Thursday, 24 May 2012

Buenas dias de Pantalla Escribidor (Good day from Screenscribbler)

I'm having a siesta down in the Canary Islands. Today I've had the most amazing journey exploring the mountainous island of La Gomera. Half way through our death-defying coach trip we had lunch in a restaurant that you would not want to have to find your way home from after a few beers and glasses of wine. If you fell over into one of the many ravines there would be only one outcome GAME OVER.
Before we started our simple lunch comprising of local fayre, the innkeeper demonstrated La Gomera's unique language, a whistling language. Yes that's right I said a whistling language. I could see the benefits of having an effective communication system bearing in mind the terrain these people live in, although in Britain we have a similar system called text messaging. Also it provides a means of passing a message from person to person covering a wide area. For this in Britiain we have Facebook.
A young waitress, possibly his daughter was enlisted to demonstrate the language to us. After treating us to a few ear-shattering basic calls like 'Buenas Dias,' and 'would you mind not talking I can't hear myself whistle,' she watched as the innkeeper took a cardigan that was on the back of one lady's chair, from one end of the room and placed it on the back of the chair of a lady on the opposite end of the room. From someone else he took another woman's sunglasses and gave them to a woman the opposite end of the room.
The waitress then whistled a signal for young waiter, possibly her brother, (oh yes and possibly the innkeeper's son) to enter the room. She told him, through the media of whistling, what was taken from whom and where it had gone and he without hesitation took the appropriate  items and returned them to their rightful owners.
It was a fascinating experience but there were several questions in my mind. For one; a man could very quickly go mad if he had a nagging wife. Apart from the monotony of it, could he really escape her shrill trills as I've no doubt the pub would offer little refuge for such a powerful weapon as whistling in the wrong hands – the wife?
Here's another one, what if you're on the phone...ouch... now that could be painful as well as damaging. Just think of the harm you could cause to your favourite Indian customer service rep at the Mumbai call centre, the next time you are overcharged on your gas bill.
What if... you're in a game of football and the ref blows his whistle and awards a penalty to the other side? What's he going to do when you argue against his decision and whistle back at him.
And finally just think of all those confused parrots who are moulting due to stress brought on by their owners refusing to teach them to speak in bloody English. This whistling malarky appears to be seriously flawed.
All things considered, it's okay in La Gomera, but I don't think it will catch on in the UK. On the other hand, I can't whistle, so I suppose that would entitle me to claim disability benefit as I would be effectively  mute.
What do you think, should we go completely Google ga ga with a mobile phone mast on every hillside and more bandwidth than we have oxygen, or should we simply go green and go whistle for it?

Friday, 11 May 2012

Is Laughter Good for the Soul?

Is comedy a genre? One would suppose that the immediate answer would be of course it is. How else could one describe Laurel and Hardy, Steptoe and Son or even Punch and Judy?

Is laughter the response that I as a comedy writer am looking for? Laughter is an automatic response inherent within us all. As babies we laugh to positively interact in the same way as we cry to express need, long before we have pragmatic use of language.
An automatic response to what?  To answer that question there is a need to explore the many historical, cultural boundaries that makes us what we are today.
I'm sure that laughter may well have been around before my earliest ancestor walked  upright on two legs during times when we were stuck in the middle of the food chain and not on top. Was laughter an expression of the joy that the person my ancestor had just witnessed being eaten by a sabre-tooth tiger was not him? Apart from The Flintstones there is very little evidence to support this theory.
The ancient Greeks developed public performance of comedy which could be lewd and bawdy or a rudimentary use of irony in the Satyr Plays. I have no doubt that the mass slaughter in the theatres of death called Coliseums had the ancient Romans splitting their sides, in this early form of reality TV.
From those earliest times through Shakespearian times to today a happy ending is a defining characteristic of comedy. Happy ending for the character(s)  that the writer has made us care about.
My own recent experience of pitching to an agent who was dismissive of comedy fiction as a book genre, made me re-examine who I am and what I write.
I have never wanted to write sit-com, rom-com or parody. I think my comedy can be farcical, sometimes a little dark, without crossing or challenging the sensitivities of social convention.

I strive to create stories with good dramatic elements and strong believable characterisation based on people I have known (observational comedy).
If I can make people laugh, that's good, but if I can leave them smiling with perhaps a little more wetness around the eyes would be even better.
I will not be pitching myself as a comedy writer again. I will let the publisher/agent decide.