BBC Newsjack

Newsjack is a BBC Radio 4 Extra comedy show which accepts unsolicited scripts and jokes from members of the public. I submitted 2 sketches to every episode of Series 18 of Newsjack (2 is the limit), but only one was accepted for broadcast - the first one I wrote. Despite the fact that later sketches were funnier and better structured, it was only this one which seemed to capture the producers' imaginations. I'm not complaining though - I grew up listening to BBC Radio comedy, and so hearing my name in the writing credits of one was the culmination of a lifelong dream. I can only hope I get so lucky again.

The text and audio of the sketch, which is about the Shipping Forecast, are reproduced below. Note that the text is the sketch as submitted, but that the audio is what was actually broadcast and is rather different.


The Shipping Forecast

NB: The news story on which this sketch was based can be found here.

ANGELA: The Met Office announced this week plans to introduce slang words for weather into forecasts to make them more accessible. Listen, I’m all in favour of there being regional voices on the BBC but where will it end?

FORECASTER: And now the shipping forecast issued by the Met Office on behalf of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. Viking, North Utsire, South Utsire: Southerly four or five, completely pissing it down, good. Forties, Cromarty: Variable, one fat lady – number eight, spitting a bit, poor. Plymouth, Biscay, Trafalgar, Fitzroy: Southerly, one little duck – number two, lovely weather for the time of year although it’s colder than it looks, I’d take a jumper if I were you, good. Lundy, Fastnet, Irish Sea: Southerly, knock at the door – number four, veering westerly, man alive – number five…


FORECASTER: …A bit mizzly turning into a real pea-souper later. Fair Isle, Faeroes: Mate, it’s blowing a gale. I mean, I wouldn’t want to go swimming in it. Lovely weather for ducks, though, know what I mean? Moderate or good. And the general synopsis at 1830: You probably ought to take your coat off or you won’t feel the benefit when you go outside.

Landlubbers Holiday Club

When we originally announced our 2017 holiday club, we thought we were going to use Scripture Union material as we had done in previous years, and so advertised a 'Land Lubbers' theme using their branding. However, as we approached the summer we realised that we wanted to use a different set of Bible stories and the more we looked at the Scripture Union materials, the less we found we could use. In the end, I rewrote all of the up-the-front material pretty much from scratch. This included short character skits which introduce the theme of each day, as well as a series of sketches which tell an ongoing story throughout the week for which I conceived completely new characters and scenarios.

Below is an example of one of these daily dramas. The premise of the sketches is that three characters - Katy Cutlass, Tiffany Jones and Alexander Boris De Pfeffel Wilson (aka 'Posh' Wilson) - are trying to get their "pirate's licenses". They are guided in their efforts by Pirate Paula and occasionally rescued by Captain Chris (who - in the best Sunday school tradition - is our Christ analogue).

This sketch, which was written to be performed on Day 3, illustrates a session on 'Jesus Our Guide'.


Day 3 - At Wits End (NB - Each sketch had a pun title based on one of the Pirates Of The Caribbean movies!)

Enter KATY holding A BOWL OF WASHING UP, WILSON holding A FEATHER DUSTER and TIFFANY holding A BROOM. They position themselves around the deck and start doing chores.

ALL: [singing] A pirate’s life for me, a pirate’s life for me…

TIFFANY: [singing] ...A bottle of rum to warm my tum…

ALL: [singing] ...A pirate's life for me.

TIFFANY pushes her BROOM into the ground and pushes it rhythmically back and forth a few times. Then she points the broom at KATY and they resume singing.

ALL: [singing] A pirate’s life for me, a pirate’s life for me…

KATY: [singing] ...A bottle of rum and Wilson is dumb…

ALL: [singing] ...A pirate's life for me.

KATY pulls TWO SPOONS out of THE WASHING UP BOWL and taps them on the side to play a little drum solo. Then she points the spoons at  WILSON and they resume singing.

ALL: [singing] A pirate’s life for me, a pirate’s life for me…

WILSON: [singing] ...A bottle of rum, I miss my mum…

ALL: [singing] ...A pirate's life for me.

WILSON turns the feather duster around to hold it like a guitar and mimes along as SFX OF AN ELECTRIC GUITAR SOLO plays.

Enter PAULA.

PAULA: What's all this racket? Wilson - what have I told you about shredding awesome guitar licks during sea shanties?

WILSON: You said it wasn't historically accurate, Paula.

PAULA: That's right - not historically accurate. What's next? You'll probably start trying to use the parrot to send a tweet!

TIFFANY: Parrots don't tweet they squawk.

PAULA: It's a pirate pun! I've got my eye on you, Tiffany. And you Wilson.

KATY: What about me?

PAULA: Ah Katy. Dear sweet Katy!

WILSON: [to Katy] Is she talking about you?

PAULA: Sweet tempered, friendly Katy.

TIFFANY: [to Katy] It doesn't sound like you.

PAULA: Quiet and gentle, Katy.

KATY: I think you must be thinking of someone else, Paula.

PAULA: The point is, I don't need to keep my eye on you. You could never disappoint me. And that's why I'm making you captain of the practice pirates…



KATY: Ha! In your faces!

PAULA:...for an hour or two.

TIFFANY: Why do we need a practice pirate captain, Paula?

PAULA: I’m glad you asked me that, Tiffany because it gives me the chance to explain the plot. The next task you need to complete so you can stop being landlubbers and get your Pirate's License is a short voyage by yourselves. All you have to do is take the boat and row around the island. Nothing can possibly go wrong. What can possibly go wrong?

TIFFANY, KATY and WILSON: [in unison] Nothing, Pirate Paula.

PAULA: Glad to hear it. And Wilson?

WILSON: Yes Paula?

PAULA: Don't take the plug out of the bottom of the boat this time.


Enter KATY, TIFFANY and WILSON. They are carrying the BOAT from Day 2. They place the BOAT in the middle of the stage and then sit in it with KATY facing forward at one end and the others in front of her facing towards her. TIFFANY and WILSON mine rowing.

KATY: Faster. Row faster. I want to do this voyage faster than anyone's ever done it before!


KATY: Well I can't have one of you bozos becoming Paula's favourite can I?

WILSON: Perhaps if you helped we could go even faster.

KATY: Nonsense! I'm the captain. You know what that means?

TIFFANY: It means I don't like you any more?

KATY: No. It means I'm the best and you have to do everything I say or I'll bury you up to your waist in sand and throw seashells into your mouth.

WILSON: You do that anyway!

KATY: Quiet, posh-boy. I've just had a great idea. Stop rowing for a sec.

TIFFANY and WILSON stop miming. As KATY explains her idea she points at what she is looking at and TIFFANY and WILSON look where she is pointing.

KATY: Look. If we go around the island the way Paula showed us, we'll have to go through those huge rocks. But if go that way there's a nice wide channel right through the island. I bet we can use that as a shortcut.

TIFFANY: I don't know, Katy. We can't see what's beyond that bend.

WILSON: Yes, it might not be as easy as you think.

KATY: Shut up! I'm the captain and you'll do what I say.  Now: row!

TIFFANY and WILSON start miming rowing again, faster than before.

KATY: Row like your lives depended on it. If you mess this up for me they just might, you know.

WILSON: I'm still not sure about this.

TIFFANY: And I think this channel is getting narrower already.

WILSON: Those trees ahead seem to be hanging awfully low over the water.

TIFFANY: And I'm almost positive that the water beneath them has turned to rapids.

A SMOKE MACHINE begins billowing smoke from off-stage.

WILSON: Oh no. Fog!

TIFFANY: This is a disaster!

They stop rowing (with oars) and start rowing (with raised voices)!

WILSON: Are you trying to kill us, Katy?

KATY: It's not my fault. Don't blame me.

TIFFANY: Not your fault? What happened to ‘in charge means you're the best and we have to do everything you say’.

WILSON: We're all going to die.

KATY: Well you should have done it better. I didn't tell you to row into the fog.

WILSON: [shouting] Help!

TIFFANY: You did tell us to do that! You literally did!

WILSON: [shouting] Help!

CHRIS: [v/o] Calm down Wilson.

TIFFANY: What's that.

WILSON: It's Captain Chris! We're saved

KATY: I'm going to be in so much trouble!

CHRIS: [v/o] Don't worry about that now. Listen very carefully. I need you to follow the sound of my voice. Just row forward carefully.

TIFFANY and WILSON start rowing again.

CHRIS: [v/o] There's a tree coming up, I want you to duck in 3...2...1...DUCK!

ALL duck down.

PAULA: [v/o] Quack!

TIFFANY: What was that?

PAULA: [v/o] It's a pirate pun.

KATY: Paula's there too? Oh I wish someone else had been put in charge.

CHRIS: [v/o] I told you not to worry. Now look can you see this?

A TORCH begins flashing from off stage.

KATY: We can see it.

CHRIS: Good. Just head towards the light. You're almost there.

THE SMOKE MACHINE stops billowing smoke.

TIFFANY: The fog is clearing. Perhaps we won't die after all.

WILSON: I wasn't scared. I knew we'd be alright.

KATY: Speak for yourself.

Enter PIRATE PAULA and CAPTAIN CHRIS. PAULA is holding a torch which she switches off as they walk on. TIFFANY and WILSON stop rowing.

CHRIS: Hello you three.

PAULA: Thought you'd take a little short cut did you?

KATY, TIFFANY and WILSON climb out of the boat.

KATY: It looked so easy.

PAULA: But it turned out to be harder than you thought, eh?

KATY: Are you really cross?

PAULA: That depends…

CHRIS: Are you going to do it again?

KATY looks down and shakes her head.

PAULA: Then I'm not cross. Or at least, I won't be for long.

TIFFANY: But how did you find us?

CHRIS: You're not the first practice pirates to try taking that shortcut. In fact, if you hadn't that really would have been a first.

PAULA: But sometimes the rules are there for a reason and I think you've learned that now.

TIFFANY, WILSON and KATY: [in unison] We have.

CHRIS: I’m glad. Right, back to the boat everyone.

Exeunt ALL.

CHRIS: [as they exit] I think we’ll take the long way back.

Sketches For Church

I'm occasionally asked to throw together a sketch to be used in a church service. These two give a good idea of the whole spectrum - the first is very silly, the second much more serious. Coincidentally, both sketches were written to be performed on Easter Day.


Dragons' Den

I was on my way back from work on the bus and our minister texted me to ask if I could come up with some ideas for a sketch in which Jesus pitches the Easter story on Dragon's Den (aka Shark Tank in the USA). I've always found Dragon's Den faintly hilarious anyway, so was able to write this before I got home.

The script relies on have a microphone set up either outside or at the back of the hall for Evan Davis' voiceover, and a screen onto which you can project images and video but most churches are set up with this sort of thing nowadays. If you do use it in your church, I'd love it if you dropped me a line and let me know how it went!


THREE CHAIRS set up in a row angles to the audience. As the opening video plays, DUNCAN BANNATYNE, DEBORAH MEADEN and PETER JONES enter and sit in the chairs.

On screen the DRAGONS DEN OPENING TITLES play. When it has finished the screen should be blank or have an appropriate STILL IMAGE.


EVAN DAVIS: First to pitch this week to Dragons Duncan Bannatyne, Deborah Meaden and Peter Jones is former property developer Hovis McAllister, who thinks she might have spotted a lucrative gap in the market with her improvement to something we all eat every day.



HOVIS MCALLISTER: Hello Dragons. We've all been there: you want to have a sandwich but all your knives are dirty. You can't be bothered to wash up because you’ve had a busy day of former property developing, so you end up listlessly pawing at the bread, eating it in great handfuls and licking the butter straight from the tub. That's why I invented this: sliced bread.

IMAGE OF SLICED BREAD appears on the screen.

DUNCAN BANNATYNE: This is outrageous. Why is it sliced? If I want to eat some bread, I'll just eat it. You're solving a problem that simply isn't there. I have to say I don't like it, I don't understand it, so I'm out.

EVAN DAVIS (v/o): Hovis’ idea of an over-processed, bread-adjacent, food-like consumable is given short shrift by Duncan Bannatyne who neither likes nor understands it so he's out. But does Deborah Meaden want to jump in at this point, because she thinks she's spotted something which Duncan may have missed?

Deborah Meaden: I want to jump in at this point, because I think I’ve spotted something which Duncan may have missed. I actually like this idea quite a lot. Frankly, is the best idea I've heard you know? I literally can't think of an analogy. I'm going to make you an offer for half the money for 25% of your business. But that only works if Peter is prepared to come in with me.

EVAN DAVIS (v/o): Deborah Meaden had made an offer for half the money for 25% of Hovis’ business. But that only works if Peter is prepared to come in with her. Peter Jones hasn't said anything yet, so does he still have some reservations, just not about the business?

Peter Jones: Hi, I'm Peter. I haven't said anything yet, but still have some reservations, just not about the business. Frankly, your tie doesn't match your shoes, and your haircut is an insult to thinking persons everywhere.

NB: If HOVIS MCALLISTER is not wearing a tie, this line could be changed to ‘your handbag doesn’t match your shoes' or something else appropriate.

EVAN DAVIS (v/o): Peter has reservations about how Hovis presents herself. Is it possible that this entrepreneur’s dream of a bread empire could fail to rise?

PETER JONES: Hi, I’m Peter. Having said all that, I like the product and would be very happy to invest in this business with Deborah.


EVAN DAVIS (v/o): Having accepted the offer, Hovis smiles and shakes hands first with Deborah and then with Peter. She punches the air in victory, leaving the Den with an offer having used her loaf to make some bread, despite both dragons taking a healthy slice of the business.


The screen goes back to the STILL IMAGE.

EVAN DAVIS (v/o): Our next budding entrepreneur hoping to be the toast of the Den is former undertaker Pamela Croissant with another food based innovation she thinks could be a best seller.


PAMELA CROISSANT: Picture the scene: you go to the corner shop to buy some lunch. You buy a cake as a bit of a treat to reward yourself for a great morning of former undertaking, but when you bite into it: disaster! It’s stone cold. My innovative new product solves this by warming the cakes up to make them Hot Cakes!

Hot Cakes.jpg

IMAGE OF HOT CAKES appears on the screen.

DUNCAN BANNATYNE: Wait, wait, wait. I like cold cakes. I’ve always eaten cold cakes. You’re solving a problem that simply isn’t there so I’m going to go ahead and say I don’t like it, I don’t understand it, so I’m out.

EVAN DAVIS (v/o): After a lively, confident, self-assured, professional, slick and innovative pitch, Pamela’s idea has met with a cold reception from Duncan Bannatyne who neither likes nor understands it, so he’s out. But will Deborah Meaden want to jump in at this point, because she thinks she's spotted something which Duncan may have missed?

DEBORAH MEADEN: I want to jump in at this point, because I think I’ve spotted something which Duncan may have missed. I actually like this idea quite a lot. Frankly, I think these things could sell you know? I literally can't think of an analogy. I'm going to make you an offer for half the money for 25% of your business. But that only works if Peter is prepared to come in with me.

EVAN DAVIS (v/o): Deborah Meaden has once again made an offer for half the money for 25% of Pamela’s business, because that’s what she literally always does. However it only works if Peter Jones is prepared to come in with her. But he seems to think that Pamela is missing some fundamentals for her business to be a success.

PETER JONES: Hi I’m Peter. I think you’re missing some fundamentals for your business to be a success. You don’t have a website, you don’t have a patent, and from what I’ve seen you don’t even have an oven. That said, I think your cakes sound delicious and would be very happy to invest in this business with Deborah.


EVAN DAVIS (v/o): Deborah goes to shake Pamela by the hand, but Pamela misinterprets the situation and goes in for a hug. The whole thing is very awkward so Pamela runs away waving her arms in the air. But she got her investment - if she hadn’t made a deal she would have been a hot, cross bundertaker, but she made her dough and walks away with two dragons who are cherry bake-well positioned to take her idea to market.


The screen goes back to the STILL IMAGE.

EVAN DAVIS (v/o): Last to face the Dragons is former carpenter Jesus Christ with an innovative soteriological idea he thinks could be very good news for the right Dragon investor.


JESUS CHRIST: I’ve got some news for you Dragons. Some good news.

DUNCAN BANNATYNE: I like the sound of this…

JESUS CHRIST: My idea is to take away the sin of the whole world…

DUNCAN BANNATYNE: Brilliant. Right up my street…

JESUS CHRIST: And offering eternal life to those who believe in me…

DUNCAN BANNATYNE: Love it. Love everything about it...

JESUS CHRIST: By dying on a cross and returning to life after three days.


IMAGE OF THREE CROSSES appears on the screen.

DUNCAN BANNATYNE: WHAT? I don’t like it, I don’t understand it so I’m out.

DEBORAH MEADEN: Let me tell you where I’m at. For once I actually agree with Duncan. I can’t see this getting any return from now until the very end of the age. So I think, unfortunately, I’m out too.

PETER JONES: Hi I’m Peter. Hang on guys. I think we must have missed something here. You don’t really die do you? You only pretend for a few days.

JESUS CHRIST: No. The plan is to actually die so that when I come back to life it breaks the bondage of sin and death on a permanent basis.

PETER JONES: Hi I’m Peter. I’m not sure about this at all. The whole idea seems like a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles if you ask me. Don’t know why I put it like that but the point is, I’m out.


EVAN DAVIS: So despite foxes having holes, and birds having nests the Son of Man leaves the den without any money and without a dragon investor. But perhaps the Dragons missed something important. For though it might seem like foolishness to those who are perishing, to those who are saved by his idea it could very well be the power of God. Next week on Dragons’ Den more entrepreneurs will seek investment from our dragons but only one near the beginning, and the one at the end have any chance of finding it. Good night.

Exeunt ALL.

Mary Magdalene

This was one of a few pieces I wrote over Easter 2018 about Mary Magdalene - the other was an entry in the Writing The Bible series.

The commission was to link the end of a video telling the story of Good Friday to the beginning of an Easter service by dramatising Mary's meeting with the risen Jesus in the garden. I decided that having the actors perform from their seats would be easiest, especially as there was to be minimal rehearsal time, so the script is designed more as a 'play for voices' in the style of Under Milk Wood. In performance, the dialogue moves quickly with Mary's inner monologue and outer speech spilling over each other.


Voices in darkness…

MARY (INNER VOICE): I watched them take the body down and lay it in a borrowed tomb. By the time it was done, the Sabbath had fallen and so the dignity of a proper burial had to wait. All through that day and into the night we mourned, but I rose early on the next morning - before the sunrise - and took the spices to anoint the body. But the tomb was empty.

The speakers, especially, the two Mary voices, should feel free to overlap one another. The effect is to have thoughts spilling over one another.

MARY (OUTER VOICE): Come quickly.

MARY (INNER VOICE): Where have they taken him?

MARY (OUTER VOICE): They’ve taken the body.

JESUS: Mary...

MARY (OUTER VOICE): Who’s there?

MARY (INNER VOICE): It’s the gardener.

MARY (OUTER VOICE): What have you done with him?

JESUS: Why are you crying?

MARY (OUTER VOICE): They killed him.

MARY (INNER VOICE): They murdered him.

MARY (OUTER VOICE): Tell me where he is.

JESUS: [Cutting across her thoughts] Mary! Why do you seek the living among the dead?

MARY (INNER VOICE): I don’t understand.

MARY (OUTER VOICE): I don’t understand.

MARY (INNER VOICE): I saw him die.

MARY (OUTER VOICE): Who are you?

JESUS: Who do you say I am?

MARY (TOGETHER): [beat] Rabboni!

JESUS: I have come back to you, just as I said I would.

MARY (OUTER VOICE): Teacher...

JESUS: But do not cling to me.

MARY (INNER VOICE): Don’t leave me.

JESUS: You must go and tell the others.

MARY (INNER VOICE): I don’t want to go.

MARY (OUTER VOICE): What should I tell them?

JESUS: Tell them what you saw.

MARY (INNER VOICE): He is risen.

MARY (OUTER VOICE): [Calling] Peter...

MARY (INNER VOICE): He is risen.

MARY (OUTER VOICE): [Calling] Everyone…

MARY (INNER VOICE): He is risen.

MARY (TOGETHER): He is risen indeed.