Saturday, 6 November 2010

My Situation Comedy Isn’t Funny

Writing a situation comedy requires a specific set of skills that enables the story to unfold in a limited time period and in specific settings. But creating comedy should come from the writer’s heart and not follow rules. How does the writer create the ideal sitcom that is guaranteed to get laughs?

Creative Writing Tips for a Great Sitcom

How NOT to Write a Sitcom: 100 Mistakes to Avoid If You Ever Want to Get Produced (Writing Handbooks)
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The parameters for writing a comedy soap are pretty well set in stone. Each script should have a running time of twenty five minutes with five minutes break in the middle, and have two studio sets and perhaps two or three minor sets. Most of the action will take place in one setting, perhaps a living area or a place of work. Formatting a situation comedy is essential to getting it read. Link to a free formatting tool for situation comedy can be found at the foot of this article.

How to Write Comedy Scripts for TV

This is all well and good but, a great TV comedy is one that should be character driven. It is not good to make assumptions about what is funny and then simply fill it with people. It is the people that makes a comedy funny, not the situation, props or a way of life. With the right characters and comic tension, anything can be made funny, even estate agents or undertakers.

Original Comedy Drama

The script writer may create great funny characters only by an intimate understanding of what makes the characters tick. This will mean putting a little of the writer in the character. Intimate understanding and empathy with the character will show in the writing. Completing a character profile questionnaire (see link at the foot of this article) will help create quirky characters with unique drives. Great characters that have real comedy potential may have the following qualities:
  • Characters that the audience can identify with in some way, for a perceived failing or odd quirk, such as The Office’s Davie Brent’s narcissistic need to be liked by everyone.
  • A character with silly notions about the world, such as Basil Fawlty’s need to get ahead of an imagined system that is out to get him.
  • Comic contrast with another character, which can be seen between anal Rimmer and loutish Lister in Red Dwarf.
  • A situation that presses buttons within the characters that make them reveal themselves in a ridiculous way and having unforeseen circumstances. Opportunities for this can be found from a location, event or series of events.
Tips for Comic Writing

The Eight Characters of Comedy: Guide to Sitcom Acting And Writing
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Never write a comedy to fill an imagined industry need, but for oneself. Plumb the depths of past experiences to make the writing authentic. Relate a situation that may have really happened and dress it up, make it more embarrassing, cringe-worthy or ridiculous. Imagine the worst thing that could happen to a character and turn the thumb-screws a little more for comic effect. This does not always mean being heavy-handed, but subtle. Express a truth in a warped way. The most important thing is to be original. The industry always needs originality.

Make Money Writing a Comedy Script

During the redraft, think about the target audience. Is it meant for young audiences, such as Gavin and Stacey, or is it a cosy type of comedy soap, such as Not Going Out? Is it intended for the well-seasoned viewer, having a cynical view on life such as Lead Balloon? Thinking about the market will make the script easier for agents to pitch if the comedy writer encounters a lucky break.

How to Write Funny Dialogue

Writing funny dialogue is another matter and is covered in more detail in another article on this blog. Needless to say, dialogue forms the bread and butter of comedy writing and involves several elements, including:
  • Timing.
  • What the characters do not say.
  • Delivery.
  • The body language whilst the line is being delivered.
  • The context of what is being said.
  • What had been said previously.
  • The language (slang, dialect or idioms).
A funny character-driven plot containing characters the writer intimately identifies with will often write itself. Natural dialogue often comes from instinct and close observation. But dialogue should capture the essence of real life dialogue, distilled and concocted to best effect. Less is also more. Putting it tersely or using a few witty one-liners never does any harm to a funny script.

Writing a Situation Comedy

Writing a funny script cannot be done to order. It must come from the writer’s heart and contain a mote of truth, albeit a warped version. Funny characters will often contain contradictions and bizarre quirks the writer can identify with. Drawing upon past experiences and dressing them up is a great way of conceiving funny scenes for the sitcom.

Links Relating to Writing a Sitcom

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