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Comedy Writing & Performance

BA (Hons)

School - School of Arts & Media

Subject area - Performing Arts

UCAS Code: W890

Start Dates(s): September

Duration:

Three years full-time

Fees:

UK - £9250 per year

International - £14,400

In Brief:

  • Study on a unique programme that offers practical skills and techniques in both comedy writing and performance
  • Find your own comedic ‘voice’, by studying with highly-skilled academics and high-profile industry practitioners
  • Create innovative comedy performance in partnership with industry professionals and present it for public performance, taking advantage of a vibrant city with a thriving comedy scene and extensive network across the region
  • Work/industrial placement opportunity
  • International students can apply

Course Summary

Comedy is part of all of our lives in many different guises. In recent years, the way in which we interact with and consume comedy has changed dramatically, with technologies such as YouTube and Vine enabling users to create and share their comedic content with a global audience.

There is a strong emphasis throughout this course on the relationship between comedy and identity and its meaning in media, social and cultural contexts. It has a large practical component and shares skills in and approaches to stand up technique, clowning, improvisation and comedy scriptwriting.  You  will  have the opportunity to create your own sitcoms, sketches and comedy routines while examining and evaluating the cutting edge ideas emerging from current trends.

This unique course offers extensive opportunities for those dedicated to producing new work in the field of comedy writing and performance. Open mic spots, comedy clubs and festivals are plentiful as are independent broadcast production companies, many of which are dedicated to fostering new writing  and  performance. The programme has very strong connections with the industry, with household names such as Jason Manford and Peter Kay, both of whom studied at Salford, delivering guest lectures and workshops. We believe in supporting you throughout your journey and as such the opportunities continue  to  be available to you long after completing the course.

https://youtu.be/4sjCDiCvX-c

Course Details

In the second year (Level 5), this course shares modules with Theatre and Performance Practice, and Media and Performance.

As a Comedy Writing Performance student, you will learn through a mix of lectures, seminars, workshops and practical performance projects. Assessment will be through a range of means including essays, presentations, in-class performance presentations and publicly performed theatre projects.

Year 1            

The module combines both technical and creative aspects of media production as students develop a broad awareness of the range of skills required for a video drama production, including camera, lighting, editing and sound.                  
This primarily practical module focuses on the essential skills in live comic performance comprised of improvisation and physical comedy techniques. Principles covered include an introduction to spontaneity, comic characterisation, clowning, and slapstick.                        
This module will acquaint you with the range and scope of television and radio drama and involves an exploration of a range of techniques for performing on camera or for the microphone, as well as providing knowledge of fundamental procedures and skills of studio operation.                  
The course is taught through weekly workshops and seminars that identify and develop fundamental comedy improvisation skills and storytelling.  This module allows students to explore introductory comedy improvisation techniques to be used in solo and ensemble comedy performance. Both in weekly classes and during independent study students will explore the skills required to be able to act ‘on the spot’ with confidence, to make bold choices, to create characters and perform them with reliability, efficacy and consistency.
This provides the historical framework to examine the development of performance from the late 19th century onward. Movements like Realism, Expressionism, Surrealism and the Postmodern are examined in relation to other movements across performance disciplines including bespoke lectures in comedy. Seminars        appropriate        to your programme will support these lectures.                  
Examines key texts and critical approaches central to live performance and media disciplines from the perspective of particular analytical approaches, e.g. semiotics, ideological approaches and structuralism. The theories of key practitioners who influenced the development of particular disciplines        will        be examined in detail through lectures including bespoke lectures in comedy. Seminars appropriate to your programme will support these lectures.                  

Year 2            

Students take two core options and one option in trimester 1 and one core option and two additional options in trimester 2.            

Core modules:            

Following on from Level 4 Comedy Acting Methods, you will explore areas of 'Shortform' and 'Longform' Improv. techniques following the teachings of Keith Johnstone, Viola Spolin, Del Close and other. The module explores the skills needed to be able to act 'on the spot' with confidence, to create characters        and        perform them with strength and consistency.  The module wraps up with performing improvised scenes, games, and Longform formats and building on core knowledge of Improvisation in performance.                  
This project is led by a member of staff or a visiting practitioner. You will work in an ensemble to create original comedy sketch ideas and develop your own characters within them. The performance, recording and editing of selected sketches before a live studio audience constitutes the practical element        of        the assessment.                  
The huge investment by media and entertainment industries in the 'business of comedy' is investigated, analysing the ways in which the comic writer and performer must negotiate artistic choices in relation to commercially driven pressures. The module will examine the cultural context in which these        commercial        considerations        operate and the relationship between comedians and comic scriptwriters and the media industry.                  

Option modules:                

You will discuss examples of a range of radio and TV comedy before working in a small group to create an original comedy idea and to develop your own characters within it. You will be encouraged to develop range and flexibility in your vocal, facial and physical skills in order to produce a range of        comic        personas. You will then perform, record and edit the resultant TV/radio sitcom or sketch show. The module also examines aspects of storytelling – theme, narrative structure, character development, comic types, the relationship of character to plot, use of subplots - in relation to the writing        of        comedy drama and situation comedy. The module explores the writing and devising of comedy for recorded media..                  
This module gives you experience of working with ex-broadcast drama scripts, which you will rehearse and record for camera under conditions mirroring industry practice.                  
This module enables you to work on a range of exercises designed to develop your characterisation, vocal expression and tonal variety in performing audio drama. You are introduced to studio equipment for recording and editing and contribute to studio management for the assignment. You are assessed on        the        performance and production of a recorded radio drama script.                  
Through exercises and reflective analysis, you will develop vocal and physical technique and learn to apply interpretative skills to the presentation of dramatic text.                  
The module offers you the chance to explore the theory and practice of playwriting and writing for performance, covering concept, story, structure, characterisation, dialogue, theatricality, rewriting and revising.                  
The module centres on building confidence in singing and developing your vocal agility through a range of exercises and songs performed in solo and group situations. The module introduces basic musical notation, sight singing, and harmony work and you will also experiment practically with microphone        techniques.                  
You will examine fundamental aspects of storytelling: narrative structure, character development, character types, relation of character to plot, the use of subplots. You explore differing conceptual and technical approaches in scriptwriting for theatre, TV and film.                        
You will explore performing pieces to camera, engaging with the audience by `breaking through the lens'; interview technique, the importance of asking pertinent questions, listening and putting an interviewee at ease; voice-over work - the importance of performing with energy, clarity and correct intonation.        You        will        produce a five - eight minute magazine item containing an intro, a walk and talk piece to camera, practical exercise or short demonstration, voice-over , researched interview and outro, targeted at a specific audience and presented in an appropriate style.                  
The module examines the importance of gender in the development of contemporary drama and performance. Gender as a social construction is investigated through a series of key movements that reflected a cultural shift in attitudes to heterosexuality and increased awareness of alternative gendered choices        in        Western culture.                  
This module focuses on the aims and practices of early 20th century avant-garde movements such as Futurism, Dada and Surrealism, and traces their influence on more contemporary performance practices. You will explore and experiment with the practical techniques developed by practitioners of these movements,        in        relation to their challenge to naturalist and realist forms.                  
During this module you are introduced, with reference to specific practitioners, to the theories and practices of physical theatres in Europe, North America and Asia. Practitioners and styles covered may include Tanztheatre and companies such as Gecko, seminal practitioners such as Grotowski, Eugenio        Barba        and Odin Teatret, and Tadashi Suzuki.                  
Approaches to multi-media performance are studied, both theoretically and practically. You are introduced to practical techniques and the module is assessed through a devised, multi-media theatre production.                  
This module investigates developments in the staging of Shakespeare from Elizabethan times to the 21st century. Encompassing both live and recorded performances the module encourages you to address particular approaches to Shakespeare presentation (e.g. political, feminist, intercultural) by exploring        the        works of for example: RSC, Peter Brook, Robert Lepage and Kenneth Branagh.                  
There is also an opportunity for work placement via an Approved Special Project which allows for more emphasis on applied theatre or public engagement projects off campus.                  

Year 3            

You will choose one of the following options:                        

Through class interaction, individual research and tutor supervision, you will be assisted to develop your own comic persona and write original scripts for solo live performance, radio or television. The assignment may consist of a performance at a professional comedy venue or the recording of an original comedy idea for TV or radio.Exercises are then introduced to develop comic performance, including improvisatory games to prepare you for comedy character construction.      
You will study and perform a variety of extracts, designed to develop your skills as a developing professional. Elizabethan, Jacobean, and Restoration works as well as contemporary television and radio scripts will be considered. You will be encouraged to experiment with rhythm and language, and to  apply  characterisation techniques in both naturalistic and non-naturalistic performance styles. Sight-reading skills for audition will be developed. You will thoroughly research the characters, and extracts are rehearsed and directed with the aim of achieving a scale and technical profiency appropriate to  the medium and context of performance: stage, camera recording or audio production. Particular attention is paid to the layering of subtext, psychological details and technical, vocal and physical skills, as well as sensitivity to language, particularly heightened language. You will be individually guided on specific strengths and weaknesses, and strategies suggested for development and improvement.                
This module builds on Multimedia Performance 1 and includes investigations of digital culture and the human-computer-interface. This practical project-led module will culminate in a substantial piece of original devised work by the student either working alone or in a defined group with individually specified roles. Post-performance you will write a critical analysis of your work sited within the contextual framework of multimedia performance.                  
You will examine practices of theatre and performance events that occur in non-traditional theatre spaces and will be introduced to a range of practices and approaches for creating Live Art work. The module will also explore autobiography as primary source material for the development of original Live Art work          
You will examine specific approaches and processes in direction and production for professional broadcast media. This includes pre-production planning, directing actors, and effective decision-making to ensure fluidity and continuity in editing. You will then develop your knowledge and skills as director, lighting camera-operator/director of cinematography, sound recordist or editor.      
This module aims to investigate the historical, social and industrial changes in Documentary production. The module is concerned with the development of competing theories around Documentary. It will address conflicting definitions of Documentary and Mockumentary within a global marketplace and will compare and contrast the range of production strategies adopted  within mainstream TV and cinematic Documentary modes. It will build on the existing production skills from L5, providing students with the opportunity to produce and direct a short Documentary or Mockumentary film.      
Through a professionally geared script development programme, you will create first a premise, then treatment, step outline and first draft for a complete screenplay of at least fifty minutes. In seminars you will discuss ideas for story, character and theme within the group. Treatments, step outlines and the first draft are developed in one-to-one tutorials.      

You will choose one from the following double modules:            

This project is designed to enable you to work collaboratively in a small group to generate, organise and manage your own performance work. The nature of the performance will be dependent on the individual skills and interests of the project group. Each student in the group takes on a performance and production role (e.g. actor, dancer, director, scriptwriter, choreographer, designer, stage-manager). You will undertake research appropriate to your project and keep a Personal Learning Journal in order to facilitate reflection and submit a critical analysis which reflects upon the rehearsal and production process.      
In this project you create two video drama productions under staff supervision. You work in small groups to initiate and produce a major video drama and then crew a second drama. Your work is supported by tutorials and production meetings with a supervisor tutor who also monitors progress in pre- and        post-production,        and        during location shooting.                  

You will choose either Dissertation or Practical Research Project        

You will complete a major piece of independent written work which results from extensive research supervised by a dissertation supervisor. You will undertake your own research and while this will draw on other sources it is expected that the study will display a central thesis of your own construction.                  
PRP is an opportunity for you to develop your own topic or area of practice, conceptual framework, and method of investigation. It may represent a vocational or career-focused endeavour or act as a springboard for postgraduate study. Projects could include: a devised performance; an original script - comic or dramatic - an installation, multi-media performance or a directing project.      

Please note that it may not be possible to deliver the full list of options every year as this will depend on factors such as how many students choose a particular option. Exact modules may also vary in order to keep content current. When accepting your offer of a place to study on this programme, you should be aware that not all optional modules will be running each year. Your tutor will be able to advise you as to the available options on or before the start of the programme. Whilst the University tries to ensure that you are able to undertake your preferred options, it cannot guarantee this.

Entry Requirements

Qualification Entry requirements
GCSE English and Maths GCSE grade C
UCAS tariff points 112 points
BTEC National Diploma DDM
BTEC Higher National Diploma Media and Performing Arts subjects with relevant experience may be considered for 2nd Year entry
Foundation Degree If you have a relevant Foundation Degree, you can join the course at year 2
Scottish Highers 112 points
Irish Leaving Certificate 112 points
International Baccalaureate 31 points, 5 or 6 (Higher level) in a relevant subject

Salford Alternative Entry Scheme (SAES)

We welcome applications from students who may not meet the stated entry criteria but who can demonstrate their ability to pursue the course successfully. Once we have received your application we will assess it and recommend it for SAES if you are an eligible candidate.

There are two different routes through the Salford Alternative Entry Scheme and applicants will be directed to the one appropriate for their course. Assessment will either be through a review of prior learning or through a formal test.

What makes a strong personal statement

A strong personal statement articulates a candidate’s interest and experience in the area of acting/drama/performance. It shows she or he can articulate his or her previous academic and/or performance practice experience. It also allows the candidate to demonstrate an appropriate level of independence and maturity necessary to engage with learning in a higher education environment.  

What makes a strong audition

In a strong audition, candidates exhibit an ability to adapt and respond to stimulus and potentially new or unfamiliar approaches in relation to acting/drama/performance. The candidate will show an ability to use voice and physicality effectively. A strong audition also highlights a candidate’s ability to work sensitively and co-operatively with others and to sustain energy, concentration and focus throughout all stages of the audition process.

English Language Requirements

International applicants will be required to show a proficiency in English. An IELTS score of 6.0 (no element below 5.5) is proof of this.

Applicant profile

This course will appeal to both performers and writers, to those interested in live comedy as much as broadcast comedy. It is one thing to be considered funny by your family and friends, and quite another to practice the craft of comedy. Comedy Studies, as a broad field, will be of interest to people fascinated by human behaviour, by what makes people laugh and why, by sociology, psychology and the performance of identity. There is an expectation on this course that you will develop the ability to articulate ideas related to comedy in extended writing as well as performance, and that there will be a dialogue between these two practices.

Fees and Funding

Fees

Type of Study Fee
Full-time £9250 per year
Full-time International £14,400

Additional Costs

You should also consider further costs which may include books and plays (from £100), stationery, printing, binding and general subsistence on trips and visits.

Scholarships & Bursaries

We offer awards to help you study including:

  • Vice-Chancellor's Excellence Scholarship
  • Salford Student Bursary

For more information please see our funding section.

Teaching

You will learn through various teaching methods. Practical classes will furnish you with a range of approaches and techniques for performance creation and will help you develop your performance skills and, where appropriate, production skills. Lectures and seminars will apply critical theory to live and mediated performance forms and methodologies. You will undertake project-based work including major performance projects and you will attend workshops with visiting professional practitioners.

Assessment

  • Practical 60 – 70%
  • Essay 25%
  • Presentation 5 – 10%

Employability

On completion you may go on to perform, direct, write, research or produce. You may also go on to be a teacher or workshop leader, or go on to postgraduate education.

Many of our graduates have progressed to employment in an impressive range of arts, entertainment and media organisations. These include the BBC; ITV; The National Theatre; The Lowry, Salford; The Green Room Theatre, Manchester; Hull Truck Theatre Company; The Royal Exchange Theatre; and several Theatre in Education (TIE) companies. Salford has a reputation for providing the industry with highly skilled and dynamic graduates, whose names can regularly be seen on television and theatre credits, both as performers and 'behind the scenes' creatives. Many graduates also go into careers in teaching or as community dancers or workshop leaders or on to further postgraduate education.

Our graduates appear on TV and theatre credits both as performers and technicians. This includes leading performance roles and crew in numerous programmes for ITV BBC and Channel 4 television.

Recent graduates have worked in production roles at Granada and the BBC in such projects as Island at War, Hustle, The Jeremy Kyle Show, Coronation Street and others. Other graduates have appeared successfully in front of the camera: Emma Atkins Emmerdale, Chris Bisson Coronation Street and East is East and Kaye Wragg No Angels. Other successful Salford graduates include Christopher Eccleston Doctor Who, Maxine Peake Shameless and Peter Kay Phoenix Nights and many more. Stage and TV success has come to comedian Jason Manford while Ellie Meigan Rose, Emma Hartley-Miller and Rachel Brogan have enjoyed success on stage at the Lowry, Royal Exchange and Royal Court. Recent graduates have won prestigious NSDF (National Student Drama Festival) awards.

Yet other graduates have gone to successful careers as video producers, marketing and commercial advertising executives, as radio broadcasters and editors. In recent years a number of graduates have successfully set up their own theatre/performance companies.

In addition to developing your performance skills and techniques and giving you opportunities and contacts for professional development and employment, this degree will also give you many transferable skills which are highly sought by employers. These include collaboration and team-working; communication and negotiation skills, time management and organisation; and presentation skills. These will equip you to work in many different professional fields, as well as in the arts.

Career Prospects

On completion you may go on to perform, direct, write, research or produce. You may also go on to be a comedian or a teacher of performance or workshop leader, a comedy producer or editor, or go on to postgraduate education.

Many of our graduates have progressed to employment in an impressive range of arts, entertainment and media organisations. These include the BBC; ITV; The National Theatre; The Lowry, Salford; The Green Room Theatre, Manchester; Hull Truck Theatre Company; The Royal Exchange Theatre; and several Theatre in Education (TIE) companies. Salford has a reputation for providing the industry with highly skilled and dynamic graduates, whose names can regularly be seen on television and theatre credits, both as performers and 'behind the scenes' creatives. Many graduates also go into careers in teaching or as community dancers or workshop leaders or on to further postgraduate education.

Our graduates appear on TV and theatre credits both as performers and technicians. This includes leading performance roles and crew in numerous programmes for ITV, BBC and Channel 4 television.

Recent graduates have worked in production roles at Granada and the BBC in such projects as Island at War, Hustle, The Jeremy Kyle Show, Coronation Street and others. Other graduates have appeared successfully in front of the camera: Emma Atkins Emmerdale, Chris Bisson Coronation Street and East is East and Kaye Wragg No Angels. Other successful Salford graduates include Christopher Eccleston Doctor Who, Maxine Peake Shameless and Peter Kay Phoenix Nights and many more. Stage and TV success has come to comedian Jason Manford while Ellie Meigan Rose, Emma Hartley-Miller and Rachel Brogan have enjoyed success on stage at the Lowry, Royal Exchange and Royal Court. Recent graduates have won prestigious NSDF (National Student Drama Festival) awards.

Yet other graduates have gone to successful careers as video producers, marketing and commercial advertising executives, as radio broadcasters and editors. In recent years a number of graduates have successfully set up their own theatre/performance companies.

In addition to developing your performance skills and techniques and giving you opportunities and contacts for professional development and employment, this degree will also give you many transferable skills which are highly sought by employers. These include collaboration and team-working; communication and negotiation skills, time management and organisation; and presentation skills. These will equip you to work in many different professional fields, as well as in the arts.

Links with Industry

You will be taught by practitioners who have worked with the UK's leading companies including comedy performance companies such as Ridiculusmus, Lipservice and Comedy Sportz ; with writers and performers and producers on BBC TV and Radio, ITV, Channel 4, for instance one of the writers for 8 out of 10 Cats (Channel 4) and with traditional and experimental comedy performers such as Lucho Guzman, an expert in clowning, from Columbia.

Further Study

MA Digital Performance

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