Category Archives: writing

Behold, the desolation of man!

1. And lo, the devil did weep. For the halls of hell ran empty. And he was alone. The evil from below overran the ground above and was free. 2. And Man himself could not weep. They writhed as animals in the mud and fields. 3. God had forsaken the Lands. His all-seeing eye did blind itself with scorn, and gazed upon the Lands no more. 4. Strange voices were heard in every corner, but They could not see whom was speaking. The women and children gave themselves up to darkness when they no longer had the strength to carry on. 5. Soon, the Men too had lost their wills. Each took his turn to fill the grave. 6. The last Man said a prayer to the Heavens: “Lord, forgive us. We knew not what we were doing. We sought but merriment, and did not mean for damnation.” He shed a tear, and leapt into the Depths. 7. The World was dead.

Sketch: Hipster Ken

The following is a sketch I wrote for Newsjack that of course didn’t get used. It’s pretty stupid. But it’s Ken Day so I thought I’d share it again here. Enjoy?

INTRO

Toy news now. Yes, we’re really doing Toy News now apparently. It’s not like the country’s future as one of the world’s biggest political groups is being under threat right now or anything, we’ve got bigger things on our mind.

At the New York Toy Fair, Mattel have unveiled their latest Barbie doll set, which is fully Wi-Fi enabled, features voice recognition technology, and even has wireless lightbulbs. This has sparked debate amongst toy fans as it now means that Barbie has a better life than me!

But for all the advancements in Barbie’s modern life, is her boyfriend Ken getting left behind? We smuggled a microphone-equipped Barbie into an executive meeting to find out.

EXEC 1

This new Barbie sure is something. She’s got all the latest gadgets and gizmos, and each doll has its own Twitter account. And if there’s one thing that kids love, it’s toys featuring unnecessary technological innovations.

EXEC 2

Yes, this is all well and good. But what about the Ken doll? We haven’t updated him since the 80s. I mean, he still hasn’t even got genitals!

EXEC 1

No need to worry about that. We’ve had someone on the case. Send in, Gok Wan!

GOK

Hello darlings! I’ve got some great ideas to bring Ken right up to the 21st Century. First up, the name. Nobody cool is called Ken anymore.

EXEC 1

I’m called Ken!

GOK

Exactly. So we’ve changed the name, and he’s now called… Trés Cool, which is French for ‘very cool’. Because he is very cool.

EXEC 2

Trés… I love it!

GOK

Trés is a 20-something social media consultant who lives in a rented flat in Berlin. He loves artisan coffee and knitting his beard.

EXEC 1

Oh my god, you’ve made Ken into a hipster!

EXEC 2

JESUS, FORGIVE US.

GOK

Trés is über trendy. By which I mean he’s trendy and has Uber.

EXEC 1

You really think kids will want to play with a weird loser manchild?

GOK

Oh no, Trés isn’t meant to be ‘played’ with. He’s his own independent person. He’s also a freelance blogger and full-time vegan. I wouldn’t expect children to understand.

EXEC 2

I don’t like this idea.

EXEC 1

But what else have we got? Especially after our disastrous run of Donald Trump: Action Man figures….

GOK

And I didn’t even mention the best bit! Press a button on Trés’ back and he’ll read you his dissertation on Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil. See!

DOLL [TOY VOICE]

When you look into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you.

EXEC 1

Well, let’s just hope this does better than our rebrand for Snakes and Ladders.

GOK

Oh, what was that?

EXEC 2

We accidentally invented the Cereal Café in Shoreditch.

END

Some sketches

It’s Newsjack time again. Woo and yay. Basically that means I write things for the Radio that don’t get put on the Radio.

Here are this week’s failures. Apparently Font Factor got into the recording at least. It just got the chop in the edit. Boo hoo.


 

FONT FACTOR

1. INTRO Google has been in the news this week after changing its

typeface, freaking out internet nerds the world over. Yes,

Google the company that harvests all of your personal data on

a day to day basis without anyone batting an eyelid. But

change how the words look a little bit and suddenly everyone

grabs their torches, flaming pitchforks, and USB sticks. But how

exactly does Google pick a new font? It’s actually quite a

competitive process…

2: PRESENTER Hello and welcome to Font Factor. The show where you, the

audience, can decide what becomes the next big thing in

typefaces – and which ones will be forever discarded to the

Recycle Bin. Let’s meet our contestants.

First up, Sans Serif!

3. SANS SERIF (BUBBLY) Hi, I’m Sans Serif. You might know me from, like,

every start-up company in the world. I’m friendly, oh so

personal, and not at all intimidating. I’m your best friend!

4: PRESENTER Yay! Next up, Times New Roman..

5: TNR (OLD) Huh? Oh, I’m Times New Roman. Remember me? I

used to be everyone’s favourite. But then Microsoft stopped

making me the default and now I’m just a lonely old font. WHAT

YEAR IS IT.

6. PRESENTER And last but not least, we have… Comic Sans!

5. COMIC SANS COMIC SANS!

7: PRESENTER Great. So in this round the fonts will be showing us what they

can do in the world of marketing. Fonts, we’re making an ad for

a new kind of shoe. We want to sell as many shoes as

possible, so what do you do? I’ll give you five seconds to think

it over. Font off!

Five, font, three, two, one. And that’s it! What have you got,

Sans Serif?

8: SANS SERIF Well I think we should use Arial and do a lovely minimalist

poster talking all about the benefits of the shoes. It’ll really

appeal to the millennial market and work at scale for different

ad platforms.

9: PRESENTER And how about you, Times New Roman?

10: TNR (SUDDENLY AWAKE) Huhh?! Sorry I wasn’t paying attention.

But I’ve got an essay about the history of the English penal

system if that helps.

11: PRESENTER I’m sorry but that’s not what we’re looking for. Tough luck,

Times New Roman. And what’s Comic Sans got fonted up for

us?

12: COMIC SANS COMIC SANS!

13: PRESENTER Ooh, it’s definitely going to be a close one. Let’s see what the

results of the audience vote show. The winner is…

13: FX DRUMROLL

14: PRESENTER Oh my god, I can’t believe it. Out of nowhere, the winner is

Wingdings. Wingdings, would you like to give a victory speech?

15: WINGDINGS Smiley Face. Left arrow. Trademark Sign. Skull and

crossbones. Skull and crossbones.

16: PRESENTER And that’s all we have time for. Join us next week when we’ll be

seeing if Helvetica can impress the judges in an all-out battle to

the death with Comic Sans in the Font Arena.

17: COMIC SANS COMIC SANS!

18. END


HOLY SPECS

1. INTRO The Pope was spotted out and about in central Rome as he

visited an optician in person, drawing huge crowds. Watching

an old man try on different pairs of glasses might not sound like

everyone’s idea of a fun day out, but apparently it was worth it

just so everyone could keep making ‘Holy See’ jokes. Reports

that he also put on a pair of Harry Potter glasses and ran

around the shop shouting killing curses at people were sadly

greatly exaggerated. But what was the Pope really up to in

there? He could easily have sent for someone to come into his

little Pope bedroom and fit his glasses. There’s only one

conclusion: The Pope is planning to launch his own range of

designer eyewear.

2. FX ADVERT MUSIC

3. POPE (STREET TALKING) Heyyyyy! It’s me, the Pope! Don’t ya just

haate it when ya preparing your weekly Papal blessings and

you can’t see a damn thing?

4. CHOIR SINGER Preach it!

5. POPE Well, me too. So that’s why I’m launching this new range of

totally kickin’ Papal spectacles. They’re called: Holy Specs!

6. CHOIR SINGER Amen to that!

7. POPE Now, I hear what y’all saying. Aint’ these specs just like the

same ol’ same ol’ glasses people been wearing for hundreds of

years? Well, hell no sister!

8. CHOIR SINGER Hell no!

RICHARD COOK cookywook@gmail.com HOLY SPECS

9. POPE No, these are unique, top-of-the-line holiest-of-holies

eyepieces. Each one has been blessed by me – your buddy the

Pope! And I can personally guarantee you’ll witness at least

three miracles while wearing them.

10. CHOIR SINGER (SINGING) This guarantee is not legally binding. Your statutory

rights are not affected.

11. POPE But wait! Just like Jesus said to his disciples when he came

back from the dead: “there’s so many great benefits to these

glasses!”

The lenses are bifocal, polarized, UV protective, and 100% gay

marriage reflective.

11. CHOIR SINGER (SINGING) But what about contraception?

12. POPE (SINGING BACK) We still haven’t formed an effective

consensus on thaaat…

13. CHOIR SINGER Fair enough!

14. POPE Holy Specs are the only choice for the discerning bishop in

YOUR life. So don’t forget the 11th Commandment: Thou shalt

always buy glasses endorsed by the Pope and also buy some

extra pairs for friends and family.

15. CHOIR SINGER They make a perfect gift!

16. LAWYER (SERIOUS) Not suitable for the non-religious, elderly, or young

vulnerable church boys.

17. END

Rejected Sketches: Week 3

So didn’t get anything into this week’s Newsjack again. Which is fine.

My only noteworthy submission was a sketch about the new Frozen film. It’s pretty ambitious, but I can see why it wasn’t used.

FROZEN 2

1. INTRO: Entertainment news, and Disney has announced plans to produce

a sequel to the hit animated film Frozen. A story about two sisters,

one of whom has magical powers, the original film has driven

droves of parents insane thanks to its repetitive catchy songs.

We’re lucky enough to have a sneak preview of some of the

newest songs that will feature in the upcoming sequel. Warning:

you may want to cover the ears of any young children present.

2. MUSIC: (Do you wanna build a snowman?)

3. SINGER: Do you wanna watch a sequel?

And rewatch it every day?

Never do anything else

But sing these songs over and over

And driving parents insaaaaane.

You used to be happy with Teletubbies

Or In the Night Garden

And that was absolutely fiiiine

Do you wanna watch a sequel?

I don’t really wanna a sequel.

Ok, fine…

4. MUSIC (Let it go)

5. SINGER Don’t go the cinema, don’t let them see

There’s probably something better on CBBC!

Don’t tell the kids, oh no it’s too late!

Oh god, now they now!

They won’t let it go, let it go,

There’ll be no holding back anymore,

Every day and every night

You’ll be singing this until Frozen 4!

6. END

Rejected Sketches: Week 2

More of these then.

ORANGE WEDNESDAYS

1. INTRO: Business news. After over ten years, Orange have finally ended

their popular Orange Wednesdays deal that let customers get half

price cinema tickets. Popular with young Orange users, and

anyone who knew anyone on Orange, the deal will be missed by

many. But what’s going to replace it? Well, the company has been

having internal talks about that already. Here’s what they’ve come

up with.

2. BOSS: Right then team. We’re not doing half price cinema tickets

anymore. But we still need to attract young people. What can we

offer instead?

3. EMPLOYEE1: How about half price meat at the butchers? Young people love

meat!

4. BOSS: No, we don’t want to offend vegetarians. We need something cool

and edgy!

5. EMPLOYEE2: How about knives! They’re cool AND edgy, Half price knives on

Wednesdays?

6. BOSS: Hmm, that’s not bad. I love the edginess. But are young people

really still buying knives?

7. EMPLOYEE1: Knives are SO 2009. That’s why I’m saying meat! Meat is classic,

and timeless. Plus people buy meat a lot more often than they buy

knives!

8. EMPLOYEE2: Yeah but think about it. How are they going to cut up their meat

without knives?

9. EMPLOYEE1: Nobody buys a new knife every time they need to cut up some

meat!

10. EMPLOYEE2: Exactly! We’re trying to start a new trend here. Imagine the ads:

“Orange Wednesdays. Knives for you and a friend. For all your

meat cutting needs.”

11. BOSS: Guys, I think we need to stay away from the whole meat and

cutting angle. It’s not really on-brand.

12. EMPLOYEE1: Hmmm. How about tofu?

13. BOSS: Tofu?

14. EMPLOYEE1: Yeah, it’s like a meat substitute. Plus I think it looks kind of

Orange. So we can play around with that angle.

15. EMPLOYEE2: Plus you need knives to eat it!

16. BOSS: Well, I don’t like it….but I don’t see what other choice we have.

Get working on those ads right away.

17. AD VOICEOVER: ORANGE WEDNESDAYS. HALF PRICE MEAT SUBSTITUTES

AVAILABLE TO ORANGE USERS ONLY ON WEDNESDAYS

PLUS YOU CAN ALSO BUY KNIVES TOO IF YOU NEED SOME.

18. BOSS: Ok, everyone is fired.

19. END


 

AD: COLOUR CHANGING TORY

1. V/O: Is it blue? Or is it purple and yellow? Wow your friends with the

viral sensation that’s sweeping Westminster – the colour changing

Tory!

Watch with amazement as your constituency MP changes colour

right before your eyes, and then defects right back again

afterwards. How does it work? Nobody knows.

2. TESTIMONIAL: We voted for the local Tory MP thinking he stood for a traditional

conservative approach to taxation. But then suddenly one day we

turned on the telly and he going on about immigration and things.

We still can’t explain it!

3. V/O: Colour changing Tories are available in all marginal constituencies

and tax havens.

(Warning: May cause racial intolerance and fascist tendencies)

4. END

Rejected Sketches: Week 1

Here are some of my Newsjack sketches that didn’t make it to air. I post them here simply because I want them to be up somewhere at least. Enjoy?

PHOTOSHOP

  1. INTRO: Technology news. The world’s most popular photo editing software Photoshop turns 25 this week. Famously, the software is used a lot in the fashion industry for retouching models after photo shoots and seeing what you look like if you put your head on David Beckham’s body. But what did people do before Photoshop was invented? Well, they took them to an actual photo shop of course! In case that was slightly before your time, here’s how that used to go.
  2. FX: SHOP DOOR RINGS
  3. SHOPKEEP: Good morning. Welcome to the Photo Shop! What can we do for you today?
  4. CUSTOMER: I’ve had a photo taken of me and I’d like to see what you can do with it. It’s for a job and I really want to look my best.
  5. SHOPKEEPER: Not a problem. Let’s take a look at it.
  6. CUSTOMER: Here you go.
  7. SHOPKEEPER: Oh dear. [TUTS] Well, well, well…
  8. CUSTOMER: What’s the verdict then?
  9. SHOPKEEPER: Well, I can tell you up front – this isn’t going to be cheap.
  10. CUSTOMER: Oh really? How much are we talking?
  11. SHOPKEEPER: It’s a very big job, you see. Your skin tone is all off, the lighting’s wrong, and I’ve never even seen one of those What is that?
  12. CUSTOMER: That’s my nose!
  13. SHOPKEEPER: You sure? Gosh, I’d hate to be on the receiving end of that!
  14. CUSTOMER: I’m afraid I don’t have much money to spend. Can’t you just do a basic job on it?
  15. SHOPKEER: Well, I can see what the lads can do. But we’ll basically need to order some parts in. And that could take a while.
  16. CUSTOMER: Parts? What kind of parts?
  17. SHOPKEEPER: You’d need new eyebrows for a start. We get them in and stick them in just there over your eyes. Right now it looks like you’ve got two big caterpillars crawling across your face. And we only get those in on Tuesdays.
  18. CUSTOMER: I had no idea it was all so complicated.
  19. SHOPKEEPER: If it’s a rush, we do offer an alternative service.
  20. CUSTOMER: What’s that?
  21. SHOPKEEPER: Basically we get someone to draw a new picture of you. From scratch.
  22. CUSTOMER: How would that help? I need this photo for a job application. A hand drawn picture won’t do me much good.
  23. SHOPKEEPER: You’d be surprised! Evan back there is really talented with a crayon. You’d never be able to tell it wasn’t an original.
  24. CUSTOMER: I suppose it is urgent. Fine. I’ll take the drawing. How much will that be?
  25. SHOPKEEPER: That’s just £10. Per month. Forever. And if you stop paying, we have to take the photo back.
  26. CUSTOMER: What a ripoff! But I really really need it. So here you go, I guess…
  27. SHOPKEEPER: Thanks a lot. And here’s your c-hh-a
  28. CUSTOMER: Sorry? You alright?
  29. SHOPKEEPER: PHOTOSHOP HAS STOPPED WORKING. CHECK FOR A SOLUTION OR CLOSE?
  30. CUSTOMER: Oh forget this! I’ll just take it next door to MS Paint instead.

 AD: GREECE

  1. V/O: Struggling to make ends meet? Financial worries getting you down? Sounds like you need GREEK FINANCE.
  2. V/O: That’s right, we’ll take all your debts and outstanding payments and make them disappear by simply pretending they don’t exist.
  3. TESTIMONIAL: Greek Finance really helped us out. It just took one little election and we put them in charge of everything! Our austerity days were over and once again we’re living well, well beyond our means.
  4. V/O: Greek Finance. Because it’s time to show your debts the grexit!
  5. END

Rejections

As part of my quest to become the world’s greatest writer, I’m certain to encounter lots of rejection along the way. Yeah it sucks but that’s just the price you pay I suppose.

Sometimes that means a straight out “nope” from someone, and other times simply not hearing back at all (eg. most of my Newsjack submissions).

Today’s harsh return to reality comes in the form of rejected McSweeney’s lines. If you don’t know it, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency is basically an open submission website for comedy lists. Some of it is very, very funny and I really adore the surreal yet deadpan nature of their comedy style.

Having never tried it out before I thought it was worth a shot. Roughly a week later I heard back. It was a no.

But not wanting good(ish) writing to go to waste, here’s the two list submissions I made. Hooray for recycling content!

Reasons why Lil Jon might be told to turn down
  • Sir, this aquarium has very strict policies on acceptable noise levels.
  • Please, his death came very suddenly and we’d like to mourn in peace.
  • In the vacuum of space, it is impossible for sound to travel.
  • You are frightening my sons.
  • As a fellow recording artist, I find that your high levels of sound are preventing me from pursuing my own artistic endeavours.
  • For God’s sake, Jon, this is a school for the deaf. They will not be able to appreciate your music in any case.
  • This sound system isn’t designed to handle this decibel range.
  • You’re giving His Holiness an earache.
 
Lines that were rejected before the Terminator writers settled on “I’ll be back”
  • Stay where you are, I shall return momentarily.
  • I have other affairs to attend to, but my rearrival is imminent.
  • Look, this is an awkward situation for both of us. Ok, I’ll just leave.
  • Urgent matters require my attention in an alternative location.
  • I am losing the will to live, Bertha.
  • You gotta watch out for that Shaq Attack
  • Like a boomerang, I will come right back around to where I started off from.
  • Christmas only comes once a year. But it still comes every year. I’m like Christmas.
  • You’ll be seeing me again in the near future.
  • Never lose sight of your life goals. Stay true to your roots. Stay true to the streets.

Wow, those are less good than I remember.

Hope this was worth your time.

What’s the deal with smoothie copy?

The other day I reached into the office fridge and pulled out a Coldpress smoothie. I hadn’t heard of them before either. Check them out here.

So far, so good – right? Well, I got on with the business of drinking said smoothie and that was all fine. But then I decided to read the label to find out what was in it, etc. This is what I saw.

2014-10-04 14.13.58

 

Ugh. I just mean… ugh. What’s going on here?

Firstly, don’t patronise me, smoothie. Sure, I’m not a specialist in High Pressure Processing, but please don’t assume that it’s going to go over my head. The phrase “a little whizzy” kind of implies I’m some kind of dumb pleb who gets flustered at the sound of anything at all scientific sounding.

And the explanation given is weak as hell. Apparently High Pressure Processing is “the freshest, gentlest and most nutritious way to let fruit smoothies flaunt their inner frutiness.” Sure, opting not to go for an oxford comma after gentlest is something I can let slide. But I can’t understand why they thought it was necessary to provide this “explanation.”

Read it again. We’re told there’s this thing called High Pressure Processing. It’s a technical term, so you’d expect a definition to follow. Maybe High Pressure Processing (HPP) is a cold pasteurization technique by which products, already sealed in its final package, are introduced into a vessel and subjected to a high level of isostatic pressure (300–600MPa/43,500-87,000psi) transmitted by water. Nope! Instead we’re told it’s just the thing that makes the smoothie taste so yummy and lovely.

In fact, this sentence would make more sense if it was reversed. Cf. “What gives our smoothies the freshest, gentlest and most nutritious taste possible? It’s all thanks to a special process called High Pressure Processing.” This sentence actually has a logical form in which some X is presented, and followed by an explanation Y. This is a natural explanatory form, which the original lacks. So the content alone is inane.

Then there’s the font. Quite possibly VAG Rounded – the only slightly more sensible cousin of comic sans – it’s just meant to scream friendliness and *shudder* loveliness.

Because that’s the word, right? Brands want to be LOVELY. Which brings me to my main point, and my real target here.

Hello innocent. Aren’t you just lovely?

Coldpress may be awful and banal, but they’re simply following in the footsteps of innocent. They don’t even really do a good job of differentiating themselves, they’re just treading the same old formula that made innocent all that money.

What do I mean by that? Well, simply that innocent have this thing where they pretend to be the “good guys.” The theme matches their drinks, which themselves are free of anything fake or nasty (apart from tons of sugar of course, that life-giving health supplement helping our children grow up to be big and strong). Their whole brand is centred around this – being nice and lovely and everything. They even have photos of animals on the bottles – who could hate that?

innocent is over 90% owned by Coca-Cola. They made £12m in profit in 2012.

They’re not really your best friend. But their marketing is super successful. So you think they are.

And I’m not really criticising them (I mean, whatever works right?). I’m just more annoyed that it’s created a copycat copy culture in smoothies. Coldpress are a great example of this, but there are others too.

Take Naked Juice for instance. To begin with, “Naked” is nothing less than a direct synonym for “innocent” (both could share the definition “having nothing to hide”). So great job there, guys! But it’s more stuff like this…

 

Screenshot 2014-10-09 at 20.19.45

I mean, what the hell is that? A plasticine face on a bottle. Nice job! Well worth it for the three likes. That’s gotta translate into at least one sale, right?

Just focus on how it tastes. Personally, I really like the taste of Naked Smoothies. The red machine one in particular is great. If it didn’t cost more than about three other drinks combined I’d drink it every day.

There’s also SoSmoothies, which is almost too perfect an example.

[EDIT: SoSmoothies is no longer a thing??]

This is their logo.

1276886_718839351475731_805351667_o

Look at that smiley face. Their website [no longer active] has all the innocent elements: an unnecessary “our story” section,  full biographies of the people behind the drinks and yes, even the ubiquitous “hello@companyname.com” email address. Because you’re emailing a lovely person, not the inbox of some corporate CRM that’s assigning your ticket to the most appropriate work queue based on the keywords within it.

What’s the point of this rant? None really. It just annoys me to see brands mindlessly following a trend. Of course, I get that marketing drinks is hard. All you’ve got to differentiate yourself with is the brand since essentially all smoothies taste exactly the same. But maybe do something different, yeah?

Of course, I wouldn’t dare criticise something without my own suggestion. So, allow me to introduce… SMASHED UP SMOOTHIES

At SMASHED UP SMOOTHIES we mercilessly PUMMEL fruit to DEATH. With our BARE HANDS. This fruit isn’t picked by hand, it’s RIPPED off the tree by HARDCORE MEXICAN WRESTLERS who live simply to create FRUIT ORPHANS. Whatever isn’t POUND INTO OBLIVION by their FISTS OF FURY is then bottled and shipped direct to shops worldwide. 

Our smoothies taste like HULK HOGAN sweating into a PIT OF LAVA (that’s a good thing, by the way). Your taste buds will be SCARRED for the REST OF YOUR LIFE.

SMASHED UP SMOOTHIES: CRIMES AGAINST FRUIT.

Please invest £250k in Smashed Up Smoothies. Thanks.