to be funny when things may not go so pleasantly. It’s all part of being a professional writer.
Be proud of being a one-line writer. People love to laugh and they relish the people who make them laugh. Enjoy it.
It meant a lot that he took the time to reply and further helped liberate me from the counterproductive feelings of inferiority I sometimes get when I hear about comedy writers who are working in longer forms of the genre.
One thing I ticked off the bucket list this year was producing a festival show, two in fact – one at the Melbourne Comedy Festival and another at Melbourne Fringe. They were both sketch comedy shows. Having achieved what I set out to achieve, after Fringe I decided to part ways with the sketch group. A month after the fact, I found out that a funding proposal I had helped compose in order to secure some funding to make some sketches for the group’s YouTube channel had been successful. So the first time I’m successful as a producer at securing a decent sized grant from a funding body and I don’t even get to make the thing!!! Never-the-less, I’m excited to see what they make.
Some other fun comedy-related things I did this year included writing jokes for some stand up comedians’ acts for the first time, writing one-liners for a professional MC who runs one of the most successful sports night fundraising companies in the world, and starting a national one-liner comedy writing competition for high school students in New Zealand.
Viewing-wise, the shows I enjoyed watching the most this year were Mad As Hell, This Is Us, Better Call Saul and the ABC Fresh Blood entry The Angus Project. I also thought Tonightly with Tom Ballard showed promise, so I’ll be watching that will a keen eye when it returns on Jan 8.
In 2018, I’d love to keep writing jokes for NZ TV shows, as well as some closer to home. Producing-wise, I’ll have room for one or two more projects this year. Whatever those projects end up becoming, you can rest assured a live audience will feature in one if not both of them. There’s nothing like a live audience to bring out the best in everyone when you’re making a comedy.
Here’s a picture of me from earlier this month, with a scale replica of Steve Smith’s batting average.