British Comedy Guide

Writing Radio Sketch Comedy with Chris Head

Writing Radio Sketch Comedy. Copyright: BCG.
  • Writing
  • £125
  • Next: 2 Nov 2021 (5 x Monday nights)
  • Online

Across five live Zoom sessions, listen to and analyse rilliant radio sketches to uncover radio writing skills alongside sketch structure and writing techniques that apply both to radio/podcasts and other mediums.

We'll explore radio sketches from That Mitchell & Webb Soud, Newsjack, Chris Morris, Laura Solon, Lee Mack, The Mary Whitehouse Experience, Small Scenes, The League of Gentlemen, Cowards, The Goons, Million Pound Radio Show and John Finnemore’s Souvenir Programme, alongside sketches from Monty Python records, podcasts like Live from Kirrin Island and the John Dredge show, and scenes from the radio series of Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy and the Mighty Boosh. 

Radio comedy has a creative freedom that's hard to find anywhere else. You can set sketches ANYWHERE in the world (or the universe) and you can write action that would be impossibly expensive to film and conjure it all up with sounds, voices and music. You characters can also be ANYONE or indeed ANYTHING without the complication of needing costume or makeup.

Plus if you do want to write for Newsjack or other open door radio shows, or are looking to start your own comedy podcast with sketches or scenes, then this will give you a head start as you will have the skills to write for the audio comedy medium - plus there is the option on the course to record the sketches you write and guidance will be given if you are getting started.

On the course you will:

* Develop your radio sketch writing skills

* write lots of new, surprising and imaginative sketches. Explore a range of inspiring starting points for sketches including making use of radio’s ability to easily conjure up far flung and extreme locations, personification (or anthropomorphic) sketches where animals and things come to life and parody sketches where sound effects and music can conjure up things like the news or a big budget drama to be lampooned.

* get professional, helpful and inspiring feedback on your work

We will cover:

* Structuring sketches, writing dialogue and finding punchlines!

* Sound effects in radio comedy - both how sound effects can conjure up the world of your scene and how sound effects can be funny.

* The specific demands and opportunities of radio comedy as a medium.

* Formatting radio sketches and an introduction to the industry.

At the end of each session the homework task will be to write, and optionally to record too, a sketch where you work with the comedic techniques we have explored in the session. There will be a number of options as to the subject/angle of the sketch to get you started – and you are always welcome to go in a different direction if you are inspired to. Work will be shared on a Trello board where a lively discussion unfolds between sessions and where you'll find course notes and recordings of the sessions.

See below for the weekly breakdown of the sessions.

Dates and booking

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2nd - 30th November 2021

Tuesday 2nd November 2021, 7pm - 9pm (5 x Monday nights)
Standard BCG Pro
£125 £118.75 Book

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Weekly breakdown of the sessions:

This week we’ll explore how to use sound effects in your radio/audio comedy as well as looking at how to structure your sketch. We'll explore how they can be used naturalistically to conjure up location and action and also how they can be used comedically where laughs are triggered by sound effects. You'll also explore using sound effects as a springboard to get into a sketch idea. We'll listen to and analyse example sketches from: Laura Solon & Katherine Parkinson, Mitchell & Webb, The Consultants. And we’ll discuss SOURCING AND WORKING WITH SOUND EFFECTS. And if you are new to audio editing there will also be follow up links to online Audacity tutorials, including an introduction, a one with a bunch of handy tips and changing voices in Audacity. 

This week we’ll take criminals and villains as our theme for the sketches we analyse and write, and we’ll introduce news and current affairs parodies. This week we will listen to sketches from Monty Python, Blue Jam, Kirrin Island, Lee Mack and The Mary Whitehouse Experience, all of which will be about villains and criminals and will illustrate a range of ways of creating comedy on this subject. This exploration will also explore principles that can be used with any subject matter.

SESSION 3     
The theme of this session is extreme, remote and challenging situations (on Earth and in space) and how easily they can be conjured up in radio with sound effects, dialogue and music – basically all situations that would be difficult to do if filmed. The comedic concept is BATHOS. We will look at how a dramatic scene, or one with grandeur, can be undercut with something ridiculous. We'll work with survivalist/ wilderness type scenes as well as sci-fi, bathetically undercutting the situations. We will also look at pirate scenes where again the very real danger is undercut with absurdity in some way. Shows we’ll listen to for examples of this in action are Small Scenes, The League of Gentlemen, Million Pound Radio Show, Cowards, Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy and The Goons.

SESSION 4     
In the session we'll explore sketches that are about music and sketches that use music. We’ll begin by playing with the format of chart countdowns, then we'll explore sketches that use music and singing as part of the action. And we'll look at  juxtaposing music stars with something banal or mundane. Plus we explore taking aspects of the modern day in music and applying them in the past - and the flip side, taking something from the past and bringing it into the present. Examples of the techniques in action will be from the Bearded Ladies, Blue Jam, Laura Solon, Milk Run, Mitchell & Webb and John Finnemore’s Souvenir Programme.

SESSION 5      
This week explore we’ll anthropomorphic comedy – personifying animals and things – as well as surreal and bizarre comedy generally. Firstly, personification is a technique radio is particularly well suited to as all the images are in the listener’s minds and so don’t require costume and setting and these same qualities allow all sorts of bizarre situations and images to be readily conjured up. We’ll personify animals and objects, as well as working on mad absurdist comedy situations. Our clips will come from Mitchell & Webb, Cowards, the Mighty Boosh and the Goon Show. In this closing session we’ll also review where you can go next with your radio and podcast comedy work.


This course is provided by Chris Head.

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