The random witterings of Jonathan Morris, writer.

Monday, 14 June 2021

Good Company

An overdue blog! I said I’d blog about my new production company, Average Romp, ‘next week’, and that was a month ago. The explanation is that I seamlessly graduated from thinking I should blog about it to thinking I already had.

The story so far. Last year, I wrote a radio sitcom script called Dick Dixon in the 21st Century. It was largely for my own amusement, as I knew as I was writing it that it was too risqué for the delicate sensibilities of the BBC, and there aren’t really any other outlets for radio comedy. Nevertheless, I was keen that it should be as good as possible, so I emailed it out to willing friends for their thoughts. And one of them, Toby Hadoke, said, “Well, why don’t we just make it ourselves?”

And so, eventually, we did. I produced and Toby directed. Between us we got together a cast of stars of comedy and science-fiction; Kieran Hodgson, Allyson June Smith, Terry Molloy, Dan Starkey, Jez Fielder and Sooz Kempner. David Darlington agreed to do the sound design, Darrell MacLain to do the music, and Clayton Hickman to do the artwork (with CGI elements by Anthony Lamb). We recorded it using Cleanfeed, and then it went through a professional post-production process, being edited down to a lean 30 minutes.

Now, to do all this, I needed a production company. So early this year I set up Average Romp, named in tribute to the glibbest phrase used by comedy critics. This was just in case things went any further. And now there is a website, which gives you links to listen to the pilot episode of Dick Dixon and pre-order two more episodes which I am currently writing (between work commitments). It’s at

So the main reason for recording and releasing Dick Dixon was just to get the sitcom made and out there, rather than existing only as a script on my hard-drive that would be read by half a dozen people. But, of course, there were other reasons. I wanted to have a go at producing, to prove to myself (if to no-one else) that I could do it and that, in particular, make a show better by being part of the editing process. Toby wanted to prove he could direct. And, it turns out, while there was a pretty steep learning curve and mistakes were made along the way, I think we achieved what we set out to do. We didn’t know how to do it before, we know how to do it now.

And the plan was always to do more. So I set up a Kickstarter to fund two more Dick Dixon episodes. In retrospect, I’m not sure this was the best thing to do, for two reasons. Firstly, with a show that’s an unknown quantity you need time to build up a following; on the other hand, I didn’t want to leave a gap between releasing the first episode for free and giving people the opportunity to pre-order two more. But maybe I should have left a gap of a month or so to build up a following first? I also didn’t realise how quick and easy it was to upload stuff to streaming services, which I should have done sooner. As I said, a learning curve.

The other reason is that Kickstarters usually work by giving people incentives for making larger pledges; all sorts of things like t-shirts, autographed scripts, shout-outs in the credits, having characters named after them and so on. Now, this is just my view, but I’m not really keen on that sort of thing. It is fine for amateur projects and charity efforts, but there is no way I could do something like “Pledge £50 and you’ll get a Dick Dixon T-shirt” without feeling like I was ripping people off.

You see, I was – and remain – totally of the view that Average Romp should be run as a professional company and a big part of that is giving value for money and not relying on the generosity of people who are willing to pay over the odds. So I set a price of £5 for two more episodes; basically, what I thought was a reasonable price to charge. Of course, this assumes there are enough punters out there for a production to cover its costs at that price; another aspect of the Kickstarter was to see what sort of market there was. And, I’ll admit, for a show that is an unknown quantity, it’s really tough to get people even to check it out, never mind to pre-order more. That remains the challenge!

But I am undeterred. I do think there is a market out there for audio comedy, working on the basis of putting out ‘pilot’ episodes for free on streaming services and suchlike, with people paying to download additional episodes. After all, there are companies doing this for drama, horror and science-fiction; if it works for those genres, why not scripted comedy? If anything, it should be a more attractive proposition, because if you find a sitcom funny, you’ll listen to it more than once.

The other reason why I think it is worth doing is that the BBC are doing less and less scripted radio comedy, so there is going to be a gap in the market which some company is going to be filling in ten years’ time, and it might as well be mine! This is also because, thanks to lockdown, more and more actors have professional home-recording equipment, so it is possible to produce broadcast-quality radio comedy and drama without having to go to the expense of hiring a studio. I have nothing against studios, but if you take that cost out of the equation producing audio comedy becomes much cheaper, so you can still be profitable at a lower asking price (or at a premium asking price for a smaller market). So my hope is that there’s a viable business in this. It is inevitable that more and more radio stuff will be remotely-recorded, until it becomes the standard way of doing scripted comedy (apart from shows requiring a studio audience, which is a whole different kettle of fish).

Now, you may wonder, is this just an exercise in making Jonny’s great unmade comedy scripts? Well, as worthwhile an exercise as that would be, that’s not the end of it. As it is incredibly difficult to get people to even check out shows that are unknown quantities, Average Romp’s next project will almost certainly be an adaptation of an out-of-copyright work by a famous writer with as many famous voices in it as we can afford.

But beyond that, what I really want to do is to make (and sell for enormous profit) sitcoms by other writers. I know I’m not the only one to have great unmade comedy scripts. I’ve already asked a few writers I know to look through their hard drives for suitable shows and I’ll keep on widening the net until I strike gold.

What I’m looking for are, basically, sitcoms that are laugh-out-loud funny, ideally with no more than four main characters, ideally not science fiction, ideally not spoofs. I’m also looking for stuff which is more contemporary in style and post-watershed in content than you get on BBC Radios 2 and 4. The reason why I say ‘laugh-out-loud’ funny is that, with streaming, if a sitcom isn’t funny in the first 30 seconds then people will stop listening. And the characters should be a mix of genders, ages, backgrounds etc.

So consider this a heads-up. If you’re reading this and you have a great unmade sitcom that you have already written and which you own 100% (i.e. it wasn’t commissioned and hasn’t been optioned) then Average Romp would like to hear from you. The only other guideline is to only send the first page; this is because of the above rule about needing to be laugh-out-loud funny in the first 30 seconds. If the first page makes me laugh I’ll ask to see more. If it doesn’t, I won’t.

The email address is Please don’t include any details about yourself in a covering letter as I am not interested in anything other than whether the script makes me laugh. Also, the usual rule applies that by sending in one page of a script, you are not gonna turn around and accuse Average Romp of nicking your ideas if we commission a sitcom from someone else which has a vaguely similar premise. It’s very common for two people to come up with the same basic idea; it’s very rare for them both to be good at writing it.

I think that’s everything. To get an idea of what I find funny, visit and download the pilot episode of Dick Dixon in the 21st Century. On the various streaming services there’s also a podcast called Do You See What We Did There? where Toby and I discuss the project, which you may also like to check out.

Wow, this turned out to be a long blog post. Dominic Cummings, eat your heart out.