The Permission Scream.

I’m finally surfacing again after doing a full-time job at the same time as producing The Just So Stories for the last couple of months.

There’ll be a full update about me-me-me shortly, but in the meantime, why not feast your eyes upon the new trailer for upcoming British horror flick Stormhouse:

Stormhouse is written by the lovely Jason Arnopp, directed by the lovely Dan Turner, and has music by the lovely Sam Watts.

It’s entirely probable that everyone else who worked on the film is lovely too, but I can’t speak to that.

I was lucky enough recently to attend the test screening of the film. You can read more about what happened that night over at Arnopp’s gaff, but there’s one moment I want to talk about in particular.

About five or ten minutes into the film, there’s a big scare. It’s the first of many, but this is the one I want to concentrate on.

It made me jump in my seat, and it made the woman sitting behind me let out a loud scream.

Now, if you’re ever doing standup comedy – and especially if you’re the first act on or you’re doing the whole thing yourself – one of the first things you need to do is to get a laugh out of the audience.

It’s called the Permission Laugh.

The first laugh tells everyone: it’s OK. You’re here to be entertained, and this person can do it. You don’t have to just sit there and smile wryly at the gags. It’s OK to laugh out loud. You’re in safe hands.

Once you’ve got the Permission Laugh, all of the others are easier.

So as I fell back onto my seat and heard the woman behind me let out a loud scream, I thought:

It’s OK.

I’m in safe hands.

Letters From America: Funny Man

originally posted 4th March 2004

Stand up comedy occurred last night.

It seemed to go down well, though it’s difficult to tell when you’re actually performing. I got laughs, and was told that it was excellent for a first timer, so it’s all downhill from here. I have one definite gig next week, then I’ll figure out whether I’m going to do it again. I suspect not (other fish to fry), but we’ll see.

Note for those attempting comedy work: Unless you have a talking penis, keep the microphone closer to your chin than your tummy. Or you won’t be heard at the back of the room.

It took less than two hours from stepping off stage to the first person saying: “So you’re a comedian, eh? Say something funny.”

Location, Location, Location

For the last few months, I’ve been part of the writing team for a new comedy sketch show known as Splendid.

The sketches going into the pilot have been selected, and it’s due to start filming next month.

But – it’s a pilot! And alas we cannot simply throw money at problems like, for example, finding somewhere to film this magnificent show.

So if you know of anywhere we can find some or all of the following for little or no money, leave a message in the comments.

  • House Interior (three different ones – the bigger the better)
  • Airplane Cockpit
  • Jungle – or a jungle-type location
  • Field with hills
  • Shed
  • Cave
  • Beach

You can find many more splendid things at the following places:



Letters From America: Me And My Big Mouth

originally sent on the 18th February, 2004

So there I was in a comedy club last Wednesday that’s run by a

And I’ve been talking for years about wanting to try my hand at stand-up
comedy. And another friend of mine who used to be a professional standup is
in the area this week. And I’d had a couple of Martinis.

You can see where this leads.

So if my name gets pulled out of the open-mike hat tomorrow evening (that’s
about one chance in five) then at some point between 6am-8am Zulu Time on
the 19th February I shall be dying on stage.

If you’re awake, think of me.


Clams and Toppers.

If you don’t have Jane Espenson‘s blog on your must-read list, you really ought to.

She writes regularly on the process of creating spec scripts.

Also, about what she had for lunch, but as that’s a story on a par with Tom Baker’s Scarf, we’ll let it slide.

Having started out as a comedy writer, Jane regularly talks about the tricks and pitfalls of the trade. One of the pitfalls is the type of joke known as a clam.

A clam is a joke so old that everyone knows it. Some common examples:

“Did I just say that out loud?”
“That went well, I thought.”
“I don’t mean to be impolite, but…”

Funny-once, as Mike the sentient computer might put it.

How do you defeat a clam? With a twist. Move it along and freshen it up.

So here’s Penny Arcade’s take on one of the all-time favourites. Pretty funny, n’est?

But then, the next strip is what’s known as a topper – a gag which builds on top of the first one.

The great thing about toppers is that all the setup has been done already, to get the laugh for the first joke, so they’re effectively a free laugh.

Avoid clams. Embrace toppers.