In a world exclusive first interview, we spent some time chatting with brand new sketch group 'Rule of Three' aka Jenny Laville, Claire Wetton and Laura Major...
Guys, thanks for taking the time to speak to us! You all had success writing comedy for the BBC, but you all came in through different routes. Can you tell us a little about each of your journeys?
Jenny: Initially the only comedy I was doing was writing on my blog, but then started sending sketches into Newsjack. After a few submissions I started getting some sketches on and I was invited into the writersroom – with Claire funnily enough! From that I got asked to do additional material slots on The News Quiz and Now Show and returned to the NJ writers room a few times before being invited to apply for the BBC Comedy Writers Bursary. I should stress this process took a couple of years!
Claire: I actually started as a stand-up, but after a back injury I was stuck in bed for a long time and discovered you could write comedy on your laptop without having to leave your house or get out of your pyjamas... Since then and I’ve written for Newsjack, which led on to writing for other Radio 4 shows, such as News Quiz, Now Show and Show What You Wrote. I was also the winner of the CBBC Class Dismissed initiative for the past two years, which led to my first TV credits and was part of the BBC Writersroom Comedy Room ’16-'17, where I got the chance to develop my own sitcoms, as well as write for CBBC’s Something Special. I’ve also done bits and pieces outside of the BBC, such as writing for an Indian sitcom, which is soon to be shown in 27 countries!
Laura: I started out dabbling as a playwright, largely doing new writing competitions. I knew I wanted to be in radio and TV but it seemed totally inaccessible until a few years ago, when I did a diploma at the National Film and Television School in Writing and Producing Comedy. I managed to get into radio from there, starting with sketch writing on BBC R4’s Dead Ringers. During this time, my graduation project ‘Amanda’s Getting Married’ was also commissioned by BBC R4, and is actually (finally!) due out this month on BBC Comedy online! Yes that is a shameless plug.
You've just formed sketch group 'Rule of Three' - how did you find each other in a sea of comedy creatives?
Jenny: As I recall this whole thing is Claire’s fault. I just do what I’m told. ‘Sea of comedy creatives’ is very flattering, I tend to think of comedy writers as a more of a bin of chocolate factory tour rejects.
Laura: Jenny and I met at the BBC working on topical radio shows. Then I met Claire at the Christmas party…she was trying to subtly take photos of minor celebs one handed without spilling her free wine. That pretty much sealed the deal for me.
Claire: I met Jenny on my first day in the Newsjack writers room. We were both the newbies, and I clung to her like a life raft. We went for lunch together, (fish and chips), and swapped details at the end of the day. A few series later, she introduced me to Laura at a party, where I weirdly stared at her face for a long time, as she looks almost identical to my sister, which is super creepy after a large amount of wine.
.Your first sketch, 'What's your shade?', was timed for release on National Lipstick Day. Did you deliberately write the sketch for that event or was it a happy coincidence?
Jenny: I think it was Laura’s idea to do it. I’m a bit vague on the details!
Claire: It was deliberate. We spent a day filming a few sketches we had written over the proceeding weeks, and decided as we were all in the same room, and it was National Lipstick Day the very next day, we would create a really quick sketch, so we’d have something to put out quickly. So it was all conceived, filmed, edited, and shared within 24 hours.
Laura: Entirely deliberate...I just can’t wait for our pancake day sketch. Guys, we’re doing a pancake day sketch right?
"The more you enjoy whatever you do, the more likely it is to be successful"
You're all multi-talented and perform as well as write - how important do you think it is these days to be a writer-performer?
Jenny: I do stand up a tiny bit, Claire and Laura both have a history of being in sketch groups. I think it is really helpful to be able to perform, or at least not freeze in terror at the idea of talking in front of an audience. There’s just so many more outlets nowadays- podcasts, YouTube, other t’internet stuff I don’t fully understand. If you only write it shuts off loads of avenues and you’ll never be asked to do Strictly and ultimately that’s what we’re all aiming for.
Claire: I came from a performing background originally, and I do think there are a lot more opportunities for writer-performers, but you’re still competing with thousands and thousands of people. Just do what brings you the most joy, as joy is the only thing you’ll get from this career for a long time. Plus, the more you enjoy whatever you do, the more likely it is to be successful. Whether that’s writing, performing, or both. It’s got to be about the love, more than the money, unless you want a decade of disappointment.
Laura: In all honesty I came to performing entirely out of necessity. I think I (stupidly) imagined being a writer would be easy, the work would be plentiful… but the reality is producers, agents, commissioners etc. spend their lives receiving scripts to read. I would email stuff off and think ‘that’s just going to sit in someone’s inbox until one day they refile it in trash’… So I decided, if no one else was going to produce my ideas, I would. Plus, getting people to watch a 2 min sketch is much easier than persuading them to read a four-page sitcom treatment.
"If you stop working, the work will stop"
Stand-up Gary Delaney once said that a modicum of talent and hard work was what you needed to get ahead. How important is it that new writers work hard to graft their way into comedy?
Jenny: From my experience of comedians and writers, even a shedload of talent doesn’t buy you many short-cuts. There really isn’t a point where you can sit back and expect work to come to you. If you stop working the work will stop. Actually I think I’m going to write that in a swirly font on the kitchen wall and surround it in fairy lights...
Claire: I’ve seen so many talented people give up really easily, which is a shame, but no one sends in a sketch to Newsjack and suddenly has a full time comedy writing career. I don’t necessarily see it as hard graft, because I love what I do, and would carry on doing it, even if no one was paying me (which they usually aren’t). I think the passion to get better at what you do is what puts you ahead. Those people who are talented but give up after the first rejection probably aren’t in the right industry anyway.
Laura: It’s important to work hard. But also work creatively…make stuff happen, be persistent…keep knocking on doors and talking to people. Don’t go away.
What advice do you have for writers who have one or two credits under their belt but aren't sure where to go next?
Jenny: Try and sleep with someone influential, don’t forget to take pictures.
Claire: I wish I knew. I’ve been asking everyone I've met for the past 7 years, and I still haven’t got an answer. Keep writing things that make you laugh and keep being nice to people and eventually one of the people you’ve been nice to might know of a job/person/opportunity which would suit your style of writing...and you can try to do that. Whilst being nice to these new people and hoping the cycle continues! Also, try everything. Topical, children’s, entertainment. Funny is funny, and experience is experience. Man I sound trite. Basically, I don’t really know. If someone gives a good answer to this, can you let me know? And if someone I’ve been nice to has a job going, give me a call!
Laura: Make stuff. Don’t wait for someone else to do it for you…blogs, podcasts, sketches…whatever. Get friends to perform for you, learn some basic editing and then share it. And don’t be afraid of self-promotion! I find that really hard, but it’s a MUST.
"Make stuff. Don't wait for someone else to do it for you."
Finally, what are your plans going forwards for Rule of Three?
Jenny: Mainly it’s to have a laugh, eat cheese and to keep motivating each other to make funny stuff instead of just eating cheese. I really can’t over-emphasise how crucial cheese is to the whole thing.
Claire: World domination. I’ve already planned the merchandise.
Laura: Probably a Netflix series. Or another buffet lunch at Jenny’s house, she does a lovely spread.