Sunday, 5 June 2011

You sure do talk funny.

Hello! I've started running a comedy club at a pub called The Oakwood in the sleepy town of Glossop, Derbyshire. Our opening night was on Wednesday and it was a bleeding belter. Great acts, great audience, not-too-crippling financial losses. A belter.

The next night will take place on Thursday 23rd June. Take a little looksy at the Facebook group here.

Monday, 7 March 2011

By the wall, you were 5'10" tall.

                            Bitches love yellow flowers.

Been a while since I've blogged, but believe you me, I've got plans for this here blog.  You'll see.

Recently, I've been working on a number of projects, including the one mentioned in the post below.  But finally, a project I started a while back has come to a head.  The image above is a sample from a strip called 'Berlin', scripted by myself with art and lettering by Conor Boyle and will be appearing in a forthcoming anthology called Doctor WTF? compiled and edited by Owen Watts.

Doctor WTF? is a Doctor Who fanzine that aims to do away with tiresome things like continuity and decorum, in favour of presenting a series of strange, exciting and occasionally obscene standalone fables.  Personally, I was very excited by the prospect of ignoring continuity, which I think comics generally labour over too hard.  We know that Batman's a fictional character and if anything in his 70 year history doesn't quite add up, we'll put it down to this fact and the fact that his stories have been told by hundreds and hundreds of talented people across multiple mediums.  It doesn't matter whether the Joker was the Red Hood or a failed comedian, just get on with the fucking story!

With that micro-rant out of the way, let's get to the meat of this post.  When Doctor WTF? comes out, you really ought to buy it.  To see more, get your bad self on the Doctor WTF Facebook group.  EOT.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

12 minutes to punchline and counting.

                                         Still from The IT Crowd, a futuristic sitcom about floating sofas.

I've been watching a lot of sitcoms recently.  Not just for funpies - oh no - I've been watching them with serious intent.  Serious intent and a stopwatch.

I've been working on a submission for a sitcom writing competition and have pretty much got the story down, plus some cracking jokes (not all knob gags as well).  What the submission currently lacks, and what I've got a little over a fortnight to rectify, is a sense of pace.  This is where the intensive sitcom watching comes in.

The main thing I've been looking at is the time distance in-between the feed line - the bit introducing the joke - and the punch line -  the bit you laugh at.  I've come to the disappointing conclusion that there is no such thing as an optimal distance between the two.

Take 'Calamity Jen', the second episode from the first series of Graham Linehan's The IT Crowd:  Almost immediatly we are fed a funny advert  - in the style of one of them directory enquiries ads that surfaced when it was decided that BT shouldn't be the only ones allowed to rip us off for raising the most basic query (though hopefully this whole practice will be quickly killed off by smartphones)* - about  a change in the emergency services number.  the new number is very difficult to recite.  This whole sequence acts as a feed line for a joke that doesn't come to fruition for another twelve minutes, or more if you're watching it as it's broadcast.  It is a very good joke.

However, in the same episode, there is an example of the very opposite.  About 16 minutes in a Japanese businessman is given a pair of Doc Marten's as a gift and encouraged to stomp around in them.  Less than a minute later, he stamps on a character's already mangled foot.  This a very quick set up and pay-off.

But if we look closer, we can see that there is more at work.  It is about ten minutes prior to this joke that we are shown that this character has a mangled foot, and we are introduced to the thing that mangles her feet - a pair of red shoes - in the opening shots of the episode.  All these elements come to an apex about 17 minutes in.  Someone have their foot stamped on isn't all that funny.  Someone having their foot stamped on by a foreign businessman, when their foot has already been mangled by a pair of shoes they simply couldn't resist, is hilarious.

So in a nutshell, the length between the feed line and the punch line doesn't really matter.  What does matter is the various elements that come together to form the feed line.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Genuine LOLs

I found this whilst researching a script I'm writing. I was looking for common anti-porn slogans to have some protesters chanting in a particular scene, and a Google Image search for 'anti-porn' brought up these results, and a genuine need for further investigation.

The first thing that strikes me is the mascot - a pre-teen cartoon eagle in a backwards baseball cap.  I'm not sure why this is particularly appropriate for the product.  It's represented as a child because that's ostensibly who the software is there to protect, but the eagle thing is just baffling.  Perhaps it's because of the connotations of the word 'eagle':  We have the term 'eagle-eyed', and perhaps that's how the software is when it's monitoring you child's surfing habits.  Perhaps it's a satirical move - a comment on web censorship - given the eagle's historical use in fascist motifs.

The second thing that strikes is the name of the product, which is so brazen  it might as well be called 'the wank halter'.  In a way it's refreshing, as very few software companies display this level of honesty.  I've recently been looking for a good, free - and preferably open source - video editor, but became stumped by the sheer breadth of programs that project the facade of doing the job you want them to, without actually doing it.  It's like pulling an advert for a builder out of the Yellow Pages, only to find out that all he can actually do is stack bricks in a neat pile.

Anyway, it amused me so I posted a link to it.  I hope you were amused similarly.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Compressed human brain molecules.

Given the subject matter of my last post, this seems to be a fitting follow up link. A behemoth of muddled narration, nonsensical storytelling, pilfered footage and actors with rude sounding forenames.

I take back what I said about exploitation cinema. This is beautiful just the way it is.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Love and Rocket-skis.

                          Doc Savage, patron of the torn shirt.

Over on the 2000AD forum there is a new thread currently kicking around the possibility of a new pulp anthology.  I, for one, am for this anthology.  So much so that I've already submitted a script.  Not because I possess superhuman writing abilities, or extraordinary precognitive abilities, but because I just so happened to have a suitable script knocking around.

Whether this proposed anthology actually makes it to print, and whether my story ends up in it as entirely a matter for the gods, but the topic of pulp literature is in itself an interesting area of discussion.  Why?  because pulp is rubbish.

Most fiction is rubbish, of course.  But when you consider the meagre sums of money involved in the production of a pulp novella, the hazard of it all being a bit shit is multiplied exponentially.

And yet, nowadays, pulp is venerated.  People treat it with far more respect than it was ever afforded when it was at its publishing height.  A good parallel case is what Quentin Tarantino and pals have been up to in the past decade:  Through films like Kill Bill (1 and 2), Grindhouse, Hostel and more recently Machete, we have seen a resurgence of what in the past was called 'exploitation' cinema.

Genuine exploitation cinema , like pulp literature, was at best a pile of guff (a great resource for info on the worst of the worst is Stuart Ashen's wonderful Trailer Club 70).  But Tarantino, Rodriguez and Roth have defiantly tried to take what's unique about the genre and reinject it into contemporary cinema.  A noble enterprise.  It's a shame their attempts thus far haven't quite measured up.

However, what is important is that they have blown open these sub-genres - the kung fu movie, the car fetishism flick etc. - and given them another shot at respectability.  Exploitation was keeping these sub-genres captive and Grindhouse set them free.  Now the door is wide open for someone else to come and do a good car fetishism flick and cinema will be all the richer for it.

Similarly, pulp literature has been greedily holding on to its own unique set of sub-genres for a long time and they are in need of rescue from a willing band of literary Scarlet Pimpernels.  Crime literature took a long time to find its way out of the dark and on to the best seller list and it's going to take a little longer to drag spicy romance stories into the realm of critical appraisal.  It'll be worth it in the end though.

Hopefully, the aforementioned anthology will swim against the tide of nostalgia, take these sub-genres and try and craft unique little tales within their mould.

If it doesn't do this, it doesn't really matter though.  It'll leave the door open for better works to sneak in.

Pulp is dead!  Long live pulp!

Monday, 17 January 2011

Red Ed led to defe(n)d the wed.

                              Celebrate, peasants!

Yesterday, Ed Miliband condemned union activists planning a tube strike for 29th April, the day Prince William is due to marry his 'bit of rough'.

The aim of the strike is to cause major disruption to London's transport network on this day for national celebration.  I'm not sure just how much bother it will cause - the happy couple are unlikely to be taking the Circle line to Westminster (guffaw) - and it definitely won't cause any bother for anyone that matters.  In fact, being a public holiday, it's quite a responsible date to choose; no one's going to be hindered on their way to work.  Brilliant.

The only people who are going to be inconvenienced are people on low to middling incomes who have somehow been seduced into thinking that this is an important event.  If you're foolish enough to think their wedding is worth turning out for in person, then you deserve all the inconveniences in the world.

If anything, there should be more obstacles en route to Westminster Abbey:  Razor wire, climbing walls and mine fields (for nostalgia's sake).  It's a sure fire way of whittling down the country's hard royalists, whilst providing great televisual entertainment for those who don't want to pore over the details of the ceremony itself.  they could get Harry Hill to narrate it in the manner of you've been framed.

Speaking seriously for a moment though, what this story shows is the sad state of our politics.  For those of us who thought a change of government might radicalise the left and put a stop to the endless chasing of the middle, this story is a serious case of disappointment.  Whether or not you agree with the terms of the proposed strike - bearing in mind that the RMT union events diary doesn't currently list the strike as an event -  you have to admit that it is a shame for Ed to put the royal wedding ahead of union activities.  As Labour party leader, he doesn't have to agree with the unions all the time, but he also doesn't have to sycophantically suck Prince William's opulent, jewel-encrusted member.

I'm off to make dinner.  I'm having swan.