By Brad Ashton
ISBN: 5 800070 387996
These reviews are usually about books about cartoons, but this time itís a book about a comic.
Brad Ashton was an associate member of the Cartoonists' Club Of Great Britain many moons ago and he gave several talks to members about his experiences of writing comedy. Newer members may have missed out then, but now thereís no excuse to benefit from Bradís wit and wisdom as heís condensed over five decades of experience and success into a new book.
I was aware that Spike Milligan dabbled with cartoons but I wasnít aware that Bob Monkhouse and Mortimer & Cooke, who wrote Round The Horne, started out as cartoonists. What is obvious, though, is that cartoons and comedy go hand in hand.
First and foremost, this is no dry read. The only thing serious about Brad is the level at which heís worked at, writing for everyone from Groucho Marx to Bob Monkhouse, so naturally heís peppered every paragraph with sharp one-liners, and clever word play. This may be a studious look at the art, but itís packed full of smiles.
Each chapter breaks comedy writing down into a specific lesson, covering topics such as creating gags, writing humorous articles and even formulating a sitcom. Brad brings in his own personal anecdotes plus some of his favourite comedy examples to set the tone and then shows how heíd go about structuring the humour. Youíll probably find you have to read some paragraphs twice when you get caught up in the rapid-fire gags.
Like all lessons, though, you donít really learn how do it until you have a go at it yourself, so Brad finishes each chapter with a task for you the reader to complete based upon the principles and advice heís laid out. Itís certainly a good way to help you get your head round the ideas.
One of the earlier chapters has Brad set up some gags that he wants the reader to complete. On these occasions heís given his own thoughts a few pages later, and it was fascinating to see the contrasts and similarities between how I thought the gag should end and how Brad saw it. Even when I hit upon the same conclusion, though, Brad was more eloquent with his, but thatís fifty yearís of experience talking!
The latter half of the book concentrates much more on writing for sitcoms, but even if that doesnít tie in to how you work there are still plenty of lessons to learn in the structure and presentation of the gag told through characterisation and relationships.
When Ronnie Corbett did the greengrocer sketch on his Christmas show a couple of years ago there was a delighted response from the viewers that has since seen the sketch go viral around the world. People applauded the skilful and genuinely funny writing, and then wondered why we see so little of it these days. Maybe, with a little help from this book, a new generation of comedy writers will now be inspired.
And if you liked that: The Job Of A Lifetime is available from Lulu.com or you can get in touch with Brad direct at firstname.lastname@example.org