October 14, 2011

The News Quiz


I worked on this week's episode of The News Quiz, Radio 4, which has Jeremy Hardy, Sarah Millican and Paul Sinha on it: why not have a listen again here.

October 6, 2011

Newsjack series 5


Nice to see my telescope sketch from this week's Newsjack is making quite the splash in the world of giant telescopes. They seem a bit upset about the accent though.

Listen to the offending sketch here:

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March 24, 2011

The Now Show


Working on the Now Show on Radio 4 this week - listen again here. It's got Rory Bremner on it!

August 31, 2010

Recorded for Training Purposes


Here are some sketches I had in the latest series of Recorded for Training Purposes, a sketch show on BBC Radio 4:

Reading Heat:

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Men's Health:

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Plus, a train announcement:

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and an email disclaimer:

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July 29, 2010

Newsjack series 3

Some sketches I wrote for the most recent series of Newsjack on BBC Radio 7:

Michael Gove's free schools:

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and the Big Society bank:

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June 26, 2010

Play Radio


Very excited to be working with Somethin' Else on their day of interactive radio. Can't say exactly what the result will be yet: watch this space.

May 24, 2010

Help with those Surprise Endings


With two major series, Ashes to Ashes and Lost, finishing this week, and leaving many viewers underwhelmed by their big twist finales, I'd like to save you from future disappointment by pointing out that there are really only 3 twists. (Spoilers ahead, obviously.) There are incidental twists that arise out of the characters and are genuinely surprising (The Crying Game; Star Wars), but if an ending has to explain everything, don't get your hopes up: it's almost bound to be one of these.

1) The narrator done it. The unreliable narrator has been around since Wuthering Heights and before, but still most people's heads explode when they come across the idea that HE'S MAKING IT ALL UP. He is Tyler Durden/Keyser Soze/the murderer! Etc. Did provide the only satisfactory Agatha Christie plot there is.

2) It was all a dream. Strictly speaking banned from all stories by people over the age of seven but it still sneaks in. Only David Lynch should be allowed to do this.

3) They're all dead. Hard to believe this could still be considered a surprise when it's been used in everything from No Exit to The Third Policeman but since every TV series ending recently seems to unveil this as their Big Explanation, obviously it is to someone. I expect the last episode of Mad Men to reveal that Don Draper was actually killed at the Battle of Gettysburg and was sent into Sixties advertising as Purgatory.

February 19, 2010

Newsjack series 2


Here are a few of my sketches from the new series of BBC Radio 7's
topical news show:

From the Archive - Football Scandal:

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A letter of support from David Miliband:

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And Moira Stuart in the cupboard:

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June 20, 2009

Dramatic Structure Explained


Writers, no need to sweat over Robert McKee - this poster from 1900 for the play Blue Jeans explains all you need in the way of structure:

No. 1: The big political barbecue.
No. 2: Thrilling saw mill scene.
No. 3: The great lynching scene.
No. 4: Rising sun roarers.

Job done.

June 18, 2009

Radio comedy update


I've got a sketch being broadcast in the first episode of BBC Radio 7's new topical comedy series: listen on the iPlayer for a while longer here, or there's also a podcast. It's the one about the thrift expert.

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**Update** Also sketches on Episodes 4 and 6: Gordon Brown on the plinth

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and a Satanist's Thought for the Day:

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November 8, 2008



This 20-minute screenplay was adapted from The Diamond Lens, a short story by Fitz James O'Brien, an unjustly neglected 19th century writer of tales of the uncanny, considered by some to be one of the forerunners of modern science fiction.

It's the tragic story of a pioneering microscopist who falls hopelessly in love with a miniscule woman.

Nothing could break down the barriers which Nature had erected between us.

In Love... With an Animalcule!

Continue reading "Animula" »

October 18, 2008


A short film. Lost in the museum, Jenny mistakes another woman for her mother, and is lead out of her safe, orderly world to somewhere much more frightening.

Continue reading "Museum" »

June 19, 2008

More Microfiction


Three more 55-word stories, published in Notes from the Underground:

An Innovation

The system of status-related hats was a great success. No more wasting time at parties talking to someone, only to discover they were a junior executive's girlfriend or a waiter. James was delighted to finally make it to the level of trilby, although he noticed that anyone above a pith helmet now ignored him completely.

Continue reading "More Microfiction" »

November 11, 2007

Eavesdropping on the Past


Sweet Thunder has a collection of home recording tapes found in charity shops, which are fascinating for the glimpses they give into private and work lives, some of them decades ago. There are stalacpipe organ recordings and astrology readings, but strangely the most interesting are the more mundane moments: a legal secretary practising her pronunciation of legal terms ("Pun-i-tive damages. Quaa-ash"), some drunk men talking about spreadsheets, and a surgical needle sales meeting.

Best of all is the conversation between an elderly couple, where he ruefully admits to falling for her April Fools Day joke yet again:
"In 51 years I've never missed an April Fool. I can get you ten times in a day!"
"The thing is I think you're so sincere about everything. Trick after trick after trick!"
"April Fools Day I lie all day long."

October 31, 2007

Announcing: Bluebell FM


You are cordially invited to the grand opening of Bluebell.fm – the home of robot folk tales. If you are fond of enjoying yourself, then this is the place for you.

Time: Now
Place: Here

July 9, 2007

Overheard in London

Small boy on a bus:
"What's worse than finding a maggot in your apple?"
Smaller brother: "The world exploding!"

American teenager:
"Have you ever smelled a snake? It smells like this."
- waves chewed piece of gum under his friend's nose.

Indian man stuck in tube door:
"I nearly died then! I love your shoes! I'm a fashion
designer. People say I look like a minister, I take that on board."

Shayne Ward on Simon Cowell:
"To a lot of people he's Mr Nasty. But to me he's Mr Important."

March 10, 2007

TV Comedy Update


Rush Hour, the sketch show I contributed to, is being shown on BBC3, starting on Monday 19 March, 10.30pm. Look out for the mind-reading kid and Frankie Boyle as the tactless AA man, among others.

Here is one of mine:

January 7, 2007

Pay Attention!


The script for a short public information film on how you are misinterpreting the world by failing to pay attention to the right details.

You just make life difficult for yourself.

A mild-looking young man, JIM, 36, rolls up his shirt sleeves and starts wiping the dust from shelves.

Every time the dust starts to build up, you get rid of it all!

Jim shakes the duster out of the open window.

And so you have to start again from scratch. This is madness.

Continue reading "Pay Attention!" »

November 10, 2006

TV Comedy Show

I'm working on a comedy sketch series for BBC3 via Zeppotron, which is in production now, to be shown in March.

Can't say much about it yet; stay tuned.

November 7, 2006

Monsters of the Forest


One-act play about the teenage assassins of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, commissioned by Net Curtains Theatre Company for Tales of the Black Hand, four plays on the theme of assassination, performed at the Tricycle Theatre.

The play was inspired by the folk tales of Serbia, which are full of forest-dwelling monsters, from one-eyed witches to the mysterious screaming "drekavac" – along with the twentieth-century terrors unleashed by fanatical boys with guns, learning to shoot in the woods outside Belgrade.

Continue reading "Monsters of the Forest" »

November 4, 2006

The Cure

This one-act play takes the form of a lecture, on the subject of improving your brain, which is disrupted when the audience insist on starting to solve a murder.


Now. What I want you to do, is think about how you would describe that scene to a blind person who won’t accept the use of any nouns. I know it’s a situation that probably won’t come up... But it's a very important exercise.

Continue reading "The Cure" »

November 3, 2006

Misty Comic


I'd forgotten about this comic until I came across a site dedicated to it – it was a truly terrifying horror comic for small girls that ran for a couple of years at the end of the Seventies. The best thing about it, apart from the evil glamour of Misty herself, were the merciless moral lessons it imparted. Yes, you love your pony but is it at the price of your soul?:


And, most importantly:


Never mock a monkey.

November 2, 2006

A Tribute to Brisling

This shop window was created by my grandfather, Gilbert Payne, for George Mason's grocer's shop in Stroud, where he worked as an assistant, in about 1935. He won a well-deserved prize for this tribute to Norwegian brisling.

October 22, 2006



A scientist's brain probe unleashes surprising thoughts in two young men – from a knowledge of dead languages to a secret hatred.

A 4-minute play, performed at the Lyric Studio Hammersmith as part of a Spread the Word project.

Continue reading "Probe" »

October 21, 2006



This was my first full-length play, performed at the Etcetera Theatre in Camden in 2002.

Bert takes smart drugs, which enable him to explain life, the universe and the role of the dead to his unheeding friends. The mysterious man upstairs has a more old-fashioned approach to self-improvement – become someone else.

Continue reading "Bunny" »

October 17, 2006


This story was published in Allnighter (Pulp Faction), an anthology of underground fiction.

I wrote it after reading that a high proportion of noise complaints turned out to be caused by the complainant's clothing. This is a true fact.

Continue reading "Interference" »

October 16, 2006

55-word Stories

Tiny short stories, exactly 55 words each, commissioned for E4.com.

Teaching the chimpanzee to communicate verbally unleashed a torrent of abuse. The scientists described how they had clung to each other, blushing furiously, as the foul-mouthed primate used terms no human ear had ever encountered before. Then they locked up the lab and resolved never to allow the weapon of language into the animal kingdom.

Continue reading "55-word Stories" »

Family Portrait

Apparently the dapper man with the moustache in this family portrait from 1900 is Robert Payne, my great-great uncle, a tailor with a Stroud company called the Holloway Brothers. Whatever else happened, he obviously made sure his family was well-turned out. My Dad tells me of the mixed fortunes awaiting the children in the picture:

"Oldest daughter was Florence ("Florrie"– the only one of these I knew) – she married a chap called Townsend who was a Metropolitan Policeman for some years and then a publican, and such a pleasant husband that Florrie divorced him on grounds of persistent cruelty and violence – and an attempt to set fire to her while she was sitting on her sofa. Next daughter was Beatrice – nothing known. Then came Alfred who married happily and lived in Gloucester. Then little Gertrude, engaged to be married when she died of consumption, aged 21."

October 15, 2006

More 55-word Stories


Another batch of tiny stories commissioned for E4.com (see above).

Continue reading "More 55-word Stories" »

October 13, 2006


Another story from Allnighter (see above).

The idea behind this was some kind of distorted Time Out guide.

Continue reading "Westend" »

October 8, 2006

Brief History

Emma Payne is a writer.

She has had comedy sketches broadcast on Rush Hour, a BBC3 series; and has worked as a commissioned writer for The News Quiz, The Now Show, The Headset Set and Recorded for Training Purposes on Radio 4; and Newsjack on Radio 4extra.

As a playwright, she has had her work performed at the Tricyle Theatre, Etcetera Theatre and Lyric Studio Hammersmith.

As a journalist, she has worked on publications including The Times, Sunday Times and Time Out.

She is currently developing an interactive radio drama with a digital production company.

She also writes art and ephemera blog Fed by Birds and podcasts at Bluebell FM.


Emma Payne is a writer based in London. She has written for theatre, television and radio, and published in a number of magazines you've never heard of. This is her stuff. You can contact her
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