Mock the Week has writers. There, I've said it. You can all go "Ah ha!" at me. Of course, the writers' job isn't to come up with jokes for the performers (or at least, if it is, they'd let me have some of that gold wouldn't they? You mean to tell me that I sit around in the afternoon, all on my own in that dressing room, struggling to pull two gags together and next door the panelists are being spoon fed the funnies? I mean, how harsh is that? Those greedy bastards.)
No, the job of the writers on Mock The Week is to supply the performers with fresh challenges each week like the headliner letters, say, or the "answer" in "If This Is The Answer..." and, most importantly, the scene ideas for the now legendary Scenes We'd Like to See. This is not a trivial task.
As we always say here in Comedyland, picking a good topic is like devising a sufficiently solvable system of linear equations! By which I mean, of course, that you can't give too much information - it'll restrict you too much. But equally, you can't have a completely blank canvas, because then the round becomes unfocused and bitty.
To illustrate, let's have a look at some of the samples recently sent in by a new writer on the show, who we'll call Joe. See if you can spot the mistakes "Joe" made in some of his suggestions.
Topic 1: Things
Rejected for being too short. And too general.
Topic 2: Things you wouldn't say
A witty revision of the first idea, nixed for still being not really an idea at all.
Topic 3: Things you wouldn't say to a dentist and his wife (a teacher) if you met them on holiday in Greece
Rejected for being too specific.
Topic 4: Things you wouldn't say to the prophet Mohammed
We're not idiots Joe. Rejected.
Topic 5: Things not to say to your own scrotum
Often we've turned a chat about politics into a discussion of our own genitals but it rarely goes the other way. Rejected.
Topic 6: Things not to say to the Deaf
Topic 7: Things you wouldn't say in Binary
Topic 8: Things not to say to the mistress of Chester A. Arthur, 21st President of the United States
Please, Joe, make an effort. This is Mock The Week, not QI.
Topic 9: Things not to say when faced with the incomparable scale of the universe, stretching across the myriad miles of infinite black, a giant cloth of darkness against which the miniscule points of light are no sure harbour of hope or life or protection against the abyss
Actually, not a bad one, but difficult to fit onto the screen without making it really hard for the people at home to read. But you're getting somewhere with this, Joe. Keep going
Topic 10: Things you wouldn't say on the set of an Iceland commercial with Kerry Katona