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22 September 2014
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Seven Rules of Comedy

Ever wondered how the industry's best comedy writers produce such top class sitcoms? Here we give you Seven Rules of Comedy from some of sitcom's finest.

Image from The Vicar of Dibley

Richard Curtis, Rule Five - Write and Rewrite

'Blackadder', 'The Vicar of Dibley' and 'Mr Bean' - it reads like a 'Best of British' list, and they're all co-written or co-created by Richard Curtis.

Paul Mayhew Archer, co-writer The Vicar of Dibley, and I did the lovely thing of bouncing the scripts off each other a lot of times, so that basically the process of writing was rewriting in the first place. Then we had read throughs and we'd rewrite. One of the great joys of sitcoms is they are pretty well only meant to be funny. In a play you're trying to tell all sorts of important complex stories, in a sitcom you're trying to tell a good plot but really you're just trying to be funny. I suppose that we, particularly with Dawn around, always stuck to our guns and tried to make things better and funnier every moment, every day, until the very end. Then when you've finished recording you've got 40 minutes and you cut all the bits that didn't work.

 

Ian Le Frenais

Ian La Frenais , Rule Six - Endearing Characters

Alongside Dick Clement, his writing partner, Ian La Frenais has created a portfolio of work stretching back to the 1960s, including 'The Likely Lads', 'Porridge' and 'Auf Wiedersehen, Pet'.

Yeah, you need a character that is the eyes and ears of the audience so when we explain to the audience how prison works, how the day unfolds, how the monotony of the day, the procedure of the day, the rules and the, the pettiness and the repression then we did that by having a guy who'd never been in before. So we wanted a guy who wasn't a hard case, wasn't angry, was rather, was rather endearing and a little frightened and we'd overseen that with a rather nice nature. We didn't know it was going to be Beckinsale then. Once we had cast Richard Beckinsale we were thrilled because he just, he just brought his own imprint on to that.

 

Jimmy Perry

Jimmy Perry, Rule Seven - Just Do It

Jimmy Perry's first big break was when he co-wrote the hit sitcom 'Dad's Army'. After his initial success he went on to write 'Hi-de-Hi!', 'It Ain't Half Hot Mum' and 'High Street Blues' amongst others.

I was sitting on the train and I thought 'I've got to do something, I can't go on like this'. 'I know what' I said 'I'll write a television situation comedy', bearing in mind that in the theatre workshop we wrote the stuff ourselves. So I thought 'Now what shall I write about?' and I thought well there's this, there's that, and I thought 'service things' are always interesting. I'd been in the war, I was a boy of 16 in the Home Guard, and suddenly I thought 'I'll write something about the Home Guard'.

 

Back to rules one to four



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