The best comedy writing starts with characters

Anna Chlumsky and Julia Louise-Dreyfus in "Veep."
Anna Chlumsky does her best to manage Julia Louise-Dreyfus in “Veep.”

Given the many flavors of comedy and personal taste, is it even possible to create something that is universally funny?

The Writers Guild of America’s list of the 101 funniest scripts ever written may be more definitive for some than others, but, if nothing else, the list reflects how broad comic appeal can be.

While the top five films appear to have little in common, at the heart of each lie shared elements of Continue reading “The best comedy writing starts with characters”

Baroness von Sketch: Keen satire, devilishly female

Baroness von Sketch CBC
The award-winning all-female Canadian sketch comedy, Baroness von Sketch Show, examines narcissistic contemporary culture.

While Saturday Night Live, with its skewering political satire, has returned to late-night prominence, another sketch comedy, north of the border, is equally worthy of praise: Baroness von Sketch Show. Launched last year on CBC, the female-driven sketch comedy appropriately won the Canadian Screen Award for Best Variety or Sketch Comedy on International Women’s Day. Continue reading “Baroness von Sketch: Keen satire, devilishly female”

Humor for ‘unpresidented’ times: Political comedy “Dick”

Kirsten Dunst, Michelle Williams, Dan Hedaya (Photo by Phoenix Pictures/Getty Images)
Giddy teens Kirsten Dunst and Michelle Williams, with Dan Hedaya as Richard Nixon (Photo by Phoenix Pictures/Getty Images).

While it may be difficult to find humor in these “unpresidented” times, the last thing you may be in the mood for is a “political” film recommendation, but “Dick” is no ordinary political film. Continue reading “Humor for ‘unpresidented’ times: Political comedy “Dick””

Recommended comedy book: “The Hidden Tools of Comedy” by Steve Kaplan

Hidden Tools of Comedy by Steve KaplanComedy is the most challenging genre for one simple reason: what is funny to one person is not necessarily funny to another. But that doesn’t make it impossible to write a humorous film or sitcom, because if you understand the foundation of comic situations you can inject humor into whatever it is you’re writing, regardless of genre, especially if you read Steve Kaplan’s The Hidden Tools of Comedy: The Serious Business of Being Funny. Kaplan is a long-time comedy consultant in the entertainment industry who successfully has distilled his transferable knowledge into what is one of the best comedy books available. Continue reading “Recommended comedy book: “The Hidden Tools of Comedy” by Steve Kaplan”

Comedy, the Doritos Goat Super Bowl Ad, and no dialogue needed

Doritos goat SuperBowlIt’s easy as a screenwriter to tend to focus on dialogue, but the reality is stories need structure and conflict before they need any dialogue. The Doritos Super Bowl goat ad is a great example of why it is best first to focus on the story before worrying about the dialogue. Continue reading “Comedy, the Doritos Goat Super Bowl Ad, and no dialogue needed”

How to rewrite and improve the script

You’ve heard the phrase “writing is rewriting,” and that’s particularly true for screenplays and sitcoms because your goal as the writer must be to entertain, and the whole point of the rewrite is to shape your script into one that maximizes the Continue reading “How to rewrite and improve the script”

How to write a sitcom (step #4): Delivering the snappy dialogue

Andy Kaufman, Danny DeVito from TaxiSometimes it’s tempting to start pounding out dialogue for a scene before you’ve fully plotted the story or thought about core character traits, but such hastily written dialogue quite often is the worst thing screenwriters write — at least during the first draft anyway — because the goal of the first draft is to finish a first draft, not to have in hand a refined industry-worthy screenplay. But it’s okay, because dialogue easily can be improved simply by Continue reading “How to write a sitcom (step #4): Delivering the snappy dialogue”

How to write a sitcom and where to start

Since the sitcom I’m developing will be part of TheFilmSchool’s FREE staged screenplay reading series later this summer (August 1, at Seattle’s ACT – A Contemporary Theatre), I thought, for some reason, it would be a good exercise to document the full-on, start-to-finish process of developing a sitcom. This way I can either colossally fail or succeed — or perhaps somewhere in between — in front of the whole world. So, let’s get on with it, shall we? Continue reading “How to write a sitcom and where to start”