Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Best Comedy Scene Competition 2011 - THE WINNERS

Getting Married by Tony Oswick

Had Adam not Eaten the Apple by Peter McGinniss
Daisy (excerpt) by Thomas Willshire
Pen Picture of Larry (excerpt) by Richard Gibney
This is not a Love Song (excerpt) by Richard Gibney
Conversations with Gran by Deborah Smith

Prizes: £200 First Prize (plus publication in Words with JAM ) and five runners up of £25 each and a copy of Christopher Brookmyre’s Where the Bodies Are Buried (plus publication on the Words with JAM Blog)

Judge’s Report by Danny Gillan
I’ve always said I’m not a judgemental person. I’ve never believed it, of course. So, when asked by the Almighty Ed to judge the comedy scene competition I humbly yet eagerly accepted before she even got to the question mark.

The variety of style, format and subject matter in the entries was astonishing, and it was great to see not just prose writers but screenwriters, sketch writers and playwrights entering the fray.

Whittling down the entries to a longlist of six and then an overall winner was agonising in a way people with multiple physical injuries will never understand. But, it had to be done so do it I did.

First a few words about our five worthy runners up.

Runners Up
Had Adam not Eaten the Apple, by Peter McGinniss, is a short scene set in a Scottish primary school, culminating in a single, simple but very funny joke. It made me laugh out loud, and that in itself was enough to earn its place in the top six.

Daisy (excerpt) by Thomas Willshire, starts out making you chuckle and ends with you breaking your heart. One of the hardest things to do with comedy is keep the non-funny stuff as real and affecting as it would be in a more serious, literary work. Thomas does this with apparent ease, using nothing but dialogue. The set-up seems at first ridiculous and a bit cringe-worthy, but the scene quickly morphs into something emotionally both devastating and satisfying. Not easy.

Pen Picture of Larry (excerpt) by Richard Gibney is silliness of the highest order and therefore a fine addition to the list. It has a Milligan/Monty Python level of ridiculousness and exaggeration that kept me smiling all the way through.

This is not a Love Song (excerpt) by Richard Gibney takes the art of swearing to new and hilarious heights. While perhaps not the most accurate portrayal of Tourette’s Syndrome I’ve ever seen, it is almost certainly the sweetest. And yes, it does prove once more that swearing can be funny, big and clever. But mostly funny.

Conversations with Gran by Deborah Smith is another short, funny dialogue exchange between a hard of hearing granny and her beleaguered grandson. Although it hinges on the hoary old trope of misunderstanding, it still manages to raise an easy smile and giggle by making us imagine politicians being hung from the rafters – a comforting thought if ever there was one.

And so to our overall winner:

Getting Married, by Tony Oswick. Again, through the use of dialogue only, we are presented with an apparently routine conversation between a vicar and an about-to-be-wed couple that quickly takes several turns and at least one major by-pass into the surreal and hilarious. This one is played entirely for laughs, and, with no need to keep things grounded in anything too serious, Tony Oswick is free to let the increasingly bizarre conversation go anywhere it feels like, resulting is some hilariously unexpected lines and images. Congratulations!

It wasn’t until I had settled on my top six that I realised the majority are basically scripts rather than prose, and so entirely dialogue based. I’m not sure if there is anything meaningful to be gleaned from this as we received many other scripts that didn’t work nearly as well as these do, but it does show, I think, that dialogue is possibly the single most important factor in writing comedy, no matter the format.

I’d like to thank the Almighty Ed for allowing me to judge this competition and so granting me access to the work of so many talented and funny writers and, most of all, thank you to everyone who entered, it’s been a joy.

Getting Married by Tony Oswick

The scene is the front room of a typical suburban house. The Vicar has called on an elderly couple to discuss their proposed marriage.

“Please take a seat, Vicar.”

“Thank you, Miss Atkins. I’m so pleased to be able to talk to a more mature couple who want to get married.”

“Mature couple? You’re a wag, Vicar. By the way, this is my intended. Hereward.”

“Nice to meet you, Hereward. I will be honoured to marry you …… young lovebirds.”

“Young lovebirds? Vicar, you’re a scream. I’ll just get us some tea. Hereward will keep you company.”

“Well Hereward, I’m sure you’re looking forward to the big day. St Agnes-in-the-Wold is a marvellous place for a wedding …… have you lived in this house long? …… you have such a beautiful garden …… are those flags I see by your chair? ……”

“Sorry to keep you, Vicar. Has Hereward been amusing you?”

“Hereward? Why yes. But he’s not very talkative. Is he deaf?”

“Deaf? No, no. Just because he stares at the wall and dribbles, he may look deaf - but Hereward’s hearing is as sharp as a sheep-dog. It’s just he’s not a great conversationalist. Truth is, Hereward doesn’t say anything at all. Hasn’t spoken for the last fifty-two years.”

“What! He’s not said anything for fifty-two years?”

“Not a peep since 1959. The last thing I heard him say was ‘Bloody Dai Francis’ - and that was that.”

“Good grief, Miss Atkins. Most unusual. But how do you communicate?”

“Well, you see those flags by his chair? Hereward uses them to send messages. In semaphore. He used to be in the navy, you know.”

“You communicate by semaphore?”

“Not me, Vicar - Hereward’s the one who uses the flags. Anyway, when you’ve been living with someone for seventy-five years, you get to know them quite well.”

“Let me get this straight, Miss Atkins. You’ve been living together for seventy-five years - and it’s only now you want to get married?”

“Yes, Vicar. Hereward said it was time to make an honest woman of me. Said I’d passed the test. Quite a joker is Hereward.”

“So I see.”

“Back in 1978 it was. Hereward got dressed in his old Navy uniform, stood to attention by the sideboard and spelled out a semaphore message. ‘W-I-L-L-Y-O-U-M-A-R-R-Y-M-E’. I told him I’d think about it.”

“He proposed in 1978! But that was over thirty years ago?”

“Well, it’s a woman’s prerogative to make a man wait, isn’t it Vicar? Anyway, can’t be too hasty. ‘Fools rush in’ and that sort of thing.”

“But Miss Atkins, haven’t you felt the need to sanctify your union before?”

“Not really Vicar. You see, for the first twenty-three years we were together, nothing happened. Then - and I hope you don’t mind me being frank - we found we were attracted to each other. You know ‘s-e-x’. We were watching The Black and White Minstrels on the telly - but it was a really tedious show. So we went upstairs and did the ‘you-know-what’. Afterwards, Hereward said ‘Bloody Dai Francis’ - and that was the last thing I ever heard him say.”


“And we’ve had ‘s-e-x’ once every day since.”

“What? Have I got this right? The last time Hereward spoke was in 1959 - which was the first time you had sexual relations. And you’ve had sex every day since?”

“That’s right. Once every day. And twice at night.”

“Bloody Hell! Oh, please excuse me, Miss Atkins. Three times a day? That’s impossible.”

“You’re right, Vicar. Three times a day is impossible. No, just once in the morning - and then Hereward rests in the afternoon to conserve his strength for our twice-nightly sessions. To see him sitting there with his tongue hanging out and making those snuffling noises you wouldn’t believe it, would you Vicar?”

“And he doesn’t say anything. Even when …..”

“Oh no. But if he wants to communicate when we’re doing the ‘you-know-what’, he’ll tap a message in Morse code on my back. Or front, depending what position we’re in.”

“Miss Atkins, I’m not easily shocked - but this is most unusual.”

“Unusual? Not really Vicar. We just think now’s the right time. After all, we wouldn’t want anyone making fun of the baby just because its parents weren’t married, would we?”

“Baby. What baby?”

“Isn’t it good news, Vicar? I have to admit it wasn’t planned but, a few months ago, we were watching an adult movie ……”

“You mean …… pornographic film?”

“Oh no, Vicar. It was just a family story about a well-built young man and three nurses with whips. Anyway, after watching it we got carried away and Hereward forgot to take precautions. You forget things when you get older, don’t you Vicar?”

“But Miss Atkins. You can’t ….. have a baby!”

“Why ever not, Vicar? I know some Vicars are against ‘s-e-x’ before marriage. But if we get married before the baby’s born, it’ll be alright, won’t it?”

“I didn’t mean that, Miss Atkins. It’s just that …. well, you’re quite elderly …… and Hereward is …… even older …... it’s just not possible.”

“Oh don’t be such a fuddy-duddy, Vicar. You’re a man of the world aren’t you? We do so want to get married. You will marry us, won’t you? Please?”

“I don’t know. This is highly irregular. I’ll need to ask the PCC. And consult the Bishop. But I suppose we’re all God’s children, aren’t we? Perhaps I should take a few details. Where’s my notebook and pen? Yes that’s what I need to do. Take a few particulars. Goodness me, I’m all at sixes and sevens. Where’s that pen? Oh, here it is. Right, first let me make a note of your name - Miss Juliette Atkins.”

“That’s right. Miss Juliette Aurora Atkins.”

“And Hereward? What is his full name?”

“Hereward Trumpington Atkins.”

“Atkins? How unusual. That’s the same name as you.”

“Of course, Vicar. He’s my brother.”


“Vicar? Are you alright? Hereward, I think the Vicar’s having a heart attack. Get into the street quickly and signal for an ambulance.”

Had Adam not Eaten the Apple by Peter McGinniss




Yes, can I help you?

Aye, ah would like tae enrol wee John here.




Can I have your name please?



Can I have your surname, please?

Oh, aye. Bonner, Mary Bonner. An’ this is wee John.


Yes. And the father’s name?

Och, you don’t need that, dae you?

I’m afraid I do, Mrs Bonner.


The father’s name?

Well, yi’ see, it’s like this. His faither...if yi’ kin call him no’ really aboot. An’ he’s no’ anythin’ tae dae wi’ wee John, y’see?

I’m afraid I must have the child’s father’s name, Mrs Bonner.

Listen hen, if yi’ eat peas and vinegar, yi’ don’t exactly know which wan it wis that made yi’ fart, dae yi’?

Daisy (excerpt) by Thomas Willshire

Synopsis: Dawn and her daughter Fern mourn as many tragic deaths as possible, travelling the country to do so. Here, they have journeyed to Birmingham to show their respects to Daisy, who was stabbed whilst sun bathing a week earlier.

(Lights up. Dawn and Fern stand in front of a small bundle of commemorative flowers. Dawn wipes away a tear.)

Dawn : She was sixteen. Young Daisy. Sixteen. We all share her family's grief.


Fern : Can we go home now? Mum?

Dawn : Be quiet Fern!

Fern : It's really cold, though...

Dawn : I'm still grieving...can't you tell?

Fern : Well...hurry up...I'm cold...

Dawn : Hurry up? You want me rush my grief? Rattle through my mourning? Is that it?

Fern : No's just...after yesterday...

Dawn : A sad day...

Fern : Of course...but still...this is the second day now we've stood outside in the cold. Can't we just do this one a bit quicker?

Dawn : Yesterday was for Sam was Sam's day..

Fern : I know...

Dawn : Today is Daisy's day and I don't intend to cut anything short.

Fern : Oh please Mum...I'm so cold...

Dawn : Have you cried yet?

Fern : Mum...

Dawn : Have you cried yet?

Fern : No.

Dawn : Right. We're not even thinking about going until you've cried.

Fern : Please Mum.

Dawn : I'm not listening until you've cried.

Fern : (Fern tries, but fails to cry) But I don't feel like crying.

Dawn : And what kind of monster does that make you? A girl was stabbed, Fern, stabbed...she was your could so easily have been you...

Fern : always get like this...I feel a bit sad, honest...

Dawn : (sharply) How sad?

Fern : Very sad. I'm very sad.

Dawn : Out of ten how sad?

Fern : Mum...

Dawn : Tsunami sad?

Fern : I don't know.

Dawn : Madeline Macann sad?

Fern : I can't just...

Dawn : 9/11 sad?

Fern : Yeah...fine, fine, I'm 9/11 sad.

Dawn : My God where's your sense of perspective!

Fern : Oh Mum! I just want to go home!

Dawn : To think I raised you myself...with my own two hands...have you even thought about it?

Fern : About what?

Dawn : About being stabbed. Have you even thought about the pain? The blood? Have you thought about young Daisy's face as the knife was plunged into her chest? Have you listened to the angels weeping? Weeping at the tragedy of it all?

Fern : Well...sort of...

Dawn : Sort of! Sort of!? My own daughter...

Fern : I didn't know her Mum, did I? It's very sad but I just can't get that upset about...about a girl I never met, the same way I can't get that upset about a little boy called Sam who was killed in a pneumatic drill accident...because I didn't know him...if it was you who'd got stabbed or...or drilled...then I'd cry loads...of course I would...but I can't get that devastated about people I don't know personally.

Dawn : (pause) What must Princess Diana think about you now!

Fern : Oh don't bring her into it...

Dawn : She's watching, Fern...while she cuddles lepers in heaven...she's watching and she's so disappointed!

Fern : You can't just bring Princess Diana up every time we have an argument...

Dawn : The world is dark Fern...the world is so dark and the least we can do is show our grief for the loss of one of its children by standing vigil...or leaving flowers...writing in leather bound books of condolence and buying commemorative plates. These tiny gestures are the only light we have!

Fern : Shut up Mum! For fuck's sake...I'm tired Mum...I'm so tired of this...every weekend...scouring the papers to find some sort of tragedy and rushing off to pay our's exhausting...

Dawn : Our pilgrimages are dignified quests...our sails fill with the winds of sadness and respect!

Fern : It's over the top's not necessary...

Dawn : Sometimes I wish you were dead! Oh! (Dawn claps her hand over he mouth)

Fern : You what!?

Dawn : Nothing...nothing sweetie...

Fern : You wish I was dead? (pause) Mum?

Dawn : So I could grieve for you...cry and grieve for you...wipe away my tears and pray in front of a little grief would be beautiful...I'd love you more if you were dead...I would...I'd love your memory because memories can be wiped clean...they're pure...I'd grieve for you...I'd grieve for you instead of...instead of...

(she collapses into floods of tears. After a moment Fern strokes her Mother's head and cuddles her)

Fern : Oh Mum...

Dawn : I miss your father so much!

Fern : I know you do Mum...I know you do...

Dawn : I miss him so much!

Fern : I know you do...

Dawn : Why didn't he come home?

Fern : I don't know.

Dawn : Why didn't he...I'd cooked his dinner and everything...

Fern : I know you did. I know. (Fern stands Dawn up) Now why don't we go home, eh? That's right isn't it? We'll go home. The Daily Mail are doing a special 'Kate and Wills' D.V.D today... you'd like that wouldn't you?

Dawn : Yes I would...they're both so beautiful...and he's so brave...

Fern : We'll buy a copy on our way home...let's go...

Dawn : Fern?

Fern : Yes?

Dawn : I love you.

Fern : I know you do.

Dawn : You're all I've got, you know. (pause) All I've got.

(they both exit)

Pen Picture of Larry (excerpt) by Richard Gibney

Pen Picture of Paddy’s brother Larry, who had teeth for legs and legs for teeth (from Chapter One):

SYNOPSIS: “An Early Childhood by Paddy Flanagan” is a mock, surreal autobiography by a fictitious Irish television and radio personality. It parodies misery memoirs (such as Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt).

We were underprivileged, all forty-two of us, all the brothers and sisters under the one roof. And seven more foetuses in the milk bottle always on our doorstep. My very first memories are of the room in Main Lane, sitting on the floorboards, preoccupied with an empty whiskey bottle I had fashioned into a microphone. My mother, working across the room at stove or sink, would look over at me, smile and agree with me:

“Yes, macushla.”

She encouraged my incoherencies until they became intelligible. I get paid to speak at public functions now; you can make a pretty penny out of it, and I owe it all to my mother. My oratorical skill would not be what it is today were it not for her patience.

In my infant years, a slightly older brother christened Larry tried to place his fingers in the electric plug socket that went unused after the Marconis’ departure. Larry had teeth for legs and legs for teeth. Mystoperia, as the Good Indian Corkman Doctor Singh called it. The diagnosis upon birth in the hospital, my mother informs me after Larry’s malformed carriage broke her dam that Tuesday ninemonth, went as follows.

Doctor Singh came into the delivery room to make his examination, stuck his spectacles on the bridge of his nose and scribbled with his quill on a piece of card. He pointed at Larry’s face from where the feet were protruding, running an officious index finger around the defective region.

“Dayr is a Mestuparea here,” he informed my mother in his inimitable Indian accent. Then he pointed clinically at Larry’s podal domain, equally defunct as it consisted mostly of teeth. “And dayr is a Mestuparea here.” And that’s how Larry was first diagnosed with Mystoperia.

We lived four doors away from where the Tuberculosis Colony began, so we were viewed with envy by neighbours whose abodes happened to be nearer. The Cassidys fared the worst; a fence made of steel wire, with harsh, sharp, spiky knots (today known as “barbed” wire) divided our parish from the community of the Tuberculoids, and much to the dismay of the Cassidys, it cut a sheer and even path through the kitchen wall of their household, straight into the living room, under the shit-caked door spoiler, and back out onto the road, where Mad Leopold Cassidy That Jewish Bastard often stood with the barrel of his rifle peeping over the fence, and God forbid were any Tuberculoids to be found in his fancy mail-ordered crosshairs which he’d be staring through with the one good eye on him. From Prussia.

BANG! We’d hear, and the roar would go out.

“Wisha! Did I only get the one?”

And it’d be two mornings later, after Mad Leopold had served his sentence in the gaol, that we would see him out again waiting. Were it not for that gaol, he would have half shtarved to death with the cold. One day Mad Leopold shot brother Larry dead in the Tuberculosis Colony. He screamed out of him once he’d pulled the trigger:

“I got him! I hit that bashtard Larry Flanagan!”

and Mother rushed out of the house, running towards the barbed wire and she fell to her knees and held her cheeks and she let a scream out of her for three hours straight while a fellow from Norway painted her portrait and she gave birth to three healthy seventeen-year-old children on the spot with the fright she got from yet another dead loved one kicking the bucketeen. But Larry wasn’t quite dead, we always said thereafter, because he had only been shot in the tooth. He scurried off down the street on his uninjured teeth and wasn’t heard from again until later in this autobiography.

Pay-day was every Friday when Father got the work between his drinking binges. And we used to wait for Annie Turnity every Friday night (whoever she was, Mother never told me), but we’d also be waiting for Father, and at midnight we’d wait a few hours more, and then Heaven forbid it’d be Sunday evening of the following fortnight before Father would arrive in ebriated.

And Mother would take whatever shillings he had left (in those days, you couldn’t sell L.S.D., you had to spend it) and shuffle off down to the shops on her broken rollerblades, the only shoes available. And Father would gather us all around the piano, and he’d sit Larry (many years before he’d been shot) in front of the keyboard and hold him by the hair, and while Father sang his nationalist hymns, he’d slam poor Larry’s mystoperic head into the ivories with such a force of emphasis that Larry’s poor feet would be bloody lumps for about a full term of one of Mother’s pregnancies. And Father would sing for hours, head back, chin up, teary eyed as he bashed Larry’s head and sang all night to the rafters.

Now, to give you an idea of the sheer volume of Father’s voice, we lived in Number 27. The rafters lived in Number 82, and they were so poor that they couldn’t afford a capital letter for their surname. In fact, they were so poverty stricken that they had to call their surname a crime, as they couldn’t afford to catalogue it as a name at the deed poll registry office on Main Avenue. Indeed, pat and pat rafter had only married to save money as they both had the same surname and they were both men. In the eyes of the Church, then, they weren’t lawfully matrimonised. But the sheerest sign of stark poverty within that household was that each of their twenty-three children were also eponomids. Every morning, all twenty-five pat rafters would go down to the toylet in Main Square (before it was destroyed in the Emergency) to wash the one piece of string that constituted the family wardrobe.

This is not a Love Song (excerpt) by Richard Gibney

Everyone knew that it was the Tourette’s that got him fired. But nobody admitted it to his face. In his last few minutes in the office, he gathered the personal belongings from his desk into a box, said goodbye to the few acquaintances he had made who were unafraid to talk to him, and shuffled towards the double doors. People watched him pass, but if he caught them staring, their eyes quickly returned to their computer screens.

“Fuck yiz!” he roared, with a whistle. Then he was through the doors and gone.

Aadab Khorsandi was a young woman of Syrian extraction who worked as a receptionist for the company that rented the other half of the building. She was smoking outside as he left the complex.

“Hey Charlie! What’s with the box?”

“Gorgeous! It’s my last day—fuckin’—gorgeous tits!”

“It’s your last day?”

Charlie whistled.

“Yip. Fired. I really enjoyed knowing you. What a wanker!”

“You too, Charlie. I’m sorry to see you go.” She touched his arm.

“I made some friends here. Big round fuckin’ juicy knockers! But it turns out, after four months of hard work, nobody really wants a nutcase like me working for them, so…” He whistled and looked away.

“Aaaw. Do you think you were let go because of the Tourette’s?”

“Such a wanker! Probably, but I wouldn’t be able to prove it. The boss—wanker—said my Excel skills just weren’t up to scratch and he had a point, so…Bollocks!”

“I’ll miss you, Charlie,” Aadab’s tone saddened and she touched his arm again. “If it means anything to you, you were really supportive when I went on those dates with that musician guy. What an obsessive freak!”

“Yeah. Cum on your tits!” He whistled and glanced at her. “I’d love to stay in touch with you, you know. Fuckin’ lovely tits!”

“Well, here…let’s exchange numbers.”

“Bollocks! Don’t ruin it, stay cool! Bollocks! Before you give me your number, Aadab…fuckin’ wank on your tits…I need to tell you something.”

She stood waiting while he composed himself.

“Fuckin hell! When you went out with that musician guy, I was an impartial ear, yeah? Jism!”

“Yes. And I appreciate that.”

“Well, I’ve got to make an admission to you now that you probably don’t want to hear.” He whistled.

“Go on.”

“If you ask me for advice like that again—I’d love to wank on your tits—even though I will do my utmost—boobies—to put your best interests ahead of my own, I honestly won’t be so—wanker!—impartial.”

“How come?” She frowned, trying to read his features.

“Because, Aadab, even though I made a couple of friends here—fuckin’ lick your titties—the person I will miss the most—mmm suck, no!…wanker, stay cool you wanker —is probably the one I got to know the least.”

“Who, Charlie?”

“You. Tits! Because I’ve developed feelings for you.”

Aadab’s deep brown eyes softened and she smiled.

Conversations with Gran by Deborah Smith

“Gran, what do you think about a hung parliament?”

“Oh I don't think they should bring it back love, not after all this time.”

“Bring what back?”

“Hanging. No, not now love, not after all this time.”

“No Gran, I said a hung parliament.”

“Yes love.”

“Well what do you think?”

“No, I don't agree with it love.”

“Why's that then Gran?”

“No, there's too much room for things to go wrong, even with them frensics they have.”

“No Gran. I'm talking about the government, when two parties get together.”

“Oh I know, they're a callous lot them politicians, having parties and talking about hanging people. Don't you vote for them love. It's going backwards, you want to be thinking about moving forward at your age.”

“But Gran...”

“No love, you listen to your old Gran, you got your whole life ahead of you.”


“No, go on love. Go and make us a nice cup of tea and stop thinking about hanging people.”

“But I'm not thinking about hanging anybody Gran.”

“Oh I am glad to hear it love, you're a good boy.”

“Yes Gran... I'll go and make us some tea.”

Thank you to all our competition winners. Our Annual Short Story Competition is now open for submissions. For more information

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