Last week, I jumped on the cheapest Jetstar flight I could find and spent a week in Auckland being a proper TV comedy writer. For the past 3 years I’ve written for the New Zealand comedy panel show 7 Days by simply emailing in my jokes every week. I’d never met most of my colleagues in person. Recently, the producers said they would be happy to have me come over and do a week of writing on the show. “Just pick a week, any week.”
Of course, I picked the week the All Blacks were playing France at Eden Park. First week of being a proper TV writer and first All Blacks game sounded like a good one-two to me.
TV3, the company that makes 7 Days, owns this this old, old house in Eden Terrace, which houses the writers rooms. They were exactly how you want writers rooms to be – at the top of a creaky staircase, with paint peeling off the walls and two toilets, one of which is “not as good as the other”.
For about five hours I sat in a room with head writer Ben Hurley and arguably New Zealand’s top stand up comedian, Brendhan Lovegrove and we simply came up with jokes for the show. Ben wrote down the good ones on his laptop. All the years of doing exactly the same thing working on Channel 31 shows in Melbourne meant I felt very comfortable in what could have been a terrifying situation.
Across the hallway from us, another team of three writers also came up with jokes for the show. One thing that stood out across the entire production of the show is the amount of prep work that goes in, especially as far as the writing and cast prep is concerned. I think Australian comedy game/panel shows could learn a lot from the way 7 Days is run. It’s never an accident when a show stays on air for 10 seasons.
The next day, the person who hired me three years ago, Rob Brown, took me out to lunch. At the time he was the associate producer, now he’s the producer and showrunner. Also lunching with us was the current associate producer Thom Watts, who amongst other things is an accomplished musician whose band has supported the likes of ACDC. Rob and Thom couldn’t have been nicer in answering all my questions about how the show works and were tremendously generous with their time. Writers are not used to being treated like this.
The taping of the show later that evening was an experience I’ll never forget. I’ve always found attending the tapings of TV comedy shows to be very emotional, since writing for them is all I’ve ever wanted to do (since I stopped trying to become a golfer). So to be in the audience of a show I actually write for was completely overwhelming. I met the cast, the crew, all of who were delightful. It was surreal to meet the people whose comic voices you’ve had inside your head for 3 years.
Whatever happens from here, I’ll always remember my first time on the set of a show I work on. Looking forward to paying it back one day when I get to produce a show like this of my own.
Left to right: Heath Franklin, Justine Smith, Paul Ego, Me, Jeremy Corbett, Dai Henwood, Ben Hurley, Nick Rado