Andy Riley |

Mentoring scheme for a new/newish POC comedy writer – open for applications until 5th July 2020

***UPDATE JULY 6TH 2020: Ok please stop sending me scripts now! There’s been loads more this year than ever before, and I simply have so much to read and weigh up now that I just can’t add any more to the pile. We will be doing this again next year.***


It’s time to start a new (fifth!) cycle of the mentoring for 2020-2021.  Here’s what’s on offer:

A year’s free mentoring, primarily by email, for two comedy writers (or writing partnerships) who are POC/BAME, and either at the start of their careers or very much want to be.

The comedy writing business doesn’t represent the ethnic make-up of the UK. It’s hardly alone on this, is it… but writing’s my area so that’s where I put my energies. This scheme is a small effort to move things along a bit, and up the number of working and paid BAME writers.

I started doing this in 2016, and since then I’ve mentored five people; Christine Robertson, Sammy Wong, Sophie Duker, Nikhil Parmar and Jeffrey Aidoo. This year we’re expanding because there’s two places on offer. One writer will be mentored by me, and the other by The Dawson Brothers. They are are terrific three-person writing team consisting of Steve Dawson, Andrew Dawson and Tim Inman. They’ve written for, amongst many other things, That Mitchell and Webb Look and Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway.

It’ll work like this. Your mentor/mentors will read any comedy stuff that you write over a twelve month period, and offer notes and advice on it. We can also be a sounding board, to offer advice in a more general sense about any aspect of the profession. We may be able to give the writer useful introductions to producers on upcoming projects – this has happened a few times, but it kind of depends on what’s coming up that I happen to hear about. We’ll talk regularly, and we’ll see what we can do for you. Between Tim, Steve, Andrew and me, we have a whole lot of comedy experience. My own credits go back to the 90s and include Year Of The Rabbit, Veep, Black Books, Armstrong and Miller and – what the hell let’s mention it – Gnomeo & Juliet. We can put all that experience to use for someone else.

Ideally I’d prefer to have at least one (Covid-distanced) face-to-face meeting, as soon as possible, as I’ve found that really helps the mentoring process. I’m based in London, so it may not be practical, depending on where you live, but we’ll cross that bridge when we find it. There’s always Zoom. We’ll be as regionally unbiased as we possibly can.

A few words about what the scheme isn’t

It’s not an internship. We won’t ask you to help us with our own writing work. You’re not working for us; we’re working for you. It isn’t a course, with set work to do and accreditation at the end. No money will change hands in either direction. Everything’s informal. But it can be a big help to somebody starting off, and when you’re starting off, any help’s a good thing. Breaking into this field is never easy.

So if you’ve read this far and you’re a POC comedy writer who likes the sound of it, here’s how to apply. Use the email to send me:

(i) a paragraph or two introducing yourself. You can include any credits or experience you’ve got, or anything you’d like to say about yourself really. But don’t sweat too hard over this bit, because the main event is part two, which is….

(ii) a script sample of your comedy writing work, in PDF, Word, or Final Draft. This could be some sketches, a sitcom script, or something longer, up to feature film length. I don’t really mind what, so long as there’s enough to give us a good sense of what you write. But it must be a script or scripts written for screen, radio or the stage. Links to YouTube videos you’ve written are absolutely fine – but only as a bonus, because we’ve got to see some script too, so we can compare everyone on the same playing field.

Please put your name and email on the script sample itself. Use the headers or footers, or just stick it at the top of page one. That way I have everything I need right there if I want to get back to you. Having to refer back to covering emails is fiddly when you’ve got to look at a whole lot of them.

Oh yeah… please title the email ‘Mentoring 2020’. Just makes it easier for me to find everything.

Then me and the Dawson Bros will read everything and select the mentees.

We won’t consider anything in the form of blog posts or articles. You may well be a great blogger or journalist, but this thing’s all about scriptwriting.

There’s no upper limit to the length of your sample, but there is a lower limit. At least eight or ten pages of script. Any less and it’s hard to get a rounded view of how you write. So if it’s sketches you’re sending, please send three or four minimum.

Don’t worry about formatting or fonts. Just lay out your script however you normally do it.

A word about plays. We will read anything you send of course, but plays aren’t usually my favourite kind of sample. There might be some humour along the way, but the overall intent always seems to be serious. They invariably get less and less funny as they go along because they’re building to a dramatic climax, not a comedy climax. If I ask myself , “is this a piece of comedy writing, or is it really drama?” plays are often borderline cases.

Having said all that; if your play is my favourite thing I read, I’ll be in touch. I’m well aware that Chewing Gum and Fleabag started life in the theatre.

The time frame: it depends how much we get sent and how long it takes me to read it all, but ideally, we’d like to have the new mentees all arranged by the end of July, so every script we’re sent before 5th July 2020 will definitely be read and considered. After that date, I can’t take more submissions because the selection process is already under way. 

When you send me your sample, unless it was bounced back, assume I got it. I don’t want to get into sending receipt emails, just to cut down in the admin part of things. I’ve got no assistant and I’m not getting a grant. I’ve had more and more scripts to read each year and it all takes time. But after we’ve made my final choices I will contact everyone, so you’ll hear from us then.

We know how shitty it is to be left dangling without an answer, so we promise we won’t do that to you.

Some provisos – please read these before you send –

– You must be eighteen or over.

– You should live in the UK or Ireland. I’ve had a few applications from people in the USA before. Although I’ve done a fair amount of work there, I don’t live there, and can’t claim to know the professional terrain as well as I do for the UK.

– You should intend comedy scriptwriting for TV, film or radio to be your main creative focus over the next year at the very least – and preferably beyond.

– If you’ve sent me stuff on a previous cycle, you’re absolutely welcome to give it another go. Maybe you’ve got a new writing sample which will really make us sit up. That’s exactly what happened last year when I took on Jeffrey Aidoo; he’d sent me something two years previously, but his new script in 2019 really stood out.

– I’ll announce on twitter (@andyrileyish) and on this blog when we don’t need any more script samples, and when we’ve found someone for the 12 months.

– Just to restate the key point: this is only open to POC writers. There has been someone who sent me his script without managing to grasp this…

A point I have to cover, because this can come up; there’s an outside chance we’ll be sent something that’s in a similar setting to a project we’re currently developing. This sort of coincidence happens all the time. There’s only so many situations in the world, and if you’ve thought “I’ll write about some characters who work in a B&Q!” (or on a cruise ship, or in a garage, or in a quirky family home) you can be sure other people have too. Some years back, Jeremy Hardy and Stewart Lee both wrote – independently and simultaneously – stand up material about hairdressers asking Apollo astronauts where they were going for their holidays.

If we think there’s a chance your stuff is too close to something we’re doing, we’ll stop reading.

Anyway: send us your scripts!


Andy Riley