As we head closer to our fringe show in August, Revue member and human anxiety tablet, Phil, reflects on how the script for the show came together, and why banging your head against a wall is ultimately a good thing.
The script I mean. Not the whole show, the show is in August obviously. Why am I even telling you this? I’m getting off topic. What I mean is that the script is finished and has been cast. Which means from now on it’s nothing but rehearsals and rehearsals up until we bring a sketch show to the Fringe for the first time in 4 years.
It’s a mess.
Don’t get me wrong, the script is great. In fact i’d go even further and say it’s the most proud i’ve been of a comedy script i’ve been a part of, painstakingly written by an exceptionally talented and diverse set of writers under some pretty extreme circumstances. But it remains a mess, in a lot of ways a figurative mess, in some ways an actual physical mess. It’s the sort of mess you’re going to have to see to believe. And not in the ‘this article is just a glorified ad disguised as a thinkpiece’ thing either. I’m not going to spoil anything because I think part of what makes the show work is going in blind, but we’ve certainly not held back on structural ambition.
The aforementioned mess was a logical conclusion. When it came to setting up a writers room this year it struck us all from the onset that it was almost impossible to get any sort of traditional cohesion between the different sketches and ideas that people were pitching. I guess it’s the paradoxical joy and frustration of being part of team of creatives, especially comedians, in microcosm. I think we’ve come up with a good workaround that takes into account every direction we wanted to take the show in, and one that most resembles the sort of glorious chaotic bundle of nonsense that is The Sheffield Revue. I also thought that the Seahawks would beat the Patriots in the 2015 Super Bowl, and of course we all know how well that went. So I guess we’ll see in a month or so. Hindsight being 50/50 and all that.
Looking back and reflecting on writing the show this year, I kept thinking back to the freshers fair back in September. You get two common responses when you introduce yourself and the society at one of these fairs. Mainly you get a bunch of “So do you review comedy then?” Because the oxbridge students in the late 19th century throwing the term ‘revue’ around didn’t think this particular situation would crop up. But mostly you get a lot of “Well, i’m interested. But I don’t think i’m funny”. And that statement strikes me as so odd, since so much time is spent in the making of these shows is spent being massively, glaringly unfunny. Yes, this is show is some of the absolute best stuff we’ve written. But in the writer’s room we fired some huge duds. Gags that went nowhere. Gags that went too long. Gags that weren’t necessary. Gags that just didn’t land for whatever reason.
I guess that’s the main difference between a workshop format, which is really for people to try out and experiment with absolutely any idea that comes into your head, and a writers room, where you have to refine those ideas and make them worthwhile, because there are only 45 minutes of a show and you’re working with who knows how many other people. You have to exercise traits that don’t necessarily pop into your head when you think of comedy as a form and that comics hate to use. Restraint. Compromise. Honesty. Critical Thinking. All that stupid new-age nonsense. I’m not going to lie, spending your weekend pouring through sketches sentence by sentence to make sure the wording is right isn’t the most fun thing in the world, but I think at the end of the day the pride we all felt once we were done was more than worth it. Take note kids, the best things in life don’t come through instant gratification, but through hard work. Eating a bag of Haribo is good, eating a bag of Haribo just after you executed an elaborate plan to covertly steal a bag from the local off-licence is even better. Did the writing process work out? I guess we’ll see. But I think we all as writers learnt a hell of a lot. Or maybe we didn’t learn anything. Who even knows at this point, we’re barely in our twenties, we’re comedy babies.
Setting up this show has been probably the most difficult creative & logistical challenge that the Revue has faced in a long time. By far the biggest thing we’ve done in the two years i’ve been here. And certainly the most invested i’ve been in a project since the second year of my degree which I abandoned to do this. Has it been worth it? Well, that is up to you, the merciless pack of hounds who insist on being called the ‘general public’, to decide. With one month to go, there’s still a lot of uncertainty about how this whole thing will go down. I know, in my infinite wisdom, that there is no way that this show won’t be the most successful & critically acclaimed show at the fringe this year or indeed any year, and it if it doesn’t meet these frankly reasonable expectations then it’s all your fault.
All japes aside, if you are around from the 12th-18th August, please come to our show. There’s good folks who are in it who could do with the exposure, and more importantly, the money. Even if you’re one of the few people who actively hates us, at least come see us out of spite.
See you all there. No excuses.
Our new show, Comedy In The Basement, is running at the Edinburgh Fringe from 12th-18th August as part of the Free Festival. With a sketch show from Monday to Thursday and stand-up on Saturday, Sunday and Friday. More information can be found here.