Everyone needs an Arcot

As you can see, the Department for Work and Pensions are optimistic that my comedy writing career is really going to take off over the next 31 years. I’m sure that the reason they have so much confidence is that they’ve heard I write in Arcot Street.

We had a meeting with Foiled producer Tom Price last Friday. He gave us notes on the first episode we’ve written for Series 2 (confusingly, the third episode). A tense moment. The good news is that we can still write jokes, the other good news is that the plot is 60% there. Not too shabby for a first draft.

We’ve parked Episode 3 (Everything’s Queues) for the time being because, along with the notes, Tom gave us something else: a deadline. And it’s a looming one. We’ve got until the 7 of May to get the other three episodes in similar shape.

So Beth drove us down to Wales for two days of writing in the comedy airs of Penarth. The fact she was horrendously ill was irrelevant. When you’ve got a deadline that dictates you write 5 pages a day, you write 5 pages a day. So we did. And then she drove all the way back on Sunday night. Trooper.

These are the things that don’t get written about and remembered: why not just take the day off? Well, for one, the Department for Work and Pensions don’t do sick pay for comedy writers. (A Twitter campaign should rectify this matter in short order.)

It helps that we write as a team. When one person runs out of juice, the other steps up to the keyboard and squashes out a couple of pages. Sometimes all that’s needed is the encouragement of a laugh to what’s already there, whetting the approval-seeking appetite for more. Comedians are appalling showoffs.

It also helps that we write cosseted in the bosom of Arcot Street, Beth’s ancestral home, where her family play consummate and impeccable hosts. We write sitting around the kitchen table, drip-fed a steady flow of hot tea and toddies, with a sympathetic audience supplying a laughter track louder than the worst excesses of daytime TV. The backdrop hustle and bustle of the kitchen sink drama that is P-Town is distraction and inspiration alike.

This is what it takes to write a sitcom – at least, this is what it takes us to write a sitcom. I always come back from Penarth with acute symptoms of caffeine withdrawal – pallid cheeks, the shakes and a lassitude of ennui.

But maybe it’s just withdrawal from Foiled’s incomparable Arcot Street home. Thanks guys.

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David Charles is co-writer of BBC radio sitcom Foiled. He also writes for The Bike Project, Thighs of Steel, and the Elevate Festival. He blogs at davidcharles.info.

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