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Monday 1st July 2013

My wife left this morning for the airport. Her and her family are spending the week away in Norway. And I think you know what that means that I will be getting up to. Twenty-four hour self-playing snooker - with no one to stop me. Sweet.
While the cat's away, the mice can play the self-playing snooker which the cat disapproves of and thinks is crazy.
But I couldn't play today as I had to prepare for my other less important Leicester Square Theatre Podcast. But audiophiles (you disgust me) will be glad to hear (their favourite method of receiving information) that I remembered that I have a wireless mic that I used to use for live shows in my cupboard and Gerald who does the sound for RHLSTP has shown me how to use it. So very soon you should get crystal clear commentary direct into a microphone rather than bellowed across an echoey basement. It's advances like this that will of course destroy the spirit of what makes that podcast great.
We ended this extraordinary run of RHLSTP with a couple of cracking chats, the first with the delightful Isy Suttie who showed remarkable language, music and fire-eating skills (you really need to see the video of this one), as well as revealing that the moon had once spoken to her and that she'd spoken to the ghost of herself via a ouija board. These are some of the less shocking revelations: I am holding back the really juicy stuff so that it doesn't get into the papers before the release date.
Sean Hughes was also on top form, I thought as we discussed amongst other things, how one of the band Madness chooses to dry the hair around his anus. To be honest if that was all we talked about then you'd still want to listen, right? You'll have to wait until next week for that one though.
I am delighted with the way this series has turned out and thanks to everyone who has made this possible, not least the very hard-working team from gofasterstripe.com whose dedication has been incredible. Chris Evans (not that one) had met the editor in the pub last night to switch over hard drives. One of them was taken by an opportunistic Welsh thief, but Chris Evans (not that one) chased after him and risked his Welsh life to get it back. Luckily he was successful. And didn't get his face kicked in.
Ben Walker, my producer, Orange Mark from the British Comedy Guide and all the staff at the Leicester Square Theatre have also been fantastic. It feels like we're creating something special and I am really looking forward to doing more in the autumn (and there are already some very exciting names in the frame for these). We've learned a lot from this experiment and we haven't lost money. We did massively undervalue the series pass, mainly because we didn't realise we'd end up doing so many shows. Fortunately it's not cost us quite as much as we thought to pay Amazon for the web space and downloads because otherwise we would have lost money on ever series pass! Thanks to those of you who have got on board and supported us financially. There is no time limit to purchase the series - get it here any time you like. The future of this project lies in your hands. Telling your friends about it would be helpful if you don't want to part with money.

There was some interesting Twitter discussion about John Warburton's comments about TV executives in this article. A few established writers denied that the stereotype of clueless executives was fair. I commented, "So successful comedy writers think executives are good and unsuccessful ones think they are bad. Food for thought." Before adding that as a writer who is neither successful or unsuccessful I think that executives are sometimes right and sometimes wrong. They're right when they say I am good and not when they think I'm shit.
It's a tricky one as interference can often ruin things, but I am also not sure if Warburton had what it took to be a writer. Because one of the main characteristics you require for this job is to put up with rejection and disappointment. He was lucky enough to get his first script made into a pilot. It didn't turn out how he wanted and he might be right that that was everyone else's fault. If he isn't able to cope with that going wrong then he was right to pack it in. It's unlikely his script was as good as he thought it was, because becoming a good writer takes time and however good you think you are at the start you should only get better. But either way, for most people it will take time. Either for your scripts to get good enough or for people to tune into what you're doing. So there's going to be some interference and rejection and as much as the latter certainly hurts you have to get used to it. And then attempt to become impervious to it. I have written at least half a dozen unmade scripts in the last ten years. I think certainly some of them were better than the worst things that got on TV, but it's not always easy to tell that from the script alone, because so much else goes into making a TV show.
I am speaking as a man who is so fed up with having to deal with executives that I have largely decided to make my own stuff. But you don't only need resilience as a writer you need to listen. To all opinions, not matter how daft. Listen to them, consider them in an open-minded way, because although it's natural to get so behind your own script that any interference feels like someone taking a chisel to your work of art. But the instincts of most of the people you work with will be sound. It's at least worth a discussion. Even if the discussion is, "Vampires are trendy now, shall we put some vampires in it," and your thoughtful reaction is, "Yeah, I'd say vampire fans are a little over-catered for and in any case I am not sure it would add much to this to add a surreal element, but it's something to think about."
You earn the right to have less interference by writing something that becomes successful, but I'd say it was a right that is dangerous to take up. You don't become any better a writer by having had a success and other people's opinions don't become less valid. I don't know, but I am guessing that the failure of "The Wright Way" might be down to people not speaking up because of the renown of the writer. And sometimes the writer starts to believe they are an infallible genius. But we're all fallible and no one knows for sure that an idea or a script will take off. There's loads of bogus reasons made for projects being green-lit and there's lots of things that can fuck up a good idea. But I am suspicious of any writer who completely believes that their script is brilliant. However much I work on a script, the first time it is read through by actors I will spot the crunchingly bad dialogue, the pages of speech that can be cut down to a single glance. It's partly why I resent being made to draft and redraft a pilot script. Until you know who is playing the part you don't know what they're capable of doing, which jokes they'll deliver and which they won't.
But to be a successful writer you need a lot more than the ability to write. You need luck, good timing and good people around you. You need to listen and you need to be able to put up with crushing disappointment of failure.
There are certainly some prickish executives and commissioners out there and I'd like to see more of them taking a chance and trusting their judgement by choosing clever and funny people and letting them get on with it. But they are learning on the job as much as any of us. And as someone pointed out on Twitter, part of the reason that successful writers think that executives do a good job is because successful executives get to work with successful writers.
I've spent a lot of time being bitter about stuff in my life, but now I realise is that all I can do is my best and all I can hope for is the best. I've always had a healthy suspicion that my stuff and my performances might be rubbish. But if that's the case they are less rubbish because of perseverance.
Don't get into this line of business unless you're in for the long haul. And good luck to you if you're prepared to take that leap.

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