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.
Find your taste in comedy.
Before you start to even think about creating any type of comedy, you need 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 comedy such as Beverly Hills Cop and Pineapple express
There are also Slapstick, parody or spoof film, Black comedies, Gross-out films, And screwball comedies, so find out what are the ones that 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 luagh. Now, look at these jokes and find out what they all got in common. Start to become aware of what makes you laugh.
9 Tips for writing a comedy script
- Build a good story – When you have a good story, the jokes are not being force in 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 lead 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, find a writing partner that is good at this and work with him.
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 to fo an episode about it in his show “The Larry Sanders Show” – and they did it.
- 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. 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.
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 hole trape. The scene wouldn’t be as funny without the reactions of Jim Gaffigan.
- 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. 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.
- Writing the punchline – Many 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 the funny situation out of it. Others like to start with a specific setup and then to 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 for 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.
- Fixi 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.