Writing Inspirations, 2 – Podcasts

Right, so here’s the second installment of my “writing inspirations” series. This time it’s the podcasts I listen to on my headphones. Continuing last week’s theme, these concern artists and artistry – in particular, once again, comedy and comedians.

The one I’ve discovered first, and probably because of that my favourite, is RHLSTP (RHLSTP!) – catchily-named Richard Herring’s Leicester Square Theater Podcast, which originated out of Herring’s Edinburgh Fringe interview podcasts.

People of my generation, of course, remember Richard Herring from his 90’s double-act with Stewart Lee; his further career – and he’ll be the first to admit – had its ups and downs, but at some point he moved on to internet-kickstart-podcast presence, which was a great decision for everyone involved, as it gave us, by now, well over a hundred interviews, plus additional podcasts, sketch shows like AIOTM (*aiotm!*) and more.

If you know Herring, you’ll know the kind of humour to expect at first – but among the questions about a 6-foot dick and hands made of ham, it moves subtly towards discussions about creativity and comedians’ life in general.

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The other podcast, despite having “comedy” twice in its title, is much more serious. Stuart Goldsmith’s Comedian’s Comedian tends to be much further on the “sad clown” spectrum. Stuart doesn’t shirk from controversial subjects and guests; the interviews are more serious and heavy. My definite favourite is his conversation with Shappi Khorsandi (who’s one of my favourite people anyway) – touching deeply on such subjects as depression, self-harm, bullying and racism, all painted with a contagious optimism.

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The last podcast I have to mention is Sitcom Geeks: a long, ongoing conversation between  James Cary and Dave Cohen about the art of writing and editing – sitcoms, in their case, but most of it is applicable to any sort of writing.

My 2011 Comedy Awards

The British Comedy Awards 2011 have been given out. We have seen what the jurors and the public deemed the funniest in the first year of the new decade (summary of the previous decade in comedy can be seen here)
In honour of that, here are my personal top five new comedy shows. Miranda already won the real best new comedy, very deservedly, so she’s out of the list here.

5. Burnistoun

1-word summary: SCOTTISH.
A bit of a hit and miss in the second series, this is Glasgow’s answer to Little Britain. The accent is funny enough, and a few of the characters are masterful – the two police men are my favourite. I hear they got signed for the third series recently.

4. Monty Python’s Holy Flying Circus

1-word summary: RESPECTFUL.
A one-off drama about the commotion around Life of Brian. Script had weak moments, but casting was inspired: Darren Boyd, Charles Edwards and Rufus Jones were the Pythons reincarnated. If the originals were dead, that is.

3. The Trip

1-word summary: CRINGEWORTHY.
Steve Coogan is back on top form. A bit after its time – the cringe-worthy mockumentaries are sooo 2005 – it still nevertheless hit that crucial spot between ROTFLOL and OHGODMAKEITSTOP. And the Michael Caine impersonation duel is comedy history – probably the most memorable scene of 2011 tv.

2. Black Mirror

1-word summary: DARK.
This one’s only just started, but is already a strong favourite. It’s very, very dark – even darker than Psychoville, maybe – and at the face of it, the only thing that puts it near comedy is that it’s written by Charlie Brooker. Brooker himself makes a comparison to Twilight Zone, but it’s a very British Twilight Zone – one that goes deep into social satire instead of just boggling the mind with Weird.

1. The Mongrels

1-word summary: HILARIOUS.
This is the only new British show that I would bet on making an impact abroad. In a few years time, they will make a US remake set somewhere in Bronx, with jackals instead of foxes and a latino pigeon. Definitely the best new comedy of the just started decade.

Honourable mention:

Life’s Too Short.

1-word summary: AIDS
It’s trendy to pile heaps of dung on this show. All the hipsters hate on Ricky Gervais for becoming too mainstream, all the uneducated publicistas claim it’s a mockery of a minority. But I can’t help it – the show makes me laugh. It’s not the best out there, but there certainly have been a lot worse offerings in tv comedy this year, which have not been so thoroughly panned by the critics – Fresh Meat, I’m looking at you – and all the celebrity bits are Gervais and Merchant at their best. If you don’t laugh at the Liam Neeson scene, you are simply braindead.