How I got into Comedy

Entertaining Entertainer

When I was at school I became interested in sketch writing and review and when I arrived at university for the first time, as a dental undergraduate, I actively pursued joining the university comedy business because in those days we were much in awe of the Cambridge Footlights and at Birmingham there wasn't an establishment like that but nevertheless, a number of us had got together and tried to do comedy. I had an apprenticeship in the student's union theatre and worked my way up backstage learning all the trades like lights, sounds, scenery, stage management etc. And eventually progressed onto stage, acting in undergraduate plays, doing reviews and eventually writing and producing them.

The university also had a television studio on campus and, again, I did an apprenticeship in a number of the areas there: sound, lights, vision mixing, sound mixing, directing, camera, outside broadcasts, performing, writing and producing. And during that time had an opportunity to interview a number of famous comedy stars and generally progressed my interest in comedy.
The local BBC radio station also allowed university undergraduates to produce a weekly magazine programme and I was involved in that, doing late night broadcasts, writing, interviewing and sometimes doing semi-professional outside broadcasts for them which were broadcast on air.

While at university, I met a guy called Derek Farmer who was, himself, a semi-professional writer from a very young age for a show called " I'm Sorry, I'll Read that Again" and we teamed up together to do review and also to write. And we had a modest success in writing for television and radio, particularly once I had graduated from the university and I used to go down to London most weeks for half a week to work with Derek, trying to break into the comedy writing business. And we were moderately successful, writing for such shows as the Two Ronnies, the Dave Allen show and the like.

Nevertheless, it was quite a hard slog and I realised that that life, a rather insecure life, wasn't for me so I decided to expand my professional career and return to full time dentistry and also pursued an interest in hospital oral surgery which required me to go and then go and do medicine.

All the time when I was at medical school then I continued writing and performing in reviews where possible and did the occasional radio broadcast for the local BBC Radio Leicester.
When I first started writing comedy, of course, I was a young man with very little experience but a lot of enthusiasm and, as you do when you start writing, you tend to imitate the current fashions and you're more technique than substance. But as I've gone on over the years and obviously accumulated lots and lots of experience in medicine and dentistry and life, I've now got much more material and so as the years have gone on, I’ve been able to write better material and accumulate lots of stories so that now that I've retired, I've got a stock of really very interesting material to base my writing on.

Over the years, I've continued writing. A writer never abandons anything and I do a number of things these days. First of all, when I do lectures I am obviously able to introduce comedy into the serious lectures that I do, both locally, nationally and internationally. Secondly, I write comedy for other people and for myself and have started to do an awful lot more after dinner speaking and so I'm able to write for myself as well. And I also write magazine articles, feature articles for magazines, comedy pieces and the like. With a new writing partner I've been writing pantomimes to put on at a local theatre and there I'm both writer and performer when I'm lucky enough to get a part at the auditions.