Newsjack: What YOU Shouldn’t Write

In my first post on the subject, I said that “I have absolutely no business writing a blog on Newsjack.”

That’s true.

I also definitely have no business telling YOU what YOU shouldn’t write for Newsjack.

Having said that, here’s my final blog on the subject, in which we’ll discuss what you shouldn’t write for Newsjack.

I mentioned previously that I’m subscribed to 42 different news channels and follow an additional 51 topics. That’s a whole lotta news right there. To enable me to filter through the stories, I need to have some focus…

Who am I as a writer?

What are my strengths/weaknesses?

Where do I fit into the team (of hundreds of hopeful writers)?

What do I NOT want to write?

There are some obvious answers to what you shouldn’t write:

  • Things that aren’t funny.
  • Sketches that are too long.
  • Offensive material.
  • Jokes you’ve seen on Twitter.
  • Things that are similar to the previous episode, which you didn’t bother listening to.
  • Death threats to the production team.

Beyond that, it’s really a case of knowing your own preferences. Understanding your strengths as a writer and keeping the Five F’s in mind – what can you write which will deliver maximum fun?

For me, I’m pretty tired of Brexit so tend to avoid it. I generally stay clear of politics as much as possible. Although I know the basic character traits (“Failing Grayling” and that) I’m by no means an expert. There are people out there who are much better at writing political. I hear sketches like Jeremy Corbyn Mattresses and it’s a really solid, well executed idea, packed with jokes…and something I personally would never land on.

I’m useless with sport so only give the back page stories a quick glance (in case there’s potential for something like the Robot Referee sketch).

I’ll stay far away from stories involving violence and suffering. If a story is already funny or ridiculous, it’s unlikely I’ll be able to improve on it.

So that’s basically the whole of the Daily Mail ruled out.

To get a better idea of how people select what they will/won’t cover in their submissions, I put the question out on the tweets:

“I avoid anything that would be in bad taste and the reverse also, if it’s a funny story already I try to avoid those too.” @liam343

“Politics moves so quickly I always assume my sketch would be out of date by the time of the recording. That said, politics provides the ‘characters’ of all the news so I try to find other ways of fitting politicians into sketches.

For example, there was a story about how the public school educated were more likely to adopt cockney accents to hide their background. Obvious angle, but that became a cabinet meeting conducted in rhyming slang.” @auditchris

“I try to avoid the obvious bad taste stories and things that are ongoing court action or things possibly slander/libel. Also, try to avoid things already funny. Try to avoid stories too old.

Other stories I avoid – big ones everyone does.

Strangely, when NJ on I try to avoid things like Now Show, HIGNFY, News Quiz etc because I feel my brain is too easily influenced.” @Sarah_btf

“Spice Girls, Love Island, Brexit, Boris & other natural disasters.” @danstathers

Each episode you get two shots to land a sketch. Although you’ve ruled out certain stories, you need to also consider whether you’re creating original characters or using known personalities.

For me, I prefer stories which allow for new characters…although that’s not to say I haven’t chucked in scripts of Donald Trump working in a diner or Moby opening a detective agency.

Let’s take it back to the tweets to discuss original characters vs. known personalities:

“Probably original. Unless maybe monarchy or politicians maybe… Bit wary of this due to legal stuff..slander/libel whatever etc.

Also if known then they have to make voice recognisable as that person.” @Sarah_btf

“Original. Known personalities although fun, have limits and audience expectation built in. That’s just not as fun to play with usually.” @liam343

“If I don’t know the cast I dont write impersonations in case they don’t do the voices. When we knew @lewismacleod was on Newsjack I knew his voices and when I wrote a sketch I could hear him performing it in my head when I read it back to myself. Much prefer knowing the cast.” @gjp1969

Echoing that last one, it’s really important to know the cast. If you’re a regular listener, you’ll come to know a lot of the performers – their voice and impression range. If you have somebody like Josh Berry on the lineup, then you can go crazy. I’ve witnessed him slide effortless from Michael McIntyre to Russell Brand to the best James Acaster you’ll ever hear.

I once submitted a sketch on the allegations that Jerry Seinfeld stole the idea for ‘Comedians in Cars…” and framed the whole thing as a diner scene in a Seinfeld episode. This could have been incredibly written (it wasn’t) but was so reliant on having the right cast that the odds were stacked against me.

So what shouldn’t YOU write for Newsjack?

I dunno.

That’s totally up to you.

You weren’t hoping for an answer, were you?

Take some time to think about where you’re going to focus your energy during the next series. My final tip is to open up the news app on your phone now and get your sources ready to enable you to maximise your chances.

That’s it.

I’m done pretending like I know what I’m talking about with Newsjack.

I’m no expert, I’m just a comedy loser like you.

The Comedy Loser