Sarah Courtauld won the 2012 Funny Women Comedy Writing Award for her script ‘The Slush Pile’ which was based loosely on her experiences of working in a publishers. Sarah was so good that she was shortlisted twice – for another script ‘The Locker Room’ written with her writing partner Kate Davies. We catch up with Sarah to see what she’s been up to since that the Funny Women Awards final in September…
Funny Women: How did you get started in writing comedy?
Sarah Courtauld: My writing partner and I started writing a sitcom about three teenage girls – a sort of anti-Skins, about girls who didn’t take loads of pills and have lives full of relationship dramas… or indeed relationships. It was more about girls who sat on park benches drinking White Lightning and getting cold.
FW: What’s been going on for you since you won the Funny Women Comedy Writing Award last year?
SC: I’ve been developing projects with several production companies. I’ve been doing some improv (with the amazing David Shore – check out his classes). I’ve written the first in a series of children’s books. Oh, I’m working on a novel. I can say that and you won’t be able to look at my laptop and realise the novel looks this:
FW: You also won the BAFTA Rocilffe New Writing Forum – can you tell us a bit about that?
SC: It was bloody amazing! BAFTA took a bunch of comedy writers off to New York, to swank around the New York TV Festival, drink free beer and refer to ourselves as “talent”. We got some fantastic actors showcasing our scripts, and got feedback from Jenni Konner (co-writer & producer of Girls). It was surreal, and great. Back in the UK, we got to meet lots of the producers and got advice from them.
FW: Who do you think are the top new female comedy performers?
SC: Ooh, probably all the ladies in Austentatious, (an improvised Jane Austen stage show) since I just saw that the other day and it was wonderful. Oh, and I’ve just discovered Anna and Katy’s new show on Channel Four– they are brilliant. I think there are loads of great new performers out there at the moment.
FW:Do you ever have a particular performer in mind when you write character parts?
SC: Hmmm… yes, sometimes, although I’m trying to base characters more on people from real life.
FW:Who are your favourite comedy writers?
SC: OK, too many to mention really. But since you ask: Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Caitlin Moran, David Sedaris, Larry David, Julia Davis, Mitchell Hurwitz (Arrested Development) Graham Linehan, Armando Ianucci, P.G. Wodehouse, Joseph Heller. Oh, and sorry to be a massive cliché but like lots of people at the moment I’m obsessed with Lena Dunham.
FW: Have you ever tried performing yourself? If so, how has the influenced the way you write?
SC: Yes. My stand up was AMAZING. No, it was terrible. I spoke to a bunch of people in a room about being in a cult (true story) and they just looked at me like “Wow, what an incredibly weird person”, and tried to shuffle towards the door. For some unknown reason, I am planning to do more of this soon. I do perform as part of an improv team though, which is more fun, and also goes into less detail about me trying to make the World’s Biggest Pencil.
FW: You write both individually and as part of a writing team – which do you prefer? How are they different?
SC: Writing together is obviously much more fun, as you can bounce ideas off each other, and you have twice the pain, humiliation, general store of experience which is useful for writing comedy. Writing alone is good because you get to make all the decisions. Both are good. I think the American method: have a big team of writers, and sit around in a room until you all smell terrible and have a script, sounds amazing.
FW: Do you have any advice for people thinking of entering the Awards this year?
SC: Er, obviously enter. But I also think it’s important to not take awards too seriously. Awards are an amazing platform to get new people out there but they are also, necessarily, subjective. I think there’s probably plenty of room for all kinds of weird and wonderful acts out there.