James and I are now reaching a point where we are about to actually film a sitcom pilot that we’ve had knocking about for nigh on two years now. Naturally, we are filming it because nobody else will. It’s a sitcom pilot.
The delicate and diplomatic process we have been going through regarding last-minute rewrites has now reached the stage of petty squabbles (yet somehow that still seem worth squabbling over) about single lines: who should say them, whether characters should sigh before or after saying them, whether characters would prefer pink or blue and that sort of thing.
And woe to writers who indulge in such arguments – because invariably they tend to be more about whether they prefer pink or blue. Also woe to the writers who hire a director who is also a writer, thus tripling all such arguments and causing different sides to form on different opinions, and sudden shifts of power and occasional victimisation.
A notable discussion arose over the reaction of a female character to being told that women aren’t funny. The original script had her burst into tears and run out. The rewritten version had her hurl insults back at the other characters before running out.
My feeling was that, pain being funny (to my mind at least), the tears were funnier than the swearing. But always one to bow to the wider view, and being on a plane at the time of reading, I asked the person sitting next to me whether he thought a woman crying was funnier than a woman swearing, or the other way round.
He thought about it for a moment then said, “well, neither of them is as funny as a woman vomiting”. This planted an idea in my mind which developed into what I ultimately considered the most potentially humorous alternative, which went something like this:
ULRIKA: You’re all living in a different decade, aren’t you? Perhaps you’re not aware that there have been several all-female comedy shows over the last ten years?
DAVE: Yes, we’ve seen them.
STU: Not funny.
ULRIKA: (TO SALLY, PLEADINGLY) Sally?
SALLY: (SHRUGS AGAIN) Well…they’re not.
HUMPHREY: Thank God we’re agreed on that, at least. A load of young girls swearing, nothing but filthy one-liners.
DAVE: And no tits.
THE OTHERS LOOK AT HER, EXPECTANTLY, THEN STARE IN GROWING HORROR AS ULRIKA LOSES FULL CONTROL OF ALL HER BODILY FUNCTIONS AND SHITS, PISSES AND VOMITS REPEATEDLY IN A MESSY PUDDLE AROUND HER. FINALLY SHE RUNS OUT OF THE ROOM, SOBBING HYSTERICALLY AND LEAVING A MESSY TRAIL OF FAECAL VOMIT AFTER HER.
THERE IS A LONG, LONG PAUSE. FINALLY, DAVE DRAWS IN A DEEP BREATH TO SPEAK.
DAVE: Well, that was funny.
Neither my co-writer nor director seem to have taken to this idea, which I feel is a pity. I’d be interested to know what other people think is the funniest alternative, though – it may not yet be too late to do something about it…