Comedy Sketches By Alexander Baron

Introduction

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When I started writing back in the 1980s, my main, indeed only aspiration (aside from seeing my - still unpublished - novel in print) was to become a poet. The reader can judge for himself from the efforts on this website if I have succeeded in that respect.

It didn’t take me long to realise that writing poetry was one thing, but seeing it in print was quite another. Of course, nowadays all that has changed, the Internet has led to a veritable explosion of poetry as of all other publishing, including music and visual arts from the banal to the sensational, from the mediocre to the truly inspired.

I can’t remember when precisely I decided to try my hand at other forms, but at some point I read, and replied to, an advertisement in The Stage, the weekly newspaper of the British entertainment industry. This small ad was from a guy named Dermot Crossley, a struggling comedy writer in the Irish capital.

I contributed to the May, June, July, August, and September 1988 issues, for which I received a complimentary copy of each, and at one point an English five pound note. Then it folded.

[To date I have archived four of the five copies to which I contributed, and the May 1990 issue; they can be found at this link].

A while back I dug out some of the letters I received from Dermot; we had quite a bit of correspondence dating from sometime in 1987 or 1988 when I first saw his ad. In a letter dated 9th April 1990, he alluded to receiving a letter from Tim Cockin. The less said about that little wimp the better; I can’t remember at this distance but I imagine it was Yours Truly who mentioned Cockin to him. Another time waster.

“How do you like the new improved Comedy Bulletin?” Very tastefully produced - as you can see, dear reader. He went on to ask, almost beg me, to write him ten or fifteen gags a month, and alluded to Model Journal, so I must have told him about my - at that point blossoming career as a fashion journalist.

In a letter dated 3rd May 1990, he said his latest adverts had been rejected by The Stage because “They said the wording was misleading, that I was charging too much, and that the gags were of poor quality and would have no interest value to the readers...” He sounded almost pleading when he asked “Were the gags in the April issue really that bad?” Heck, with people like me contributing, that is a rhetorical question!

A letter of 29th May 1990 said “If I don’t get enough replies from Exchange & Mart to cover advertising, photocopying, and the price of a few beers; then I won’t be going ahead with an issue for July”. He said he needed a miracle, and his letter of 12th June 1990 revealed that it hadn’t happened, although “As you can see from the enclosed I got a couple of gags published in a magazine. I’ve just written to them to see if they will send me a cheque in payment”.

I believe that was the last letter I ever received from him, but I did telephone him at some point, in which conversation he told me he intended to write a novel a year. I don’t know what came of that, but over the years I have met, and even worked with, quite a few talented people whose literary endeavours came to nothing.

Dermot’s initial goal had been to establish The Comedy Bulletin as the leading resource for comedians in these islands. They were he said, a regular thing in the United States, and some of them had massive subscription bases. In retrospect, even without the rise of the Internet, this was an ambition that was doomed to fail, but it is a project with which I was proud to be associated at the time.

In addition to the aforementioned fiver, Dermot also sent me a book by Brad Ashton about how to write comedy. The (quickie) sketches in this section are the result of my reading that book cover to cover. I did make an effort to hawk around a few sketches, but nothing came of any of them, not because they were all totally without merit, but because by and large like the rest of the publishing franchise, it isn’t what you know but who you know that counts, as the old saying goes. Sigh.

Today, I am publishing five of these sketches here; all were originally handwritten and then typed up using an old fashioned typewriter; there are quite a few more, which I will publish here as and when I have the time and inclination to convert them to HTML.

July 3, 2010


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