I'm not a trained mathematician, but when I saw a picture, on this very blog, of the writers' room offices, piled floor to ceiling with jiffy bags and special delivery envelopes, like a disastrous Tetris fail, I figured the chances of my BBC writersroom Laughing Stock entry making an impact were teeny-weeny. Disconsolate, I started looking around for other career options: Perhaps there was still time to train as mathematician. After all, people will always need numbers.
So, when I discovered I was amongst the winning 9 writers invited to a comedy writing residential, I was overjoyed and more than a little surprised. The only people even more surprised were the poor souls to whom I'd explained my sitcom premise in the preceding weeks. "It's like The Road - but with jokes. Jokes about cannibalism," I'd offered, hopefully, while they shook their heads and expressed concern for my wellbeing.
The residential was a surreal affair, inevitable when marooned in the countryside with unlimited cheese and 8 strangers; all writers, so, basically, misfits who had opted to retreat from this complicated thing called reality in favour of an invented world. And, as we were comedy writers, we were also all morose, depressive and misanthropic. (Also prone to lying for comic effect.) A few of us took our being whisked away to a remote country house together to mean that we were expected to fight to the death, with the last writer standing emerging with a BBC commission in their bloodied fist. But, as we found out during a session on How the BBC isn't like an Agatha Christie Novel, commissioning hasn't been decided this way since the late 70s.
In peaceful sunshine, the week trickled by and we lay in the walled garden, eating the cheese and talking about the writing we ought to have been actually doing. Punctuation came from various BBC execs and other notaries who each taught us about a specialist area, from the nursery slopes of online sketches to hallowed shiny-floors of pre-watershed BBC 1. We even met Graham Lineham, fresh from his Today show debacle, who freely gave us a raft of comedy writing tips. We tried to pay him in cheese, which had, at this point, become our currency. (As creative types, the basic flaw in basing a fiscal system on something we had an unlimited supply of, was lost on us.)
Many things will stay with me from the experience: a better understanding of how TV commissioning works, the endorsement of making it to such a prestigious stage; the people I met; the discovery that if I really put my mind to it I can eat a truly horrifying amount of cheese; and the realisation that writing might be the thing I want to do with the rest of my life.
Or, possibly, wandering around chatting to other writers whilst eating cheese might be the thing I want to do with the rest of my life. Still, people will always need numbers.
BBC writersroom and BBC Comedy Commissioning will present a live performance showcase of some of the winning Laughing Stock scripts at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival on 22nd August. Apply now for a free ticket to the showcase.