59: Kay Stonham (Creating and sustaining a career as a comedy writer )

Danielle Krage interviews Kay Stonham. Kay is a comedy writer-performer who has worked extensively across TV, film, theatre and radio. For example, she has written 10 original series for Radio 4, including Robin and Wendy’s Wet Weekend, and Bad Salsa.

She’s also the Co-Founder of Female Pilot Club , which was founded to amplify women’s voices and give women writers the chance to prove their jokes and characters in the room – as seen in their sold-out read-throughs of comedy pilot scripts to audiences of writers, producers and comedy lovers.

In this conversation, Kay shares really practical insights and advice for writers wanting to create and sustain a career in writing comedy.

Chapters

00:00 Introduction and Background

02:25 Selecting Scripts for Live Performances

04:45 Developing Scripts for Showcases

07:09 Pitfalls in Script Submissions

09:58 Script Consultancy and Considerations

16:21 Misconceptions about the Production Process

24:54 Sustaining a Creative Career

29:29 PhD Research on Comedy Writing and Identity

39:55 Upcoming Projects and Female Pilot Club

You can find out more about Kay Stonham and her work here:

Kay’s website: https://kaystonham.com

Kay’s agent: https://mmbcreative.com/clients/kay-stonham/

Kay’s Audible Series: https://www.audible.co.uk/search?searchAuthor=Kay+Stonham

Female Pilot Club: https://www.femalepilotclub.co.uk/

Female Pilot Club Podcast: https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/female-pilot-club/id1598357325

The previous episode with Chelsea and Emily from Female Pilot Club is here:  https://youtu.be/sFXuYQN2cPw

Previous guest, Lucy Lumsden (Yellow Door Productions) was a judge and sponsor of the live showcase we referenced (along with sponsors Imagine Talent). You can find Lucy’s episode here: https://youtu.be/axiGW8iqMkc

CLICK HERE FOR TRANSCRIPT

Danielle Krage (00:04.334)

Hey everybody, I have the fabulous Kay Stonham with me. Very excited to get to speak to Kay. Kay is a comedy writer-performer whose experience spans film and TV and theatre and radio. She has a really extensive list of writing credits and she’s also the co-founder of the fabulous Female Pilot Club. We first heard about Female Pilot Club back in episode 37 from the delightful Chelsea and Emily. So lovely to be able to ask Kay more today.

Really excited to be able to ask about building a creative career as a comedy writer, ways to sustain that, all the things. Kay is brilliant on both a practical and industry front. So excited to speak to you, Kay.. But anything before we dive in that people should know about you and your connections to comedy?

Kay:

My connections to comedy. Well, as you said, I’ve been a radio TV writer for 30 years plus now. If you want to hear some of my work, you can find two series of mine on Audible. The first is called Robin and Wendy’s Wet Weekends, which is about a couple who have a model village in their garage and they play out their marital strife in this model village, which is quite fun. That was a Radio 4 production, but it’s now on Audible. And also my series Bad Salsa, which is about three women who having got the all-clear from cancer, then go on to stick two stilettos up, by deciding that they’re gonna live life to the absolute max. And they do, they join a salsa club and they proceed to behave badly. It’s very good fun.

Danielle

my goodness. Those are such brilliant concepts. And I see, I remember Chelsea and Emily had this great advice when they came on the show before the script call. And they’d also been listening to loads and loads of pitches at live events. And when they were talking about pitching, they were talking about like actually being able to get the humour into how you describe the project. And you just did it brilliantly there. Both of those, I can see just all the potential for humour. They’re so fun. So you’re a living, breathing example of what is good to do. I love it. And when we did speak to Chelsea and Emily, I’d say it was just before the deadline for the Female Pilot Club script call. And since then, a lot has happened. We’ve been all the way through the process. You’ve had your fabulous live showcase and actually…one of the guests from this series went to it and she said it was just so fun. She just loved it. So I want to ask about it. And I want to ask about it from the perspective of comedy writers. When you think through that process and from the things that you saw, the team saw, the judges saw, what were some of the things that the writers did well who managed to get all the way through that process through to getting their work produced life?

Kay

Well, it sounds really simple, but the two writers who were in the end chosen for the live performances, basically put in a lot of jokes. Yeah. And it sounds really obvious, but you would be surprised how many scripts we get, which people tell us are comedies. And they might, you know, they’re not heavy drama for sure. They might have quite a light humorous sort of tone to the story, but they don’t have any jokes. And I would say if you are thinking of writing a sitcom, then you have just got to get yourself into the frame of mind that you do need to think about where is my humour coming from and how can I get the maximum opportunities to make people laugh because in Female Pilot Club, we put things on the stage in front of a live audience, okay? So you have to make them laugh in the room and you’ve got to make them laugh, you know, once every few minutes. So that’s like two or three times a page. So you’ve got to be really, really disciplined with yourself and look at your work and say, have I got actual jokes? And you might not have that, in the first draft or even the second draft. You might be really concentrating on getting a great story, getting some good characters, which a lot of the scripts have done. You know, we think, well, that’s good writing, good stories, lovely characters, interesting situations, perhaps that we haven’t seen before, which all makes them really, really interesting projects and possible candidates for live reading, but if they haven’t got those really good jokes, then we can’t choose them because it doesn’t do them any good service because then we’ll put their script on stage and people won’t laugh. So that would be my big top takeaway. Make sure you add laughs if you’re gonna submit a comedy script.

Danielle

Yeah, really good advice. And did much change between selecting the ones to go through to the showcase and then actually like seeing them stood up. So I don’t know how much time you had working with the performers. Did you see those scripts change much? How much time was there for input?

Kay

There were a few changes. I mean, one script had been worked on, you know, quite extensively by the writer and she was a very experienced writer. So that script did not need, well, I would say almost any changes to the script itself. But we did have a lot to work to do on that script because it was a radio script. And really, usually, we usually do television scripts. And what we do is we read out the scene action, which are like stage directions, if people don’t know what that is, which tells us what we would be seeing, you know, on TV. But in a radio script, of course, you don’t have that. But what you do have is sound effects. But it’s not quite so much fun to hear the sound effects read out as it is to hear stage directions or scene action read out. So we got a live, what they call a Foley artist who does live sound effects on stage with us. And she stood there, you know, doing all the sound effects. She had the little door, which she –  the opening and the closing of the door and the ringing of the bell and the knocking on the door. So, that had to be really carefully thought through about which sound effects could we actually achieve on stage and some of the sound effects, which we couldn’t really achieve had to cut. So there were changes which were around staging that particular script.

And then the second script we did make a few changes because the writer and this was a very new writer so we had you know a contrasting pair of writers there one very experienced and one very new and her script had lots and lots and lots of characters in and obviously when you’re putting it on stage there’s a limit to how many actors you can use. Really you can’t ask actors to come along and do two lines. There’s got to be a kind of a part which feels worth it for them to come and read. So we did quite a lot of work around amalgamating characters or cutting out characters who really, you know, the story could do without. So that was the work we did on those two scripts. Not a huge amount, but enough to just really polish them and get them ready to give a really good account of themselves on stage in front of a live audience.

Danielle Krage (07:09.006)

That’s super interesting. And last question about the showcase, but when you think through all those scripts as well, and the conversations that were had with the judges, were there any other pitfalls that you noticed apart from just not enough joke density, not enough laugh-out-loud moments? Were there any other things that you thought, I’m seeing this pattern crop up? And if not, no problem.

Kay

Yeah, no, there were a few things. I mean, first of all, I’d say, make sure that your premise is interesting, rather than just something which you think is sort of amusing in your everyday life. Something which is amusing in your everyday life – yeah, it’s amusing when you tell your friends. But again, when you think about the sort of shows that we watch on TV and the sort of shows that we enjoy, usually there’s something really, really unique about each show’s premise, isn’t there?

So a definite USP to the series. So if you want your series to be about contemporary life, that’s fine, but make sure you’ve got a twist, a USP that can make your show stand out so that we can say, it’s about this. For instance, as I mentioned with Robin and Wendy, it’s basically about suburban couples living next to each other. And it was kind of like contrasting characters and poor marriages. Robin and Wendy had a very bad marriage.

So it was about a very familiar territory, but we gave it the twist of they have this model village and a lot of their conflicts are played out through the ideas about this model village. So that gave it a twist. When you go to a commissioner, you can say, it’s about a couple of model village. And straight away, as you said, you can see the humorous possibilities there. And I think, again, a lot of the scripts, they didn’t have anything particularly stand out about them. So make sure your concept has got something which is stand out, that you can explain to people in one or two sentences, it’s about this. If you can’t, then it could well be a little bit too general to really make it stand out, you know, in a crowd of scripts. And just make sure that it’s not something you’ve seen before. Again, you know, some of the premises we thought, well, we’ve just had a series on a similar theme on TV.

And if you don’t know that, then maybe you’re not watching enough TV. If you want to write TV, you’ve got to watch TV. So make sure that the premise that you have isn’t something which has just been done or has been done a couple of years ago. Check out your premise. So those are my things to really, really think about when you’re submitting scripts.

Danielle

That’s super helpful. Thank you. And people who are listening, I mean, that’s just great advice in general. And even if you’re listening now and the showcase has ended, Kay still works with writers in lots of different ways as a professional. And one of those is the script consultancy. And I wanted to ask you about that because there are different people who offer script consultancies. And we touched on this with Chelsea and Emily, and you’re such a good person to ask because you have such a long track record of supporting writers. You have your own industry experience and you’re such an ethical, supportive person. So we can trust what you say.

So when writers are thinking about getting professional input and potentially even paying for that going to script consultancy. What do you think are some things that’s good for them to consider so that they, for example, are getting it at a point that it’s useful or finding the right kind of person for them?

Kay

Ooh, that’s a really interesting question. Yeah, I mean, the first thing to think about is what do you want out of that script consultancy? You know, are you looking to polish a script that you’ve already taken through a number of drafts and you just want to get it, you know, get it at its absolute best before you submit it to producers or you submit it maybe to competitions, in which case you’re, you know, you’re looking for somebody with a really good track record in the industry, maybe somebody who’s done, you know, polishing work on professional scripts, punch up work if it’s a comedy, to just look at your script and give you those last few pointers about how you can make it like really, really special and really stand out. So that’s one kind. And if you’re doing that, then you probably want, you know, one, two sessions, probably maximum three sessions, I’d say, just to get your script up to its absolute best.

Or if you’re looking to get some more development work on a script that maybe you’re only just beginning to think about. Maybe you’ve done one draft of it. You’re not sure which direction to take it. Then you want somebody who’s gonna work with you over a number of sessions and who maybe is going to be somebody who’s going to have quite a lot of creative ideas and doesn’t mind giving those to you to help you bounce ideas between the two of you to help that script develop in ways which perhaps you hadn’t thought of, you know, you’re getting an extra bit of creative input there, aren’t you?

Or if you’re a very new writer, you might, somebody who really is gonna help you become a better writer. So you might want somebody who can say to you, okay, well, I’ve seen what you’ve written. It might be a script, it might be an outline, it could be treatment. And what do you really try to say with the script? What are you really trying to get out of this story? And really maybe even take you back a couple of stages to rewriting an outline and then maybe doing a treatment or a beat sheet and a scene-by-scene breakdown, depending on what kind of script you’re doing, so that you’re going back and helping them through a development process, which perhaps they haven’t done before.

Some of the people who we have in the script consultancy, they literally just opened Final Draft or another software package and just started, you know, scene one, and started to write the script, which, you know, that can be great. It can work well for you, but it’s not really how scripts are normally developed. Normally you would take it through a development process of starting off with perhaps, you know, a one-page or even a paragraph of your idea and then building it to a one page and then taking it into a fuller treatment or a fuller outline and then doing a beat sheet or a scene by scene so that you’ve really got your plot nailed down, you know who your characters are, you know what they’re going to be doing at any point in the story, and then you can just write the script much more easily without going adrift, taking wrong turns. If you just start writing a script, you can be seduced by a lovely scene you’ve written and that takes you off in a completely different direction and end up goodness knows where. And sometimes that might be fantastic, right? I’m not, writers who write like that look, you know, and if it works for you, that’s fantastic. But particularly if you’re doing television, then you need to follow a more formal development process and you might not have had experience of that. So again, with our script consultancy, we can give people experience of that, which is taking them really on a learning journey as a writer so that they learn how to develop a script in a more sort of professional way. So it really depends what you’re after, I think, who you might go with and also who you try.

I would always say if you possibly can try and get one session with someone before you commit to paying for a lot of sessions, because it could be that, you know, that person’s not on your wavelength or you don’t like the sort of notes they’re going to give you or it’s, it’s not quite what you had in mind. So I know a lot of the script consultancy services, which are excellent, by the way, some of them are. But most often you have to buy a package. And I think particularly if you’re new to script consultancy and particularly if you haven’t got a lot of money, which let’s face it, you know, most writers haven’t, I would say try and get somebody who will give you one session first to see how you get on. And then if you need more sessions, then you can buy them after that if that person is giving you what you need and it’s a good match.

Danielle

That’s brilliant, such helpful advice and so much great vocabulary in there to kind of inform people thinking where they are in that stage and what kind of gaps they may have or what they might need to know, which is brilliant. And because you again, you have so much experience of taking projects through from idea right the way through to production, which can be quite an extensive arc. Are there any other misconceptions that you see lots of writers have when they come to you? With regards to what that process might actually be like, getting it all the way through to production.

Kay

I mean, I think if you’re working actually on a TV production, then probably what writers who haven’t done that before don’t know is that it’s quite a, how can I put it? It’s very intensive and you’re going to be given lots and lots of notes and not just by one person. The notes will come from multiple sources, you know, you might get notes from your script editor, your producer, your executive producer, might even go up to channel controller or head of genre or, you know, somebody in that commissioning team. So you’re going to be getting a lot of voices having input into your script. And that if you haven’t encountered that before, that can be really quite disconcerting and newer writers can lose confidence, I think, in what they’ve written.

And it’s to develop an understanding that that just is the process. And that doesn’t mean you haven’t written a good script. That doesn’t mean you’re not a good writer. That’s just what the process is. And also that the notes are not optional in TV. Okay, so, I mean, they might be presented as optional, if you see what you mean. But in actual fact, they’re not really optional. I mean, what is optional about them, I suppose, is that, normally, if you’re given a note, it will be something that’s not quite working in your script. And the producer or the script editor or whoever’s coordinating the notes and giving them to the writer will probably make a suggestion as to how you can fix that problem in the script. And it’s not kind of compulsory that you take that person’s suggestion. But what it means is you’ve got to find some kind of answer to that problem in the script.

So it’s not sort of acceptable to just go, well, I didn’t do any of the notes. Here’s the second draft and it’s pretty much like the first draft. You know, you are expected to take all this stuff on board because you’re in a kind of, you’re in an industrial process. You know, it’s a big production. There’ll be a massive budget and you are expected to, you know, to play your part in the team. You’re not really writing as an individual artist as you might be say if you were a novelist where everything that happens in the story and the characters and the development of it is down to your own creativity and your own taste and your own aesthetics. You know, you’re working within a context where somebody else high above you in the team also has an idea about how that story should be and how that project should be. And those ideas have to be taken into account in your writing. So perhaps I would say that that is something which perhaps people don’t know or aren’t really aware of before they’ve worked in a professional TV setting.

Danielle

Yeah, that’s great insider information. Thank you. And you mentioned that even with the showcase, you had one project that was initially conceived for radio and one that was for TV. And it’s never easy when we’re talking in generalities, but because you also have experience of both of those things, when you’re thinking of concepts in your own work are there particular kind of things that really differentiate which form you sort of route different ideas to? Because I imagine lots of creative people have, you know, lots of ideas and, you know, notebooks full of ideas and the ones that you’ve described, did you know, for example, that they were definitely going to be radio ideas or how does that kind of work in terms of matching up?

Kay

Well, now this is interesting because I think you’ve got to be very pragmatic as a writer. And you’ve got to, basically it’s really, really hard to get anything original commissioned. Okay. Really hard. And so you’ve got to be quite flexible about the way you think about your projects and where you’re going to pitch them. It might be that you’ve got an idea which you think,

is very, very specifically radio and it couldn’t work anywhere else. And while we’re talking about radio, just one thing to mention is that my experience of radio as a writer is that you do have much, much more creative control than you do in TV. My experience is that you work with a producer, perhaps at BBC studios or with an independent production company. And once you’ve got your idea commissioned, you’re left much more alone to develop the scripts with yourself and with the producer. There’s not as much oversight as there would be from TV. So that is one reason too that people enjoy working in radio actually in a way it’s a little bit easier to be more of an individual creator in radio. But back to –  so that the reason I said that is that might be one reason why you think well like this is my baby this is my idea I really want it to be exactly as I want it to be. Radio is a good choice for that because you’re more likely to get exactly your own vision on radio than you are on TV. With TV, I’d say that really it depends on the budget, you know, that you’re looking, are you looking for something which is going to be really, really high budget? You know, you’re unlikely to get that away as a new writer. So if you’ve got something which again might take place in lots of different locations. Maybe as a new writer, you might think, well, again, that might be better on radio because we won’t actually have to go to the West Indies or whatever. We can imagine it.

But my own projects, interestingly, Robin and Wendy’s Wet Weekends, which I wrote with a partner, Simon Greenall, that was something which we developed as sketches. We developed sketches on a TV show. So we developed these characters on the TV show. They’re very popular. People like them. And a production company asked us if we’d like to develop a TV show based on those characters, which we did. We wrote, we had two script commissions. So we were very close to getting a series commissioned. And then as often happens, it didn’t get greenlit. We didn’t get it commissioned on TV, which was a real shame. We thought it would work very well, but we, you know, this happens. There’s so many projects get pitched. Obviously not everything can get pitched. So we didn’t get it away on TV. And so I then decided to repackage it as a radio series. So I reworked it, rethought it, and I pitched it to Radio 4, with whom I already had a good relationship because I’d already had a series on Radio 4 called Audio Diaries. And they loved it and we got it commissioned that way. So the reason I sort of told that story is it shows how you have to be a bit pragmatic.

You know, you might want your show to be on TV and let’s face it, TV is much better paid than radio on a practical level. You’re going to get more money if you sell your show to TV than if you sell it to radio. But if you can’t get it made on TV, then it’s worth thinking about radio. And obviously radio commissioners and producers hate this because they, you know, they want everything to be conceived originally for radio. But in actual fact, with comedy, I think, most projects can work equally well. There are some things which are just way better on radio, but a lot of projects that you’ve thought of for TV can work equally well on radio, I think. So it’s worth bearing in mind, if you can’t get it commissioned on radio, try TV. If you can’t get it commissioned on TV, try radio. That would be my tip. Be pragmatic.

Danielle

I love that. And two particular things I want to ask you as follow on questions from that. One is, so you’ve mentioned pragmatic and obviously a great example there of being willing to, you know, deal with it, not being greenlit, repackage it, move forward. From that, you can see you already had those relationships with Radio 4, so building relationships. Are there any other things that you think have been really key to your success in terms of being able to sustain a creative career, because that may be something that people really aspire to and isn’t easy to do. And I assume you’ve probably you’ve seen lots of people who are around at different stages who have chosen not to continue with that. So what’s been the key to the success of being able to sustain a comedy writing career?

Kay

Well, I would say you’ve got to be willing to be flexible, you’ve got to be willing to do a lot of things. I think, as you know, I started off as a performer. Yeah. So I was in a lot of sketch shows myself as a sketch performer. And I really only began writing when I had my children. And I thought, my God, I’m not able to do the same kind of work that I could before I had children. It just wasn’t really possible. And I thought, well, maybe I can start writing at home. And then I started writing sketches and I started writing gags, particularly on sketches like Weekending, which was a very famous topical show at the time.

And then I progressed onto writing longer narrative pieces. And then as soon as I had that experience under my belt, then I started to try and write for other mediums. I wrote for kids shows. We did all kinds of links on entertainment shows, lots and lots of different kinds of writing that took the comic genre. So it’s very important not to be too, I don’t wanna say snobby…I don’t know, picky, I’m going to say picky. Not to be too picky and sort of think, well, you know, I’m only going to write my own sitcoms. I’m only going to write my own, if you’re a drama writer, I’m only going to write my own dramas. You know, most writers work on other people’s shows and you’re lucky if you’re a comedy writer because there are lots of other forms of writing you can do. Like I said, you can write sketches, you can write gags on shows, you can write links on entertainment shows. Voiceovers on reality TV. There’s all kinds of other kinds of work that you could do. So I would say really be proactive about finding that work which will keep you going financially. I also developed another string to my bow and my children were older and I frankly didn’t want to be sitting on my own at home just writing at my laptop forever, which is a bit lonely. I wanted to do something which involved working with other people as well. So I started teaching writing, which I really enjoy. I really enjoy working with other writers or with students. And so I began teaching, first of all, creative writing and then screenwriting and script writing. I did an MA in screenwriting and now I’ve just finished a PhD as it happens. So I’ve got this whole other string to my bow, which is a kind of academic life.

And so I would say, unless you’re really, really nonstop successful as a writer, it’s really hard to sustain yourself only on your writing. Many, many, many TV writers, radio writers have other strings to their bow. And often it’s to do with teaching or consulting, or like I said, being an academic, but people do other things, you know. They make jams and preserves. They do part -time aromatherapy or all kinds of things. So I think be prepared to have a day job that you can fill in if you’re not getting a commission. Because otherwise, if everything is dependent on your writing, I think it can, in a way, it can hamper your creativity. If you get turned down, if you get a rejection, it’s disappointing, but also it’s such a blow to your ability to pay the rent or to put the food on the table. So I’d say always have something else if you can, that is going to just help you keep that money coming in when things get a bit lean on the writing front.

Danielle

That’s very sage advice. And I do want to ask about the PhD, because actually, in a previous conversation with you, you’d just completed your PhD, and you told me what the subject was. And I’d love it…. I know you can’t condense a PhD into… do it justice in just a few sentences, but any kind of insights into what that area is, because it warms my heart that people like you are willing to be doing this work. So what was the sort of focus of your PhD?

Kay

So the focus of my PhD, really, was to think about who gets to tell their stories in comedy, who gets to have those jobs to get those commissions, who gets to pursue a life as a comedy writer. I’ve been working, as I said, for 30 years plus now in the industry. And what I felt that I was experiencing was that, although I did quite well, I did, you know, I had good jobs, I had good commissions. I felt like maybe some of the options which were open to other of my peers who were male or who were more middle class, maybe they’d been to Oxford or Cambridge or one of the kind of red brick universities, which I hadn’t. I felt that there were more opportunities that came their way. And I felt that there were some circles which maybe it wasn’t as easy for me to access. My background is working class, I didn’t go to university, I went to drama school. As I said, much later on now, I’ve done an MA and now a PhD, but I felt that I was in a different kind of circle from many of the people who I was coming up against as competition in the comedy writing world to get commissions and to get jobs. And I wanted to see whether that was an experience which other people had had. I wanted to see whether there was some kind of situation in the industry where some opportunities were more open to some people in some groups than others.

So I interviewed 20 comedy writers and I interviewed 10 gatekeepers, they were producers or commissioners or channel heads or execs or people who had their own production companies. And I asked them about their entry into the industry, what had helped them get in and stay in and also about the commissioning process. And for me, that was key. You know, how do things get commissioned? How do you get a chance to get your work commissioned and therefore your voice heard?

And then I looked at people’s experiences and whether people’s identity, whether they were black or Asian or other minority ethnic, whether they were women or men or whether they were working class, middle class or upper middle class, whether these things had affected their perceptions of the opportunities they’d had and how they’d fared in their careers.

So it’s really about, you know, identity and how it affects opportunities within that tiny little world of comedy writing. But of course it fits into a much larger discourse of diversity, equality, nclusion in the creative industries. And I think it’s probably quite well known now that the creative industries are actually not as inclusive as perhaps we think they are.

We always think of them as very open, as very, you know, particularly in things like comedy, surely if you’re funny, you’re funny, you can make your way. But in actual fact, in the creative industries, the employment, for instance, of working class people, the levels of employment are lower in the creative industries than they are in any other sectors. So the record is not good in the creative industry. And in film and television, It’s not good at all. The Writers Guild did a wonderful piece of research and came out in 2018 on writers in all different genres. And in fact, the comedy genre came out the worst in TV.

Danielle

Did it?

Kay

Absolutely. It was only 11 % of sitcoms were written entirely by women. So that was really, really low, very, very low. And I think in film, it was only 17%. of women had written at least one film. So there were clear discrepancies certainly between men and women. And I wanted to look at social class and sort of broaden it out a little bit and say, well, how do the different identities fare when it comes to being commissioned? And so it’s a qualitative study. So no statistics have come out of it, but a wealth of lived experience, and how it’s been for them over some of them, 30, like me, 30 plus years in the industry. So it gives a great picture of what it’s been like for women, for black writers, you know, for writers who are from different social and economic classes, and people who’ve been to university, not been to university, the types of universities they’ve been to. Of how it’s been and how they feel it’s affected their careers. So I think it’s just very, it’s a very useful, I hope it will be anyway, a very useful document that people, researchers will be able to look at now and in the future to kind of, you know, think about what needs to be done in the industry to make it more inclusive and to give newer writers from all kinds of different groups more opportunities to get their voices heard than we’ve had over the last 30 years. Hopefully it’s better already, hopefully. But anyway, that’s what it’s about. That was a very long answer. I’m so sorry.

Danielle

No, that’s perfect. And thank you so much. Yeah, no, for sharing that with others. And it’s so valuable. And it gives me such heart that there is research like that to point back to, when again, there can be the assumption, if you’re funny, you’re funny, or make it…. When you just know from looking around and listening and hearing behind the scenes that that’s not the case. Or sometimes, one creative project I was involved with, the way they were talking about it was the cream always rises to the top. And I was just thinking, that’s just not the case, like, in terms of, l how things are organized. But I don’t have the research, so I’m…

Kay

It’s often said that, isn’t it?

Danielle

Yeah, I just don’t believe that.

Kay

What that really means is those who rise to the top are described as the cream.

Danielle

Yeah, exactly, exactly. Thank you. Because at the time I was so frustrated and didn’t have the… I couldn’t quite… I just sensed it was wrong and you’ve just explained exactly why it’s wrong. Thank you. I love that.

Kay

It’s incredibly subjective, isn’t it? It is.

Danielle

100%. Yeah. Totally. There’s so much that’s wrong with that. The definition of cream is completely different. Exactly.

Kay

One thing about my research is that I also looked at who was choosing. You know, it’s relevant who’s choosing, isn’t it? You know, what happened to me with a lot of my career was projects that I had that would be pushed up the development chain, largely by women producers or women or whatever. They would sub and were considered very funny and very relevant and well written etc. They’d get to a certain point in the chain of commissioning where they’d be read quite often by a very middle-class man. And there would be suddenly a very different reaction to the script. They would be…well, I don’t get it. I don’t, why is that funny? Or often even, and this came out in the research… women don’t act like that. Women aren’t like that. Right. From a man and several women in the research reported having had that said to them as well which it’s not like you can say when you’re a woman says to you – I don’t think women are like that you know. Well okay but so I think that that has to be recognized that who is choosing is really really important it’s really really relevant.

And yeah, we haven’t got to the stage yet where, I mean, I think that is recognized more generally now that commissioners themselves or producers or other forms of gatekeepers should be from a broader range of society than they have traditionally been. I think that’s kind of recognized, but it’s not necessarily always actually the case throughout broadcasting because these are very high level jobs.

And the reality is that the higher up the chain that you go, the fewer women you find, the fewer black and Asian or other minority ethnic people that you find, the fewer LGBTQ plus you find, the fewer working class people you find. So there is quantitative research out there that shows these things from all kinds of bodies. And so I think we know this stuff to be true. It’s just how do we…do we change it? And how do we keep it changed? Sometimes there can be improvements, but then those gains can be lost again. I think Ofcom’s last report showed that after the pandemic, it was women who suffered most in terms of that kind of weed out in the industry that there was, you know, more women were lost to the system than the men, for instance. So even gains that you get, you’ve got to hang on to and that’s not always the case. Or to keep the emphasis on thinking about it, right?

Danielle

Yeah, absolutely. And last question, so many things I’d love to ask you, but last question, as we come towards wrapping up is just from where you are now, so we’re in May 2024. What are you excited to work on that’s coming up for you this year, whether it’s an individual project, or with Female Pilot Club or in things that you’re supporting?

Kay

We’ve got so many things that we’re doing.

Danielle

I bet you do. Yeah.

Kay

I mean, personally, I’m doing an adaptation of a novel, which I’m really, really looking forward to for a production company who’s commissioned me to do this adaptation of this really fun novel set in Italy. So that’s really exciting. And I’m just hoping I’m just going to get to go to Italy. That’s my main excitement. I think it’s a really, really fun story with a great female character in the centre of it.So I’m really looking forward to doing that myself.

We’ve just managed to get, we’re really excited to get a comedy grant from the BBC.

Danielle

How fantastic.

Kay

So we’re going to do that at the Female Pilot Club and that’s going to fund us to do a mentorship scheme, which is hoping to find writers from, to give writers a chance to have the Female Pilot Club experience if they don’t live in London. So we’re going to be doing that. Writers from different parts of the country and trying to have an online read rather than a live read in London. Again we’re going to try to broaden it out a little bit. And we’ve also got, well we’ve got some projects ourselves in with Radio 4 so we might even get to produce a series of our own. Fingers crossed.

Danielle

Fingers crossed, so fun, my goodness.

I love it. I love how much you manage to do and produce and create at the same time as being such a fabulously supportive person in the space of comedy and also for female writers within the space to or people who are like you say LGBTQ plus. So thank you, Kay. I’ll put the full list of links in the show notes, but is there anywhere that you’d like to point people to as a primary place to find out more about you and your work?

Kay

Okay, so I’ve got my website. There’s lots on there. You can go to my agent at MMB creative. You can find my CV on there. As I said, there’s Audible and then Female Pilot Club. We’ve got our website and of course our podcast. Do listen to Female Pilot Club podcast. We’ve just got lots of great tips for writers, especially writers new to the industry actually. I would definitely recommend it because you’re hearing lots of different writers talk about their craft and what excites them about comedy. So it’s a really fun listen, I think.

Danielle Krage (42:11.758)

It is and such brilliant guests. It’s absolutely fabulous. So definitely check that out too. I’m going to put all those links in the show notes. And thank you so much, Kay. I’ve learned so much and I’m sure listeners will too. Thank you so much. I really enjoyed talking to you.