Today on The Comedy Cast we speak to stand-up comedian, comedy writer and author Dave Cohen. We speak about his new book The Complete Comedy Writer, being a writer for a multitude of hit comedy television programmes and the podcast he hosts along with James Cary, Sitcom Geeks.
Dave’s a legend lads, so many things to learn from him, so many years making great comedy show, you’re going to really enjoy this…
We kick off the interview with a little warmer-upper and I ask him about how and why he got into stand-up comedy. And from the beginning it would appear that Dave was set on getting more into the writing aspects of comedy than stand-up. He speaks about watch Mel Brooks The Producers and immediately being attracted to the fact that Brooks used such a horrible event and somehow made it funny and from there Dave knew he wanted to be a comedy writer.
I always like to ask comedians about ‘dying on their arse’ or bombing as the Americans call it. I think it’s a great leveller of a question, not matter how good a comedian is they’ve all experienced dying on stage, indeed it still happens to many of the best when they’re trying out new material. Dave tells me that at the beginning stand-up comedy was such a new thing in London that there appeared to be more gigs than comedians and there were so many good gigs and good nights around that it was quite a while before it happened for the first time. He reveals too though that towards the end of his stand-up days they became a bit more frequent so I put it to him that maybe it was because he was becoming more and more into the writing of comedy than the performing of it.
That leads us then onto speaking about Dave latest book, The Complete Comedy Writer. This is Dave’s second book on comedy, following the release of How to Be Averagely Successful at Comedy around five years ago, but the two books are very different in their approach. While the first one was a bit tongue-in-cheek about the comedy industry with a few anecdotes and tips this new book is a more of a ‘how to’ book concerning the different approaches of how to be a good comedy writer in the many different disciplines of comedy.
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Dave speaks about how the book obviously isn’t about teaching how people to be funny, no book can do that, but it’s about pointing people in the proper direction, giving them some guidance and helping them to become better at writing jokes and how to get more out of their comedy writing abilities.
Dave then speaks about his early days in the world of stand-up in the late 1970s/early 80s and speaks about a missed opportunity that turned out great for the people who took the chance that presented itself. However, you live and learn and the next time opportunity came knocking Dave took it with both hands and it was what lead him into an incredible successful career writing for both radio and television programmes.
Dave speaks for a little about the main differences between both book and indeed speaks too about how comedy is evolving especially over recent years in particular he mentions comedy in console games and also the popularity of short comedy sketch videos on social media platforms. He says that he wants to learn more about these and write about them in the future.
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We go over some common ground then as we speak about the need to become your own brand online whether you’re running a podcast or you’re a book writer or comedian. It’s a hard slog but through hard work and persistence more opportunities will come their way, you just have to keep going and going and going and working on how to improve yourself and your content (sorry, I hate that term).
Next up then we change subject a bit an I delve into Dave’s incredibly impressive CV of the different radio and television shows he’s contributed to over the years. I wanted to get to in why did he think that he suited comedy writing, writing for shows and for other comedians, more so that performing on stage.
We haven’t had many television and radio writers on the show in the past and one question that been on my mind for a long time now is that I’ve wanted to ask people who have done it what were the main things they had to learn when changing from writing comedy for themselves to writer comedy for either other performers or for programme producers. Dave’s answer is very interesting and there’s a lot here for people to learn if they were interested in pursuing a career in writing comedy for television or radio.
Something I picked up on in an earlier answer and in relation to the comedy courses that Dave runs, he said something along the lines of usually his best lessons came from when he made a mess of something. Now, it’d be totally normal for someone working in the entertainment industry to keep those lessons to themselves, I wanted to get to the bottom of why Dave wants to teach others be it though writing books, blog posts on his website or the comedy courses.
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Next up we have a quick chat about commissioning on British television and radio and look, we’ve spoken about these things on the podcast before so we don’t go too far into in and besides there’s nothing worse than asking someone who’s had things commissioned how to get things commissioned.
Finally then we finish up by speaking about the upcoming comedy course than Dave is running in London in February and March, you can get more details on Dave’s website here: http://davecohen.org.uk/
Dave Cohen’s wesbite: here
Dave Cohen’s Twitter: here
Dave Cohen’s podcast, Sitcom Geeks: here
Sitcom Geek’s Facebook: here
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