Features

24 Hours With… Chris Leben, head comedy writer for The Feed on SBS

24 Hours With… spotlights the working day of some of the most interesting people in Mumbrella’s world. Today we speak with Chris Leben, head Comedy Writer for The Feed on SBS and co-creator of The Weekend Shift.

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7:30AM

I wake to the alarm on my iPhone (this is a paid product placement; Apple is trying a new form of viral marketing. It’s basically getting young media idiots who no one cares about to mention them in Mumbrella. It’s very niche).

I shower, check if I need a shave… nope. Still have the face of a 14 year old with jawline Alopecia.

885511_10152137325126313_5885952092303766981_o7:50AM

Leave the house. Yeah, you read that right. I’m ready in 20 minutes. Sure I look terrible and feel worse but who are you to judge me?

Walk the three minutes to Macdonaldtown station and am still somehow late. Wait 15 minutes for the next train whilst listening to Bo Burnham’s comedy album ‘What’. I hate and love him at the same time. How can someone two years younger than me be so much funnier?

8:50AM

Arrive in the culinary wasteland that is Sydney’s north-side suburb of St Leonards (seriously, try to get a good meal here. I dare you) and walk the 10 minutes to SBS.

At this point I could go in and prepare for the morning story meeting or I could get a coffee. I pick the coffee over doing the job that I’m paid for.

9:30AM

Join our EP Nick Hayden, Line Producer Kip Elder, Digital Producer Maddie Palmer and one of our hosts Jan Fran for the morning meeting.

Everyone pitches a bunch of stories. Nick picks a few he likes, one for Jan Fran to write and one for me, and we’re off.

SBS Logo 201510:00AM

Time to research the story and figure out a way to make it entertaining. It’s about how studies suggest e-cigarettes are 95% less harmful than normal durries… comedy gold, am I right?

Look, the next few hours are super boring; I just sit at my desk and write. That’s it. Let’s skip ahead.

1:30PM

Normally I’d like to have my story finished earlier than this but sometimes it can’t be helped. I sit down with Nick and we read it through.

We change a few lines and punch up a few jokes, but he has one big-ish change… It doesn’t really have an ending… for all those non-writers out there, endings are really important, even in news-comedy scripts. We workshop a couple ideas and finish it off.

I send the scripts through to Marc Fennell to lay the voiceover down and our shooter/editor Mark Tadic to start shooting/editing.

2:00PM

The piece only has three pieces to camera so normally we’d be able to get them out of the way in almost no time but today I’m required to smoke a cigarette and deliver a tiny monologue about medical stats before being belittled by Marc.

Did I mention I’m on the tail end of the flu? No? Well I am and smoking is not something I want to be doing right now.

You might be reading this right now, thinking, “Didn’t you write the script, though?”

Yeah, I did. But I’m also a fucking idiot.

We finally get the shot; it took about 15 takes and has now been edited into a super-cut of me coughing up a lung.

My parents are super proud.

2:30PM

sushi in takeaway box

Time for lunch, some awful cafeteria sushi (because I’m trying to lose weight) and a coffee (because I’m trying to stay awake).

3:00PM

Have some time free, so decide to go to the gym for the first time in two months.

After finishing up on my bench presses a runway model comments on how much she loves my rock hard abs. I politely remind her that’s not appropriate behaviour and I work out for me, not anyone else #notallwomen.

4:00PM

Head back to the office. My body is shaking from the solidly mediocre work out. I really need to go to the gym more. Check on the edit. It all seems to be going good. Start writing some bigger comedy pieces for our upcoming third anniversary show.

5:00PM

Decide I’ve done enough for the day and head off. It takes me about an hour to get home.

6:00PM

Cook myself a chilli and roast tomato chicken breast with spinach leaves and mushrooms. It is disappointing.

6:30PM

Now to head to my side job. Walk down King Street to my writing partner’s house with one thing on my mind… ice cream. I deserve a treat. I order one scoop of mint choc-chip and one of cookies and cream. It’s a mistake. Those flavours shouldn’t meet.

lee lin chin and chris leben the feed7:00PM

Arrive at Nick McDougall’s house. He’s the co-writer, director and editor of our new comedy project for SBS starring Lee Lin Chin, The Weekend Shift.

Not long after I get there we’re joined by Nick Hayden. As well as the EP of The Feed he’s also pulling double duty as the executive producer of The Weekend Shift.

We go through scene by scene and eventually kill a couple of jokes. I fight against it but am out-voted. Trust me though, those jokes will be missed… by me… it’s probably better they don’t make the final cut.

By the end we’ve managed to cut it down by another two minutes and have made the whole thing flow more smoothly.

9:30PM

Nick Hayden and I say our goodbyes and plan to meet the same time tomorrow with our amazing producer Georgie Lewin for the final edit screening.

McDonald's 'Golden Arches'

Hayden drives me home and we basically talk about how much we love McD.

10:00PM

At home I decide to watch tonight’s ep of The Feed on SBS On Demand (where The Weekend Shift will launch on Monday).

It’s a good episode even though Marc Fennell had the editors make a supercut of me coughing my guts up and put it in the show.

10:30PM

I remember I’ve got to write this… shit. Guess I’m not going to sleep any time soon.

12:00AM

I finish writing this on my balcony whilst smoking a cigarette (yes, I still have the flu. Yes, I am still an idiot.)

Time for bed I guess. I have no idea if this piece is any good? What do you think? Actually, don’t worry about it. I don’t need your validation… unless you want to give it to me. In that case I wouldn’t say no. But don’t feel obligated… tell me you love me.

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