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Blog: The Big Comedy Conference

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I went to another CONFERENCE on Saturday and, like the London Screenwriters' Festival a few weeks ago, it started at KRAZY O'CLOCK in the morning. I thought WRITERS were meant to get up late?

This was pretty much my only complaint about the event, as otherwise The Big Comedy Conference was GRATE. It was a whole day of panels and talks about COMEDY STUFF, taking place in Clerkenwell, and I nearly hadn't gone as we were booked to see Morrissey later that evening. A couple of nights ago I'd mentioned it in passing to The Delegates At My Session, saying "If Morrissey ends up cancelling there's a conference I'd like to go to instead". She pointed out that the conference was in the DAY and Morrissey was in the evening and that I therefore could and indeed SHOULD go. So I did!

They had a really good line-up of guests, including David Quantick, Vicki Pepperdine, Andy Hamilton and especially Graham Linehan, one of my all time HEROES of HILARITY. My favourite part of the whole day was during a Q&A with him. I put my hand up towards the end hoping to ask the following ERUDITE question: "I noticed that 'Count Arthur Strong' featured several emotional scenes which, unusually for a British sitcom, were not immediately undercut. Was this intentional, or did it emerge from the character?" GOOD EH? I managed to sort of ask the first part (though I did start with "HIYA! I love Count Arthur!") but before I could ask the actual question at the end Mr Linehan said "Thank you!", looked REALLY pleased, and went into a reverie about being inspired to make it that way through a memory of the pilot episode of "Hi-De-Hi". It was all rather heart-warming, and even nicer when I bumped into him later in the corridor and he thanked me for mentioning it and we shook hands in a MANLY fashion. It was lovely!

The other high point of the day was a SCRIPT SESSION with Hayley McKenzie of Script Angel which came free with the ticket and was pretty much worth the price on its own. I'd sent her the first ten minutes of a sitcom idea I've been working on, hoping she could help me sort out the opening. What actually happened was half an hour of INCISIVE THOUGHT and EXCELLENT POINTS which made me realise I could drop a whole character, move others around, and make the whole thing MUCH MUCH BETTER. It was brilliant - she also LARFED at some of the jokes and said she liked it, which helped, and I came away full of THORTS.

Apart from those HIGHS there was another significant aspect which could be either a high or a low - only TIME will tell. At every session I went to, solo or in the company of Mr John Dredge, one theme shone out at me: the best way to get work as a comedy writer in the current climate is to do stand-up comedy. It's something I've wondered about and WRESTLED with in the past, but nearly EVERYBODY who talked about getting actual WORK mentioned it, and nearly ALL of the younger writers there had at some point DONE it and got breaks that way. I have no wish to pursue stand-up comedy as a career but it does seem like the main way of meeting comedy agents, producers and commissioners these days.

One of the main reasons I have NOT pursued it any further is that I hate the idea of rolling up at comedy nights and begging for an open mic spot - goodness knows I have done enough of that in the world of ROCK - as I would have no idea where to start. However, Mr Dredge has recently done a 10 week course in stand-up which a) showed him how to do it b) gave him writing exercises to do and c) ended with a couple of showcase nights. I am thus pondering the wisdom of doing the course MYSELF next year. I mean, I have done enough GIGS not to be scared of it and it would at least be INTERESTING, but I'm not sure how much I want to have to go to lots of comedy nights afterwards. File this under PENDING!

So all in all it was an EXTREMELY thought provoking day which also featured many LARFS and Enjoyable Remarks. I left full of THORT and IDEAS and headed over to the O2 arena where I met The Audience In My Stadium just in time for... well, a couple of beers and THEN Morrissey, who was GRATE. He was in TOP FORM, especially for the first and last 20 minutes of the set. In between there was rather a lot more of the new album than I would have asked for (i like it, but I also like the back catalogue!) but after reading and hearing stories about his health it was fantastic to seem him being SO AMAZING. And crikey, the new chap he's got in the band has improved it NO END.

Also of note was how SURPRISINGLY NICE the O2 Arena was. It's YEARS since I last went to a gig that size, and was impressed by how good the sound was, how easy it was to get in and (especially) out, and how well I could see. Maybe I'll book it next year for my stand-up tour!

posted 4/12/2014 by MJ Hibbett

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