ComedyCollective Writers Project
Ivan Shakespeare

"The Bad Erotic Fiction Award, for bad writing about sex, went to AA Gill.
He told the organisers what they could do with it - but not very well."

28 November 1999

Ivan Shakespeare January 2000 comedy collective

Ivan was a founding member of the Comedy Collective. He was a commissioned writer for BBC Radio 4's political satire sketch show WeekEnding for five years (1992-1997) and wrote regularly for the London satirical political stage revue NewsRevue (Thursdays to Sundays at the Canal Café Theatre, London). He was a writer for Rory Bremner's television show (Channel 4) 1996-1999. His BBC Radio 4 spoof of Virginia Woolf and her Bloomsbury Set A Square of One's Own was broadcast in 1996, and repeated in 1997.

All rights reserved by The Ivan Shakespeare Estate . For inquiries about Ivan's  work, please contact Ivan's widow Elspeth MacLean through the Writers Guild (or John Random).

Ivan's Obituary (The Independent)


Pilot Episode: A Square of One's Own
(BBC Radio 4, First Broadcast 15 May 1996)

Sketch: The Dead Parody Sketch
(Performed by the Smiling Assassins at the Canal Café, Summer 1999)

Song: The Farmers' Song (sung to the theme tune of BBC Radio 4's The Archers)
(Stage Revue, Willesden Green, 1993; NewsRevue, Canal Café Theatre, Little Venice, London, 1993 and 2000)

One-liners from Bremner, Bird and Fortune
(Broadcast on Channel 4 Television 1999)

Sketch:  Pay Explosion
(Broadcast on Weekending, BBC Radio 4, 1994)

Sketch: They Ought To Be Locked Up
(Sky Television (UK) 1994)

Sketch: Living Leg-end
(Broadcast on The News Huddlines, BBC Radio 2, 1993)

Sketch: Hovis Ad Parody - The Good Old Days
(Broadcast on Week-Ending, BBC Radio 4, 1995)


JONATHAN AITKEN (Motes and Beams)





Additional Material:
(A Night for Ivan production, NewsRevue)

Obituary: Ivan Shakespeare
The Independent (London), Feb 11, 2000 by John Random

AS A comic writer, Ivan Shakespeare would have been the first to see the irony of the manner of his death - felled by a heart attack in the act of keeping fit. (He was jogging at the time.) A commissioned writer on Radio 2's The News Huddlines and Week Ending and The Beaton Generation on Radio 4, he most recently worked on Bremner, Bird and Fortune for Channel 4, in which his talent for sharp, political satire found a perfect home.

Born and brought up in West Bromwich, he escaped at the relatively late age of 23 to read Sociology at Lancaster University. After various jobs he moved to London to pursue a career as an accountant, working for - among others - the Bank of Bermuda, where he met his partner, Elspeth McLean. In 1989 he won a competition in Time Out and took the decision to strike out as a full-time writer. It was especially brave of Shakespeare, since he was the least pushy person imaginable and always feared that his talents would be outshone.

He was wrong, of course, and soon established himself in the corridors of BBC Radio Comedy, as well as becoming a stalwart of the live topical satire show Newsrevue at the Canal Cafe in Little Venice in north London. In both places, he brought his own distinctive touch to the difficult business of satirising a Tory government that was increasingly beyond parody.

Ivan Shakespeare was an immensely erudite and cultured man, the north London home he shared with Elspeth McLean crammed with a collection of more than 400 music tapes - chiefly classical - and a shelf-buckling 4,000 books. It was to the Bloomsbury Group that he turned for his sitcom A Square of One's Own, which first went out on Radio 4 in May 1996 and was repeated a year later.

At the time of his death, he was busier than ever with screenplays, a radio play and a TV sitcom all in various stages of development, and on a personal note seemed happier and more settled than he had ever been.

Sometimes exasperated, but never self-pitying, Shakespeare was easy-going and generous in his praise of other writers. Nor was he above being the butt of jokes himself, as when he agreed to appear on television as a David Mellor lookalike (complete with Chelsea strip). He once turned up to a wedding in a second-hand suit that he'd snapped up for a song. "Yes, it's bespoke," said Ivan to another guest, "Unfortunately, it's bespoke for someone else."

Ivan Shakespeare, writer: born West Bromwich, Staffordshire 19 July 1952; died London 3 February 2000.

in The STAGE (by Kim Morrissey)

A Square of One's Own
Broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in May-June 1996; repeated in 1997.
Complete script of the pilot episode

"Virginia Woof"detail - artist: Clifford Harper
Click on Virginia Woof

"Virginia Woof " detail. Artist: Clifford Harper
BBC Radio Times for May 11-17, 1996

all sketches were written by Ivan Shakespeare and the Ivan Shakespeare Estate retains the copyright until 2070.To contact the Ivan Shakespeare Estate, please contact Elspeth McLean (or John Random).


1. V/O :

And now, a few lines about the Forth Railway Bridge,

inspired by the spirit of William McGonagall.

2. McGONAGALL : Oh, beautiful Railway Bridge of the silv'ry Forth!

Taking the trains from South to North

From Edinburgh to the county of Fife

Alas, a journey that risks your life

Or at least makes your heart jump into your mouth

When going South to North, or North to South.

'Twas when Railtrack acquired the bridge I hear

They decided routine maintenance was too dear

And now it's no longer continually painted I fear

And soon became covered in dead birds and grime

Which will be there for a very long time.

And soon bits fell off the Bridge of the Forth

And the people below felt a very great wrath

As rusty lumps of iron hit the ground

Something for which the Bridge was never renowned

Before its owners started counting every pound.

And though Railtrack are penny-wise

The Bridge is now a sorry sight to the eyes

And worse - I fear unless some paint they slap on

It could be a disaster waiting to happen

Like the Tay Bridge disaster of 1879

Which will be remembered for a very long time.


One Liners:

Tony Blair spent a million pounds decorating Downing Street. We knew he was a pupil with Derry Irvine - now we know what he learned.

14 November 1999

Australian womens' football team posed for a nude calendar. They don't mind the topless shots appearing in Britain so long as no-one sees them Down Under.

2 December 1999

Chris Smith says that with rich foreigners buying our art works, Britain faces a heritage crisis - our Rembrandts and Botticellis are ending up in places like Holland and Italy.

5 December 1999

The Hamilton-Al-Fayed libel trial continued, with Mohammed al-Fayed accusing Prince Philip of murdering Diana, Michael Howard of taking a million and a half in kickbacks and Neil Hamilton of being a gay prostitute. You can see why he was so keen to join the British Establishment.

28 November 1999

Everyone says truth is stranger than fiction, though in Jeffrey Archer's case it's just rarer.

28 November 1999

Charlie Dimmock's cameraman denied focusing on her breasts - he said he wasn't using a wide enough angled lens.

4 November 1999

A man called the police to report his cannabis stash had been stolen. A police spokesman said 'It gives a whole new meaning to the phrase Grassing Yourself Up'.

5 December 1999

General Pinochet admitted wearing sunglasses to hide his lying. (HAGUE VOICE) Thanks, a bit late for the tip now! Archer's been banned - all he needed was to be Ray-Banned.

28 November 1999

Chris Tarrant's making about £3 million a year. (TARRANT VOICE) Yes, well who wants to be JUST a millionaire?

14 November 1999

One of the Railtrack chiefs told us not to get hysterical over safety. Sorry, we can't help it, it's the way you tell 'em.

17 October 1999

Peter Mandelson's got a dog. (MANDELSON VOICE) I may call it Thatcher, because it's almost always barking.

28 November 1999

Cherie Blair is pregnant. (HAGUE VOICE) Just watch - he'll extend the Nanny State right into Number Ten.

21 November 1999



And it came to pass that in the Land of Nod (and Wink), dwelt one Jonathan, whose name was Aitken; and yea, of all the tribe of  Junketers, he was the mightiest, being a scribe, and a moneylender, and one who traded in great weapons for commission up front.

     Now, one came out of the land of Egypt whose name was Al Fayed; and many gifts did he give unto the Junketers, thinking to win their favour. But though he paid the Junketers, they stayed not bought; and Al Fayed grew wrathful.

     So he spake unto one called Preston, a Scribe whose Organ was known throughout the Land of Nod (and Wink) for the Goodness of its Intentions. And Al Fayed saith: 'Contrive an epistle from the House of Government, and I shall tell thee such things, of unpaid bills and freeloading, as shall increase thy sales four-fold'.

     And it was done.

     Then great was the Junketers' distress; for they thought, 'Which of us might not be next?' And they called for vengeance on Preston, saying 'Thou hypocrite. How canst thou pontificate on the beams in our eyes, before removing the mote from thine own eye?'

     This being an old trick oft used by those caught bang to rights.

     But Preston merely saith: 'How can I pontificate? Twenty years practice.'

     Here endeth the lesson. Not that it teacheth anything new.




2. ANSAPHONE:                                                                                

(D) Hello, Jonathan Aitken cannot presently fill the lean and hungry belly of your enquiry with either the comestibles of converse or the drink of debate. Should you wish to store away the victuals of future discussion in the store room of this ansaphone, by all means do so, whether it be the meat of metaphor, the condiments of collocution or the red wine of rhetoric, after the hors d'oeuvres of the tone.



Crafty bugger. Always finds SOME way round awkward questions…..



V/O: How many Jeffrey Archers are there? Jeffrey the businessman, Jeffrey the fundraiser, Jeffrey the Oxford Blue, Jeffrey the novellist - it's like The Archers : an everyday story of lying-through-their-teeth folk.

YOKEL: Anybody seen Master Jeffrey? I'd ask Lady Archer, but you can't expect her to know, she's just his wife. Only I got a share tip for him.

ARCHER: Really? Just send it to my fax machine, I'll ignore it later. Anything else?

YOKEL: Aaaarh. Old college friend o'yourn been after you.

ARCHER: Oh, yes, Oxford University? Teacher training college? That prestigious college somewhere in America I went to?

YOKEL: Weren't none o'they, this was Hendon Police College. Afore you and the Force parted company, shall we...

ARCHER: Ah - yes - just raising a few million for the Widows and Orphans, tell him. Thin Blue Line and all that.

YOKEL:                                  I knows what the thin blue line is - all these Tories on the run...



V/O :                       And now, in line with Weekending's policy of updating the Classics, Christine Hamilton stars as Lady Macbeth.


HACKS : When shall we hacks meet again
Upon the Hamilton campaign
When the hanky-panky's done
When the voting's lost and won
That will be ere the spin-doctors have spun.

HACK1 : Where the place?

HACK2 : On Knutsford Heath.

HACK3 : There to see some Tory grief.


NEIL : Can't be, Madam? Me, face white-suited Bell….

CHRISTINE : Unsex me now, or else I'll wear thy pants!
Screw up thy courage and deny all bribes.
With brazen face, naff double-breasted suit
And my arm up thy back to pull thy strings….

NEIL : Fain would I yet the words stick in my throat
Is this an actor that I see before me?

CHRISTINE : Aye, 'tis Bill Roach, whose voice induceth sleep
To knit Al-Fayed's ravelled sleaze, raked up
By th'insolent Bell, that fain would take our seat
Soon, he'll would he were back in Bosnia.


HACKS : Hubble, bubble, Gallup, Mori,
Brew more trouble for the Tories.
Hark - they come.

BELL : Hail Neil, Thane of Tatton and the Paris Ritz.

CHRISTINE : I'll handle this. Hail Bell, and get thee hence
And let's have no more of thy impudence.
What? Ethics lectures, to US, from a hack?
Thou'd best be clean thyself, or watch thy back.

BELL : Aaaargh!


NEIL : But Lady, to the grey and noble John
I've sworn allegiance….

CHRISTINE : Art thou not ambitious?
Did not the foul, black and midnight hacks
Predict thou'd overthrow him? Furthermore,
That thou shouldst never lose 'til honesty
Come to expenses claims. Give ME the knife…

MAJOR : Aaaaargh! Oh dear!



DOCTOR : Look how she rubs her hands.

CHRISTINE : Out damned Leftie plot. A little whitewash will make
this tax return clean. Will nothing sweeten this little sleaze.


NEIL : The Bell! Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow
Drip out these precious votes from day to day
Out, out brief career. It is a tale told by a scumbag
Full of bungs and junckets, signifying nothing.

BELL : Know I was ripped untimely from the BBC, and not of
Labour born. Gaze on this bank-statement, and yield.

NEIL : Aaaargh!


BELL : Nothing in his political life became him like the
leaving of it. Not that that sayeth much…..


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