I’m trying to be funny here

Rewan Stand Up
Doing stand-up during my university days. I wish I still fitted in those clothes…

I’m only three episodes into vlogging and I have already realised how apologetic I’m being when I try to promote them. I had hoped that having the guts to upload those first videos would have allowed me to overcome the confidence barrier and just get on with it. I’m not so sure that’s happened.

The problem, in essence, is this: I’m trying to make you laugh – but I’m also worried that I might fail and so am trying to save face by acting as though that’s not my intention. It’s like if a person you have a crush on mentions they want to go see a new film that has just been released and you try and seize the opportunity to ask them out by saying ‘Well I was going to see it on Friday, I suppose you could tag along if, you know, you were free or whatever. But I can just go by myself, as that’s what I was going to do anyway, you know?’

Trying and failing to be funny is excruciating. Everybody knows this. During university I did stand-up comedy on occasion. I hasten to add that it wasn’t a dearth of good jokes that made me abandon it. Most of my gigs went swimmingly. One of them didn’t, and it’s painful when you’re on that stage, relaying a story which you think has great comic potential and getting very little response from the audience.

Vlogging is a bit like being a stand-up comic. In fact, that’s the reason I started doing it. For one reason or another I don’t really have the opportunity to do comedy where I live at the moment. But that doesn’t mean I don’t think up new routines. My colleagues in work have the unfortunate burden of being the test subjects for whatever observations, anecdotes, or analogies I think up during the day.

Just to sidetrack for a moment; being known as a bit of a comedian means you always get that awful scenario where, after having just uttered something hilarious off the top of your head, someone smugly asks ‘You’ve been waiting for an opportunity to use that one for months, haven’t you?’

Maybe that’s why I’m so desperate to get on a television panel show. People don’t often accuse panel show contestants of having prepared their jokes months in advance. Especially if it’s a satirical news show, about stories that only happened a few hours ago.

Anyway, back to the main issue. I suppose a more confident – and therefore, likely, successful – blogger or vlogger probably promotes their articles and videos along the lines of ‘Hey! You should check out this latest update, it’s really funny: you’ll love it!’

My promotional strategy is akin to that used by charity muggers: I have practised the phrase ‘Excuse me but do you have a minute to… Okay, no worries, thank you for your time, have a great day’ so that I don’t even have to wait for people to brush me off mid-pitch before trying to backtrack on my efforts.

So I’ve decided to just admit the problem, and then it’s not a secret. No point being embarrassed about saying something that has already been said. It’s like turning to a co-worker after a year in the office and saying to them: ‘Sarah, I have something to tell you: I work at this company’.

Rather like Alcoholics Anonymous, admitting the problem is halfway towards solving it. Not that I want to cure my desire to make people laugh. That’s an addiction that I want to be thoroughly enabled. I don’t want to find myself one day sitting in a circle of strangers at a comics’ self-help group, telling them how I went from ‘just trying to get a few giggles’ to ‘refusing to leave the library until at least one person bust a gut’.

But I will admit it, so here goes:

My blogs and vlogs – not to mention my books – are largely meant to be funny. My name is Rewan, and I want to make you laugh.

Introducing the Captain Reasonable Vlog

Great news: you can now watch me. I don’t mean all the time, and certainly not from behind some wheelie bins, or through my office window. But you can now have the next best thing to me telling you my thoughts in person, because I’ve started vlogging.

Fireworks Cropped

I’ve been wanting to vlog for a long time now, but something always got in the way. The videos I’ll be producing and uploading will mostly be the kind of material I would have performed as stand-up comedy were there more opportunities where I live to do so.

Instead, I just have to imagine (or, more accurately, hope) that there is laughter. The supportive kind, that is. Not the kind of laugh you do after you see someone fall over on a skateboard.

Meet Captain Reasonable; the World’s Most Affable Superhero

Captain Reasonable is my vlogging alter ego (my dictation software initially thought I’d said ‘flogging’ – that’d be a very different video series). If you’ve read a few of my posts on here, you’re probably already able to understand the inspiration behind him. I spend a lot of time considering how other people will react to what I say and write, which isn’t really my job. People can make up their own minds without me chipping in.

The Captain Reasonable vlog starts with Episode Two. Why? Well, you’ll just have to watch the video below to find out.

Dear Journal

The other type of video I will be regularly posting will be as part of a series entitled Captain Reasonable’s Journal. These are essentially podcasts, or narrated newspaper columns, with added snazzy visuals. I’m putting together lots of footage and effects, so while they will follow the same format, each one will be just as interesting to look at as it is to listen to.

They are only a couple of minutes long each, so do give them a watch. You can find the first one below.

Never Miss a Video: Subscribe Today

If you enjoy these videos, the best thing to do is subscribe to my YouTube channel. This ensures that you never miss my latest upload. They’ll get shared on my other social platforms as well, including Facebook, Twitter, and of course on here. If you haven’t yet done so, subscribing to this blog lets me know that you’re enjoying this and gives me more motivation to keep going.

And don’t forget to comment and let me know what you think of my videos.

A Christmas advent calendar of jokes

As a special Christmas treat (and I use that word lightly), I’ll be posting a new one-liner joke on my Facebook page every day until December the 24th, when I’ll end with a joke bonanza. To let you know what you’ll be in for when you Like the page, here are the first two ‘doors’ in your Christmas Comedy Advent Calendar.

Christmas One Liner #1 High Christmas One Liner #2

The next door in the advent calendar of laughs/guffaws/groans/decisions to kill this humble writer will be uploaded to my Facebook page tomorrow. Visit www.facebook.com/rewantremethickauthor to make sure you don’t miss out.

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Meet the star of my novel in a 5 part Hallowe’en radio story

Laslo Kane JPEGMy novel Fallen on Good Times is due to be published in March 2014 by Paddy’s Daddy Publishing. Next week, however, you get the chance to see the protagonist – private detective Laslo Kane – in action. I’ve teamed up with local community radio station Penwith Radio to write and record a special 5 part story, read by me, which will be broadcast on five consecutive nights starting on Hallowe’en.

Set in the fictional 1920s American city of Pilgrim’s Wane, Death Begins sees soft-boiled detective Laslo Kane stuck with two problems. Firstly, his latest clients are the family of a man who was shot by a killer who managed to escape without being noticed from a room with only one exit and barred windows. As he investigates further, Laslo will come to realise that the killer escaping is the least odd thing about this case.

As if such a mystery wasn’t enough, Laslo finds himself pressed into service by Maleck, a disembodied spirit who desires to return to the physical realm. Laslo makes a deal; he’ll help Maleck find a new body, if Maleck helps him solve his latest case. However, it seems that time isn’t on their side. What is Maleck so desperate to escape from?

A mix of comedy, horror, and mystery, Death Begins will start on Hallowe’en, with a new episode each night for the following four nights.

Penwith Radio is a community radio station based in Penzance, with listeners all around the world. Anyone can listen via the internet by visiting www.penwithradio.co.uk and clicking ‘Listen Live’.

Death Begins should be going out around 10pm, although we have yet to confirm it exactly as we’re still putting the finishing touches to the recording. Check out my Facebook page for any updates.

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The women are taking over

Quick, everybody run. The women are taking over. Where can we go that is safe? I know, to the hills. Women can’t climb hills, can they? They can? Where will this equality madness end? I know, we’ll hide in a jar with a stiff lid.

Then again, if all the men do that, how will we get out? Damn it, we’ve played right into their hands.

One of the interesting facts about the equality battle (and considering the attitudes held by the more extremist members of both sides, ‘battle’ would seem to be the appropriate word) is that those for and against equality for women often end up using the same arguments.

Again, the women are taking over

There’s an interesting (and by interesting, I mean bloody annoying) thing that both feminists (read: some feminists) and misogynists like to do whenever a woman shows the slightest bit of promise in an area that is, at the present and/or historically, male dominated. It’s to loudly and proudly declare ‘The women are taking over’ or ‘See women can do this too, the time of men is limited’.

It’s funny how that sentiment is used as both a pro and a con of women being empowered. But it’s a stupid attitude that doesn’t really help.

I’ll give you an example.

Men aren’t funny anymore

Rather ironically, this was the premise of a recent article I read in one of those newspaper supplement magazines the other day. It’s ironic because the article (written by a man) was meant to be a ‘Yay for women’ piece about the fact that comediennes are now beginning to get access to the high profile success their male counterparts have had since whenever one male caveman first hit the other in a face with a custard pie. Yet instead, it spent most of the time talking about male comics.

The premise was thus; comediennes such as Sarah Millican and Miranda (both hilariously funny, clever and talented women, in my opinion) are becoming very popular, with Miranda soon to be the first comedienne to play the O2 arena.

Except that the article wasn’t 2,000 words on why this is a good thing, and what it shows. It didn’t celebrate the fact that women are finally being given the opportunity to prove that society doesn’t have a problem on the whole with women being funny, and that we are happy to flock in droves to see comediennes, just as we are with comedians. Nope, the article had to take the supposedly empowering angle of ‘The women are taking over’, based on the fact that men are no longer funny.

There are three reasons why this article was, to use the correct Latin, pissing annoying.

It really doesn’t help anything

The article’s claim that men are no longer funny centred upon the assertion that all man-humour is toilet humour, and most of it is about our genitals. The idea of a man who doesn’t spend all day cupping himself is as fantastical as Gandalf handing out dragon eggs from the back of his hippogriff. Except that Gandalf, as a man, would also be cupping himself, so he’d have to bring a woman along to hand out the eggs for him.

It’s ironic that, considering one of the main battles faced by feminism is the fact that perceptions of women are shaped a lot of the time by unjust and untrue stereotypes, that certain feminists seem to operate on the basis that all male stereotypes actually are true. Stereotypes and ill-informed gender perceptions are what got us all in this mess in the first place. As a tactic for solving the problems of gender equality, it’s akin to being trapped in a burning wooden house and deciding to set fire to the wall in an attempt to burn yourself a hole through which to escape.

It’s obviously not true

The article used three examples, one of which was Ben Elton’s allegedly awful new sitcom as an example of how men have fallen from grace as far as comedy is concerned. I can’t remember the other two, but they certainly weren’t examples of comedians in their prime. In fact, while mentioning popular comedienne Sarah Millican, you’d think the article would have mentioned some of the male stand ups working the circuit, such as Michael McIntyre, Eddie Izzard, Rhod Gilbert, Bill Bailey, Jimmy Carr and Dara O’ Briain.

I’m not going to bother doing an exhaustive list because there’s no point. Everyone has male comedians that they like. Saying men aren’t funny is so obviously untrue (rather like saying women aren’t funny), the writer may as well have said ‘Nobody’s driving cars anymore’.

It’s incredibly patronising

Even an article about how women are breaking the glass ceiling ended up being about men’s failure rather than women’s success. The article was meant to be saying ‘Look, see, women can be as funny (or more so) than men, they’ve just been held back by negative gender perceptions and misogyny in general’, but instead its main message was ‘See, now that men are crap, women can have a go!’

Sarah Millican (or insert the name of a comedienne you like, if you don’t like her) is no less funny as a woman because Rhod Gilbert (again, insert own comedian here) is a funny man. We don’t need to devalue Rhod Gilbert in order to make Sarah Millican better; she’s arrived on the scene, made a name for herself, and is now doing better than a lot of the male comics who turned up at the same time. Not because she’s a woman, just because she’s funny. Funny enough to break through the barriers.

The women aren’t taking over

It seems that every time one woman becomes successful in a male dominated field, the women are taking over. It’s used both as a hysterical cry for help by those who don’t like or value women, and simultaneously as a rousing battle cry by those on their side: look how far we’ve come, we’re taking over.

I can’t stand either of those attitudes. There are several books on the market at the moment, not to mention plenty of articles, about how women can do everything, and so men aren’t needed any more. Our time is up, etc etc. I can’t see the point in these. All they do is reinforce what the people who hold those views already think, and justify the fears of all the men who don’t want equality because they are secretly terrified that a woman will replace them. Society still holds masculinity up as an ideal that all men should strive for; being usurped by a woman is perceived (even by plenty of women, it must be said) to be incredibly emasculating. A book telling these types of men, who we really need to win around, that they are useless, isn’t going to help.

It’s patronising and it’s rubbish. The women aren’t taking over, they’re not going to, and society/the species/people in general needs both genders in order to function properly. We each balance out the flaws in the other.

Most women just want to be able to feel safe, not feel like their gender is a burden, be able to make their own choices, and get the same opportunities as men. They don’t want to rule the world, they just want to be.

If a woman gets a successful job, telling her ‘Well done, you’re leading the exodus’ is pointless. You might as well give her a reassuring slap on the ass and pin her CV to the fridge so everyone can see that you’re proud of it.

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Planning your scripts really helps

Those of you who have read my post on planning will know that I don’t really do it when it comes to writing. I only need the vaguest notion of plot to start a novel, and as long as I know what the end of a short story will be, I can write it. But when it comes to writing scripts, you will find me sitting down, breaking the plot into individual scenes, and describing what happens in each of those scenes.

So, why does someone who hates planning, and finds it a borderline painful experience, do all this preparation when it comes to scripts?

Waffle, with a side order of waffle

ith a novel, you can waffle. Think about the number of fantasy books that run to 700 pages, but only feature 350 pages of story. The great thing about prose is that you have room to manoeuvre, room to go into detail. Scripts don’t have this luxury. They have to be tighter than Russell Brand’s trousers.

With novels or short stories, I find it very easy to just write out a first draft and worry about the editing later on. It’s a skill I had to learn, after getting into such an editing frame of mind that no project could ever get more than a paragraph in before I declared “It’s rubbish!” and deleted the whole thing.


ith scripts, if you don’t know where you’re going, you won’t get there. Scriptwriters have an immense challenge in that they have to tell a story almost entirely through dialogue. They don’t have the option of suddenly flying into the character’s heads and spending several minutes listening to the character’s internal voice as they explain everything they are thinking to themselves. They have to get all the information they think you need to know across to you in as little time possible.

Think of this classic example, which I personally think is a masterclass in good writing:


I love you.


I know.

In a novel, you’d have the luxury of being able to draw out Character 2’s internal thoughts as they ask the question ‘Do I still love Character 1?’, thinking about perhaps the other person in their life, or the side of Character 1 that they have now seen, and questioning whether that changes their feelings for them. In a script, ‘I know’ is about all you can afford to have, and says it all perfectly. We all know the required response to ‘I love you’, assuming it’s coming from your loved ones, not your boss, a judge, or a stranger on the bus who smells like beer. Which means we all know what’s wrong when Character 2 doesn’t issue that required response.

Keep it moving

ith scripts, you have to talk your way through a scene. Not in the same way those teenagers at the back of the cinema do, but as in dialogue has to get you from the beginning of the scene to the end. You’ve had conversations, right? Ever phoned someone with a purpose, hung up after half an hour and then realised you didn’t ask/tell them whatever it was. “Yeah, I do love London, especially going on the Eye, you just get such a great view. Anyway, which emergency service was it you wanted?”

It’s so easy when writing purely dialogue to get massively side-tracked, and given that so much of the story has to come through what the characters say, you have to make sure that the plot doesn’t get diluted underneath superfluous dialogue. By having a plan that says ‘Scene 8. Tim and Sara realise they have to get rid of the gorilla’, you have a clear point to aim for. Writing blind can be useful when writing novels or short stories, as you can stumble across alternative/sub plots or new characters. With scripts, you just haven’t got time.

Is it getting funny around here?

he other reason is that the scripts I write (and am writing at the moment) and comedies, or some bizarre blend of comedy and something else. On top of the usual scriptwriting challenges, comedy throws up another one.

When I first tried writing a sitcom, and for several attempts after that, I made the mistake I expect all newbies make. I tried to make it funny. That may sound counter-intuitive, but I forgot about the story and just focussed on putting as many jokes in as possible. To that end, I ended up with scenes in which nothing happened, apart from an endless stream of jokes that digressed and struck out on tangents like one of those flies that gets in your house and is really confused by the whole ordeal.

Each scene in a sitcom has to do two things; it has to move the plot forward, and it has to make the audience laugh. Without knowing where the plot has to be moved from and to, it is incredibly hard to put the jokes in without losing the narrative structure and flow. Hence the planning.

Comic complications

here is another reason planning helps. Sometimes I find if I am struggling to think of jokes for a scene, I will go back to the plan, look at what needs to happen in the scene, and then devise what I call a Comic Complication. There’s probably a proper and better name for it, but I don’t know it. Basically, this is something that provides you with ‘fuel’ for your comedy, if you like. It is especially useful in scenes in which you need to get across really important information, and so it is hard for your characters to joke around, and impossible to include a typical ‘sketch’ scene.

For example, a scene in which Sara goes into the coffee shop where he works in order to tell Tim that she loves him could be complicated by the fact that an impatient queue begins to form behind her, and she ends up having to order something whilst giving her big speech in order to shut the other customers up and avoid being thrown out by the management. Her speech takes a lot longer than she thought, and the customers won’t give her a second’s room, so she keeps having to add cakes to her order. By the end of the scene, she can no longer see Tim behind the tray on which her coffee cup and a huge pile of cakes and muffins lies.

It’s hard to decide how to complicate a scene if you don’t know what actually happens in it, which is why planning is so important.

A help, not a hindrance

he reason I plan scripts but not novels and short stories is that with the former it actually helps the writing process,whereas with the latter I begin to wonder why I am writing plans about something when I could be writing the actual thing itself. Because scripts have to be so sharp, so precise, I find a framework is essential. This is especially essential for comedy, where jokes and story have to intertwine perfectly without one compromising the other.

So, are you a ‘one-plan’ policy kind of writer, or does it depend on medium?

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