British Comedy Guide

How to write great comedy sketches

The Sketch Show. Image shows from L to R: Tim Vine, Kitty Flanagan, Lee Mack, Karen Taylor, Jim Tavaré.

Sketch is one of the mainstays of British comedy. It is also the entry point to the comedy industry for most writers - particularly via the likes of the BBC's open access topical comedy show Newsjack. Whatever you're aiming to write, knowing how to craft a good sketch is essential. Across over more than 20 modules, this exclusive in-depth BCG Pro Tutorial will take you through all you need to know.

Each BCG Pro Tutorial comprises a number of modules, each of which offers one or more topics (pages) in turn. Begin your journey by picking from the below.

Modules

  1. Overview

    We start off by looking at what a comedy sketch actually is, and what platforms exist for sketches.

  2. History of Sketches

    A breakdown of the history of sketch writing. It's useful to understand how sketches have evolved.

  3. Structure

    Time to look at the shape that most sketches take - there're four key parts.

  4. Tone

    We explain what tone is, how to find it, and why it is one of the most important elements of sketch writing.

  5. Mediums

    Some practical advice on the difference between writing sketches for radio, TV, online and the stage.

  6. Audience vs Non-audience

    A look at big punchlines versus subtlety, with plenty of examples to study.

  7. Topical Sketches

    We discuss how to find news stories that are a suitable target for a topical sketch.

  8. Impressions

    This module explains how things differ when writing on impressions shows.

  9. Formatting

    By this point we're ready to write sketches, so we look at industry-standard script formatting.

  10. Finding the Funny

    How to find what is and isn't funny about your intended target. Plus, a look at issues of taste and decency.

  11. The List Sketch

    A very specific sketch writing technique. We explain what it is, and how to use it.

  12. The Game

    Thinking about this term, which comes from improv, is a great way of creating the meat of your sketch.

  13. Gags

    A module focusing on finding angles for jokes, and structuring them. Plus the importance of brevity.

  14. The Final Punchline

    We look at the all-important final joke, and why this will often be the difference between your sketch feeling satisfying or uninspired.

  15. Editing Down

    Almost all sketches should be made shorter. Here's a lesson on not being precious.

  16. The Writing Module

    Time to put your newly-learned skills to the test with a task.

  17. Submitting Sketches

    A look at where you can send your sketches, including a closer look at how to get content on Newsjack.

  18. Self-producing Online Comedy

    The pros and cons of self-producing sketches, with some practical pointers.

  19. Writers' Rooms & Building Relationships

    General career advice on how to succeed as a jobbing sketch writer.

  20. Making Money as a Sketch Writer

    So, just what you can expect to earn from writing sketches? Time for some actual numbers.

  21. FAQs

    The final section of this tutorial features some frequently asked questions about comedy and sketch writing.

  22. The End

    A summary of the last 20 modules, and a final task.