Mersey woman about town


Earwigging on buses

The magnificent Peg Bundy of Married...With Children fame

I love sitcoms, and these last weeks I’ve had an excuse to re-watch all my favourites because I’ve been working on a sitcom of my very own (read an excerpt here).

My script work so far has been confined to radio plays before I moved on to film, which I still enjoy. I was bound to get around to doing TV drama eventually as situation comedies are very dear to my heart. I always think they often reflect more of real life than ‘serious’ dramas, instead communicating the message in a more light hearted way; points are sometimes better made with humour than by barracking and lecturing.
So, I’ve been heroically (it’s hard work but someone’s got to do it, dammit) re-watching a plethora of classic and new sitcoms – in the name of research, naturally.

My favourite sitcoms are Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm (Larry David is a genius, not a word I use lightly), Still Game, Desmond’s, Everybody Loves Raymond, The IT Crowd, Father Ted and Married…With Children. Of course there’s lots of others but these are the ones I keep coming back to over and over again.

I should have news on my sitcom shortly, but it’s been such an exciting journey with it so far already.

I’ve had a real hoot working on my script, scurrying around with my notebook and earwigging to conversations and writing tasty stuff down, even more than I normally do.  I’ve found the best places for finding inspiring phrases and concepts include sitting in my garden listening to my neighbours when the weather was nice recently (I’m in the soup if they’re reading this, aren’t I?) and of course dear old public transport which provides an intriguing snapshot of people’s lives as they interact and talk to others.

I sometimes think I’m being a bit rude by earwigging but I would be a very unusual writer indeed if I was to come up with inspiration and ideas by just sitting in the house. It’s a bit of a quandary. I often ask my hubby or friends if I can use snatches of our conversation if something strikes me as funny, but it would be odd if I tapped a stranger on the shoulder whilst travelling on the bus and say ‘Erm you don’t know me but I’m a writer. Could I use that story you just told about your neighbour’s wild affair with the milkman for my sitcom?’
Imagine the response I’d get…

I’d be interested in how other writers source their work and do you ask friends and relatives if you can ‘borrow’ parts of their lives?

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10 comments on “Earwigging on buses

  1. Janet O'Kane
    April 6, 2012

    I’m so looking forward to hearing the news re your sitcom, once you can share it with us!
    Close friends know that if they say something and I dive into my handbag for a notepad that I want to record their words. Up til now they’ve been quite pleased at this, but I can’t imagine a stranger reacting in the same way. Thank goodness for smart phones: now I can tap away and everyone thinks I’m just texting.

  2. cathbore
    April 6, 2012

    Thanks for your comment, Janet.
    Do you know what, I never thought of using my phone! I just clumsily get my pink flowery notebook out ;-)

  3. unpub
    April 6, 2012

    Hard to imagine life without humour and yet some people seem to have very little sense of “funny.” And tastes differ widely from person to person – I love “Father Ted” and the “IT Crowd,” but “Everyone Loves Raymond” leaves me totally cold. i think if I was Raymond i would have moved house years ago.
    Good luck with the new writing venture. I’ve always thought that Liverpudlians deserve their image as natural comedians. It’s always felt like a city willing to poke fun at itself – though God help anyone else who does.

  4. cathbore
    April 6, 2012

    I love Everybody Loves Raymond! Where would Raymond go, if he moved? Across the road to his mum and dad’s? Heaven forbid. Mind you, he’s very fond of his mum’s cooking, so that might swing it…
    I think it’s the same of any city or area, that folks are happy to take the mick out of themselves but don’t like others doing it. Having said that, Harry Enfield’s Scousers is very popular still in Liverpool, most people I know find it hilarious!

  5. Kate Jack
    April 6, 2012

    I get some great ideas by “listening into” conversations in work and I used to earwig on buses too. Alas, since I started driving back in 1993 that opportunity doesn’t arise much anymore. There’s still the train though.

  6. unpub
    April 6, 2012

    This is a tale of ear-wigging in the old “Adelphi” in Liverpool that I posted on Caroline Smailes’ Blog a while ago.

    I was lucky enough to stay at the Adelphi Hotel years ago. This was when it still had all its (pre-modernisation) Victorian grandeur. Almost every bedroom was like a suite. The walls were clad in mahoggany and you could swim a couple of lengths in the bath.
    One day i was sitting in the lounge, enjoying a coffee under the statue of John Lennon. A group of elderly ladies was sitting across from me, close enough to be over-heard.
    They started discussing the the statue quite loudly. ‘Who’s that then?’ one of the women asked.
    ‘I don’t know,’ another replied, ‘but it say’s something at the bottom.’
    One of the others got up and came over, peering short-sightedly at the inscription on the plinth at the foot of the statue, while adjusting her glasses. ‘I think it says, “I’m a genie,” she announced to the room.
    Needless to say the inscription said, “Imagine.”

    • cathbore
      April 6, 2012

      Kate; ah yes, the train is a goodie! I’ve heard some corkers there myself x

  7. cathbore
    April 6, 2012

    That is just too wonderful for words! Bless them…

  8. Hi Cath; I live in the country and have to drive to get anywhere although for years I lived in London. Back there staying with my daughter a few weeks ago, I realised while traveling on buses how much I missed the ear wigging bit. I’ve never made notes but I can remember certain comments, some from decades ago – e.g: two older women on a Clapham omnibus (literally) circa 1981, discussing nuclear war, which was in the news constantly at the time. One concluded: ‘Still, it’ll be nice to see a lot of young men in uniform.’
    P.S. I noticed reading ‘One Day’ last year that David Nicholls acknowledges friends and family for one or two jokes or phrases he might have ‘pilfered’ over the years…

  9. cathbore
    April 6, 2012

    Susan – the lady has a point, though!
    People are so funny without realising it aren’t they?

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