Only an Excuse?


chick young

You’ve put in the comedy work all year.  Your comedy muscle is taught, every sinew rippling with comedy power.  Your eye’s good, the work feels sharp. The observations are accurate and resonate. By the time the call comes for material, months before the show’s Hogmanay broadcast, you’re in good shape.

This would’ve been my twentieth Only an Excuse? (not including a World Cup and Frank McAvennie specials). My first gag, was a ‘Chick Young’ in 1996. It was around the time Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic was more a destination than a business plan and generally the final resting place of most of his Atlantic hot air balloon catastrophes.

My gag had Chick say something like ‘Virgin boss Richard Branson is considering buying Partick Thistle as he’s used to handling plummeting balloons.’ It got a good laugh and I was hooked.


By now you’ve loads of gags about the Tartan Army, SNP, Ronny Deila, Craig Whyte, Alex Salmond. You’ve a few popular culture parodies too. There’s loads of Frank McAvennie lines and my favourite, Charlie Nicholas, mixing his metaphors. You’ve put in the hours, many hours. You bring your A Game and the feedback seems good.

A few weeks ago the manager (producer in this case) had to tell me I hadn’t made the team (final cut). It’s the biggest game of the year in Scottish comedy/ football shows and there are so many writers contributing that many fall through the script. For this year’s Only an Excuse? I was one of them.

It hurts when you fail to make the cut because both you and your producer know the hard hours you’ve spent. I feel bad for distant family and friends, especially those you don’t see often who are always watching for your name in the credits and I feel like I’m letting them down. It’s also a way of letting people know what you quietly get on with the rest of the year. But that’s showbiz.

Whatever anyone’s opinion of the show, most wouldn’t believe the amount of writers who submit material. I’ve been lucky to only have missed out around three times in 20 years. Only an Excuse? is an institution which has had to evolve over recent years. All I do is write for it, I’ve nothing to do with how it’s produced or the politics when the team take it to the BBC. I do know it’s far more difficult than it’s ever been from a legal perspective to get things on compared to the old days when it was more hard hitting and everyone was fair game. Heaven forfend if someone is offended by a joke.

I’m a still a bit annoyed just now but when the call comes to start again in late summer/early autumn my competitive side will kick in and I’ll be competing to make the cut. I don’t know anything else. I like words and I love comedy.

I know people are interested in process and structure and have added some of the ones that got away below. I’ve used a PDF file as there were formatting problems trying use the original Word docs.

Good luck to the team and Happy New Year.





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