Writing and Producing Comedy

Diploma

Overview

BBC Comedy BBC Studios
 

This course is an 18-month part-time Professional Diploma in Writing and Producing Comedy.

“The course Rachel Stubbings runs at the NFTS is a great way of acquiring the career sustaining skills it takes to be a comedy writer today. The course won’t make you funny though, you have to do that bit yourself.” – Jon Petrie (Director of Comedy at BBC)

This unique course aims to equip the participants with the relevant tools to be a skilled and versatile comedy writer. It enables students to develop all forms of scripted and unscripted comedy including sitcoms, sketch shows and panel shows for radio and TV.

The course is carefully designed to gear you up for a career in comedy writing and production so students will become practiced at juggling deadlines, talking about their ideas concisely, assessing their own work and those of others, and being part of a writers’ community. 

There is an emphasis on ‘learning by doing’ at the NFTS, so they will experience professional actors and comedians read their work and give immediate feedback, they will pitch ideas to development producers and commissioners and get a taster of a writer’s room atmosphere. 

Students will get the opportunity to grow an idea into a fully formed vision, whether that be a five minute teaser for a sitcom, a sketch, a professionally recorded radio snippet or a script reading. By the end of the course, they will have produced their own body of work, which will put them in good stead to approach industry professionals. 

There will also be inspirational and informative talks from some of the most successful creators of comedy working today.

Since the course started in 2014 many students have gone on to write for shows including: Sex Education (Netflix), Outlaws (BBC/Amazon), 8 Out Of 10 Cats (E4), Famalam (BBC), The Now Show (BBC R4), The Mash Report (BBC), Joe Lycett's Got Your Back (CH4), The News Quiz (BBC), Dead Ringers (BBC R4) and many are developing their own scripts with Channel 4, BBC, Sky, ITV, Apple and Comedy Central.

All NFTS students can attend Masterclasses. Recent guests include David Fincher (Fight Club), Greta Gerwig (Little Women), Steve McQueen (12 Years A Slave), Edgar Wright (Hot Fuzz), Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Fleabag), Ben Wheatley (Kill List), Rapman (Blue Story), Louis Theroux, Debra Granik (Winter’s Bone), Denis Villeneuve (Bladerunner 2049), Lynne Ramsay (You Were Never Really Here), Sam Mendes (1917), Asif Kapadia (Senna), Joanna Hogg (The Souvenir), Russell T Davies (It’s A Sin) and Ricky Gervais (The Office).

Recent credits and successes

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"I genuinely feel much better equipped to write comedy professionally - before the course I had no idea how to structure a sitcom episode, cut 95% of the lines in my sketches or cope with the social embarrassment of no one laughing at my jokes!"  Rebecca Heitlinger, 2020 graduate

What you will study

Writing and Producing Comedy commences in January each year. The course is part-time (one evening a week and occasional Saturdays) over eighteen months and is delivered in central London. You will be expected to spend at least eight hours a week working on assignments for the course. You will leave the course with a portfolio of material, which could include a 10-minute taster tape of an idea you have developed, or a full script and some sketches and one-liners.

Students are taught about:

  • Comedy landscape
  • Radio comedy
  • Sketches
  • Panel shows and formats
  • Characterisation
  • Story structure
  • Narrative TV comedy
  • Script editing
  • Topical one-liners
  • Outlines and treatments
  • Pitching
  • Commissioning processes
  • Working with performers
  • Compliance issues
  • Working with writers
  • Writing briefs

Students graduate able to:

  • generate comedy programme ideas
  • create a narrative comedy, sketch show or comedy entertainment show
  • pitch ideas to commissioning editors
  • work with writers and help them develop their ideas

Download course outline (PDF)

Course Leader

The course is run by Rachel Stubbings, a BAFTA nominated writer, director and performer, specialising in comedy. Her writing credits include 8 Out Of 10 Cats (C4), Mock The Week (BBC2), The Last Leg (C4), Trollied (Sky) and The Athena (Sky) to name but a few.

Fees and funding options

Fees for this course are as follows:

Home/EU/EEA £8,500

These are the fees for January 2023 intake.

This course is only open to UK and EU/EEA applicants.

A non-refundable deposit of £500 is required against the cost of your fees on confirmation of your place.

Students are expected to provide their own laptops.

The NFTS is actively seeking to improve diversity within the industry by encouraging applications from under-represented groups, and have a limited number of bursaries on offer

Showcase

Entry requirements

Applicants must have comedy talent and have evidence that bears this out.

Applicants do not necessarily have to have a university Bachelors degree to apply for the course, but must be able to: demonstrate a knowledge of television/film; provide details of past achievements; demonstrate a clear focus for their future ambitions; and, crucially, show a passion for comedy.

If you are an EEA or International citizen, you must already be in possession of UK settled/pre-settled status or another visa which allows you to study for the duration of the course. If you do not already hold a UK status, unfortunately we cannot accept your application as we are currently unable to support a visa on our Diploma courses.

If you have any questions, please email info@nfts.co.uk.

How to apply

Application deadline: 08 Sep 2022

Applicants must complete the online application form and submit the following supporting materials:

  • Please submit, in one document, two TV or radio sketches of no more than 350 words each. Write for any of the following shows: That Mitchell and Webb Sound, Tracey Ullman Breaks the News, or Smack The Pony. Do not use characters or ideas already established on those shows. You can choose a different well known sketch show if you prefer, but please indicate which it is.

  • An outline for a comedy series, no more than 300 words.
  • Please write a joke/punchline suitable for HIGNFY or 8 out of ten cats host script for 2 of the news stories listed in the materials sheet.

You can apply online by clicking on BEGIN YOUR APPLICATION below. We are happy to receive applications at any time up until the midnight of the application deadline date.

Begin your application