We trawled through 100s of scripts this year, all of which were very funny but we managed to pick a top three, Hitched by Rhiannon Nead, S&M Sissy and Mistress by Kiran Benawra and Nosh by Alex Hardy, who we announced as the winner at our 2017 Funny Women Awards Charity Final! Alex has won the opportunity to develop her script with the BAFTA and Emmy Award-winning Lion Television, producers of Horrible Histories (CBBC), When Bowie Met Bolan (Sky Arts), and Getting Animated (BBC3)! We talked to Alex about comedy writing and the discipline it requires…
Funny Women: How does it feel to win the 2017 Funny Women Writing Award?
Alex Hardy: Really lovely.
FW: What is your script, Nosh, about?
AH: If you’ve ever ordered food from one of those food delivery services – Deliveroo, Uber Eats, that sort of thing – you’ll have a good idea of the themes in Nosh. Nosh is about a young lady who cycles about between London’s homes and offices and restaurants, fetching and carrying other people’s orders, while she’s not really holding together her own life. As usual with comedy, it’s about status, and reduced circumstances, and struggles with others and with yourself – but Nosh also has added saddle sores. It’s based on a few months around a year ago, when I was skint and miserable and cycled around doing that job for longer than was strictly comfortable. But I also got to nose into people’s houses and habits, and find weird characters and corners of London I’d never noticed before. It was a bruising but eye-opening time, and I hope that comes across in my script.
FW: How did you get started in writing?
AH: I’m still getting started, and I’ve spent a lot of time procrastinating about getting started. Basically, some of my best early memories were about writing and stories, and I often had silly things buzzing around in my head. But I didn’t have the nerve to do it properly and publicly. I became a journalist to satisfy some of those urges and ended up writing about TV and comedy because I value good writing so much. Eventually, I got too jealous of all the shows I was writing about and knew I had to take the plunge and make some stuff myself. So I resigned from my job and went to work in telly as a researcher with comedians including Dave Gorman. I also spent 18 months part-time at the National Film and Television School, doing a part-time diploma in Writing and Producing Comedy. This helped me to refine my writing and gave me a certificate to prove I can do it. Life feels better with certificates.
FW: What’s your best writing tip for any scriptwriters out there?
AH: I’ve still got a lot to learn so I don’t feel too qualified to answer this. But here are some tips I’ve been given over the years and am still trying to master. Firstly – to be a writer you have to write something. Write regularly, write every day, make it a routine. The Seinfeld Strategy is useful for this. And here’s something my favourite English teacher taught me and was reiterated at NFTS – think about your tone and voice; make it clear and consistent. If an audience is confused it isn’t laughing. Finally, the one I struggle with most: do a “dirty first draft”. Just get your thoughts onto the page, no matter how scruffy they are – you can always go back and refine them later. Sara Pascoe I think has said that to become a good stand-up she had to form a “consensus of mediocrity”, where it was OK to not always be the best because that’s how you get to improve. Give yourself permission to not be perfect, because then you’ll be more freely creative. I think it’s a great phrase and great advice.
FW: Who are your favourite funny women?
AH: I tend to like writers who are very funny, but also a combination of sad and real and brutal. So I love Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Fleabag), Daisy May Cooper (This Country), Sharon Horgan (Catastrophe). Sara Pascoe is excellent, for the way she loads her stand-up and writing with so many interesting ideas, while never forgetting the jokes. Rose Matafeo is so much fun to watch and awesomely original. And there are some stupidly funny ladies I’ve met as part of the Weirdos Comedy Collective – I’ve helped them to produce live events over the past few years, including Tony Law on Ice. They’re doing really ace and imaginative things with character comedy and stand-up that goes beyond the conventional. The ones I’ve worked with most are Cassie Atkinson, Marny Godden, Kat Bond, Lucy Pearman and Eleanor Morton; all brilliant writer-performers.