Friday 26 May 2023

This Blog Is Moving

This blog has been my Sitcom Geek home for 13 years. I started this blog in 2010 when the world seemed very different. Although people liked to laugh back then, they really need laughs now. So writing sitcoms isn't a waste of time. It is, in fact, a public service. So let's keep going with it.

And people love sitcoms. A good one that's reliably funny for over a hundred episodes, and bears repeat viewing is a truly wonderful thing.

So although Dave Cohen and I wrapping up the Sitcom Geek podcast, I plan to continue writing about writing sitcoms. I can't not do it. I just find it endlessly fascinating. I am a sitcom geek.

To be honest, I've never liked the aesthetic of this blog and I've lived with it. But now's the time to move to another platform I've been using already. So I'm going to continue writing about sitcoms over on Substack.

See you over there. And please subscribe and you'll get an email in your inbox containing the article to read at your leisure. Hopefully it will help you write better sitcom scripts.

Here is an obviously fake picture of people pretending to move house. That box is clearly empty.

Thursday 18 May 2023

Why I Abandonned Writing a Novel. Twice.

I started writing a novel in lockdown. Who didn’t? I had some characters from a play I’d written. I had an exciting new story and situation. How hard can it be?

Answer: Hard.

I got lost in the weeds, my research got out of hand and I realised I should be writing it as a pilot episode for an hour long action-adventure comedy drama. You know, a British Moonlighting-meets-National Treasure kind of thing.

So I abandonned writing the novel.

My agent sent out the script, and there were crickets. Nothing. Not a bite. No interest. No-one wanted me to be writing hour-long mainstream comedy drama with my half-hour sitcom CV.

So after a while, I had a brilliant idea. Let’s turn that one-hour screenplay back into a novel. Now I’ve got the characters, and a beginning, middle and end. Just turn each scene into a chapter of the book. How hard can it be?

Answer: Easy. At least I thought so.

But after my wife read the first 15000 words, and then a friendly publisher who was prepared to indulge me had a look, it turns that I had to learn a harsh truth: I don’t know how to write a novel.

So abandonned writing that novel for a second time.

Anecdote over.

I have, at least, delivered on the title of this blogpost.

But why have I beclowned myself before your very eyes?

It is to make this point: a moderately successful comedy writer who’s been making a living for over 20 years working with stories, characters and jokes, has a lot to learn about writing. I can’t just turn my hand to writing novels. It’s a lot harder than it looks.

After all, if a novelist said to me that they were writing a sitcom, I’d smirk and think to myself ‘wow, you have no idea how hard it is!’. But I wouldn’t say that, in the hope that they would ask me to help and that I would be paid (after all The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin and Men Behaving Badly began life as novels).

I thought I knew how novels were written. After all, I read novels – for my own pleasure and to my kids. And I know how stories and character work. I can do jokes. But there’s more to it. It’s all about meeting expectations. Like this blogpost.

If I want to master this form, and write a presentable novel that someone might actually finish, I need to learn a new set of skills, study the genre, take advice and learn.

If you want to learn how to write a sitcom, you can learn by trial and error, and waste months of work like I did on that novel, twice over. Or…

… you could just do a course, one that’s been put together by someone who’s been doing it professionally for over 20 years. It’s called Writing Your Sitcom and it’s available now.

If you take the time to do what the course says, your sitcom script will be better – and will probably be better than 90% of the scripts that turn up to the various writing competitions that pepper the calendar. Because you've actually learnt how to do it. And then you can do it again. And again.

Wednesday 15 February 2023

What is a Plot Not?

Plotting your sitcom is really hard - and in the sitcom scripts I read, it's usually the main problem. Maybe the situation works. Maybe the characters are good. But it's hard to tell because nothing's happening. Plots show us what the characters are really like and if your situation is going to give us reliable results.

We talk about plot on the latest episode of the Sitcom Geeks podcast - and if you want to get FREE access to a webinar replay on the plotting, join my mailing list and you'll get instant access to a ninety minute video that should really help you find your plot. (Plus at least three other videos not available anywhere else).

So sign up HERE and you could be watching the replay in minutes!

Thursday 29 December 2022

A Formula For Sitcom Success?

2023 is fast approaching. A new year. A new hope. If you read this blog, you and I probably share the same aim: to get a sitcom commissioned.

Is that a realistic hope?


And no.

Here’s the yes: as I say on the  regularly, “People like watching TV. And they like laughing.” Comedy is one of life’s essentials, like water, electricity and food. I mean that seriously. You are not wasting time when you write comedy. And if you can do it regularly and well, you will get more opportunities.

I’m in danger of making false promises and giving false hope: that talent will out and that you just need to believe in yourself and keep going and you’ll make it.

But is that a false promise?

Actually, no. I’ve hung around the British comedy industry for twenty-five years and the more I stick around, the less cynical I become. Maybe that’s surprising. But experience has taught me that I really do believe in this formula:

Talent + Perseverance = Success. Eventually.


What is ‘talent’? How much do you need? You need some aptitude to write. You need a few comedy instincts. But these reveal themselves slowly and don’t start out with brilliantly original ideas from the get-go.

Many people start by writing parodies of existing, established entertainment formats. If you’re my age, that would have been a Blind Date sketch. You get a few laughs based on the solid structure of a format everyone knows, and then you move on to something more original.

This takes perseverance, the second ingredient in our equation.


In some ways, I feel like I was lucky to get Think The Unthinkable commissioned by BBC Radio 4. I was only about 25. I hadn’t been doing comedy for long.

But then I realise that wasn’t true. I’d done nothing but comedy since about the age of 12, writing sketches at school, putting on plays, honing my craft at university and taking three different comedy shows to the Edinburgh Fringe in ’96, ’97 and ‘99. I was all about writing comedy.

However, my TV sitcom, Bluestone 42, was another 13 years after my first radio sitcom was commissioned. This was not for lack of trying.

So we get to that final word in the equation ‘eventually’.

For how long will you keep going in the pursuit of success? There is a cost to writing – and to persevering. It might be borne by your friends, your family and those to whom you have obligations. That’s . Time spent persevering and improving is time away from other things. So we need to use our time wisely. .

And we need a new approach as we get to that other word: success. 

Success. Eventually.

What even is success? How do we measure it? Is it to get a sitcom commissioned?

That’s a fine long term goal – but actually the decision to hit a green light is out of hands. Only a handful of sitcoms are commissioned every year, and the reasons for that are often rather arbitrary when it comes down to it. TV commissioners are making decisions based on all kinds of factors that we don't know about. And there's nothing we can do about that, short of raising £1.6m and making the sitcom ourselves.

So should we plan to get a sitcom commissioned in 2023?

It's a good aim. And we can plan to give ourselves a better chance of this happening. But it’s not wise to plan something that is not within your power. This will only lead to frustration.


I talk about realistic planning and a bunch of other things i from earlier this month called , which you can access for next-to-nothing.

And it comes with a discount code worth £100 off my  course. So click  for that webinar.

Friday 23 December 2022

Fresh Thinking for Sitcom Writing in 2023

You know what? I’ve felt pretty low at times in my career...

It feels amazing when you’ve got your own show on TV or Radio. And I’ve had that with Think The Unthinkable, which ran for four series on BBC Radio 4. And Hut 33 did three series. And Bluestone 42 ran for three series on BBC3 and was a truly amazing experience.

But no matter how many times you have that, it ends.

And that great feeling goes away.

And then doubts creep in.

Suddenly you’re not sure why you're not very busy. You get resentful and wonder what to do next.

I had that. Let me tell you what I did next and how I had to reframe my thinking.

In fact, I explained it all in a webinar with some concrete actionable advice about how you can make your writing career go better in 2023. Supercharge it!

Okay, it's a slow and painful. But are you giving yourself the best chance of success?

What have you got to lose? A pound and ninety minutes? It's pay-what-you-like, with a £1 minimum, but you could chip in more. And/or you could also get something else at the checkout that could help you hone your sitcom script, or get my mini-course on supercharging your script.

Find out more OVER HERE.

Tuesday 8 November 2022

How Can I Improve my Chances of Sitcom Success in 2023

Are you asking yourself any of the following questions?

  • How can I improve my chances of success in 2023? And what does success even look like?
  • How do I pitch ideas in 2023 (rather than wishing it was 2004 again)?
  • Do I need to write a script?
  • How do I even get in the room?
  • How do I get a producer to take a chance on me?
  • Isn’t it just too competitive now? Am I wasting my time?
  • And how do I reframe this whole thing so that it doesn’t drive me nuts?

I'll be answering questions like that in another pay-what-you-like webinar. It's about how to exponentially improve the chances of success when it comes to your sitcom career.

Part-Seminar, Part-Intervention. No BS, no quick fixes and no pretending it’s easy.

And plenty of straightforward actionable advice from someone who’s been out there doing it for 25 years – and it turns out it doesn’t get any easier…

On Zoom on Fri 9th Dec at 7pm-8.30pm UK Time. (it might clash with some sporty thing, but your career is more important, right?) Book in over here. Pay what you like - or help me help you by buy something when you book.

Friday 2 September 2022

How to Make Your Sitcom Go Horribly Wrong

I was plotting and planning a sitcom this morning, and stumbled across a neat little device to help escalate stores that so simple, I’m almost ashamed to point it out. Almost. But I found it useful so here it is.

If you’ve got a list of very basic ideas, or something that your character could do in an episode, like this:

  • Trip to the Swimming Baths.
  • Nature Walk. 
  • Bakes biscuits.

Now try adding the phrase ‘goes horribly wrong.’

I know. That’s it. But you might be surprised at the results. See the difference:

Trip to the swimming baths 

So, erm, what could happen there?

  • Character runs into someone embarrassing?
  • Forgets swimming costume?
  • Loses towel?

Okay, fine. But meh.

But it’s interesting that we’re thinking of steps 1 and 2 of the story rather than escalations and we've still got a lot of escalating to do.

Let’s add ‘…goes horribly wrong’.

Trip to swimming baths… goes horribly wrong

  • Pool has to be evacuated?
  • Water completely drains away?
  • Water ends up looking like blood, and children need counselling?

Wow. That escalated fast. Suddenly, we’ve got much bigger outcomes.

While just typing this list as an example, I rather enjoyed ‘Water ends up looking like blood’. I know I’m a Bible guy so I’m thinking about Moses turning the Nile to blood, but it’s quite an image isn’t it? Is there anyway that could happen in your sitcom?

Now, these are just events. They’re not character-based. But they invite the question, ‘How would my character make that happen?’ Or ‘How could my character get into that situation?’

And maybe this proves to be a dead end. But it was more fun thinking about what happens when it turns out your character doesn’t have a pound coin for the locker. Booooring.

Make it go horribly wrong.

Maybe you've already sorted that. And you've got a script that escalates horribly quite nicely, thanks.

Would you like me to read it? We can make that happen.

In fact, I'm offering a thing called Supercharged Script Reading. Look over here for details.