EP86 – Sam Bain – How to write BAFTA winning sitcoms.

Ask The Industry Podcast Comments

EP86 – Sam Bain – How to write BAFTA winning sitcoms.


Total run time: 1 hour 07 mins 57 secs.

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About Sam Bain…

Sam Bain (@SamBainTV) is a British comedy writer, best known for the Channel 4 sitcom Peep Show and his writing partnership with Jesse Armstrong. Along with writing for sitcoms including Smack the Pony and That Mitchell and Webb Look he has also written the film Magicians and contributed to the film Four Lions.

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How to write for TV…

  • How did you get your first writing job?  [2 mins]
  • Could you get any work without an agent? [3 mins]
  • How did you get your agent? [4 mins 30 secs]
  • Do you think agents are still the gatekeepers today?
  • at what point do you know an idea just isn’t going to work and how do you know?
  • How long did it take him to go full time as a writer? [8 mins 30 secs]
  • What breaks did you get that made you go full time so fast?[9 mins]
  • What ideas were rejected and did you take them to other channels or just drop them completely? [29 mins 40 secs]

Social media…

  • Has the number viewers gone down? [20 mins 40 secs]
  • Has a channels expectations for the number of viewers a show will get gone down? [20 mins 40 secs]
    • Graham Smith’s podcast
  • How has social media impacted your writing process? [26 mins 20 secs]
  • How are you creating relationships with your audience? [27 mins 15 secs]

Peep Show…

  • How long did it take to get Peep Show on TV? [12 mins]
  • How did the show change as you moved it from paper to a channel? What did you have to compromises / budget issues did you have to write around? [12 mins 40 secs]
  • How did you get the dog eating episode approved? [13 mins]
  • Do you think it would be approved now?
  • How do you go about writing a character? [14 mins]
    • Andrew Ellards Podcast
    • Do you have a person in mind for a character when writing?
    • How do you go about writing believable character flaws? [18 mins]
  • Did you ever worry about having your show cancelled because of low viewing figures? [22 mins 40 secs]
  • What did winning a BATFA offer your career? [22 mins 30 secs]
  • Where does an agent send your script? A channel or a production company? [25 mins]
  • How much more bargaining power do you get as you get more established? Or is it tricky to do that given the risk adverse nature of TV at the moment? [22 mins 40 secs]
  • Do you work for your agent or do they work for you or something else? [25 mins 35 secs]

On Demand content…

How to write in a partnership…

  • How is writing together in a partnership? Do you sit in a room and sketch out ideas? Is it better if you both have different ideas or shared ones? [5 mins]
  • Do you prefer to write on your own or in a partnership? [38 mins 19 secs]
  • Which of you is better at which side of the script writing? [38 mins 50 secs]
  • What’s your writing process? How has that changed over time and by show? [8 mins]
  • How do you deal with days of writer’s block or days you’re not writing? [6 mins 30 secs]
  • How do you tell what’s funny on paper vs acted out? [39 mins 55 secs]
  • Were there any jobs you regret taking? [28 min 15 secs]  
  • Any jobs you didn’t take that you regret?[29 mins]
  • How do you deal with your anxiety about not getting any more writing work? [56 mins 20 secs]
  • How was going solo as a writer? [57 mins 11 secs]

Everything else…

  • What are the best books on comedy, writing, stand up etc you’ve read? [59 mins 20 secs]
  • Best show you’ve ever seen? [59 mins 50 secs]
  • A lot of comedians call themselves comedians but they make more money from voiceover work or writing that live performing, so they’d self identify as a comedian but their income would define them another way, how close is your self identity to your actual income identity? [1 hour 0 mins 10 secs]
  • What are the common misconceptions people have about what you do? [1 hour 1 mins]
  • Who do you think is the most underrated person in your industry? [1 hour 2 mins]
  • When you look back over your career, what memory makes you most happy? [1 hour 2 mins]
  • What do you think is the biggest problem in the comedy industry and how would you go about solving it? [1 hour 3 mins]
  • Best bit of advice you would give a comedian who wants to make a career in comedy? [1 hour 3 mins]






Simon Caine is a comedian, author, podcaster, writer and social media manager. He's the host of the Ask The Industry Podcast (iTunes link) , writer of jokes for Twitter and teller of gags on the London comedy scene. He's also the person writing this and it is taking all his willpower not to make a "Simon Says" joke.
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