BRINGING THE FUNNYComplications Ensue
Complications Ensue:
The Crafty Game, TV, and Screenwriting Blog

Baby Name Voyager graphs baby name frequency by decade.

Social Security Administration: Most popular names by year.

Name Trends: Uniquely popular names by year.

Reverse Dictionary Search: "What's that word that means....?"

Facebook Name Trees Match first names with last names.


April 2004

May 2004

June 2004

July 2004

August 2004

September 2004

October 2004

November 2004

December 2004

January 2005

February 2005

March 2005

April 2005

May 2005

June 2005

July 2005

August 2005

September 2005

October 2005

November 2005

December 2005

January 2006

February 2006

March 2006

April 2006

May 2006

June 2006

July 2006

August 2006

September 2006

October 2006

November 2006

December 2006

January 2007

February 2007

March 2007

April 2007

May 2007

June 2007

July 2007

August 2007

September 2007

October 2007

November 2007

December 2007

January 2008

February 2008

March 2008

April 2008

May 2008

June 2008

July 2008

August 2008

September 2008

October 2008

November 2008

December 2008

January 2009

February 2009

March 2009

April 2009

May 2009

June 2009

July 2009

August 2009

September 2009

October 2009

November 2009

December 2009

January 2010

February 2010

March 2010

April 2010

May 2010

June 2010

July 2010

August 2010

September 2010

October 2010

November 2010

December 2010

January 2011

February 2011

March 2011

April 2011

May 2011

June 2011

July 2011

August 2011

September 2011

October 2011

November 2011

December 2011

January 2012

February 2012

March 2012

April 2012

May 2012

June 2012

July 2012

August 2012

September 2012

October 2012

November 2012

December 2012

January 2013

February 2013

March 2013

April 2013

May 2013

June 2013

July 2013

August 2013

September 2013

October 2013

November 2013

December 2013

January 2014

February 2014

March 2014

April 2014

May 2014

June 2014

July 2014

August 2014

September 2014

October 2014

November 2014

December 2014

January 2015

February 2015

March 2015

April 2015

May 2015

June 2015

August 2015

September 2015

October 2015

November 2015

December 2015

January 2016

February 2016

March 2016

April 2016

May 2016

June 2016

July 2016

August 2016

September 2016

October 2016

November 2016

December 2016

January 2017

February 2017

March 2017

May 2017

June 2017

July 2017

August 2017

September 2017

October 2017

November 2017

December 2017

January 2018

March 2018

April 2018


Thursday, April 28, 2005

Some readers have been kind enough to mention books on comedy they've found useful. What lessons do you remember from them? I read The Comic Toolbox a year or two ago when we were doing Naked Josh. But all I can remember is a graph showing the character's reality and their reality as they see it themselves -- the comedy is to be found in the area between the two. And, actually, I remember it more from our producer's explanation (he read the book at USC) and not from the book.

On the other hand, the ZAZ rules of comedy couldn't be simpler or clearer. Joke on a joke? Not funny.

On the other hand, as Tevye would say, the ZAZ rules of comedy don't tell you how to write comedy, only what doesn't work, and what to call certain gags that have names.

What, if any, lessons can you remember off the bat from a book about writing comedy? I've got Jerry Rannow's book on comedy in the bathroom. I cannot remember a single lesson from it. This may be my advancing senility, but something should have stuck -- other than a distinct impression that Jerry Rannow's less funny than he thinks.

Are there any books that actually tell you how to bring the funny?



Honestly, I've never really found a book that has much helpful to say on how to be funny. The only way I know of to learn to be funny is to try to make other people laugh, and to pay close attention towhat works and what doesn't. Learning comedy from a book is like learning how to dance by listening to a CD of somebody tapdancing.

By Anonymous Jacob, at 10:13 AM  

Can't really say it's from a particular book because it's pretty much in every book -- but the "rule of threes" is actually useful and can even be applied outside of comedy.

By Blogger Steve Peterson, at 12:57 PM  

People tell me I'm funny though I very rarely think so. My thought processes seem to run to the opposite of the "right thing to say", so I guess there's a rule of opposites at work in some types of humor.

I think there's a lot of humor that's neglected by not letting characters be themselves. Frasier was a good one at that - none of the writing was ever out of character and thus was very funny.

By Blogger Bill Cunningham, at 1:21 PM  

Well, I don't think it is so much a how-to of writing comedy. As most people will tell you, writing comedy is one of the most difficult things to do. I find, as I write comedy (screenplays -- I too hate sitcoms), one of my most annoying challenges is when I have a scene hat I know is a funny CONCEPT but still doesn't PLAY funny.

Regardless, I think the two things I remember most from the Voytilla book I mentioned are:

1. The mechanics of comedy -- literally what makes comedy funny. Not the most helpful for a non-funny person, but good building blocks for those people who have some skills, but need to do some tweaking. Basically, no surprises, just good reminders in a well-organized format. And,

2. Adapting the Hero's Journey motifs (since it is Voytilla) to comedy-specific scripts. An enlightening take.

Bottom line, I think it is important that people realize that a book won't make an unfunny writer into a funny one, but they might help the somewhat funny writer become funnier, IMNSHO. And if you ain't that funny, just write a drama instead! ;-)

Fun Joel

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:16 PM  

Laughing Out Loud by Andrew Horton, as I mentioned, it pretty academic. I'd assume it is used as a textbook for Horton's screenwriting classes, and I'd guess it would be helped by viewings of the films he mentions. He has a fondness for Eastern European comedy films, which is both intriguing and a little frustrating.

The book has some principles of comedy which I think work best as thought-provokers. The one that stuck with me the most: "It is not that comedy has a 'happy ending' so much as a festive climax that celebrates a community of two or more individuals." It explains why many comedies end at weddings.

He gives some "Exercises to Nurture the Comic Muse" which seemed helpful to me--maybe not so useful if you're saying, "Okay, I have to squeeze out three more pages by four o'clock and they have to be funny!" but good for habits. He suggests keeping a comic journal to note the humor you see around you. Another part of this is "random acts of kindness"--yes, it's a silly Oprahfied term, but I think if you get in the habit of looking for opportunities to bring delight into people's lives, then you're probably on the right track for writing comedy.

By Anonymous 'drew, at 7:19 AM  

Post a Comment

Back to Complications Ensue main blog page.

This page is powered by Blogger.