Interview: The Writers Behind TV's Most Iconic Comedy Moments

 
WALLIAMS AND FRIEND, DAWSON BROS, THE FREE ASSOCIATION, SKETCH COMEDY, LONDON SKETCH WRITING CLASS, LEARN TO WRITE SKETCH
 

 

The Dawson Bros. are one of television's best-kept secrets. This powerful writing trio are behind some of the greatest comedy moments on your screens - crafting everything from sketch shows and sitcoms, to well-crafted one-liners for presenters, hosts, and national treasures alike.

These guys put a huge amount of work into creating, writing and painstakingly shaping the perfect comedy moments, and then humbly take a back-seat while the performers take the credit. Oh, and they're bloody good at it!

I wanted to find out more about what it takes to be a comedy writer, how to get a TV show, and what makes comedians laugh...So we caught up with Steve Dawson to find out everything we could.

How did you get into sketch writing?

SD: I used to make terrible home videos with my brother and Tim Inman from the age of 11. (Tim is the Dawson brother who is not a brother. We very much model ourselves on the pop band Bros.) As there was no YouTube we had to just invite our five friends round to watch it, and they didn't troll us to our faces, so we would keep making more and more. 

Ten years later we thought "Why is our comedy career going nowhere?" and realised it's because those five friends were students and temp workers in the Oxfordshire area and had no influence over the commissioning of television. So in 2001 we entered sketches in to the BBC Talent competition and made it through to the final where we were up against Sharon Horgan. Suffice to say we didn't win. But we did make good contacts who we politely pestered to let us write on their shows.

since then, WHO HAVE THE DAWSON BROS WRITTEN FOR?

SD: You name them: The Chuckle Brothers. Brian Belo. Gillian McKeith. The cast of an episode of My Super Sweet 16 UK... I could go on.

Thanks to working on Funny or Die UK, Ant & Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway, Walliams and Friend and various charity sketches we have had the great pleasure of writing lines for performers and celebrities we hugely admire including David Walliams, Ant & Dec, Michael Crawford, Stephen Hawking, The Muppets, Will Arnett, Ben Stiller, Ronnie Corbett, Peter Serafinowicz, Robbie Williams, Hugh Grant, Harry Enfield, Meera Syal, Jack Whitehall, Miranda Richardson, Sheridan Smith, Hugh Bonneville and Joanna Lumley. 

We've been unbelievably lucky.

IS IT DIFFICULT WRITING IN A TEAM?

SD: It's a joy. I get to work with my brother and one of my closest friends from school. We pinch ourselves every day.

There will always be arguments in a team, but it's so important to learn to work with others when creating comedy. It's not about you or your idea. It's about picking the best ideas for the show. Being a good writer is being a good curator.

Who is the funniest Dawson?

SD: Tim. But don't let anyone in the industry know that.

Did you ever do standup or any other form of live comedy?

SD: We used to perform as part of a Caberet night in Oxford called "The Big Do" where we could test material in front of a live audience. But I've never done standup. 

In recent years I've taken up improv, which is just addictive. And various improv skills have bled into my day to day writing - from the language of 'game' to the ability to bounce back when you pitch material that falls flat in the writer's room.


What makes you laugh?

SD: Beautifully written jokes from Dean Martin Roasts. Form-busting comedy like "How To Make A Rainbow Cake" by HowToBasic on YouTube. But above all classic sketches like the Two Ronnies Mastermind sketch or Python's Four Yorkshiremen.

Anything crafted.

what's your Favourite sketch of all time?

SD: The Audition Sketch from Mr Show. Dino Stamatopoulos should have won multiple awards for writing that.

 
 


And now the awkward part...

what's your favourite sketch writen by The Dawson Bros?

SD: The Blackberry Sketch. We got to write for our childhood idols Harry Enfield and Ronnie Corbett - and it doesn't get any better than that.

 
 

 

sO, BIG QUESTION...How do you get a TV show?

SD: Knock on the BBC's door and ask for one. They're quite obliging.

Or you can do the boring standard way and write or perform as much as you can. Refine your material - ideally using an audience's laughter as your guide.

If you have great material then "Don't Be Invisible". Get your material online or perform regularly. And promote your clips and your shows. Then repeat that process so you're always in people's minds. 

You can then look at the credits of your favourite TV shows and write to the producers with links to your work (but only one or two short pieces, they're busy people)

Believe it or not producers are always looking for new talent. Just make sure your material is the best it can be before you send it


and finally, What do you think is the future of sketch comedy? 

SD: Sketch should be a training ground for new talent on TV - many great performers and writers started in sketch. But it's expensive to make a sketch show because sketches need multiple costumes and locations per show, so it is pretty much avoided by the industry, and that's to the detriment of discovering new voices.

I think the podcast world is screaming out for a professionally produced sketch show. You don't need costumes and locations for that - just raw talent.

 

Steve Dawson has created, and teaches, The Dawson Bros & and Free Association Sketch Class in London to teach the next generation of comedy writers how to create, workshop and pitch comedy sketches.  The next Sketch Class starts in September! BOOK A PLACE NOW. People who have completed the sketch class can apply to join The Free Association Sketch Teams, who will write and produce a brand new monthly sketch show LIVE in London.

SOAP produce and host the final class showcase, and you can listen below.