The more I think about the scene in The Young Ones where they write a letter to the bank manager, the more I think it’s one of the best scenes in the whole series. Let’s have a look at it.
So what makes it so good?
It barely advances the plot, but it does do a lot of exposition work, expertly hidden. Everything a character says is funny, but more importantly, those lines come from that character’s perspective. None of those jokes would fit in other people’s mouths. That’s good writing, and that writing informs even better performances. There’s conflict, but not the bickering kind, and it reaches a satisfying punchline.
I wonder if it might be a good exercise when developing your own characters to re-create this scene with them, and see how the letter ends up. Could be fun, and enlightening.
I’m re-reading some Tom Sharpe at the moment, and I’d forgotten, or never quite realised, just how informative he has been of my own writing. As a bonus, I watched the movie version of Wilt, which was adapted by Andrew Marshall and David Renwick (rather well too), and I had equally forgotten how many of the lines from the movie have slipped into my lexicon.
Tom Sharpe eventually ended up living in Spain, and here’s a long interview he did with a Spanish broadcaster (in Spanish).
One of the most enjoyable afternoons I ever spent was watching an off-the-record conversation between Jon Plowman and Paul Jackson at a writing festival. I find them both fascinating, and here they are sharing some more thoughts on comedy.