Ask 1000 people worldwide what they like about British comedy and I guarantee you’ll find yourself in the company of 1000 people that say it’s all in the writing. Smart, witty, intelligent — words that are repeatedly used to describe British comedy writing.
Good writing + good casting = success
Ask any actor or actress cast in a British comedy, and all will say it begins and ends with the writing. Good writing translates to success nine times out of ten. You’ll never get an actor to admit that they bring a lot to the table, but that’s just the “British way”. Good script writing and the right casting gives you that ten out of ten success rate that will stand the test of time. A great cast can’t save an idea that just doesn’t work or is headed nowhere. Great writing will struggle with the wrong cast.
In more cases than not, the British comedy writer is writing from experience. Not always, but it doesn’t hurt to know of what you are writing. All to often, today’s comedy writers think all you have to do is swear and talk loud and it’ll be funny.
Was Jeremy Lloyd really Mr. Lucas?
Jeremy Lloyd (Are You Being Served) spent his early days working at Simpson’s Department Store. Roy Clarke (Last of the Summer Wine, Keeping Up Appearances, Open All Hours) grew up with a relative owning a small grocery store like Arkwright’s. Even though Clarke was 40 when he began writing Last of the Summer Wine, he admits to have based the exploits of Compo, Clegg, Foggy and, later, Truly on his own experiences with friends during his youth. It’s no secret that the genius behind Coupling was the early dating life of Steven Moffat and producer/wife, Sue Vertue. So much so, the lead characters are named Steve and Susan.
Think of your favorites of all-time. The ones that have stood the test of time and are as relevant today as they were 30+ years ago….Yes Minister, Fawlty Towers, Vicar of Dibley, Blackadder, etc. All great scripts, all great casts from the stars down to the supporting cast. All equally as important.
Who can forget the greatest written exchanges to have ever been written or spoken in British comedy…ok, these are two of my personal favorites. Have a favorite writer? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know.
Basil Fawlty: Is something wrong?
German Guest: Will you please stop talking about the war?
Basil Fawlty: Me? You started it.
German Guest: We did not!
Basil Fawlty: Yes, you did, you invaded Poland.
Captain Blackadder: Baldrick, what are you doing out there?
Private Baldrick: I’m carving something on a bullet, sir.
Captain Blackadder: What are you craving?
Private Baldrick: I’m carving “Baldrick”, sir.
Captain Blackadder: Why?
Private Baldrick: It’s part of a cunning plan, sir.
Captain Blackadder: Of course it is.
Private Baldrick: You know how they say that somewhere there’s a bullet with your name on it?
Captain Blackadder: Yes?
Private Baldrick: Well I thought that if I owned the bullet with my name on it, I’ll never get hit by it. Cause I’ll never shoot myself…
Captain Blackadder: Oh, shame!
Private Baldrick: And the chances of there being *two* bullets with my name on it are very small indeed.
Captain Blackadder: Yes, it’s not the only thing that is “very small indeed”. Your brain for example- is so minute, Baldrick, that if a hungry cannibal cracked your head open, there wouldn’t be enough to cover a small water biscuit.