Sunday, 14 November 2010

How do I Write Funny Lines for my Sitcom?

The definition of what is funny in a situation comedy is hugely subjective. This could cause a creative block for the sitcom writer if trying to please a diversity of audiences. Of course, this is not possible, but what constitutes funny lines for the sitcom sufficient to break into the comedy market?

Funny Dialogue for the Sitcom

The Eight Characters of Comedy: A Guide to Sitcom Acting And Writing
Sitcom Writing
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Writing a sitcom is perhaps the most profitable area of scriptwriting. Little wonder if the pressure is on to make an audience laugh at least 75 times an episode. If you think this is an overestimate, a standard sitcom lasts twenty five minutes and a funny line must be delivered around three to four times per minute. In terms of comedy, a minute is a long time without a laugh. How can the writer dream up funny lines on a regular basis?

Ideas for Situation Comedies

How to Write a Sitcom
An effective sitcom is borne from characters that possess silly, bizarre or obsessive traits, not the location, the event or situation. Authentically funny characters that possess an element of truth will often write the sitcom by themselves, particularly if the writer understands or identifies with them in some way. With two or three such characters, the writer is halfway there.

Funny Lines for Sitcoms

Putting words into the characters’ mouths means getting into their minds. This means being brutally honest about what they might say rather than writing what a perceived audience might think is funny. A script that makes the writer laugh is likely to make the audience laugh and create a unique sitcom.

Tips for Funny One-liners

The lines are not so funny by themselves. The classic one-liner delivered by Friends’ character Ross during a tiff with Rachel “When was I under you?” means nothing by itself. It is the context of what was said before, the build-up, the body language, the timing and the line delivery that makes the moment memorable. In other words, the line is nothing by itself.

Creating Comedy Tension

Creating odd contrasts and conflicts between the characters and the surroundings will make an ordinary line funny. This could be sexual advice from a repressed exec to his 12 year old son, or the conversation a nun might have in a gay bar. Comic contrasts will provide great opportunities for funny dialogue as well as funny one-liners.

Embarrassing Situations in Sitcoms

Awkward situations are often the bread and butter of comedy. Always look for ways to make an embarrassing scene more cringe-worthy, unique or bizarre. One-liners with double meanings can be hilarious if it illustrates repressed emotions hidden innuendoes or secret codes between friends. Acute observation of the everyday or sourcing upon one's own exeriences and putting a spin on it is likely to yield more ideas. Keep a notebook handy for such inspiration.

Secrets to Writing Dialogue for Sitcoms

Writing Television Sitcoms (revised)
Writing a Sitcom
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Create distinction in how the characters speak in the words used, the sentence construction and the accent (to be indicated on the cue). Look for alternative words used if the line is a little flat. A thesaurus is useful for this purpose, but remember a more accurate word is not the objective, as in the case of literary fiction, but a word to make a one-liner funnier. Look at antonyms as well as synonyms.

Contrasts in Characters

Including ordinary or ‘sane’ minor characters in sitcoms is a good way of bringing out the ridiculous qualities of a main character and therefore what he or she is likely to say to greater focus.

If a funny line does not come, never force it. Put the script away or move to another part of the script for now. Sleeping on it or changing the scene might be the answer. More often than not, the scriptwriter just needs to find his or her inner voice.

Relevant Links to Writing Sitcoms

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