Way To Go: Writing a highly-charged comedy

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Mel Brooks once said - and I’m paraphrasing here - “Cutting your finger is tragedy.  But falling down a manhole and dying… now that’s comedy.” 

He’s right. Heightened situations of hopeless desperation are far funnier than tiny, subtle moments of pain. 

So as upsetting as it is, death can be very funny. 

And in Way To Go, the new BBC Three comedy I created about three hapless guys who start an assisted suicide business, we’ve definitely got death. 

So clearly, the show must be hilarious. I mean, I think Mel and I have proven that.

But ironically, in Way To Go, the heightened situations of hopeless desperation come less from those pulling their own plugs (or, in this case, yanking a lever on the McFlurry of death, a DIY contraption made from old shake machine parts) and more from the central characters - Scott (the InbetweenersBlake Harrison), Cozzo (Marc Wootton) and Joey (Ben Heathcote) - who find themselves hopelessly desperate enough to get themselves embroiled in a highly-illegal operation.

Three hapless mates: Cozzo, Scott and Joey

But why write a comedy about assisted suicide in the first place? 

I get that all the time. Probably because I wrote one.

A couple of years ago, I was celebrating whatever-cousin’s birthday, when in comes my wife’s 90-something year-old grandmother.

This vivacious, sharp, witty woman who would mercilessly destroy me in Scrabble, had in recent years deteriorated into a dried apple, propped up in a wheelchair, on display for family occasions.

And suddenly, my brother-in-law and I were arguing over whether we’d want to live like that or if it would be best to just, well... fall into a manhole.

I don’t want to say who debated which side (although if I have to spend the rest of my life as a flatulent, decomposing empty shell, please tie me to a hot air balloon and float me up to heaven), but we each made some salient points and avoided having to sing "Happy Birthday to You" to the cousin.

The subject was controversial, sensitive and highly-charged... which is when I knew I had a terrific comedy on my hands.

The truth is, I’ve always believed that when difficult subjects are handled with humour, people actually take things more seriously than if they are lectured to with dry, morose gravity. 

Blake Harrison plays Scott, the vet's receptionist

So if Way To Go engages debate and gets people thinking and talking, then terrific. 

And if Way To Go makes people laugh simply because they enjoy watching a trio of brilliantly funny actors inhabiting hilarious characters in way over their heads as they help people kill themselves for cash, well, then that’s even better.

Because seriously, what could be funnier than that?

Bob Kushell is the creator and lead writer of Way To Go.

Way To Go begins on Thursday, 17 January at 10pm on BBC Three. For further programme times, please see the episode guide.

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.

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