(Here we see Anna from the Bristol Sitcom Trials team taking a selfie with Steve Coogan in the exclusive VIP Loft Bar at the Gilded Balloon, honestly you can't take them anywhere)
I would like to personally thank and congratulate every single person involved in this year's Sitcom Trials So You Think You Write Funny competition, which ran heats & semi finals in London, Manchester and Bristol and culminated in the Grand Final at the Edinburgh Fringe, won by Rosie Holt's Never Better which will be getting its own run at the Gilded Balloon in 2014.
In particular I must praise the unsung heroes who, in the whirlwind of Edinburgh, had hardly a mention. Vince Stadon, the producer and driving force behind the Bristol Sitcom Trials, is the person I need to thank most. If it wasn't for him asking if he could start up a Bristol team in 2012, after his script had won in Manchester in 2011, we wouldn't now have a regular series of shows running in Bristol, with a large dedicated team including writer-performers and an improv group, who have also recorded radio versions of their sitcoms which will be going out later this year, and who provided two of the five finalists in this year's tournament.
It was Vince's establishment and continued running of the Bristol show, that gave us the incentive for the Manchester shows to continue in the various hands of Lisa, Michelle, Sean and now Judgement Dave - remembering it was Lisa & Gareth in Manchester who revived the Sitcom Trials in 2011 - and then to reconvene the London Sitcom Trials, whose stalwarts Louisa, Sarit and Chris have helped bring about our most popular shows in years and without whom the semi finals would not have been possible. There are many others to thank, including guest hosts, video makers, and all our judges, too numerous to list here, many thanks to you all.
I feel a little sorry that the Manchester team and most of the London team weren't able to be involved in the Edinburgh final. What with it having no budget for the performers, everyone had to be there at their own expense, which meant it was worth it for the writer-performers, but that a lot of the show had to be cast from actors who were already in Edinburgh doing other shows. Sean's team from Manchester and Sarit & Louisa's from London were with us in spirit and I, at least, knew none of us would have been there without your efforts.
I have also to thank Karen Koren, the Artistic Director of The Gilded Balloon, who took a big gamble on associating The Sitcom Trials with the So You Think You're Funny Competition she's been running for twenty years, and whose organisation and production staff did the bulk of the work to make the Sitcom Trials SYTYWF Final happen and to run as smoothly as it did. Our future is in her hands, and we should all take very seriously any thoughts she has on how well we all did.
Which brings us to notes for the future. Should we carry on with the Sitcom Trials? The answer from all sides is a resounding yes. Though none of us makes any money out of it, there seems to be in inexorable flow of people wanting to take part in it so, as long as we can make it worth our individual whiles, then on it will go.
Should we run it as a tournament again next year? If we get the blessing and involvement of The Gilded Balloon and So You Think You're Funny again, then I say yes we should. If so, that series of shows will begin in the spring and follow a similar pattern to 2013, with heats in various cities and a final in Edinburgh.
The "various cities" bit is something that might develop in the coming months, as I have had talks with people from two cities who might be able to bring together actors enough to do further local events. If there's anyone out there who works with actors in a particular locale and think they'd like to try their hand at a Sitcom Trials event, do please get in touch.
Lessons learned from this year's Final. In future we need to keep cast sizes smaller and we need to perform better to the space we're in. In comparision to our sister show, Sketch Club, which performed the previous night in the same venue as part of the same competition but who used head-mounted radio mikes for all their performers, we suffered from chronic inaudibility. There was not a sitcom which didn't have at least one actor whose words were lost in that space, largely as a result of all our heats being held in much smaller rooms. Also having vast casts of 8 per script meant we had scripts which were a bit on the long side, and a backstage area that must have been like the Black Hole of Calcutta. (I relaxed the rules for entries this year, but in future I feel we should return to the strict 4-per-script casting that we established many years ago).
These are all small considerations, but worth making a note of now. And now we needn't think on them again until the spring of 2014 when, if it is going to happen, another tournament will be announced. Before then, I hope we're going to see Sitcom Trials stand-alone shows, full of brand new exciting situation comedies good enough to be put onto the radio and the telly, in at least three cities (and hopefully more) before Christmas.
Will we find the new Chickens? The new Nightingales? The new Birds Of A Feather? Let's find out.
The Sitcom Trials