Well, it's Friday afternoon, and a dozen entries to the college are now with senior comedy colleagues for their opinion, and to help decide which applicants we'll be inviting in for a chat. I have e-mailed the 12, and over the next week I will be e-mailing the people who nearly made it to the shortlist.
This year we received 650 entries - oddly, exactly half last year's number - explained I think by the enhanced criteria for submission. A few people with no CVs to speak of tried their luck, but the vast majority were extremely qualified, a few rather over-qualified, and the selection process has been difficult, particularly in getting down to a dozen. Five of us were involved in that process, and the final winnowing will be done by nine people and me.
In a way this is a very exciting time, and in another it's a bit miserable, because while I'm looking forward to working with six new writers, I'm very conscious that there will be 644 others who are going to be frustrated and disappointed. Telling people that not being accepted for the scheme isn't a comment on their talent or their writing isn't much consolation, but since nearly everyone who applied has a career already, they should take comfort from that. Proud as I am of the scheme, it's not the be-all and end-all and, as Jeremy Dyson pointed out in Leeds on Wednesday night, a lot of a writer's life is rejection. Though being the rejector is never enjoyable.
Jeremy and I were on a panel with Phil Mealey and Kate Rowland doing a q&a as part of the Northern Laughs scheme, an excellent project involving writers from across the north of England being mentored by Jeremy, Phil and Craig Cash, and Ian La Frenais.
Not surprisingly, the college came up, and I was asked what my criteria were, and whether the fact that I run the scheme didn't mean that the writers all conformed to my taste. I think with a number of people involved in the selection process, there's no danger of it being a solo list, and as for criteria, I think we all apply the same - is it funny, is it original, am I immediately involved? And when you've got a bunch of scripts and sketches which meet those criteria, it's then a matter of who is funniest, who is most original, and whose work is the most involving?
When we have done the interviews I'll post names and short biogs of the six, so the next blog will be at the beginning of next month.