British Comedy Guide

Newsjack 2017 Page 21

Newsjack. Angela Barnes. Copyright: BBC / Matt Stronge.

Newsjack

Topical satirical sketch show on Radio 4 Extra. The programme has an 'open door' policy allowing anyone to submit material

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Damian B

  • Tuesday 12th September 2017, 10:44pm
  • United Kingdom
  • 15 posts
Quote: DuckingAround @ 12th September 2017, 10:34 PM

I'm missing Viewsjack. When they announced it was being replaced at the writers briefing, this news was well-received. Number Crunching seemed to be a popular idea.

However, I don't think the concept works very well on radio. It's better suited for a TV format.

I agree. Maybe Newsjack could just drop the feature and do more headlines. It wouldn't alter the show all that much, would it?

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Nogget

  • Wednesday 13th September 2017, 6:32am
  • England
  • 6,562 posts
Quote: Damian B @ 12th September 2017, 4:55 PM

I know it's a bit late to be asking this, given this week's deadline for one-liners has already passed, but has anyone got any tips for generating lines/angles for the number-cruncher lines?

Although some gags may be more suitable to being a number-cruncher than are others, most, if not all, news stories have numbers associated with them, and so could work in either format. Even if there aren't any obvious figures to draw upon, you can impose figures on them:

"1: road crossed by a chicken",
or look at using numbers in non-arithmetical contexts,such as a pun:
"2: get to the other side"

or describing some other aspect of a numeral:

"375: Pounds Sutton United goalkeeper Wayne Shaw has been fined for eating a pie during match...0: the shape of his massive belly"

(I doubt they'd use a fat gag of course)

The key is to free your mind and think laterally.

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Chris Hallam

  • Wednesday 13th September 2017, 8:09am
  • Exeter, United Kingdom
  • 108 posts

Pleased to see it's not just me who struggles with Number Crunching!
I'm not sure Viewsjack was working either though. Hardly any of them were being used by the end.
Something else is needed!

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Stobbart42

  • Wednesday 13th September 2017, 9:22am
  • Japan
  • 44 posts

I reckon they should just have a sport section at the end like the actual news does. I think I read (here or on Twitter?) that they don't get enough sports stories anyway. This would guarantee more people writing Rooney jokes... I mean sport jokes.

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Mrkgrngr

  • Wednesday 13th September 2017, 9:33am [Edited]
  • England
  • 50 posts

I've absolutely no idea how to make sport funny. Tried with a sketch about Arsene Wenger but couldn't come up with a better ending than the hackneyed 'Noooooooo!'. Shame because I quite liked the idea of a brainwashed Wenger being rescued by soldiers.

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Mike X

  • Wednesday 13th September 2017, 10:25am
  • United Kingdom
  • 35 posts

It seems that the whole "Newsjack" concept is a bit flawed. What's wrong with a 30 minute show that is ALL submitted by listeners and just goes - sketch - one-liners - sketch - one-liners etc. No need for Angela to take up a third of the show with her own material (that always chews up a lot of the topical subjects), no need to force the jokes to be topical, no need for the very limiting idea of "number crunchers". In this way you'd get lots of great original material from new writers and the show would be a lot more "open" and probably a lot funnier. IMHO

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Chris Hallam

  • Wednesday 13th September 2017, 10:48am
  • Exeter, United Kingdom
  • 108 posts

I don't mind it being topical - that's the point. There are lots of non-topical comedies around already. I generally don't object to the format.

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Stobbart42

  • Wednesday 13th September 2017, 11:07am
  • Japan
  • 44 posts
Quote: Chris Hallam @ 13th September 2017, 10:48 AM

I don't mind it being topical - that's the point. There are lots of non-topical comedies around already. I generally don't object to the format.

Yeah, I actually like the challenge of keeping things topical. But apart from that I agree with everything else Mike X says. That said, maybe the quality of submissions is so bad that they need a professional like Ms Barnes to beef it up.

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Damian B

  • Wednesday 13th September 2017, 12:36pm
  • United Kingdom
  • 15 posts
Quote: Nogget @ 13th September 2017, 6:32 AM

Although some gags may be more suitable to being a number-cruncher than are others, most, if not all, news stories have numbers associated with them, and so could work in either format. Even if there aren't any obvious figures to draw upon, you can impose figures on them:

"1: road crossed by a chicken",
or look at using numbers in non-arithmetical contexts,such as a pun:
"2: get to the other side"

or describing some other aspect of a numeral:

"375: Pounds Sutton United goalkeeper Wayne Shaw has been fined for eating a pie during match...0: the shape of his massive belly"

(I doubt they'd use a fat gag of course)

The key is to free your mind and think laterally.

Solid advice. Much appreciated.

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kate to the party

  • Wednesday 13th September 2017, 12:42pm
  • England
  • 37 posts
Quote: Mike X @ 13th September 2017, 10:25 AM

It seems that the whole "Newsjack" concept is a bit flawed. What's wrong with a 30 minute show that is ALL submitted by listeners and just goes - sketch - one-liners - sketch - one-liners etc. No need for Angela to take up a third of the show with her own material (that always chews up a lot of the topical subjects), no need to force the jokes to be topical, no need for the very limiting idea of "number crunchers". In this way you'd get lots of great original material from new writers and the show would be a lot more "open" and probably a lot funnier. IMHO

For me the cool thing about the current set-up with the writing team contributing x amount of sketches is that most of them also started out by sending stuff in until they got invited in, because it gives you something to aim towards (and is basically my dream? But whatever!) It also works as a means of keeping the tone of the show consistent/giving submitters an idea of how their sketches should sound.

But yeah I also really like Angela's talky bits at the beginning so got to disagree with you there too!

I wonder if BBC are planning on bringing back the Show What You Wrote anytime soon? It was less topical and a totally different show to Newsjack as a result. Definitely room for both to coexist I think!

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Damian B

  • Wednesday 13th September 2017, 12:47pm
  • United Kingdom
  • 15 posts
Quote: Stobbart42 @ 13th September 2017, 9:22 AM

I reckon they should just have a sport section at the end like the actual news does. I think I read (here or on Twitter?) that they don't get enough sports stories anyway. This would guarantee more people writing Rooney jokes... I mean sport jokes.

I would love a segment dedicated entirely to Rooney. Though most submissions would probably get rejected on the grounds of being libellous/unsuitable for broadcast. I mean, you could say,

"Following his return to Everton, Wayne Rooney is reportedly disillusioned with life back on Merseyside. As he can no longer find a grandmother under the age of 40."

They probably wouldn't put that in.

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StephenM

  • Wednesday 13th September 2017, 1:03pm
  • London, England
  • 801 posts
Quote: Mike X @ 13th September 2017, 10:25 AM

It seems that the whole "Newsjack" concept is a bit flawed. What's wrong with a 30 minute show that is ALL submitted by listeners and just goes - sketch - one-liners - sketch - one-liners etc. No need for Angela to take up a third of the show with her own material (that always chews up a lot of the topical subjects), no need to force the jokes to be topical, no need for the very limiting idea of "number crunchers". In this way you'd get lots of great original material from new writers and the show would be a lot more "open" and probably a lot funnier. IMHO

I'd take a different view, being 'limited' can sometimes be easier. If you're given a blank sheet of paper and told to write something funny that's incredibly hard. But being told to write something topical, in a particular format, for a particular cast gives you some steer and direction to get you started. And being 'forced' to write a joke a particular way e.g. number - setup, number - punch may be harder than just writing a straight gag but it opens up new areas you might not otherwise had thought of.

Also remember this show isn't just for writers it's also to develop cast members, script editors, producers etc. So it's not just what is best for us that they have to take into account. Another way to look at it is thank goodness BBC Radio are doing *something* open-sub because very few other people do!

And of course if you want something completely free form that you can dictate you can make a podcast or put together your own stand-up / sketch show.

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StephenM

  • Wednesday 13th September 2017, 1:28pm
  • London, England
  • 801 posts
Quote: Damian B @ 12th September 2017, 4:55 PM

I know it's a bit late to be asking this, given this week's deadline for one-liners has already passed, but has anyone got any tips for generating lines/angles for the number-cruncher lines?

I really struggled with this last series as I kept experiencing a creative block. The object, of course, is to look at significant numbers in the news and find an ironic association or punchline, but, for some reason, I find it ten times harder than writing punchlines for breaking news headlines.

The only decent number-cruncher I came up with this week was:

20 inches: The rainfall experienced in central Florida, according to male meteorologists.
10 inches: The actual rainfall experienced in central Florida, according to female meteorologists.

Please help!

Number crunchers are a little unusual as no other show has them so I certainly wasn't used to writing in that format. However by the end of last series I think I enjoyed writing them more than the straight gags. There's no right answer to this but here's some ways I use.

Think of a joke that links two things one of which is topical, forget about numbers for the moment. For example, everyone on The Jump ended up injured and C4 also has a hospital show. Then simply use the a number to link those ideas (from the NJ website)
14: The number of contestants revealed to be in Channels 4's The Jump.
14: The number of those contestants who will also be appearing on 24 hours in A&E.
This joke has nothing to do with numbers really just two connected ideas and, for my money, works better as a number cruncher than a straight gag. (Also true for the pigeon gag and Sharkando gag on their website).

Start with a statistic or number in the news. I often find these harder as it's also how many others may approach it so can be more difficult to stand out. You take a number or stat e.g. 30% teachers quit within 5 years, now think of something linked to teachers that's funny. For teachers you could have lots of holidays, apple a day or in this case the phrase "it's your own time your wasting". Then simply link those two things with a number. (From the NJ website again)
30: The percentage of new teachers who quit within 5 years.
100: The percentage of new teachers who realised that it was in fact their time they were wasting.
I quite like percentages as 100, 50 and 0 are kind of funny in themselves in that you can mean everyone or no-one right away without having to go for a clunky number like 7 billion.

Make the number the gag. Contrasting two numbers side by side can be funny e.g. small number v little number shows how out of touch one group is, different views on the same number, number vs a number that is only slightly smaller. Your 20 inches / 10 inches joke (which is a good gag) works well here as it's two different groups views on what 20 inches actually is. Another example I used (one of my own that failed) was along the lines of:
2,811 - Number of angry twitter replies to Gary Lineker saying "I will speak up for refugees and they're rights".
2,809 - Number of those angry replies that read, "It's T.H.E.I.R. Gary, not They are!"

Something funny about particular numbers. And finally is there something funny about a particular number or group of numbers e.g. the year 2020 could also be 20:20 vision, a homopone, when Len Goodman says 7, a countdown. Again only my own poor examples but here's an example of a homphone where you think you mean the number eight:
9 - Number of stones Slimming World's Miss Slinky 2017 lost this year
8 - What Miss Slinky 2017 hasn't done for twelve months
And another example of using numbers as the joke from this week (not sent it so even I don't think it's good!)
77 - number of days Frank de Boer lasted as Crystal Palace manager
76 - how long his successor is expected to last. 75, 74, 73...

From their website and from last series you can see they lean more towards the first two types so really it's less about numbers and more about a good gag.

And it's worth bearing in mind I have never got a number-cruncher on Newsjack so feel free to disregard all of the above!

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Damian B

  • Wednesday 13th September 2017, 1:52pm
  • United Kingdom
  • 15 posts
Quote: StephenM @ 13th September 2017, 1:28 PM

Number crunchers are a little unusual as no other show has them so I certainly wasn't used to writing in that format. However by the end of last series I think I enjoyed writing them more than the straight gags. There's no right answer to this but here's some ways I use.

Think of a joke that links two things one of which is topical, forget about numbers for the moment. For example, everyone on The Jump ended up injured and C4 also has a hospital show. Then simply use the a number to link those ideas (from the NJ website)
14: The number of contestants revealed to be in Channels 4's The Jump.
14: The number of those contestants who will also be appearing on 24 hours in A&E.
This joke has nothing to do with numbers really just two connected ideas and, for my money, works better as a number cruncher than a straight gag. (Also true for the pigeon gag and Sharkando gag on their website).

Start with a statistic or number in the news. I often find these harder as it's also how many others may approach it so can be more difficult to stand out. You take a number or stat e.g. 30% teachers quit within 5 years, now think of something linked to teachers that's funny. For teachers you could have lots of holidays, apple a day or in this case the phrase "it's your own time your wasting". Then simply link those two things with a number. (From the NJ website again)
30: The percentage of new teachers who quit within 5 years.
100: The percentage of new teachers who realised that it was in fact their time they were wasting.
I quite like percentages as 100, 50 and 0 are kind of funny in themselves in that you can mean everyone or no-one right away without having to go for a clunky number like 7 billion.

Make the number the gag. Contrasting two numbers side by side can be funny e.g. small number v little number shows how out of touch one group is, different views on the same number, number vs a number that is only slightly smaller. Your 20 inches / 10 inches joke (which is a good gag) works well here as it's two different groups views on what 20 inches actually is. Another example I used (one of my own that failed) was along the lines of:
2,811 - Number of angry twitter replies to Gary Lineker saying "I will speak up for refugees and they're rights".
2,809 - Number of those angry replies that read, "It's T.H.E.I.R. Gary, not They are!"

Something funny about particular numbers. And finally is there something funny about a particular number or group of numbers e.g. the year 2020 could also be 20:20 vision, a homopone, when Len Goodman says 7, a countdown. Again only my own poor examples but here's an example of a homphone where you think you mean the number eight:
9 - Number of stones Slimming World's Miss Slinky 2017 lost this year
8 - What Miss Slinky 2017 hasn't done for twelve months
And another example of using numbers as the joke from this week (not sent it so even I don't think it's good!)
77 - number of days Frank de Boer lasted as Crystal Palace manager
76 - how long his successor is expected to last. 75, 74, 73...

From their website and from last series you can see they lean more towards the first two types so really it's less about numbers and more about a good gag.

And it's worth bearing in mind I have never got a number-cruncher on Newsjack so feel free to disregard all of the above!

You're right about disregarding the number. Next week I'll try to find a topical joke and bolt a number onto the end of it. I guess that was my mistake - being led by the number and not joke.

I like your joke about the Twitter grammar police. Don't you just hate people who can't spelle or punctua;te?

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tigerbailey

  • Wednesday 13th September 2017, 2:00pm
  • The Lake District, United Kingdom
  • 3 posts

What's Newsjack's target audience?

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