White Label Comedy is a Creative Agency powered by a hive mind of Comedy Writers and Advertising Copywriters – working together to create comedy content that’s on-brand, on-message, and sells.
We’re the writers room that lives in your back pocket – and if you’re going to invite us to move in, we should probably all get to know each other first. So each week we’ll be introducing you to another member of the White Label Comedy team.
In focus this week – it’s Alex MJ Smith
White Label Meets – Alex MJ Smith
WLM: What’s your comedy background outside of White Label, and how did you get involved?
AMJS: I’d written jokes for Newsjack on BBC Radio 4, and was busy putting together a portfolio of original sitcom scripts. I was being mentored by a very good and quite famous TV writer, and doing lots of not-so-funny writing to pay the bills – including marketing copy and a dab of historical fiction. Creative Director Adam got in touch out of the blue (and I mean ‘blue’ literally – it was Twitter). He said he’d heard my name on the Newsjack credits and seen enough funny stuff on my feed to warrant an invite to write for White Label, and their sister project The News Dump. The rest was history.
WLM: How would you sum up the White Label ‘process’? And what does it offer our clients that they wouldn’t be able to get elsewhere?
AMJS: You know the famous saying, ‘the more cooks, the better the broth’? That’s what you get with White Label. Better, funnier broth. But seriously – the American sitcom writers’ rooms have the right idea. And we’ve got more writers than they do. Having twenty or more funny brains tackle a brief is always going to yield funnier results than one or two trying to write everything. It also means we can work very quickly. Better, funnier, faster broth. That’s what you want.
WLM: What’s your favourite kind of White Label client / brief?
AMJS: I love ‘punching up’ a piece provided by the client – adding jokes to an existing framework – and it’s always fun when the writers try to one-up each other to find the funniest line. But my favourite thing to do as a group is develop concepts from the ground up. That’s where the hive mind approach really comes into its own, because the client is presented with a broad range of very strong ideas to choose from.
WLM: What do you get from being a part of White Label?
AMJS: Money. Just so much money. More than I know what to do with, to be honest. Do you want some? Here. Just take it.
WLM: What’s been your favourite White Label moment so far?
AMJS: The group’s excitement when we found out our first script for The One Show had been approved and was going to air! On a little channel called BBC One! There’s a great community spirit in our virtual writers’ room, which is ideal because it saves me having to leave the house and make ‘real friends’. Look at me now, Mum!
WLM: What else are you up to, outside of White Label?
AMJS: I have three sitcom pilot scripts to find homes for, and a load more TV, film and theatre ideas in development. I’m also very keen to start writing episodes of pre-school animation (the logical home for my famous brand of blistering political satire) so I’m currently chatting to agents and producers and suchlike. Pray for me
WLM: Outside of our White Label projects, are there any examples of comedy and advertising coming together that make good touch-points when coming up with new ideas?
AMJS: Innocent have humorous marketing down to a tee; from the copy on their bottles, to ads like this.
I love the layers of comedy baked into this one. The script is fantastic, with lines like: “I’m in this because I really believe in this product or service”, and the running joke of Duncan’s desperation to be paid, which references a semi-topical news article from recent years (i.e. members of Blue went bankrupt). There’s physical comedy, which Duncan sells really well, and tonnes of visual and text gags going on in the background – something that my current favourite sitcom, The Good Place, also does excellently. They’ve packed so many jokes into this, it feels longer than a minute and a half. It just goes to show how the application of comedy craft can turn a very basic idea (our drink is blue; there was a band called Blue) into something properly funny and memorable!