Comedy Writing and Performance
School of Arts and Media
September 2019Next enrolment
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.
- 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
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 a video drama production, including camera, lighting, editing and sound.
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.
Performance in Context
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.
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.
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.
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.
Radio Comedy / Video Comedy Project
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.
Choose three from:
Comedy Writing and Performance
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.
Acting For 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Radio Drama: Performance and Production
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.
Writing for Performance
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.
Introduction to Scriptwriting (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.
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.
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 or Applied Practice 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.
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.
Practical Research Project
This project 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.
You will also choose one of the following options:
Applied Comedy Practice
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 proficiency 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
Creative Techniques for Video Drama Production
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.
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.
You will choose one from the following double modules:
Comedy Project (40 credits)
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.
Video Project (40 credits)
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.
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
School of Arts and Media
The School of Arts and Media is the largest School at the University of Salford with more than 4,000 creative students. Across sites at MediaCityUK and the University's Peel Park campus, we offer a huge variety of courses, from fashion image making and styling, television and radio, creative writing and music to journalism, animation, design and performance.
This broad range of disciplines offers enhanced opportunities for specialist and interdisciplinary study, including collaborative work across subject areas.
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.
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 and Maths at grade C/level 4 or above (or equivalent).
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 60% 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/EU||2019||£9,250per year|
|Full-time international||2019||£14,820per year|
|Part-time||2019||Your annual fee will be calculated pro rata to the full-time fee according to the number of credits you are studying.|
You should also consider further costs which may include books and plays (from £100), stationery, printing, binding and general subsistence on trips and visits.
All set? Let's apply
Course ID W890