“I’m back!” he cried, tumbling out of his spaceship with gleeful abandon. “Did you miss me?” All around him, people were smashing in the windows of Games Workshop, of Curry’s, of Gregg’s, of Gwen’s Nails (a fancy nail parlour he didn’t remember being here before takeoff), of every place that had a window to be smashed, and dozens of busy hands were snatching Skaven Boxsets, bluetooth headphones, steak bakes, acrylic nails, whatever there was to be snatched from among the broken glass. It was anarchy. “Hello? Guys? I’m back!” he tried again, half-heartedly. This was not the hero’s welcome he was expecting. He had been to Venus! “I’ve been to Venus!” he stammered, hoping this might get things back on track.
“Nobody cares,” said one of the looters, arms full of Lizard Men and Tyranids and a couple of sausage rolls. “You’ve been gone for so long, all your friends have become old and died, but you’ve stayed the same age because of something to do with the curvature of space. A new world order has risen. This nail salon opened. And now all of civilisation has resorted to a life of crime. Did you really think everyone would be thinking about you this whole time?” He thought about it. It made total sense. He should have stayed behind with his friends. Now he had gone all the way to Venus (which he had found way too hot, by the way) and he had nothing to show for it, and all his friends were dead. He would have to somehow find a home for himself in this strange, unfamiliar reality. He took a step forward into this brave new world, but accidentally fell down a manhole and bonked his head so hard he forgot his own name.
Anyway, look, that’s all by the by, really, that’s just a short story about someone who’d been away for a bit and nobody cared. But the truth is, I have been away for a bit, and I imagine that nobody cared also. But I am now back to writing this newsletter after a week of writing scripts and a week of directing Edy Hurst’s brilliant new show The Discovery Of Witchcraft In The County Of Edy Hurst up in Salford at the Lowry Theatre – it’s a great show, keep an eye out for it at festivals next year! I hope you all had a lovely few weeks as well! Please let me know your highlights and lowlights, if you so desire.
This week I wanted to let you all know about one final big project I’m putting together for 2023 before the year shrivels up in its cocoon and then emerges as a beautiful 2024 and flaps off into the sun. As you all know (because I’ve spent all year banging on about the ramifications and highs and lows of it), this year I’ve been carving a path away from live comedy and into the world of scripted. It’s been fun! It’s been hard! It’s been rewarding! It’s been frustrating! It’s been exhilarating! Mostly, what it’s done is bring me into closer proximity to the feeling of realising what it feels like to be an actual person. I had brunch (DM me if you don’t know what this is and need more info) with a friend last week and mentioned that I found it mad how fast this year had gone.
“It’s weird having a year where I haven’t really produced much finished work,” I said, mouth full of mushroom and egg. “Because that’s usually how I determine my self-worth year on year.”
“You know that’s not how most people feel, right?” she said, tactfully dabbing a napkin at her eye to remove the stray flecks of mushroom and egg. “Most people don’t tie their self-worth to what work they’ve been able to do. Most people don’t measure their years by units produced. Most people just get on with enjoying their lives. Are you up to speed on Bake Off?” (I didn’t hear her say any of this as I was tipping my plate up vertically so the beans would slide down my gullet, I only know what she said because I asked her to text it to me just now so I could type up this story.)
The point is, I think this year, for all its difficulties, is making me into a much happier person, even if it’s taken me a while to see it. I’m feeling happier to meet my life as it is, not to place demands on it, or to need anything from it. I’m feeling happier to think of life as a river (yes, I just read Walden). I think part of this is down to finding myself spending most of this year in a space that feels less combative and competitive and ego-driven than the Fringe comedy scene was starting to feel to me – the comedy filmmaking community. Writers, directors and filmmakers don’t get much opportunity to showcase their work in front of live audiences, which makes them quite well-balanced people who are comfortable in their own skin compared to us comedians. However, there are some lovely live nights that exist to showcase the work of those comedy filmmakers and build a sense of community – Adult Film Club; The Paddock; Up Close & Personal With Mr. Tibbs; Shooting The Breeze (which I think is on hiatus at the moment). I’ve loved going to these nights this year and meeting people and seeing great work, so I’ve decided to put together this:
I’ll be honest, this idea started out as a vanity project (could you tell? Did the big picture of my face give it away?). Miranda and I made a short film called Who’s A Good Boy? earlier this year, which stars Anna Leong Brophy, Nat Luurtsema and Tom Bell, among others, and we wanted to put on an event to screen it and show it to the world. I also really wanted to put on a live reading of my script The Happiness Chain, because live readings have been really beneficial to my scriptwriting projects in the past in terms of helping them to move forwards and find their way towards being the best version of themselves. I was trying to work out how to organise these two events, when I realised that the answer was staring me in the face – I should combine the two things, not to create one big showcase for my own work, but to launch a new night that could hopefully grow into a celebration of the comedy filmmaking community that could stand alongside stalwarts like the Paddock and Mr Tibbs.
Alongside my own short film and script, I’ve programmed a bunch of other amazing pieces of work from writers, directors and filmmakers I’ve either met this year, or worked with for ages but who have blown me away with their recent work – Jazz Emu, Sam Campbell & Hunter Allen; Uncle Shortbread (a wonderful filmmaking duo composed of Cosmo Wellings and Arthur Studholme); Sam Bailey; Ada Player & Bron Waugh; Tom Bell & Brendan Cleaves; Miranda Holms and Nat Luurtsema. It’s a combination of seven short films (four of which are premieres or exclusive screenings) and three new script readings, for which I’ll be announcing the cast shortly (it’s looking fantastic so far, with one or two roles still to be decided on).
In the old days, there was a wonderful regular night of comedy script readings at Soho Theatre called the Comedy Project, which gave comedy writers opportunities to have their work performed to a live audience, and it really helped me in the developments of old projects, including mine and Ed Aczel’s Heist Movie, which we ended up making as a pilot for Tiger Aspect. Sadly, the Comedy Project no longer runs, but I always loved what it was doing, so I’m hoping this night could eventually grow into something similar that offers the same opportunities to brilliant writers and simultaneously showcases some of the best short films made by the community recently.
There’s just as much exciting, thrilling talent on the scripted/filmmaking scene as there is on the live scene, but far less instantaneous feedback than in the live community. You can maybe make only one or two high-quality projects in a year (meaning you have to measure your years by a completely different metric, like how much you enjoyed yourself or how many nice things you did, or something totally mad like that), and you don’t get to try them out routinely in front of people. That also means it’s harder and rarer to get a sense of who else is making cool stuff, and to build a sense of making it together. I hope this will become one more space that helps it to become easier to do that!
If you like comedy, especially scripted comedy and short film, please do come down! It’s gonna be a really fun way to end the year on a celebratory note. Also, if you’re a writer or filmmaker yourself, please do feel free to come along and introduce yourself! If it does become a regular thing, I’d like to keep watching more short films and reading more scripts with a view towards programming for future events, so say hello and send me your work! Hope to see you there – tickets are available here.
A Cool New Thing In Comedy – The Leicester Comedy Festival, one of the best cornerstones of the comedy calendar, launched last week. I’ll be doing some sort of work-in-progress for it at the end of February, and there are, as always, a bunch of other wonderful shows there too. Browse that programme and get booking!
What’s Made Me Laugh The Most – A bit in The Creator where Gareth Edwards suggests that if a nuclear missile big enough to destroy an entire city loses connection with its command centre mid-flight, it will drift harmlessly down to the ground without detonating. I burst out laughing.
Book Of The Week – Currently reading Fleishman Is In Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner, which my friend bought for me for my birthday. Loving it so far. It’s very funny and very sad. Thank you, friend. I hope I get to lend it to you someday so we can compare notes.
Album Of The Week – Javelin by Sufjan Stevens. To think that only a couple of months ago I’d never heard any Sufjan Stevens. He’s bloody great! This is his new one and it’s heartbreaking and beautiful. It’s not quite up there with Illinois or The Age Of Adz for me, but it’s wonderful.
Film Of The Week – I’ve only seen The Creator, which is an incredible-looking, fearsomely well-made sci-fi movie that sadly has the stupidest story of anything I’ve ever seen. A lot of the reviews seem to acknowledge this, but then heap praise on it for how impressive the visuals are. Personally, I think the script absolutely sinks the entire thing no matter how good it looks. It’s preposterous.
That’s all for this week! As ever, let me know your thoughts, and if you enjoy the newsletter enough to send it to a friend or encourage others to subscribe, I’d hugely appreciate it! Take care of yourselves until next time, and all the best,
PS Run away from your problems: