My Bob Monkhouse Joke Book

Many moons ago I once read that Bob Monkhouse always kept a book with him wherever he went that housed all of the jokes he’d ever written, and whenever a new one struck him he’d jot it down in this book. It was a one-stop shop book that had all of his jokes, ideas and notes in one place. As soon as I read that I immediately thought what a great idea that is. At that time I was just getting into writing and was always coming up with new ideas so I had scraps of paper here, there and everywhere with the various ideas on and I could never keep tabs on them all, so when I read that I took inspiration of it and purchased one for myself. Not an exact replica though – Bob’s were ring bound, maroon books – mine was from my local poundshop but hey, we’ve got to start somewhere!

I bought the book in 2004 at a time when I was still studying at Sixth Form with no real clue what I wanted to do with myself. I’d written one little stage play and was working on my first ‘amazing, best thing that’s ever happened to British TV’ sitcom 42 Slumber Road as well as developing several other ideas that I had. I was naive with some of the ideas – particularly 42 Slumber Road which turned out to be a disaster and made an acid bath seem more appealing than reading even one scene of the script – but the more I jotted my ideas down in one place the more I developed because I was able to flick through pages chronologically and see the evolution of an idea. It was a book I used to develop existing ideas as well as create new ones. My intention was for it to be for everything – every idea I had, no matter what it was or when it was I would write it in the book and as I would return to it later and later I would be able to see what ideas struck me time after time and which ones just faded into the pages.

Now in 2012, after over eight years of writing in this book – I’ve finished it. There are no more pages to ink. Now you might be thinking that eight years in one book must mean the book is absolutely huge but it isn’t; it’s a 400 page wired book (actually I guess that makes it sound like I haven’t done much work in the last eight years!) that has every page inked front and back, beginning to end with (mostly) mind vomit but a lot of it shows the evolution of the ideas I’ve had. This blog post has come about because I’m actually quite nostalgic about finishing it – since doing so I’ve flicked through it from beginning to end and it’s just amazing to see the progress I’ve made in my writing capabilities over the last eight years (and trust me there’s many more years of progress to come; I don’t think you ever stop learning and you shouldn’t because the moment you do it becomes something you no longer enjoy doing). It’s great to see the passion with which I wrote about some of the ideas that have now faded into obscurity and are no longer are a project to be pursued. The Common Room is a huge example of this. That idea lasted in the book  from the beginning in 2004 to the end in 2009 when I had received a gentle rejection from the BBC stating they had no interest in picking up the script (a copy of which is stapled in the pages of the book). There is so much work in the book that shows the evolution of the idea, the characters, the dynamics and the direction of the series, and though it never came to anything I am so glad that it’s documented because it shows me the hard work I put into the idea and how in the end some things are just never meant to be. There are beginnings of scripts that I’ve started to hand write, many brainstorms, quotes that inspire me, essays on film, tonnes of research, character breakdowns and much more. Some ideas that began their inception are now in full swing so it will be interesting to document in the next book where they go (if anywhere) as well as see the evolution of other ideas that will hopefully one day become something.

So though my ‘joke book’ doesn’t feature any jokes (except maybe the car crash that is 42 Slumber Road) it runs on the same principle of documenting all ideas in one place as well as showing the evolution of a wannabe writer. And if all that it comes to in the end is me showing this book to my Grandkids saying, ‘I always wanted to be a filmmaker, and though I never made it I can still fondly recall my hard work and attempts through this book.’ Then hopefully that will inspire them or others to work hard for what they want. They’re not having any of my Werther’s Original’s though, I ain’t going to be that kind of Granddad!



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