Why are we* on Patreon** and why should you join us?
When I started out as a comedian and activist it was always my intention to get my work onto mainstream TV, radio and print platforms. Over the years (more than a decade and a half) I’ve had some success at that. I’ve been on Question Time, I’ve been on some smaller panel shows, I’ve written for Have I Got News For You and the BAFTA-winning The Revolution Will Be Televised, I’ve had articles published in The Mirror and The Guardian and New Internationalist and Cosmopolitan and The Telegraph. I’ve also spent a lot of time knocking on doors that never opened. Here’s what I’ve learnt.
Getting into the mainstream media is ridiculously competitive. Of course it is. But it’s actually so competitive that in order to achieve it you will have to spend more time chasing contacts and networking than you do writing. Schmoozing people is expensive and time-consuming and eventually you may get someone to read your script and they say it’s great and they’re going to fight for it then the next week they decide to give up production or editing and take up llama farming and you’re back at square one.
Because of the competitiveness you write ten scripts or proposals before one gets taken seriously. The one that gets through is ALWAYS the least interesting, most obvious one. As a woman no matter how many times I offer to write opinion and satire about the economy, the one time I suggest writing about my sex life is the one time I’ll get commissioned. Sigh. I have turned down both TV and radio work when told I would have to attend the studio naked.
If you do manage to get something made it will be a cavalcade of compromise. Everyone wants a rewrite and an edit. That’s no bad thing, I often ask friends whose opinions I respect to give me feedback on my work. But there is also a sense of people wanting to change something for the sake of justifying their existence. And there are jaded individuals who think they “know what sells” and will, with the best intentions in the world, take all the originality out of my work. I’ve been told (by a man) that a hard-edged female character I wrote is “confusing” because women need to be more emotional.
All political comedy and political debate and discussion on TV or radio is obliged to be “balanced”. Balanced to cover both sides of the political spectrum. It is the supremacy of opinion. I believe TV and radio shows should check their output for factual accuracy, not to make sure that nasty, unfair views are represented. That is not what happens.
Typically you’ll get two thirds of the way to getting something made, you’ll put in hours and hours and end up with a finely polished script and a hole in your pocket. One year a pilot I wrote was in the final four of the Sitcom Mission competition. Several hundred scripts go into that. I was extremely proud of the script. It was performed in front of industry professionals to roars of laughter and applause. As a result I was offered one meeting with a literary agent who then told me she was too busy to actually meet me.
In an industry where talent is not enough, being a woman in her forties is, unsurprisingly, no advantage. The proportion of writers and talent on these shows that is female is low and very often male comedians are used opposite women with a background in acting, modelling or presenting. Male writers will be writing both sets of lines.
On top of this I’ve always been a person who speaks up for justice, women’s rights, etc and one glance at my YouTube comments reveals how many friends that has won me. People I’ve never met have told friends of mine that I must be terribly hard to work with. Nothing could be further from the truth but sadly we’ve been raised in a culture that thinks women who raise their voices are trouble-makers. None of it is helping me win what is sadly more of a popularity contest than a talent contest.
And then… and then… If you do get something made or aired it STILL pays poorly. If you’re not a superstar writer/performer you’ll be making a wage that would be liveable IF you got it 52 weeks a year. And you’ll get it for a day, a week, maybe a few weeks, and then it’s gone again. I know a wonderful, incredibly talented comedian and writer who ended up having to do medical tests to pay off debt she had accumulated.
Newsjack, the BBC’s flagship “open access” topical comedy show gets something like 100 sketches sent in for every one they use. They pay £36/minute for material that airs. So assuming my work is good enough to be in the top 10% (and assuming whoever is making the choices hasn’t seen me on This Morning and decided I’m a bitch) I’d be writing ten minutes of my very best material, about three to four hours of work, for £36. That’s not living wage, it’s barely minimum wage.
Most of the articles I’ve written for national newspapers/national news websites have paid less than £100. It might only be a few hours work to write an article but if you include the time spent figuring out who to contact, pitching articles and dealing with editors trying to scrub out all the jokes and change the focus of what I’m saying it’s not worth it. It’s fairly well known that the Daily Mail pay rather better but the compromises I’d have to make to get my work published there don’t bear thinking about!
Recording my work at home, releasing it on Patreon and being sponsored by people who enjoy and appreciate what I do gives me real, unfettered artistic freedom. In fact it’s amazing. It’s a kind of freedom that few artists of any kind have EVER had. I can make serious points, I can be silly and daft. I can cover stories the media is ignoring. It’s an incredible opportunity that has only become possible in the last few years. An opportunity to change the narrative.
The videos I make are public and can be shared. Over the years several have gone viral. Those who sponsor me can share them and take pride in having a producer credit at the end of each one. Because you HAVE produced it. You are making it possible, you are changing the face of political comedy and commentary.
I remain more than willing to talk to anyone interested in sharing my work on a wider platform through TV, radio or publication. Seriously, drop me a line, I have stacks of great projects absolutely ready to go, I am easy to work with and audiences react well to what I do.
What I am no longer going to do is spend hours and hours every day chasing people who don’t reply and (usually through no fault of their own) don’t have the time to give my work the consideration it deserves.
Instead I’ll be putting my energies into making my News At Kate videos and other projects I’ll be promoting and sharing through the platform. Please consider being a part of it. Join us!
Being a sponsor starts at $1 per video AND you can limit the number of videos per month you are willing to sponsor. So you can commit as little as a maximum of $12 per year. Which is a coffee every three months or less than half a pack of cigarettes. I never charge for more than one video per week (any more are free) and if I haven’t made anything (usually when I am away on tour or unwell) you pay nothing.
Sponsors, all sponsors, get access to my patrons-only feed with loads of extra special content, behind the scenes videos, videos of me reading my hate mail, funny gig and touring stories and lots of silly things. Those who can afford to sponsor at a higher rate get lots of other bonuses including guest list tickets for shows, signed posters and postcards from me on tour. You’ll also get my undying gratitude and appreciation!
“For the master's tools will never dismantle the master's house. They may allow us to temporarily beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change.”
*Note that I say “we”, not I. My videos are filmed and edited by people who I pay. So you’re not just supporting me, you’re supporting the other people involved too. I would like to use more collaborators, better equipment, professional studios, actors for more sitcom and sketch pieces… But it depends on being able to afford it, which depends on the generosity of our sponsors.
**If you’d like to support but have concerns about the Patreon platform for any reason, get in touch. There isn’t another platform quite like it but some supporters do fund me by monthly direct debit which is equally appreciated.