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Writing for Newsjack

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Dan Tetsell | 16:56 UK time, Thursday, 16 July 2009

NewsjackQ: What do you call three hundred sketches about Michael Jackson?
A: My inbox two weeks ago.

The week before that it was Sir Alan Sugar; last week it was Spies On Facebook. Each week on Newsjack, Radio 7's new topical sketch show, there's one story that really captures our writers' imaginations. Of course there are only so many Suralan sketches you can fit into a 28 minute programme and as script editor, it's partly my job to work out how many that is. It's none, by the way - if three hundred people have made the same joke by Monday, it's a good chance that, come Thursday night when the show is broadcast, everyone in the country will be sick to death of it.

However, the great thing about working on Newsjack has been reading witty, punchy, laugh-out-loud funny sketches and jokes that dodge the obvious and that have come in from new writers. Each week I see a couple of the same names coming through stronger and stronger and each week there's someone completely new with a cracking  bit of material. The show does have a regular team of commissioned writers - in case no one sends anything in - but my basic aim is to get as much non-commissioned stuff on air as possible. Sometimes, it'll be just as it arrived in the email but often a sketch has to be rewritten, either for time or clarity or just to punch it up. In fact, right up until the recording, we're tweaking jokes and fiddling with lines. That's the great thing about radio - the actors don't need to learn it.

I started out writing for an open door topical radio show back in the heady days of the 90s and it's great that the BBC is trying something similar. I think it teaches you those two vital skills of the comedy writer - learning to write to a brief and dealing with rejection. If you've sent stuff in to Newsjack and we haven't used it, just look on it as part of the business and keep writing. Once you've worked your way up to the exquisite pain of a sitcom bombing in front of a panel of stony-faced commissioners, you won't even remember that unfairly dismissed one-liner about Freddie Flintoff.

We've only got one show left of this series, but there is another one planned for the near future so, if you've ever fancied writing comedy, have a listen to the show and then have a go at some sketches.

Actually, some of these new guys are pretty good. What am I thinking? I've got a child to feed. So, on second thoughts, go away - comedy's full.

Dan Tetsell is Script Editor of Newsjack. Find out how to submit your sketches at the Newsjack website.



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