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Lessons in laughter from hilarious Harry

SITCOM creator Harry Venning has passed on some tips to aspiring Bognor Regis writers.


Harry is one of the co-writers of the popular BBC Radio 4 series, Clare in the Community. He is writing its 12th and last set of episodes to be broadcast next year.


The escapades of the social worker who is wracked with guilt about being white, middle-class and heterosexual is a comic creation which has become the longest-running current sitcom on BBC radio. It is also a weekly cartoon in The Guardian.


Harry’s masterclass in mirth dealt with trying to replicate his success to delight members of the Bognor Institute of Laughter at its latest session this week.


He said: “You have to think a sitcom is like a play – but a play which is driven by jokes.


“You focus on a character who people will want to spend 30 minutes with. They can be nice, horrible, famous, bonkers – it doesn’t matter.


“Then you put them in ordinary situations and find out what happens.”


He cited John Cleese’s Basily Fawlty in Fawlty Towers as a classic example of a character who reacted in an exaggerated manner to everyday problems.


“The story is your best friend. I think the biggest pitfall is not having a story,” said Harry. “A lot of people sitting around joking does not make a good sitcom.”


Among those who wanted to find out the secrets of comedy writing was Bognor Regis resident Lem Griffiths, 54.


“I have written a script for (Bognor Regis online broadcaster) Radio Respect as a spoof of The Artist called The Fallen Artist. I’d be really happy to have my script broadcast. I hope it will be good enough.


Worthing resident Russ Bravo, 58, said: “I’ve been running a comedy club in Worthing for 10 years and I’m interested in hearing what Harry has got to say.”


Harry’s visit came as the institure has begun to establish a base at The Lamb Inn in Steyne Street from 6pm on Wednesdays after a humorous first year.


Its founder, Hilary Strong, said: “It’s been a good year and we staged Bognor Sunshine Today as a spoof TV news show. But I think we need a sustained period of activity.


“Our numbers have started to increase up to 16 since we began to meet at The Lamb earlier this month and Radio Respect are very keen to work with us to broadcast our members’ work next year.”


it was also hoped to establish regular comedy club nights in the town, she added.

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