Tuesday, December 8, 2009

TODAY'S 2nd NUGGET: Writing Humor into Comedy Scripts

I'm feeling ornery today. Not a good mood to read spec scripts.

I shuffled through the pile and picked out one with an interesting title. Nothing on the cover page to tell me the genre. But as I flipped through, there was plenty of white space and it looked like it moved on the page.

I get back to my cubicle and settle in.

The opening was about minor characters. Eh. (But later the info is important.)

Then I reached page 4 where the main couple is introduced. Six paragraphs in, I liked them. Another page, I chuckled. By page 6, I'd follow them anywhere.

The key was a tongue in cheek sense of humor and clear, sharp riparte in very little space.

It occurred to me that this is what I look for in comedies, this is my standard. No taking yourself too seriously, and being very clear where the joke lies (yet not heavy handed).

ex. Man tells wry truth about his wife to his father-in-law. 1st line AFTER the joke: "Only the father-in-law is amused."

See what the writer did? First, razzle dazzle line. Then in five words, the writers has directed your eye to the reaction shot. The reaction shot is important because it tells the audience something about the relationship between the man & his father-in-law, namely that they have the same sense of humor.

If you do this, you'll avoid the mistake I see in a lot of comedy scripts. Often the story stops for jokes. Or it's joke, joke, joke. There's no relationship building during and in between the jokes. (I have a similar complaint in action movies about how the story stops for fight scenes.)

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: To make me sit up & take notice, make the jokes work double duty. Keep the story going through and after the joke. Yeah, I know. I didn't say it would be easy. Comedy is serious business.

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