…is one sentence you’ll never hear Funnyman, Director and Twitter-Guru David Schneider say.


He came to BMB recently to give us a talk about Comedy, Tweeting, and the time he almost killed Steve Coogan.

It was ruddy brilliant. The only let down (as a planner pointed out afterwards) was that we didn’t nip across the road for a wheel of Neal’s Yard Cheese to wave at his olfactory organ. Because, as it turns out, David Schneider gets at least five ‘SMELL MY CHEESE’S a day.

FIVE! Not just on Twitter but in the REAL WORLD too.

Other interesting facts and tips we learned at Schneider School:

– Alan Partridge was very nearly a DJ in Milton Keynes, until Mr. Iannucci pointed out that this wasn’t quite silly enough. So Alan ended up in Norwich. Now, Schneider’s way of describing when something isn’t quite amusing enough is: ‘It’s a bit Milton Keynes’.  Which makes for a good yardstick whatever you’re writing. Is it a bit pedestrian? Can you push it further? As far as… Norwich?

– When you’re directing an actor, the worst thing you can do is ‘perform’ how you want a line to be read. Then all they’ll do is mimic it. Better to try and get them into the moment, so they get there authentically.

– Even if its a crazy idea, be as REAL with it as possible.

– In the infamous ‘Smell my cheese’ sketch, the fork was so close to Schneider’s face he almost drew blood.

– Schneider once very nearly stabbed Coogan to death. In a manner of speaking. In this scene where he plays Tony Le Mezma,during filming, he accidentally sent one of the knives flying towards him. As if by magic, the knife missed him by a milimetre.

– He’s obsessive about detail. He reckons us advert people are too. That’s one of the reasons he’s keen to direct some more of them.

– His ultimate rule: When you’re directing, always be able to explain your creative choices. Saying them out loud to someone gives you one last chance to check you’re not bullshitting. Never, ever, just say ‘trust me, it’ll be funny.’

After entertaining us with a veritable cheese-board of Alandotes, Prof. Schneider moved on to a crash-course in Hashtaggery:

– In his view, the ‘direct sell’ approach always bombs on twitter. It’s all about being tangential, like these lot. 

– Timing is everything. Being the first to react gives you instant purchase. A mediocre joke pays double if the timing is bang on.

– Twitter is a fertile testing ground for jokes. Tim Vine and Betfair Poker being two of his favourites.

– With the right ghost-tweeter, the dullest of dullard brands can have a personality. Bolts are pretty boring creatures, but there’s something amusingly incongruous about the idea of a bolt being funny isn’t there?

– 98% of Schneider’s Twitter followers think he is Ross off of Friends*.

But it wasn’t until the final lesson at Schneider School that my life-long commitment to not joining Twitter was finally smashed into little pieces.He pointed out the obvious – that 140 characters is a great way of training to be  pithier, punchier and preciser in your writing (never been my strong-point, I won’t lie). And in that sense, he argued, all copywriters worth their salt should be on Twitter.

That was me told. So, I’ve given up being a luddite and started Twittering, as has Nat. See you there over there! Brevity is the soul of wit, and all that.


From Chaucer to Chatspeak

Both Nat and I have alway had a bit of a dislike for chatspeak and the over-use of 8 in text messages. We couldn’t help wanting to vomit when the word ‘Staycation’ entered the lexicon last summer. And more recently, sick bags at the ready for this one: ‘Advergame.’ Continue reading “From Chaucer to Chatspeak”

The Comedy of Error Messages

We all make mistakes. Me (lol), I make them fairly often. But I do try and make up for them with a nicely worded apology of some sort.

Computers aren’t quite so good at this. Every so often, when you have a computerfail, you get a really nice error messages – quirky even, with a dash of self-deprecation. But mostly, they’re just aggressive, replete with angry bomb signs and intimidating, cryptic minus numbers that you’re somehow meant to understand.  When it’s the latter, it can be bloody annoying. Especially when you’re usually already a bit on the stressed side/you’ve got a deadline/it JUST WON’T PRINT For no good reason. ‘Error minus 42’ used to be my pet hate in my old job. I never did work out what it meant.

But more often than not, error messages can be really, really funny. Either because they’re downright rude, bizarrely hysterical, or just piss-poorly written.

With this in mind, our inner-geek has been diligently collecting screengrabs to share with you all. I think it’s funny to see the
spectrum – from hyper-aggressive to humble and friendly.

There are a couple of others to mention which aren’t pictured here. Like, whenever I try and make a call on my mobile at home, the first two attempts will always be rejected, and I get a message flashing up saying ‘NOT ALLOWED!!’ Not, sorry there’s a network problem, but a more of a frantic, finger-wagging reprimand that makes me feel like I’m at school and I’ve done something wrong. Another great one is, when you’re trying to fast-forward a DVD and you get the angry error message that says ‘This action is FORBIDDEN.’ Or, on a PC when you are brashly accused of breaking the law, ‘You have performed an ILLEGAL OPERATION’.

Who writes these? Have they ever heard of tone of voice? Why not employ a copywriter of some sort? Surely this point in the “user journey,” it’s a good idea for the brand to try and keep the customer on side, rather than intimidate them with guarish technospeak?


Any thoughts on this, or other examples, please feel free to share…