Last week we live-streamed our 2020 Funny Women Awards Presentation from the Groucho Club in London, where the winners of our other Awards categories were announced. We were delighted to have comedy legend Vicki Pepperdine onboard to announce Kate Elmer as the winner of this year’s Comedy Writing Award for her script Mulch Wanted. Vicki said: “I loved the idea of this wannabe Thelma and Louise for our times, with its great ‘out there’ characters and the many razor-sharp one-liners that Kate has thrown in.” We caught up with Kate to discuss her win and her creative process…
Funny Women: How does it feel to win the 2020 Funny Women Comedy Writing Award?
Kate Elmer: Incredible! Trying to be a comedy writer can sometimes feel like repeatedly hitting my head against a brick wall, followed by long soul-searching periods of staring out of my bedroom window, so winning this award is a huge confidence boost. I’m truly chuffed as I’ve only ever won one thing before: tickets to an open-air showing of The Sound of Music when I was 11, and this is even better than that.
FW: Tell us about your script.
KE: Mulch Wanted is a six-part TV comedy series about a desperate and loveable heroine Hayley Mulch, who panics and goes on the run when it’s discovered she’s stolen tens of thousands of pounds from her London office job, all to fund her on-off boyfriend Noah in Newcastle. Dragging her long-suffering best friend Lex along, the girls must stay off-grid as they make their way up north by any means necessary, all whilst being pursued by Hayley’s Rambo-like colleague Evan, desperate to bag himself a white-collar criminal and earn a long-awaited promotion. However, with no money, no common sense and only a stinky music festival tent for shelter, Hayley and Lex make mistake after mistake and their time on the run goes from bad to worse. As well as themes of hopeless modern relationships and outdoorsy fun, at the heart of the series is the power and solidarity of female friendships. Hayley and Lex are a 2020 Thelma and Louise, but instead of a convertible car and Brad Pitt, it’s motorway lay-bys, food from bins and grey British skies.
FW: Can you share a little about your creative process?
KE: When I start working on a new script, I’ll roll out a huge (as in five-foot-long) piece of paper and pack of chunky coloured pens and then start writing every possible character, word and image in that world that I can think of. For example, if it’s an idea about lions in Yorkshire, I’ll list every type of lion and everything I associate with Yorkshire. From there, I get a pack of index cards and plot a timeline for episode one and the series arc, usually making sure there are at least three visual jokes. Once I’m happy with the plot, I get down to writing. To be honest, this is where the creative process gets a little less productive… typically I get up after hitting snooze on my alarm three times, drink a couple of coffees, write half a sentence, watch two episodes of Come Dine With Me or ITV’s Dinner Date, frustratedly throw my phone and internet hub under a pile of blankets, write one or two more pages and then give up for the day. It’s a slow process but I get there in the end!
FW: Any words of advice to comedy writers?
KE: Firstly, don’t be afraid to completely tear up your script and start again if it’s not working in its current form. I’ve done this more times than I’ve had hot dinners.
Secondly, research is key for me. My friend and I are currently writing a script about a food truck which sells cheese toasties and have watched a lot of YouTube videos about the industry. We spoke to street food vendors and ate a ton of toasties before we began writing. It has enriched the script and generated relevant new ideas.
Finally, and most importantly, be resilient. Rejections are just part of the process and you can use them as a chance to keep improving your writing and fine-tuning your scripts. I applied for the BBC Comedy Room three years in a row before I got in. Keep applying for competitions and writing opportunities (like BBC Writersroom, Funny Women and Comedy 50:50) meet as many people as you can in the industry and never stop writing, even if you’re spending a big chunk of time dramatically staring out your bedroom window like me!
FW: And lastly, who are your favourite funny women?
KE: I could list funny women I love until the cows come home but Sharon Horgan, Lisa McGee, Amy Sherman-Palladino, Desiree Burch, Helen Fielding, Abby Jacobson and Ilana Glazer, Michaela Coel, Aisling Bea, Whitney Cummings, Diane Morgan, Ellie White and Natasia Demetriou to name but a few.
During lockdown, funny women on social media kept me laughing: Chelsea Holmes and Flora Anderson on Twitter and the hilarious Daisy May Cooper was a joy to follow on Instagram.
Keep up with Kate Elmer on social media here!