In my last post, I said that making YouTube videos is mostly a waste of time - if you want to be a sitcom writer. And you're not a writer/performer. I give my reasons here.
Here's what I'm advising against most of all: making the sitcom yourself with some friends as a way of 'getting the idea out there' or showing that the idea 'can work' or 'building an audience'. It won't sell the show, especially if you're trying to write something that works as a half-hour show, rather than a three-minute sketch. TV sitcoms cost at least £250k an episode, and these are not lavish productions with actors being picked up limos. Next to these shows, it's hard to make your own show which does justice to your idea. So I maintain that the best way to sell a well-written sitcom is to write a script really well and send it producers who make things that you like. For more on that, see here and here and here.
The Upside of YouTube
That is not to say if you have a go at making your own show for YouTube, you won't learn some valuable lessons, make some good friends and have fun. But everything takes time and money - and that's time and money that might be better used elsewhere.
YouTube is brilliantly democratic and immediate, so there's nothing to stop you making a show that is extremely topical. Write/Performer Dave Cohen (who has credits on Have I Got News for You and Horrible Histories) did his own topical show for a week called Britain's Got People. Or maybe you have an idea or persona that lends itself to talking directly to camera, like Jenna Marbles.
If you're looking to write something other than a sitcom script, the web does open up a whole range of possibilities that might well be worth pursuing.
Podcasts cost virtually nothing to make and can almost sound broadcast-quality very easily. If you do something that's regular and high quality, people will notice, including producers. Eventually.
There's also blogging or other forms of written online comedy - which are worth considering if you can do them well and regularly. The Onion is a notable example (which I think started as a printed leaflet to sell pizzas). The greatest British example is the wonderfully demented Framley Examiner, written by guys like Joel Morris and Jason Hazeley who've gone on to write with Charlie Brooker on Screenwipe and A Touch of Cloth.
I'm not sure if there was never a better time to be a comedy writer - given the opportunities - or whether this is the worst possible time - given the numbers of people trying to be writers. The point is that there are opportunities to show what you can do that don't involve persuading someone to lend you lights and a boom. And I would encourage you to take them.
But right now, you should be writing for Newsjack which is running on BBC Radio 4 Extra at the moment. Here's why.