Topical Humour – An Analysis Of Failure

Last year I tried to write some jokes for a topical BBC radio program called NewsJack. They accept submissions from any old so and so who wants to give it a try,  and I’m told it’s a great way for young writers to make a name for themselves in the business! Although, at nearly twenty six I’m pushing that young writers status to it’s limits. Long story short I didn’t get any of my jokes on the radio. They say on the site that you should persevere and try again, but I couldn’t bring myself to go through it again because I found the process of writing topical humour so excruciatingly painful. Sometimes you give something a try, and you realise pretty quickly that it’s not your wheelhouse (whatever a wheelhouse is. Is it like a caravan?)

Although I’d like to complain that they “just didn’t get my intelligent humour!” I wasn’t able to find the funny in the news from that week, but at least I can use this blog to share what I did submit. I have supplied the jokes as I submitted them, as well as a short sketch I did to their guidelines, and I’ve annotated them with my thoughts on where I perhaps went wrong in hindsight.

And if you do think they’re the funniest jokes in the world, I’ll sell them to you for £50 each (sketch £70)




[The submission form asks for three BREAKING NEWS style jokes, and three “VIEWSJACKS which is a sort of vox-pops voice of people segment]


  1. Boy of 12 is the youngest ever to be given a gastric band. He was offered the balloon, but said he didn’t want one because balloons were for “babies”.

[I actually like this first joke. It’s in reference to a news story about a young boy getting a gastric band operation. You can still read the article by following the tinyurl link below. The joke plays on the concept of it being a very young child, and young children usually like balloons don’t they? And a gastric band is sometimes referred to as a gastric balloon, so you can kind of see what I was going for there can’t you? This joke also has the extra layer of the child in question being hesitant to have it done because he thinks he’s too old for balloons – the implication being that he’s actually too young for such a procedure. I thought it was a surefire winner of a gag, but maybe NewsJack’s audience don’t like thinking about unhealthy children.]


  1. Listeners were furious this week after the BBC changed their audio streaming formats, causing some internet radio devices to malfunction. A BBC spokesman said…

[cue horrible static sound effect]

[This one’s pretty self explanatory. Just a simple radio happening. I guess I thought I was being really clever, like Orson Welles or something, pranking the listeners. Imagine if they thought their radios were actually broken?! HAHAHA! God, I’m sooo meta… like Charlie Kaufman.]


[Only now, re-reading this I’ve just realised that I only submitted two one-liners. Maybe that’s what they actually asked for, but I more likely just got bored of writing jokes]


  1. These new happiness classes are proper good. I managed to to nick 2 iphones, 3 packed lunches and I flicked Tipex all over Cheryl’s blazer, I feel well happy.”

[So, this one was in reference to happiness classes being suggested for schools. I wrote it from the POV (Sorry – industry term, means Position Of Voices) of a school bully taking the happiness classes. I was bullied at school, and I wanted to demonstrate how such a scheme might be exploited. Take that establishment!]


  1. I think it’s a good thing hospitals don’t let you smoke E-Cigarettes in them. All the high-tech equipment you’ve got in there, you don’t want a defibrillator catching e-emphysema do you?”

[Honestly, I have absolutely no idea what I was trying to do with this one. I know it was in reference to an article about e-cigs being banned from Scottish hospitals, but re-reading it I can’t figure out where the joke is. I don’t quite know how a defibrillator would catch any sort of illness. I wonder if I even knew what a defibrillator was. Maybe I thought it was a living thing? I’m really ashamed of this one, I think I was just filling up space with it. I think there’s possibly a potential joke in there with the “e-emphysema” thing. If you were to extrapolate about how electronic cigarettes caused electronic diseases. Oh wait, that was what I was trying to say. I just realised. The e-cigs are giving the defibrillator e-emphysema because it’s a machine. Maybe I should have worded it more clearly…]  


  1. No, I won’t be going to see 50 Shades of Grey. It’s the 21st Century, I think we should stop making films in black & white now.”

[Dumb joke, but works.]


[And finally, here’s a 2 page radio sketch I submitted to NewJack. After reading it back, I actually quite like it. It’s not as bad as I thought it was. Maybe it’s because it was rejected that I’ve convinced myself that it sucked, but I might just record/film it myself.]

Introduction: Sketch relates to a story published on 30/01/15 on The Guardian site about
the protesting of the gentrification of Soho, an ongoing story. Sketch Category: Business & Economy. Source Url:
2. HIPSTER MAN: We’ve lived in Soho for 5 years now, but me and Becca know when it’s time to leave a sinking ship. Don’t we Becca?
3. HIPSTER WOMAN: Soho is like, totally gentrificated.
4. HIPSTER MAN: I mean, hello? Do we really need another Starbucks? Where’s all our local culture going?
5. HIPSTER WOMAN: That’s why me and Byron have decided to live here, in Papua New Guinea with the un-contacted Gusawi tribe.
7. HIPSTER MAN: Well, formally un-contacted. They weren’t too happy about that actually.
8. HIPSTER WOMAN: Well, whatever. They’ll get used to it. Society’s all about inclusion. Back in Soho Urban Knitters Unite lived side by side with Extreme Cross-stitchers For Equality.
9. HIPSTER MAN: They chased us out of the main tribe. We’re currently living just on the outskirts under a great little Yurt that we fashioned out of Becca’s vintage cardigan. The one with the moustache patterns on it.
10.HIPSTER WOMAN: We prefer living just outside of town anyway. It’s more authentic.
11.HIPSTER MAN: Yeah. More… among the people.
13.HIPSTER WOMAN: We really, really do love it here.
14.HIPSTER MAN: Yeah… it’s great. Even with the constant fear of death and feeling like you’re being watched through the trees. You just feel like you’re part of something, you know?
15.HIPSTER WOMAN: I’ll admit, it is a shame that we had to cut short our two week holiday around the Pacific.
16.HIPSTER MAN: That’s the last half board cruise I book. Unsinkable? Yeah right.
17.HIPSTER WOMAN: Can you pass me those twigs Byron? I’m in the mood for an organic, non GMO, gluten free vegan bark burger.
18. EN D

[I suppose the moral of this blog is just that topical humour is kind of lame, and fundamentally not worth participating in, especially if you don’t care about it. I think ultimately my biggest downfall was not writing sincerely, but I don’t think it’s something I can do in relation to fleeting subject matter. On the upside though, it’s a great practice for writing outside of your comfort zone and pushing you to write about new things.]

and you might get a blog out of it.


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