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How can gold envelopes get you a gig as a comedy writer?

Robert Popper is a bestselling comedy writer. Under the name Robin Cooper, he has sold 300,000 copies of books based on The Timewaster Letters, madcap letters he wrote to organisations and their somewhat confused replies. He's also written for spoof science show Look Around You, South Park and his own sitcom Friday Night Dinner.

Paul Bassett Davies (left) and Robert Popper on stage looking out at the crowd at the London Comedy Writers Festival

Paul Bassett Davies (left) and Robert Popper (right) on stage at the London Comedy Writers Festival 2011. Photo courtesy of Chris Jones.

He started out by writing a letter to Alan Partridge each week and sending it in a gold envelope. Because Partridge is a busy man, Popper also wrote a reply for him and enclosed that too, a nice way to demonstrate that he understood the character and could write comedy for him. This was when Partridge was on the radio, before he moved to TV. For a long time, Popper heard nothing, but he still kept writing letters. Then one day, he got an answerphone message from Partridge saying they liked his stuff and inviting him to keep sending it in. The gold envelopes eventually led to an opportunity to work with Peter Richardson.

As Popper talked about the rest of his career at the London Comedy Writers Festival, one quality shone through: persistence. It took him four years to get a book deal, although he'd had many of his Timewaster Letters published in Jack magazine. His drafted his first script for Friday Night Dinner in 2006, and it took four years to get it on TV, even though he'd script edited The Inbetweeners and produced two series of Peep Show. "It doesn't get any easier," he said.

Steve Coogan is still finding gold envelopes in his loft.

Find more advice on writing comedy here.


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