Friday, March 23, 2007

A funny thing happened on the way to graduation

Heard the one about the students who shut themselves away in a basement for two months without food or water or sleep, just so they could build the best comedy website they'd ever seen?

They almost died laughing.

Boom boom.

Okay, I won't make it on the comedy circuit. But the students just might. Suchsmallportions.com was the brainchild of Josh Widdicombe and fellow MA students at City University in London. What began as an online magazine project with Yours Truly the guiding light quickly gathered pace and became one of the most professional and commercially promising sites I've seen in seven years of teaching.

It's certainly the first one I've puffed and, if you follow this link, you'll see why. It's packed with news, reviews, quirky podcasts and clips from smokey clubs. There are even some adverts starting to appear. When I joined them to swig champagne from the bottle a few days before the launch, they were already 43p in profit.

Most pleasing for me was the way in which, from the day we met to brainstorm ideas in a classroom, they were thinking commercially. No hobbies, no indulgences, no 'how can I get the guy with glasses to upload my 3,000-word travel essay (think I'm joking?), just a fresh approach to a subject that's ripe for the web.

OK, so they did most of their thinking in the pub, but some - such as design guru Aaron Davis (guy with glasses) did spend up to 14 hours a day underground and PR mastro Anna Winston (girl with a smile) did get get out there and spread the word on the club scene. One promoter even compared their style to early NME which chuffed them to bits.

One of the best features is the Showcase section which allows comedians to submit clips of their act with a promise that they'll appear live if they're funny enough. The ones there so far a worth a chuckle and it deserves to gather pace.

All in all, it's quite endearing to see the surprise on young faces when they present a really quite good idea and get a really positive response. I just hope they stick with it all the way.

Who knows, they could be laughing all the way to the bank.

3 comments:

Shane Richmond said...

Hi Richard,

Just spent an hour looking round the site and I'm impressed.

The comics written about - Kevin Eldon, Mark Watson and Lucy Porter - are all people I want to read about, the writing is solid and the use of YouTube videos is excellent.

If I could offer a little constructive criticism: I'm not keen on the black background, I don't think it works for professional sites but that's just a personal opinion. I'd integrate the blog into the main site if possible and think about allowing comments on the articles - especially the opinion pieces.

And I have to take issue with Josh Widdecombe's criticism of Bill Hicks, particularly since the YouTube clip embedded in it is of a Bill Hicks impersonator!

Not one good joke? Watch his bit about fundamentalist Christians and say that: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BTzNLhxPzjo

No clever insights? Name me another comedian who can come even close to Hicks's 'just a ride' speech, which sends shivers down my spine every time I hear it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BTzNLhxPzjo

Richard Burton said...

An hour? So, that's why you know so much about websites. I, too, wondered about the black background but decided to lighten up on my usual Sarah Beeney 'magnolia canvass' rule as they seemed frighteningly focused. Hopefully, there'll be more to smile about as time goes on.

Over to you, chaps. . .

Aaron Davies said...

Hi Shane

Thanks for the comments. We felt that a black background fits the look and feel of the site best - we're eager to get away from the corporate and, yes, over-professional look of a lot of sites.

The site is still very much at the early stages of development and the ability to leave comments, del.icio.us and digg buttons and other features are on their way. We wanted to get the content up there as soon as possible becasue that's the strength of the site.

Feel free to leave comments on our blog about the Bill Hicks peice w'd love to hear your take on him. Josh would love to hear them...

Aaron (The man with the glasses...)