The first job I ever had was as a staff writer on Good News Week. I was sixteen, had just started Year 11 and I’d never even had a job at Coles. When I was offered a trial spot on the new and improved GNW it was a dream come true. Being paid to write jokes must be a million times easier than swiping groceries, right?
A week into the job I found myself standing in my hallway physically banging my head against the wall. My email was broken. Turns out it had been broken all week. The reason this technological failure elicited such self harm was simple. I was submitting my work via email. Which meant (bang) that nothing (bang) I’d written (bang) all week (bang) had got through (bang). I was beginning to think that check-out chick would have been a less stressful option.
The scars from my first experience of writing, six months earlier, were reopened. The first time I ever wrote comedy I did so for six hours straight. I was sitting in a small rectangular room with a guy called Dave. The walls were completely bare save for three or four posters from stand-up gigs. These posters all had Dave’s face on them. Outside two people talked very loudly about fake blood and debated where they could get a bear suit. There was a load argument about the appropriateness of this week’s Tripod lyrics. Two lots of music competed to be played the loudest. At one point Danny Boy (the comedian) stood just outside the door to my room and stared at the ceiling. Not exactly the most relaxing environment to write in.
Then again neither was my school library. Full, as it was, of sixteen year old boys using their free periods productively on awesome-free-games.com. Even the privacy of my own home was regularly interrupted by telemarketers. If ever there was a time when I didn’t need to discuss my mobile phone plan, this was it.
When you’re on a roll none of these things matter. Despite endless distractions I can loose myself in a story for hours. Realising that the reason you’re quite hungry is that because its already twelve thirty is quite satisfying. So is almost killing yourself during the desperate sprint to the computer when an idea suddenly strikes you. Most satisfying of all is writing a joke that makes you laugh. When you can make yourself laugh, you know you’re on to a winner.
Not satisfying at all was the getting paid part. To arrange this I had to ring Debra the money lady. She spoke very fast in acronyms I didn’t understand and thought I was an idiot. Considering I didn’t know what a BSB was, she probably had reason to. The five minutes I spent on the phone to her rate among the most painful of my life. I didn’t even have a tax file number. So over a period of five weeks, I got my first joke on television, got paid for the first time and learnt how to do a tax return. I also discovered that colliding your head repeatedly with a solid wall is an effective form of stress relief.
You can’t say TV-Land hasn’t given me any life lessons.