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Pitching a Comedy


I met a commissioning editor the other day….

I went to the RTS sponsored Speed Date The Comedy Gurus where you get a 3 minute session to pitch an idea to the actual heads of the channels. To people like me who have sent shorts and ideas to the established companies that sit on piles of other people’s genius ideas it is a revelation to actually see how they operate when it comes to what they want for their relevant strand.

My first 3 min speed chat was with Robert Popper and foolishly I tried to pitch two ideas whereas I should have concentrated on one. I came across like Dennis Hopper in Apocalypse Now with my stream of consciousness speed talk, which was ultimately didn’t win anyone over but he did give me pointed notes on where I was going wrong.

My first pitch, Microphone Fiends, is a semi autobiographical story of 2 people in dead end jobs who decide to try stand-up on a whim and suddenly get drawn into the comedy world. If I were a commissioner I wouldn’t find that unique as comedy and stand-up ideas are everywhere and I realise that people will think that I’m jumping on the currently trendy bandwagon. To be clear for my conscience, it is an ensemble character piece I have been writing for a year and a half and not riding on any trends. The stand-up is just a backdrop to propel the two people’s friendship and the comics they meet. It’s about the eccentrics and the seediness of London’s nightlife. Also I know Ben Miller did a film called Huge which people would unfairly bundle together. My idea (as I kept saying) is a modern Nashville. These people don’t have time to sift through a script (life is too short) so I really should have summarised it to stand out which I have learned.

The second idea was a 6 part show called Fear and Loathing in IT, about an ex-pat American hedonist living in London and working for a large nebulous IT industry. Instantly I was told that was a bad idea as it has the words IT in it and easy connotations to the popular channel 4 series. Again my idea is poles apart from The IT Crowd but in terms of the pitch it could have been better to distance it from a popular brand.

Needless to say for the next two pitches I concentrated on one idea and sounded less demented (i could be wrong).

Three minutes feels like a short time to pitch your idea and one main thing I learned is to get to the point of the idea as a unique logline. Also be aware everyone has to do the quick pitch. I know heavyweight producers who trundle up to the commissioners and do the speed pitch so don’t feel that you are an lesser exception.

In the end just to get access to the talent and feel what goes into a pitch is priceless and good luck to all the people that attended. RTS needs to do more of these and find the undiscovered talent and bypass the development divisions (for an evening at least!).

And for me? I will carry on trying to convince people to realise my idea. I believe in it and hopefully someone will too but that’s another story!


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