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Blog: Sitcom Workshop

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A few months ago I signed up an Associate Member of The Writers' Guild, which is basically the union for UK wrtiers. It's all jolly good and you get a delightful newletter each week, but it doesn't have Continuing Professional Development. This is something that the Points In My Score DOES have in her Sort-Of-Union, The Chartered Institute Of Public Relations. Every year she has to tot up all the learning she has done via events and courses, to make sure she's got enough to maintain her Chartered status. The reason I'd like that for MY Sort-Of-Union is that I reckon I would pass it PEASY!

For LO! i went to yet ANOTHER event on Saturday, this time a sitcom workshop at the Chisenhale Gallery, which was part of a weekend-long series of events round this way commemorating the centenary of Joan Littlewood's birth by creating "Fun Palaces." There were all sorts of things going on, and when I got an email about THIS one, the night before, I thought "Why not?" so WENT.

The way I went was via the 339 bus, which goes RIGHT past our flat but which I have only ever previously used as a means to get to and from Leytonstone. Going the other way was DEAD interesting, as we went through the Olympic Park and then on into Tower Hamlets/Bow/Roman Road/Hackney (it was a confusingly wriggly route) through a whole lot of Industrial Estates. Everyone's always (rightly) saying how expensive property is in London, yet here was a vast area covered with hundreds of the big SHEDS that fill industrial estates all over the country. "How dreary" i MUSED to myself, "that they're the same wherever you go," then realised it was EVER THUS, and that all of the remaining Victorian factories ALSO look pretty much identical. Maybe in a 100 years time Future Hipsters will be living in artfully converted corrugated iron warehouses?

Anyway, I eventually got to the gallery where I almost immediately bumped into Ms E Harwood, also from off of my course. As I have said previously, one of the biggest BONUSES of doing that MA is that you're never alone at an EVENT! we were called in to a small room with about 20 other attendees and one very very nervous speaker, who soon introduced himself as Lucien Young, one of the writers of Siblings. I took an almost instant DISLIKE to him when he revealed that he had been a member of The C***bridge F***lights, but then I re-warmed to him as the day went on and he got a) slightly less terrified b) more and more excited by sitcoms. He was a delight to listen to, as he talked at length about how to define sitcoms, what makes them work, and especially the differences between American and UK sitcoms. He didn't say anything in particular that I'd not heard before, but he did put it together in interesting ways and raise Thought Provoking Ideas. And also he c) mentioned 'Cheers' and 'Frasier' a lot, which always makes me happy. It actually reminded me of seeing Statisticians at Statistics Conferences. They'd always look really pleased to listen to people droning on and on about The Most Boring Thing Ever (i.e. Statistics) because they really liked it, and that's how i always feel listening to people talk about sitcoms. It feels a bit NAUGHTY to be taking it all so seriously, as they're Just Sitcoms and, according to THE MAN, don't deserve cultural critiques, but i LOVE it!

It was all dead good, especially at the end when the whole room did Group Work and created a vague idea for a show based on a cruise ship. It was only to demonstrate how sitcom creation works, but ideas and characters were soon FLYING about the room, so that it was disappointing to have to stop. It was a lovely couple of hours thinking about GRATE things - I still wish I could've got some CAREER POINTS for it though!

posted 6/10/2014 by MJ Hibbett

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