Fine-tuning a gag and why it matters

Hancock's Half Hour. Image shows from L to R: Anthony Aloysius St John Hancock (Tony Hancock), Donor (Frank Thornton), Nurse (June Whitfield). Copyright: BBC

It can often feel like a nightmare to go over the same joke or sentence again and again in a quest to get it right. It eventually loses all meaning because you've said the words to yourself over and over and thus no longer know if it's perfect, let alone legible.

But fine-tuning a joke or even a feedline is important because it can mean the difference between its success or failure, whether it "lands" and makes people laugh or not. It is also the difference between being a lazy hack and a real craftsperson of comedy.

Georgia Pritchett, a writer on hit comedy TV shows Veep and Succession, says of the latter show, "we made every word of every line count." Lee & Herring meanwhile would stay up all night in their Leicester Square office bickering over the difference between "the" and "a" for their radio and television series.

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Published: Sunday 28th November 2021

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