How to Write a Comedy Script?

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We all love to laugh and we all have comedy movie lines that we’ll remember forever. That is because comedy films have a special connection with their audience. Comedy script writing is not easy. You need to make readers laugh from just reading. In this article, I’m going to give you 10 tips that will help you write better comedy scripts, but before we go there, there are a few things you need to understand about how to make a comedy, because, let’s face it, it’s not enough to read a few tips to become a comedy writer. What’s important to remember is that when you write for a comedy, you should never try to be funny. Trying too hard is always visible, and in comedy, it might make the jokes and the characters unbelievable. The “funny” stuff should arise from the situations, the characters, and the story itself. In this post, I’m going to teach you how to sharpen up your comedy abilities, in inorder to get you mastering the art of comedic scriptwriting

Comedy Scriptwriting – Fundamentals

Comedy scriptwriting is an art that requires a deep understanding of humor, timing, and the intricacies of comedic storytelling. It’s essential to grasp the fundamentals underpinning this genre to write a good comedy. In this section, we’ll explore some key aspects of comedy scriptwriting and provide insights to help you lay a solid foundation for your comedic endeavors. Here are some fundamentals tips for how to write a funny script:

  1. Know your audience – Who is your audience, and what are they expecting? It is essential to know your audience and to find a way you can reach them. Different types of humor resonate with different people. What may be funny to one group may not work with another. Consider their age, cultural background, and preferences to create comedy that connects and engages. You may like writing American humor, but if that kind of humor doesn’t work in your country, you need to find a way to make it work for them.
  2. Timing is everything – especially in comedy. The punchline delivery, the pause before a revelation, or the perfectly timed physical gag can make or break a comedic moment. Although it might be hard to insert timing direction into the script, do it whenever it’s necessary. 
  3. Use basic structures – Comedy scripts often follow established structures, such as the three-act structure or variations. While humor can be unpredictable, the solid structure provides a framework to guide your storytelling. Understand the setup, conflict, and resolution patterns in comedy, and adapt them to suit your unique comedic voice and narrative.
  4. Develop funny and relatable characters – Memorable characters are the backbone of any comedy script. They bring humor to life through their quirks, flaws, and idiosyncrasies. Develop characters with distinct comedic voices grounded in relatability and with relatable desires and conflicts. Their interactions and reactions to situations will generate comedic moments that resonate with the audience.
  5. Write sharp and witty dialogue – Dialogue plays a significant role in comedy scriptwriting. Witty exchanges, clever wordplay, and well-timed comebacks can generate laughter. Develop a keen ear for comedic dialogue by observing real-life conversations, studying comedic masters, and practicing writing sharp, snappy lines. Some ways to build a funny dialogue are to use wordplay and puns, set up a situation or expectation, and then deliver a surprising twist that generates laughter, and build comedic conflicts. The most important tip here is to read your dialogue aloud
  6. Remember the heart – While comedy aims to make people laugh, the best comedy often resonates emotionally. Balancing humor with heartfelt moments and relatable emotions adds depth and richness to your script. Touching on universal themes and incorporating character growth can enhance the comedic experience and create a more satisfying story.

Build funny characters

Even in comedy writing, good funny characters are 3D characters. I recommend reading my post on writing a good character and checking out comedy films from different countries. You will find out that every country has its character type that works best for them. For example, the British love dumb characters, while the Americans like a protagonist that keeps on fighting in a crazy world. The idea here is to understand comedic archetypes. Familiarize yourself with classic comedic archetypes like the fool, the misfit, the wise cracker, and the straight man. These archetypes provide a foundation upon which you can build your characters.

When you think about their goals, try to give your characters specific comedic goals or desires that are relatable and humorously exaggerated. The goals themselves don’t have to be funny, their pursuit of these goals can lead to funny situations and unexpected outcomes. 

Also, notice the job of every character in a joke. Some characters are there to comment on the protagonist’s actions. Sometimes a joke might work without a good reaction from a secondary character. In this scene from The Love Guru, Steven Colbert explains the Five Whole trape. The scene wouldn’t be as funny without the reactions of Jim Gaffigan.

When writing your comedic characters also define distinct personalities. Give each character a distinct personality that sets them apart. Consider their beliefs, attitudes, quirks, and flaws. A well-defined character with idiosyncrasies and strong motivations can create humorous situations and conflicts that drive the plot forward. Develop a distinctive comedic voice for each character. Consider their sense of humor, word choices, and unique way of expressing themselves. A character with a sharp wit or an offbeat sense of humor can inject comedy into their dialogue and interactions.

A good way to enhance comedic dynamics is to create characters with contrasting personalities. for example, you can pair an overly confident character with an insecure and timid one. The interactions between characters are crucial in comedy. Create comedic relationships with strong dynamics, such as an odd-couple pairing or a love-hate relationship. Explore the potential for comedic misunderstandings, conflicts, and unexpected alliances between characters.

When writing your characters, also, consider their body language, gestures, facial expressions, and vocal patterns. Explore ways to incorporate physical comedy elements that complement their dialogue and actions.

And remember, even in comedies, provide opportunities for your characters to learn, change, and overcome their flaws in comedic and satisfying ways, as the plot unfolds.

Learn the Comedy scriptwriting essentials with Comedy writing courses

There are a lot of comedy writing courses everywhere. It is recommended to learn how to write comedy in general and not only for movies. Personally, I recommend 2 courses in the MasterClass programThe MasterClass program is a platform that contains more than 100 classes in different fields (a lot of film classes too) that are being taught by the masters. You can sign up for a full year and get free access to all of them. In the field of comedy writing, I recommend these classes:

1. Steve Martin Teaches Comedy – This is one of the best comedy writing classes out there. Steve Martin is one of the most respective comedians out there. In more than a-50 years of career, he practiced comedy as a stand-up comedy performer, as a TV writer, movie writer, novel writer, and more, so if there is someone that understands the anatomy of being funny, it’s him. In this online class, he teaches how to deliver comedy through all of the stages – from gathering ideas to the delivery itself.  Steve reveals his best sources for comedy materials, he talks about how to find your comedic voice, and how to develop a comedic persona. Steve also analyzes a few joke structures that show you don’t always have to have a punchline to make a laugh and much more. This is a course that more than anything will inspire you to go out there and make other people laugh.

2. Judd Apatow Teaches Comedy – Judd Apatow is responsible for comedy hits like The 40 Year old Virgin, Knocked Up, Girls, Pineapple Express, Superbad and so much more. What is so good about this comedy course is that Apatow talks about all the stages of creating a comedy movie – from building an idea, to crafting the story and structuring it, up until the directing and producing stage. Judd will teach you not only how to write funny characters and funny dialogues, he also teaches how to cast and direct actors, how to shoot a comedy, and the secrets behind producing a comedy film- as a writer, you need to know this stuff, so you’ll understand the process that your script will go after you sold it.

You can also look for comedy classes around your area and maybe even take some improv classes. Practice comedy and when you’ll write it, it will become more natural. I also recommend also reading the article how to edit comedy videos to get a deeper understanding of the comedy needs in films

Find your taste in comedy

If you want to write comedy scripts that make people laugh, your first step is to find your writing voice and your type of favorite comedy. There are many types of comedies out there. There are:

  • Goofy comedies like Office Space or Old School
  • Romantic comedies like Chasing Amy and the classic When Harry Met Sally
  • Dramatic comedies like Harold and Maude and The King of Comedy
  • Action comedies such as Beverly Hills Cop and Pineapple express

There are also Slapstick, parody or spoof films, Black comedies, Gross-out films, And screwball comedies, so find out what ones you want to do.

I recommend reading my post on finding your voice, but there is another fun exercise you can do to find your type of humor:

Listen to your favorite comedians, watch your favorite comedy films, listen to the jokes, and write down those that make you laugh. Now, look at these jokes and find out what they all got in common. Start to become aware of what makes you laugh.

Read funny scripts as much as you can

You can learn about scriptwriting for as long as you need, but if you really want to advanced yourself, you need to start reading as many scripts as you can. There are tons of comedy scripts examples on the internet and you really don’t need to try hard to find a funny script. Start with comedy scripts of movies you like, and try to read as many comedy genres as you can. That way you’ll learn that there really is no one way to write a comedy script. There is a general format to write all the scripts, but after reading a few comedy screenplays, you’ll see that there is a way to be creative within the format. 

8 more Tips for crafting a comedic screenplay

Knowing how to write funny is essential for every write, not only comedy writers. Here are 9 tips that will help you make your script funnier. 
  • Build a good story – When you have a good story, the jokes are not being forced into the story. Think about your movie as a drama first. Writing a good story is essential for comedy, and it should be the tool that leads the jokes. So like every story,  pay attention to the 3 act structure of the story and the characters. If you are having problems with writing a good story.
  • Learn to observe – The best way to get good ideas for stories is to find funny elements in your life that you can develop into a story. It doesn’t have to be a funny thing that happened to you. It can be even death, but when something happens to you, ask yourself, “What if…?” and imagine a funny scene in the situation you are in. In the Comedy Master Class with Judd Apatow, he tells the story of when Dana Carvey did an impression of Garry Shandling – a pretty evil one. When Dana Carvey called Garry to apologize, Garry told him not to worry about it and suggested doing an episode about it in his show “The Larry Sanders Show” – and they did it.
  • Know how to write a punchlineMany writers have problems with the punchline or funny ending for a sketch or a scene. Many writers try to start from the punchline and develop a funny situation out of it. Others like to start with a specific setup and then try ten different punchlines. You should do what works best for you, but I recommend starting from what is essential. If it’s the setup, start with the setup, and if it’s the punchline, start with it.
  • Surprise the audience – The element of surprise is fundamental in comedy. Taking the audience’s expectations and turning them around is what makes every punchline work. The characters should share the audience’s expectations too. The bigger the gap is between the character’s expectations and the actual result of the situation, the funnier it will be. Also, make sure your jokes haven’t been made a thousand times before. Be original!
  • Find locations with the potential to be funny. – If you find a good location, jokes will come with them. Go through your script, see which scenes can be done in a more exciting location, and think about all the funny situations you can draw from. Also, think about the props that every location can offer and what you can do with them.
  • Be creative – Your first tool as a comedy writer is your imagination. Being creative is vital if you want to surprise your audience. You have to create as many jokes as possible with the characters, props, and locations you have. Look at the objects around you and train your mind to find funny situations that relate to them. Observe fascinating people that you think might be great to build characters from. Maybe it is one element about them that interests you. Write everything down in a little notebook. Observe and ask yourself what would happen if…? Bob Newhart once said that a comedian can never have a vacation because he always observes everything around him. That is the comedian’s job and the same for the comedy writer. That is the comedian’s job and the same for the comedy writer.
  • Write with a partner When you look at the credits in most of the comedy films out there, you will see that most comedies have a few scriptwriters. Writing with a partner is not always easy and fun as it may sound, but comedy writing is very recommended. When you write with others, you get to see live reactions to your ideas and jokes. When working with a partner on comedy, you should find someone with the expertise you are missing, so he’ll complete you and won’t go against you. As in love & marriage, when you find your partner, make sure it will be someone you will love to work with and that it will be easy to get divorced. Anyway, with or without a partner, always seek feedback from others, such as fellow writers or actors. See their reactions to your script’s comedic elements, and refine it based on the feedback received. Collaborating and iterating will help you fine-tune your script’s comedic potential.
  • Fix the script –  Mel Brooks once said that writing is all about re-writing. When you work on the second draft of a scene or a full script, read the dialogue aloud and see how they sound. With comedy, the text is not enough, and they should be acted funny as well. Pay attention to the rhythm of the lines. Sometimes only moving an adverb can make all the work or simply change one word (Is Pepsy is a funnier word than Cola?)Read it to others and see their reaction.

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