Charge your audience by the laugh

A comedy club in Barcelona is experimenting with charging users per laugh, using facial-recognition technology to track how much they enjoyed the show.

The software is installed on tablets attached to the back of each seat at the Teatreneu club.

Each laugh is charged at 0.30 euros (23p) with a cap of 24 euros (£18). Takings are up so far.

Comedy club charges per laugh with facial recognition – Jane Wakefield, BBC News Online (9 October 2014)


Know your theme before you write

Sitcom comedy writing star – seriously, not only does he write superbly but he’s had a hugely popular blog for many years – Ken Levine this week answered a question about themes in one’s writing. A blog reader said how he had been recording some material for an album and was now finding it hard to discover what that music was really about. What it’s theme was.


Well, the first thing is I do is determine what the theme is before writing. The story, or in your case, album, should reflect that. Taking a finished product and sifting through it looking for gold is rather counter-productive.

This is a question I get a lot (and answer a lot). It’s an important point that needs to be repeated. Sort of like a “theme.”

When people tell me they just want to start writing and see where the story takes them, I tell them most often it leads to Death Valley.

Put in the time and effort to determine your theme first. And yes, I know – it’s HARD. The hardest part actually. But once you have it, the rest falls into place and it’s much easier to determine if you’re on track or straying. The theme is your compass.

Bottom line: what is it you want to say? And if you don’t have anything, then why are you even bothering?

Friday Questions – Ken Levine, (25 July 2014)

He makes good points and perhaps I think that most because usually I agree with him. But it’s straight answers like this that have made his blog a daily read for me. Do check out the full Friday Questions from this week but then also the whole of the blog.

Watch: “Lucy and the Efficiency Expert”

The full episode from The Lucy Show, first aired 12 December 1966 – 47 years, 5 months and 15 days ago – this is a Lucile Ball comedy about what happens when a Time and Motion kinda guy interferes at work.

Apparently it is now out of copyright – if you know that’s wrong for any reason, do tell me so I can remove this.


It was written by Ray Singer, Milt Josefberg and directed by Maury Thompson. Starring Lucille Ball and Phil Silvers.

Twisting Tina Fey’s improv rules into productivity tips

Tina_Fey_Muppets_Most_Wanted_Premiere_(cropped)I didn’t do this, but I wish I had. I’ve just been re-reading Tina Fey’s Bossypants – read my bubbling enthusiasm for it from when I first read back in 2011 – and I was really looking for a way to tell you the best bits. Or at least to say: read Bossypants (UK editions, US editions).

But a blog called Scrubly has parsed the whole book and come up with advice we can apply to everything. I’m not surprised, I admire her book just as much as I relish it: there is huge strength in the wit and the cleverness. That makes it sound technical or contrived, I think, and that’s not at all how it reads. It reads like this smart woman is two inches in front of your face and talking directly and only to you. But it does also have these great nuggets, such as the one Scrubly picks out first:

“You can’t be that kid standing at the top of the water slide, overthinking it. You have to go down the chute.”

Tina Fey had to learn how to stay productive and get things done on deadline mainly because of her work on SNL. When a show is done weekly there’s no time for fooling around with work. There’s no such thing as being a day late when a show airs live at the same time every week — you get it done.

And keep in mind, as Fey said, “You can’t control things by being nervous about it.”

Do take a read of Scrubly’s article but, really, Tina Fey’s Bossypants. That’s the thing to read (UK editionsUS editions).

You lookin’ at me?

I want to tell you this:

Being a bully may be good for your health, study finds

Children who bully others have lower levels of inflammation later in life

Childhood bullying has been linked to a number of physical and mental health effects, including lower self-worth, depression, and serious illnesses later in life. But until now, researchers had largely focused on examining these effects in victims of abuse, not the bullies themselves. This may soon change, as a long-term study published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences was able to demonstrate that “pure bullies,” people who have never experienced bullying themselves, do in fact face a long-lasting health effect from abusing others. As it turns out, that effect is actually beneficial — even when compared to people who aren’t involved in bullying at all.

The Verge

Because I want to show you this:

Though do go pay some cash to the Frasier folk now, okay? The show is available on DVD.

Aaron Sorkin’s The Foodroom

Even when I loved Aaron Sorkin for Sports Night and the first years of The West Wing, I was aware that he could be parodied. Then Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip had some problems I thought were peculiarly obvious from the start. And now The Newsroom has a central character I cannot see for how there’s a line of previous Sorkin male characters standing in front of him. So while I still wish I could write like him, I found this new parody alarmingly spot-on.

I’m going to stretch a point here and say that I’m showing you this because it speaks to how we can all fall into traps in our work. But really I’m just showing it to you because I enjoyed it so much.