‘It’s very interesting but not commercial enough…’

That’s what people in publishing told me about what follows. And that’s why what follows, follows.

Most publishers – I’m tempted to say ‘all publishers’ but do please prove me wrong – are only interested in books about comedy if they’re about recent shows or stars (after all, it’s not as if this is an important genre, like political or literary or military or royal history, or ‘true crime,’ where the past, daringly, is allowed to stretch far beyond the last two decades), and only if those recent shows or stars are really, really, popular.

This is, quite frankly, naive. It is naive not only because most readers are actually quite capable of finding something interesting that predates the late teenage years of Joe Sugg, but also because the most successful shows or stars are not always, or even most often, the most interesting subjects for books.

One of the main reasons why they managed to be so successful is that they were so professional, so conscientious, so disciplined and so driven that nothing really happened apart from what they invested into the show. There are, of course, some notable exceptions, such as the infamously self-destructive Tony Hancock (a very popular star, m’lud, from the mid-1950s to the mid-60s), but generally the productions and people who put the most interesting things on the screen left the most boring things, in bookish terms, off it. As Prunella Scales told me about working on Fawlty Towers: ‘We just learned our lines, rehearsed the shows, worked really, really hard, and then went home again’.

The real crises, the real incidents, the real adventures, the real stories are actually to be found, more often than not, in the shows that struggled or failed, and in the stars who, on occasion, took a wrong turn or chose the wrong project. Those are the contexts for the really rich and vivid personality clashes, the personal failings and fights, the bitter and sometimes violent recriminations, the alcoholic and drug-related and sexual misdemeanours, the arrests and the cover-ups and the sackings and the sudden and desperate rebootings.

Everyone knows what went right. They want to know what went wrong.

Everyone knows what happened on the screen. They want to know what happened off it.

But no one, these days, wants to publish books about such things. They might well be interesting, but they’re not commercial enough.

Which is why I felt moved to start this blog.

But I have to be honest: I’m not a natural blogger. In fact, to be even more honest, I’d rather not blog at all. I’d much rather blog off.

But there are some tales that I’d like to tell, that I think are worth telling and worth sharing, and so, in the absence of another means of telling them, I’m going to try to tell them here – not regularly, but every now and again, as the mood takes me.

If there’s any interest in reading them, well, I will be delighted. If there is not, then this will all fade away very quickly indeed and no one – please God let that include Wikipedia – will be any the wiser.

So thank you for your curiosity. If anything intrigues you enough to comment on it, a quick Google will find my website and contact details. If nothing interests you, and strikes you not only as not commercial enough but also not very interesting, then I’m very sorry to have wasted your time.

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