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Arts / Island location no barrier for comedy writer

“FUNNY things come in threes, set up somebody’s expectation and then subvert it, and ducks are always funny.”

That’s the trio of tips from Alex-Garrick Wright for any budding comedians looking to create a good joke that will bag some laughs.

Alex Garrick-Wright.

He would know – the Shetland based comic has been enjoying success writing gags and sketches for a number of national radio and TV satire shows.

Highlighting that Shetland’s rural island location is not always a barrier, Garrick-Wright and his Edinburgh-based comedy partner Rebecca Bain are regular writers for BBC Scotland’s topical radio panel show Breaking The News, while they also have credits on BBC Radio 4’s Newsjack.

The pair, in fact, will be lead writers on Breaking The News in December.

They are also regular contributors to News Revue, which is the world’s longest running live comedy show, and The Treason Show.

Local folk may have seen Garrick-Wright on stage as part of the local improv troupe the Imposters, but he says he is more of a writer than a performer.

“I can’t act,” he admits. “I love improv, but I get away with improv because I over act so much.

“I’m full ham sandwich. I could maybe do panto, but I don’t have the gravitas to pull off proper performance.”

The process of writing jokes for national shows appears, at times, to be a labour of love.

For Breaking The News, for example, Garrick-Wright and Bain might write 60 to 70 jokes a week, with only a selection making it through to the final cut.

The show already has a Shetland connection, with local comic Marjolein Robertson having appeared as a guest, including when it has been broadcast on TV.

“A lot more of our stuff makes the script and the shortlist, but it only counts if it makes the broadcast edit,” Garrick-Wright explains.

“You can have stuff reliably getting in the shortlist…but maybe it just doesn’t chime on the day, or the presenter doesn’t like it. Or when they’re doing the recording, another joke gets the bigger laugh. That’s just how it works.”

The team behind Breaking The News will send out a number of briefs during the week which highlights the topics and news stories that should be the butt of the jokes.

Garrick-Wright said writing gags is “decent money when you consider that it’s a line”.

“The per word is good, but the amount of work that you have to do in order to get that work broadcast is quite a lot,” he added.

“But it’s as much about building up credits and building up your exposure.”

The coronavirus pandemic, meanwhile, has affected the world massively this year, but the shift towards more remote and online working has helped to open doors in the comedy world.

It also encouraged Garrick-Wright and his writing partner to upload more content online, with the pair doing around a sketch a week for the last 16 or 17 weeks.

“My writing partner and I have been working together for maybe a year and a half max,” he added.

“Before the pandemic really the only thing that I can think of that you could reliably submit anything to was Newsjack.

“Everything else you had to be near it, or you had to be able to meet people or you had to go and do it. And if you’re in Shetland, you can’t. Not without extensive travel.

“And then when the pandemic happened the shift to online was massive.”