Comedy Writing and Performance
Salford School of Arts, Media and Creative Technology
In a nutshell
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 enabling users to create and share their comedic content with a global audience.
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.
In the most recent National Student Survey, overall student satisfaction on this course was 100% (University of Salford analysis of unpublished NSS 2020 data).
Learn practical skills and techniques in both comedy writing and performance
Develop your own comedic ‘voice’, by studying with highly-skilled academics and high-profile industry practitioners
Learn how to create innovative comedy and present it for public performance
You can also find helpful FAQs, learn more about student life at Salford or explore all our Performance courses. Continue reading to understand more about this BA (Hons) Comedy Writing and Performance course.
This is for you if...
You are either a performer or a writer
You have an interest in live comedy and broadcast comedy
You are fascinated by human behaviour, and what makes people laugh and why
All about the course
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.
In the second year, this course shares modules with students studying Theatre and Performance Practice and Media and Performance.
As a Comedy Writing and 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.
The module combines both technical and creative aspects of media production as you develop a broad awareness of the range of skills required for video production, including camera, lighting, editing and sound – imperative to contemporary theatre technology.
Comedy Acting Methods
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.
Acting for Recorded Media
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.
Introduction to Comedy Improvisation
The course is taught through weekly workshops and seminars that identify and develop fundamental comedy improvisation skills and storytelling. This module allows you to explore introductory comedy improvisation techniques to be used in solo and ensemble comedy performance. Both in weekly classes and during independent study you 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.
Critical and Textual Studies
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.
Performance in Context
Provides the historical framework to examine the development of performance from the late 19th century onward. Movements like Realism, Expressionism, Surrealism and Dada are examined in relation to other movements and across performance disciplines. Small group seminars will support the lectures.
Comedy Performance and Media
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.
Comedy Writing and Performance
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.
Radio Comedy Project / Video Project
As a core module, you will choose to undertake either a Radio Comedy Project or a Video Project
The Radio Comedy 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 assignment.
The Video Project allows you to gain experience of the disciplines of shooting as part of a team, taking a specific production and performance role. You will develop your own script ideas and explore approaches to shooting and editing comedy for film and video.
Choose four from:
You will engage in exercise and games, working with and without red nose, to explore key clown concepts of: play, complicity, bafflement, major, minor and ‘the flop’. Practical tactics and strategies for generating laughter are explored through the development of physical skills such as falling, rolling, ‘acting drunk’, stage fighting, double-takes, and tricks with objects. The module concludes with a solo or group performance in a public space.
Acting for the Camera
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.
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.
Shakespeare In Performance
You explore Shakespeare’s plays through performing them and through deconstructing performances of them. You also enjoy the opportunity here of working with students on other degree programmes.
This module enables you to work on a range of exercises designed to develop your characterisation, vocal expression and tonal variety in performing audio. You are introduced to studio equipment for recording and editing and contribute to studio management for the assignment. .
Introduction to Screenwriting (Fiction)
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.
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.
Introduction to Multi-Media Performance
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.
Approved Special Project
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.
Comedy Improvisation Techniques
Following on from the Comedy Acting Methods module in your first year, 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.
Theatre and Communities
The module provides students with a practical knowledge and theoretical understanding of the uses, applications and value of drama and theatre as an aspect of social engagement and personal empowerment outside of the conventional theatre environment. The module explores the history of the 'form', and key practitioners and areas of contemporary practice. Practitioners/companies may include Cardboard Citizens, 7.84, TiPP, Geese Theatre UK, and Clean Break
You will learn skills of analysing and writing plays for the stage. The module covers history of playwriting, an introduction to the playwriting industry and the development of skills in areas such as concept, story, structure, characterisation and dialogue. You will have the chance to work with professional playwrights in this course and write a play for your assessment.
Integrated Production Skills
This module develops the skills and approaches introduced in first year production modules, offering the opportunity to further explore camera, editing, lighting and sound recording.
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.
This module aids you in beginning to research and develop ideas for your Dissertation or Practical Research Project for semester two. You will learn key research skills and be supervised in developing your ideas in order to create a strong base for the Dissertation or practical project.
Dissertation or Practical Research Project
You will complete either a major piece of written work or undertake a practical-based research project.
You will also choose two of the following options:
Documentary to Mockumentary
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 your second year, providing students with the opportunity to produce and direct a short documentary or mockumentary film.
Scriptwriting for TV and 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.
Gender, Sexuality and Performance
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 reflects a cultural shift in attitudes to heterosexuality and increased awareness of alternative gendered choices in Western culture.
New Trends in Theatre and Performance
The module explores the spectrum of new trends in performance. Practices may include Live Art, multimedia/digital performance; immersive theatre; headphone performance; pervasive gaming; one-to-one performance; You will examine the work of current practitioners and will focus on how relations of space and place and audience and performer are being reconfigured and redefined in the 21st century. You will then choose an area of practice to explore through the creation of a solo or collaborative performance piece.
You will work on a range of exercises and texts, which are aimed at both extending your range of characterisation for radio and developing detail and complexity in vocal performance delivery. Technical workshops examine studio operation including recording levels, mixing, spot and pre-recorded effects, and you work in teams to record and produce radio drama pieces.
Renaissance Theatre Acting
You work with a range of texts, including Elizabethan, Jacobean, and Restoration works. In practical workshops you are encouraged to experiment with rhythm and language, and to apply characterisation and physicalisation techniques within the context of both naturalistic and non-naturalistic performance styles.
Through class interaction, individual research and tutor supervision, you are encouraged to develop your own comic voice and persona and to devise and write original ideas toward solo live performance. A visiting professional comedian will be invited in to give feedback on the work before it is performed and/or recorded.
You will analyse, research, rehearse and perform a number of television drama scripts – and work in depth on a specific character from one of them. Rehearsals of the extracts are videotaped and critically reviewed in seminar sessions. Particular attention is paid to the layering of subtext, psychological details and technical skills.
You will explore the key elements that characterise comedy performance and the specific cultural and political contexts that influence scripting and “persona”. Intensive practical workshops, to develop comedy characters (personas) and short routines culminate in recorded in-house performances. Each workshop contains elements of scripting work and improvisation, including performance skills to develop vocal diction, range, expression and tone.
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.
What will I be doing?
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.
- Project-based work including major performance projects
- Workshops with visiting professional practitioners
Assessment is through a range of methods including:
- In-class performance presentations
- Publicly performed theatre projects
SALFORD SCHOOL OF ARTS, MEDIA AND CREATIVE TECHNOLOGY
All our Performance courses are delivered by the Salford School of Arts, Media and Creative Technology.
Our School and University have strong and long-lasting relationships with local and national industry.
Once you graduate with us, you’ll join a thriving alumni community in Greater Manchester and beyond.
At our £55 million New Adelphi building, you will have access to broadcast standard TV acting and presenting studios (including green-screen), a radio drama studio, post production video and audio facilities, state of the art location cameras (including 4K) and excellent live performance spaces including purpose-built flexible theatres.
What about after uni?
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.
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.
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. Our staff have also worked with and as writers and performers and producers on BBC TV and Radio, ITV, and Channel 4 (for instance, one of the writers for 8 out of 10 Cats) and with traditional and experimental comedy performers such as Lucho Guzman, an expert in clowning from Columbia.
What you need to know
Applicants will need to pass an 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.
Please note: The entry criteria below are related to entry onto this course in the 2021/22 academic year.
English Language requirements
International applicants will be required to show a proficiency in English. An IELTS score of 6.0, with no element below 5.5, is proof of this.
English Language at grade C/level 4 or above (or equivalent). Maths at grade C/4 or above (or equivalent) is preferred but not essential.
You must fulfil our GCSE entry requirements as well as one of the requirements listed below.
112 points including Performing Arts or similar subject
UCAS tariff points
112 points including Performing Arts or similar subject
BTEC National Diploma
DMM including Performing Arts or similar subject
Access to HE
112 UCAS Tariff Points from a Level 3 QAA approved Access programme. Must include media/performance
112 points including Performing Arts or similar subject
Irish Leaving Certificate
112 points including Performing Arts or similar subject
31 points, 5 or 6 (Higher level) in a relevant subject
Pass Diploma with 72% overall
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.
|Type of study||Year||Fees|
|Full-time home||2020/21||£9,250per year|
|Full-time international||2020/21||£15,240per year|
|Full-time home||2021/22||£9,250per year|
|Full-time international||2021/22||£15600per year|
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 for international students
If you are a high-achieving international student, you may be eligible for one of our scholarships.
We have a range of scholarships available for students applying for courses in 2020-2021 and 2021-2022. Our Global Gold Excellence Scholarship is worth £3,500 and our Global Silver Excellence Scholarship is worth £3,000 - both are available for students studying in our 2021/22 intakes.
We also offer the Salford International Excellence Scholarship which offers up to £5,000 discount on tuition fees. As this is a prestigious award we have a limited number of these scholarships available.
See the full range of our International Scholarships.
All set? Let's apply
Course ID W890
Interested in starting university in September 2021? Book your place on our next Open Day.