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Hello, on Tuesday it’s Topical cream time again. This month we’ve got Pippa Evans, Ruth Bratt, Holly Burn, Stephanie Jory, Ben Champion, Joe Wells, Kate Smurthwaite and MORE all jumping around and squashing the news into new and exciting shapes for your viewing pleasure.

So here are ten more reasons why you should hie yourself down to the Vandella for 7:30 on Tuesday evening…

  1. Louise Mensch, Tom Watson, Boris, Ken, Egg Miliband, the omnishambles, there is just SO MUCH NEWS!
  2. We’ve only gone and bloody got Audrey Hepburn to perform for you. For one night only, she’s going to stop being dead and come to perform to you. Audrey bumming Hepburn!
  3. There’s going to be an actual celebrity guest, revealed tomorrow. To find out who, follow @tcreamshow on Twitter, and you’ll be the first to know.
  4. There will be competitions.
  5. There will be music.
  6. There will be love and romance. Let’s come to Topical Cream and dance (when invited to by the performers).
  7. It will be new, full of stuff that’s never been performed before, unlike anything you’ve ever seen before, and it’s all yours on a Tuesday night.
  8. Somehow, we’re going to top al-Qaeda Supergrass, but no one knows how, yet. Come and find out.
  9. Impress your friends by reciting the jokes the next day, and pretend you’re both well-informed and hilarious.
  10. You can win free tickets! If you RT or share information about the gig on Facebook, you’ll be entered into a draw to win FREE tickets. Amazong!

Details are here.

Book a ticket, then go spread the word…

One of the things you missed last night if you didn’t make it along to Topical Cream was out mature and thoughtful take on the story of the al Qaeda supergrass. So, I recorded it for you, and here it is.

And these were the lyrics which are almost completely indistinct on that recording:

We are young. We’ve got bombs. We’re ambivalent about the ongoing massacre in Homs. Kill the West, the Israelites. We’re Shi-ites.

[I then explained at length that I was aware that al-Qaeda is an almost universally Sunni movement]

We get up. Out of bed’n. Start to plan Armageddon. Check our shoes. Book our flights. We’re probably not Shi’ites.

Are we like you? We can’t be sure. But you country’s corrupt, and your women are whores.

Yes we are young. We love thrills. We’ve got teeth, full of cyanide pills. Bomb your friends. Bomb the sights. Bomb Shi-ites.

And not only did you miss that satirical blinking masterpiece, you missed Darren Strange, Nadia Kamil, Hils Barker, Ruth Bratt, Sir Ian Bowler, Jake Yapp, David Trent, Michael Legge & John Voce, and ME. You also missed us openly speculating about the final sexual fantasies of the sailors on the Belgrano, a rap about smear tests, and some actual footage of a pooing man.

Do better next month. May 8th, the Vandella.

Be there.

(Pippa Evans, Joe Wells, Ruth Bratt, Ben Champion, and Holly Burn will)

BBC Broadcasting House, Portland Place at the ...

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It’s a sad fact that despite having written sketches, plays, online series, and actual half-hour sitcoms that were broadcast on the television and everything, the thing which has most excited my parents was getting credited on The News Quiz. There is no prouder moment for a middle-class parent than when their child is writing additional material for Sandi Toksvig. Providing them with grandchildren pales into insignificance when your name is read out in the 6:30 slot on Radio 4.

And when I say ‘my parents’, I mean ‘me’. It was great fun: a furious whirl of reading papers, trying to squash the news into something vaguely amusing, and saying “Can anyone think of anything that rhymes with Andrew Lansley?”

It was exhausting and pressurised, having to produce joke after joke about occasionally abstruse economic stories, but it was also exhilarating. It was a real thrill to sit in the BBC Radio Theatre and listen to the show be recorded, hearing the instant reactions of the audience to the jokes that made it into the script. And to get to be in a Green Room with Jeremy Hardy.

Topical comedy is difficult and draining because yesterday’s brilliant joke is, today, a reference nobody understands. The fact that it dates so quickly means that there’s a huge appetite for new material, which also tends to mean that there are opportunities for newer writers, some of which I’ll list here.

Topical comedy was my way into writing comedy, it allowed me to develop my skills, hone characters, learn a lot about how to craft a joke, and get paid (a little bit) whilst doing it. If you write a good topical joke or sketch there are lots of places you could try to sell it, and you’ve a better chance as a newcomer than in almost any other field.

Stage Shows – Both The Treason Show and News Revue have open submissions policies and pay for anything they use. They won’t pay a lot and it will take a while for the money to arrive, but if it is funny and you send it to them, they are very likely to use it. Then: congratulations, you’re a professional comedy writer!

The Treason Show also holds meetings for its writers where (if you are Brighton-based) the director will tell you what they are looking for. It is well-worth going along to one or the other show to see what sorts of things work and don’t work, if you can make it.

These two shows provide a great apprenticeship in topical comedy. The first sketch I was ever paid for I sold to News Revue, and if one of the two shows doesn’t like your sketch you can always send it to the other. If the worst comes to the worst you can do what I did and become a writer-performer, get cast in the shows, and then refuse to go on unless they use your work*. This is blackmail. It is also very effective if you do it once the audience are seated.

Youtube – If you’ve written a sketch or a topical song that isn’t suitable for the other shows, or that you want to perform yourself, Youtube is a great way of doing it. Nowadays, if there is a certain amount of interest in your video (I’ve found that about 1,000 views over a couple of days seems to be the trigger), Youtube invites you to join its affiliate programme. You can then stick an annoying advert over the top of your sketch in return for money. Again, the financial rewards are fairly minimal, but it is at least a way of making something from your writing. Here’s what a video looks like when it has been whored out:

However, if your video contains any profanity, then they will not approve you for the affiliate programme. Instead you will be hunted down by a pack of slavering obscenity-hounds and have your remains fed to the crows. As happened with this video, which I forgot I had sworn in the middle of.

RadioNewsjack has open submissions, and you should be sending them stuff. A series is running right now. Go away. Write a good joke, work out which of their segments it could be useful for and send it in now. Better still, write lots of good jokes and send those in.

Recorded For Training Purposes also has an open submission policy (or has had in the past), so keep an eye open on Writers’ Room for when that opens to submissions. Submitting to these shows is an excellent way to get your work in front of the eyes of joke-hungry producers. Following Jason Arnopp would be a good way to learn more about RFTP.

Comedians – If you are good at writing jokes, topical or not, you may well find that there are comedians who are willing to buy them from you. Keep an eye on the forums on Chortle, or advertise yourself there.

Online – BBC Comedy Online currently produce topical sketches, although their turnaround times for submissions tend to mean that if your jokes are bleeding-edge in their topicality this might not be the way to go. However, you can always make it yourself, and then see if they want to buy it. Other sites have, unfortunately stopped commissioning, and, with the demise of Comedybox and Funny Or Die UK, you may be better off making things yourself and putting them on Youtube for a while.

TV – There aren’t really many ‘open opportunities’ here, as such, but there will be occasional sweeps for ‘new talent’, and I got my first proper TV work (not that my appearances in Smile as The Queen weren’t proper, but you know…) from doing topical jokes.

If writing gags for TV floats your boat, why not follow Aiden Spackman, who is something of a god at that sort of thing…

Twitter – Twitter is a great place to practise gag-writing. 140 characters is a little limiting, but it encourages brevity and can give you an instant barometer of how funny people found something with the ‘Your Tweets, Retweeted’ tab. Note: clicking this can also be a tremendously dispiriting experience.

So, whilst topical comedy is hugely ephemeral and can require an enormous amount of thought and concentration for something that won’t be funny in a week’s time, it is still an area in which new writers can get their work performed, and can even make a little money out of. It’s tough, brain-scrunching work, but there are real rewards in terms of credits for getting it right. And a crushing sense of defeat and humiliation for getting it wrong.

Go forth and satirise…

* There are slightly different opportunities for writer-performers, and I’ll do a separate post on those next week.

Yesterday the Conservative Party, no doubt pissing itself with glee at its own new media prowess, put up a website called Cash Gordon*. It was a pun. Not only was it a pun, but it was a bleeding-edge piece of web campaigning that would reward supporters for various online activities including reading speeches and creating blog posts about ‘Cash Gordon’. It would also take any tweet with the hashtag #cashgordon in and prominently display it in a rolling box on the front page of their site.

That’s right. Any tweet containing that hashtag.

Within an hour of the site going live most of the things on the front page read ‘David Cameron is a cunt #cashgordon’ or ‘All Tories are hateful piss-weasels #cashgordon’. Some people even  made up things that weren’t true.

When the Internet discovered that whoever had written this site hadn’t stopped  people including images or Javascript in their tweets, things got a lot worse. For a while anyone who tried to get to the site was redirected to the Labour home page, later it went straight to hardcore porn**. Shortly after that, the geniuses behind the whole project pulled it from the Internet, claiming that they had meant to do that, and it was a really subtle way of getting their message across to lots of people (seriously).

I took the opportunity of using the hashtag to direct people to this video,That’s Why They Call Us The Blues, of a song I wrote and performed for The Treason Show a few years ago.

So, for a few moments yesterday, the front page of the Conservatives’ newest campaign website pointed you to a song in which I listed all the people Tories hate. It is a long song. (It actually grew two choruses longer after the version that is up there).

And this tiny, inconsequential non-victory actually felt quite good. Because I was sticking it to the Tories. Yeah. In your face, Tories. Except the ones I know and like. You should not put it in your face. Just look at it, and accept that your face is, theoretically, one of the places it could go.

One of the comments on the song I wrote above, reads: “Do a song about Bloody Gordon. Are you a sore loser in the making? You sound pretty Public school/ middle class to this working class Tory. Your f——-g class warfare crap lost you the Nantwich by-election. F—–g Fabian POSEUR,crawl back into yourSocialist hole and play with your mung beans!!!”

To which I smugly responded that “about eight seconds’ research” would have revealed that I had done something similar about Gordon Brown for Comedybox. This was untrue in two different ways.

First, although I did write and record ‘It’s Not Easy Being Brown’ it disappeared from the Internet some time last year, falling down the back of MySpace Comedy. He could have researched it all he wanted, he probably wouldn’t ever have found it.

(If anyone has a copy of this, I’d be most grateful if they could put it up somewhere. *cough* Bob Pipe! *cough*)

Second, I do mainly take the piss out of Tories. Making fun of Labour isn’t the same. Yes, it’s enjoyable; yes, it can be vicious, but it’s never as much fun as really, really laying into Tories. It has a special music that lightens the heart, and a fragrance that perfumes the drowsy night air and swells the balls with proper, old-school vitriol.

Looking back, I’ve come to realise that a lot of the things I do make fun of Tories, and I’m not exactly sure why.

It’s not like I don’t loathe the Labour Party with every fibre of my being. Just the word ‘Blears’ has been known to bring me out in septic hives. From Bernie Ecclestone and Lobbygate at the beginning of their government, through Blunkett’s buying shares for his kids, Harriet Harman’s husband ** UPDATE – It was, of course, Tessa Jowell’s husband I was thinking of. With overtones of Jacqui Smith’s husband… Apologies to Ms Harman **, Mandelson’s mortgages, up to the shower of bastards revealed last weekend, the Parliamentary Labour Party has shown itself to be the most venal, corrupt organisation most of us can bear to think about. And we remember what the Tories were like.

They abuse the public trust and public purse on a colossal scale, and are shameless in their pursuit of personal fortunes with which to feather their mediocre nests. They are sweaty little men and women who bend over and spread their cheeks, whilst peering over their shoulder at the rich and powerful, desperate to be tossed a tip. In other countries Messrs Byers and Hoon would be adorning lamp-posts rather than reporting themselves to the Commons Standards Committee.

So, it’s not like I particularly hate Conservative politicians. I have grown to hate all politicians equally.

But I do hate Tories. The idea that anyone could have lived through the 1990s and would consider voting Conservative is enough to mark them out a having suffered a terrible head-wound in infancy.

There is something profoundly, desperately wrong about someone who self-identifies as a Tory. A dead-eyed, hate-filled sac of poisonous gases, stewing in years of resentment and self-pity. An easy target, but one I can rarely pass up.

Roll on, the General Election…

*I wouldn’t bother clicking on it now, they had to redirect it to somewhere less offensive pretty sharpish. So it’s odd they chose the Conservatives’ main website…

** Either way, the visitor was treated to the site of brazen quims being whored out in exchange for tawdry amounts of money.

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