Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Writing comedy

I'm revisiting a book I haven't read in ages, The Fall And Rise of Reginald Perrin by David Nobbs. For those of you younger than me (which lets face it is most of the world) this book spawned a highly successful sitcom in the Seventies, starring the wonderful Leonard Rossiter as Reggie. Most people know it, if they know it at all, from that. But the book is funny too, if somewhat darker.

The roots of my interest in writing are comedy and lately I've been wondering whether I've wandered too far from there. Comedy isn't easy to write by any means, but it is very rewarding.

Anyway, I'm planning a funny book, if only for my own entertainment. And Reginald Perrin isn't a bad place to look for inspiration. David Nobbs started as a sketch writer for shows like That Was The Week That Was and The Two Ronnies. So his gift for dialogue and instant characterisation is admirable. Humour should be light and frothy - make the prose too heavy and you kill the joke.

Here is an example of his light touch:

"Have you been feeling listless and lazy?" said Doc Morrissey. "Unable to concentrate? Lost your zest for living? Lots of headaches? Falling asleep during Play For Today? Can't finish the crossword like you used to? Nasty taste in the mornings? Keep thinking about naked sportswomen?"
Reggie felt excited. These were the exact symptoms of his malaise. People said Doc Morrissey was no good, all he ever did was give you two aspirins. It wasn't true. The little man was a miracle worker.
"Yes, I have. that's exactly how I've been feeling," he said.
"It's funny. So have I. I wonder what it is," said Doc Morrissey.
He gave Reggie two aspirins.


Joanne Fox said...

I used to love Reggie Perrin on TV. Didn't he always see a hippo when he thought of his mother-in-law?

Sandra Patterson said...

Yup, that's the one. Enduring image.