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How To … Write a Comedy Show for RTÉ

Posted July 31, 2012 by Catherine in Ramp Lists

Irish people are famous the world over for our great sense of humour and our sharp wit. We’re raised on a diet of craic and if you’re looking for a laugh, sure isn’t isn’t the Emerald Isle the first place you’d think to come?

We’ve spent years watching our fair share of legendary British and American comedies from Steptoe and Son to Cheers, from The Office to Arrested Development, but really, we gain our inspiration from the fine stock of comedy produced by the loving hands at RTÉ. The never-ending supply of sketch shows and the odd series set in some vague rural village where brothers and sisters spend their time making babies together have provided us with pure joy, and no doubt there are many of you out there dreaming of making it to Donnybrook and pumping out some more of that top quality entertainment yourselves.

It may seem impossible, but the team here at Ramp.ie don’t know the meaning of the word (seriously, we’ve lost our dictionary. *chortle* *slaps knee* Gosh, with comedy gold like that I should apply to RTÉ myself!) and we’ve compiled a fail-proof guide to shoot you straight to the top!

◊ Foot in the Door

RTÉ don’t take too kindly to ‘outsiders’ so you’re going to have to breach their defences (oo-er! steady on!) and infiltrate their ranks. Ideally, you should have a man on the inside – father, mother, secret lover – who can nepotise your good self onto the staff. Being good friends with someone in there could also work or if you’re already famous, they’ll be gagging for you. Alternatively you could spend many, many, many years working your way up from the bottommost of bottoms and the lowest of lows. So yeah, maybe check out your family tree and see if you’ve any distant relatives strolling around in there.

◊ Find Your Group

Once you’re in there, you must obtain a group of like-minded people. You see, RTÉ comedies are based on the kind of material that only you and your mates find funny due to the fact you came up with the concept during a night of necking Cosmos and have repeated the jokes constantly until you’ve forgotten why you found them funny in the first place and now just laugh automatically. Other sources of material are crap jokes that your writer mate came up with that you put it in the show anyway because you feel bad telling him he’s shit and his ego is too big for him to realise this himself.

◊ The Star

Now that you have a group of friends to create material with you after a few drunken renditions of ‘Roxanne’, you’re going to need a front man. Someone to bring your genius to life – someone who’ll put a face on the funny. Choose somebody who shouts a lot. Everything is four times funnier if you shout it. Flailing is also good. If he has a slightly deranged look about him, or is someone you’d never really want to be friends with in real life (because he’s annoying/actually deranged/creepy), even better.

◊ The Village Idiot

No RTÉ comedy show feels complete without its fool – that special someone who will slip on the metaphorical banana peel. He should act a bit dim and really is just there to be the butt of cruel jokes and make The Star feel better about himself. He’ll say silly things and will be rejected by women constantly. You can also use his character to pander to the Irish stereotype by making him a drunk or a bit of a perv.

◊ The Token Girl

You’ve got to keep up appearances and feature one girl so that you canpander to all those hairy feminists who’d be better off shaving their pits instead of shouting about equal rights. It’s common knowledge that women aren’t funny, so don’t waste your time looking for a girl with clever comedic talent or a subtle wit. You need to find a woman who will be weird and creepy or one who’ll be slutty and bitchy. In either case, they must be vulgar. If you accidentally cast a woman who ends up being funny (there’s an exception to every rule), turn her into one of the above personas. You can’t be having her competing legitimately with the men.

◊ The Content

Now that you have your cast and crew, you’re ready to get going. Straight away you should erase all funny American and British shows from your memory – these will only distract you from writing the material you need. There will be no subtlety, no clever witticisms, no quick one-liners, no well-developed scripts that combine emotion with comedy. What you need to do is dumb everything down to its lowest and most basic form – and then dumb it down some more. You want to slap viewers in the face with your joke. The Irish public doesn’t want to think or watch something of substance. You must joke down to them. Also, all jokes must be based on stereotypes and everything must be an innuendo or about something gross like bodily fluids.

Congratulations! You have what it takes to create your own comedic masterpiece. Go and savour the feeling of producing great TV that your friends will salute you for and that strangers will steer the conversation away from when you bring it up. You’ve truly lived up to your potential.

Readers who have been positively affected by Catherine’s How To are reminded to send gift baskets and handsome escorts. Readers who have been adversely affected are reminded that this How To is for entertainment purposes only and any critical lambasting incurred after reading is purely coincidental.


About the Author


Catherine often dreams about living in a tiny Parisian apartment and penning the next great novel of her generation until she remembers how impossible it is to get a decent cup of tea in France.

  • http://twitter.com/johnmfinn John Finn

    God, I’m a little bit depressed after reading that because of how true it is.

    • http://twitter.com/SerialBlogamist Catherine C

       Uhhhm, you’re welcome? :S

  • http://www.lisamcinerney.com Lisa McInerney

    It’s genuinely something I could never figure out. Why is Ireland, a place of wit and whimsy where no one is ever 100% serious, so bad at indigenous television comedy? Ok, so there have been some exceptions to the rule, but for every potential great we get, there’s ten terrible sitcoms and sketch shows threatening to kill us off altogether. The lunatics are running the asylum up in that gaff.

    • http://twitter.com/SerialBlogamist Catherine C

       It’s really inexcusable. What nutcase looks at these scripts and thinks, “That’s gold, give it a time slot!” and why has no one replaced him/her/them?

      • conor

        cos anybody with a shred of talent left,

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