WHAT DO YOU SAY ABOUT COMEDY? - Complications Ensue
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Wednesday, April 27, 2005

I'm 52,000 words into Crafty TV Writing. I think it's going to be a good book. Lots of stuff that "everybody knows" but I haven't seen written down anywhere, except possibly in the occasional obscure post on a blog somewhere, by inference.

I've got the chapters on writing in general written, and most of the chapters on working. The big gaping holes where I have nothing but notes are the chapters on comedy and (if I decide to have one) animation. Animation's not going to be hard, I don't think -- I just need to find some animation writers who can tell me how much of a difference there is between animation and live action. Comedy, on the other hand ... as the great Shakespearean, David Garrick, said on his deathbed: "Dying is easy. It's comedy that's hard."

How do you write about writing comedy? The books on comedy writing are pretty useless -- at least the ones I've read, please feel free to recommend better ones. I've written romantic comedy -- yes, for money, even -- but never so-called situation comedy. I've read John Rogers' excellent comedy writing glossary, which is a list of lessons in its own right, and he was kind enough to give me an interview, too.

Ahhh ... just bitching, that's all. I'll get there.

7 Comments:

Though more about films than TV, I sitll thought Stuart Voytilla and Scott Petri's "Writing the Comedy Film" was a good book.

Peace.
Fun Joel

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:34 PM  

Can't help you with comedy, I'm afraid, Alex. I've never been a fan of the set-up/punchline concept of sit-coms such as Friends, Seinfeld and Everybody Loves Raymond. Well, I DON'T love Raymond and have never watched his show -- or any of the others mentioned above.

But if you're looking for animation writers -- really good ones -- to chat with for your book, then may I suggest you start with Larry Brody, the writer/producer of numerous animated series such as Spawn, Spiderman and The Silver Surfer. His email address (and this is no secret) is larry@tvwriter.com . Good luck!

By Anonymous Kelly J. Compeau, at 12:47 PM  

have any opinion on Smith's Writing Television Sitcoms? Or Vorhaus' The Comic Toolbox? Toolbox seems to be in fashion these days, widely recommended and assigned as a text for various reputable programs. As for the Smith, I've read it cover to cover. A thorough, if uninspired catalogue of the structures and techniques of sitcoms.

By Anonymous odocoileus virginianus, at 4:20 PM  

I enjoyed Laughing Out Loud: Writing the Comedy-Centered Screenplay by Andrew Horton, though I'm not sure how much the advice in it made me a funnier writer and how much it fed my academic neurosis. It's very analytical about the process of comedy, so it appeals to me, because I love to analyze things to the point that annoys most people.

By Anonymous 'drew, at 4:26 PM  

I got Larry's email addy wrong. Duh! It's larrybrody@tvwriter.com

By Anonymous Kelly J. Compeau, at 9:43 PM  

Thanks for the heads ups, guys! Very helpful.

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 9:57 PM  

"Comedy, on the other hand ... as the great Shakespearean, David Garrick, said on his deathbed: 'Dying is easy. It's comedy that's hard.'"

I must be comedy.

As far as comedy goes, there are two kinds, a script simply peppered with jokes and actual comedy. You can tell the difference by the plot outline.

Take the movie Airplane, for example. The basic story structure reads more like a thriller than comedy. And that's because it is. It's Zero Hour written by Arthur Hailey (Airport). Airplane is not a very funny story, but it is made funny by all the absurdities and jokes that were piled on top of the thriller framework.

Real comedy is funny even in outline. If you read it to someone, saying "this happens, then that happens" and they laugh, then that's comedy.

By Blogger Jack, at 10:08 PM  

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