Insight Into Industry With Comedy Writer, Emma Gallagher
For insight into the stage industry, we spoke to Emma Gallagher – mother of one, comedy writer specialising in parody songs, sketches and voiceovers. She is also a film/TV extra.
How did you find your way in comedy writing?
Back in 2003 I went to a comedy club in Brighton and saw a flyer asking for budding comedy writers to submit material for the Treason Show, a local comedy stage show in Brighton. I submitted my first ever sketch and a parody song. Luckily they liked it and I made it into their pool of comedy writers.
In April 2011 I was taken on as a writer for NewsRevue and so far this year I’ve had my material used by them on stage most weeks. Now I write for both The Treason Show (monthly Brighton/Touring) and NewsRevue (weekly Canal Cafe London).
Is it hard to get your material accepted?
It’s extremely hard as both shows require topical material, and there’s usually a team of very talented writers submitting material on exactly the same subject. You have to find an angle that no one else has thought of. You need to be sharper and funnier because each show may only cover that topic once. Occasionally I co-write with another writer, Hil Jennings. We bounce ideas around and come up with a song or sketch between us.
What do you do on a day when the jokes just don’t come?
The lyrics of a parody song need to scan, and to be funny and topical. You can’t just write what comes into your head. I give myself 10 minutes on a song and if I can’t scan more than 2-3 lines in that time, then I move on to another song. There have been times when I’ve had the perfect song in mind for a topical subject, but it just won’t scan so I’ve had to use another song instead.
On a sketch the punch line needs to be strong. If you can tie in 2 topical subjects into the same sketch, for example Zara Phillips competing at the Olympics, it makes the sketch more appealing.
Have you ever had an experience when your material has fallen totally flat? How did you deal with it?
I get a buzz from my name being on the running order, but I don’t enjoy watching my own material live in case it bombs. I don’t think it never has. When I do watch it, I often don’t laugh. After working on my material for hours or days, it just isn’t that funny to me anymore. Thankfully other people do laugh.
Both my shows have script editors so it’s unlikely anything would be in the show that wasn’t funny. It is annoying when I think of a better line after my material has been submitted.
How do you find juggling your job and your family life?
It is a battle to find the time to be a Mum and a writer. I only have one morning a week to write. I have a notepad app on my phone so when ideas come to me I write them down. Then I can use them as a starting point on the morning I set aside for writing.
If I have an urgent material request then I often have to write in the evenings and my husband has to take over looking after our son. The noise my son and husband can make echoes round the house, so sometimes I wear ear muffs to block the noise out!
You’re an supporting artist too. A day-on-set for an extra – Go!
It really isn’t as glamorous you may think. It's a very early start. A typical day would be to wake up at 4.30am, get ready, and leave in time to arrive for my call at 6am.
There is much hanging around, waiting to be called. What you are wearing has to be approved on set, so we are usually asked to bring a few wardrobe items with us just in case.
It’s a long day, about 12 hours, but the variety of people you meet makes it enjoyable. Having a young son makes it more complicated as he has to go away the night before to grandparents.
If you had to choose one, acting or writing, which would it be?
Writing. To see an idea you’ve had and put on paper, played out in front of you on stage, and the audience laughing – that reaction inspires me to keep writing comedy.
One piece of advice for the budding comedy writer.
Don’t doubt your material. If you find it funny, someone else will too!