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”

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”

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”

Write what you like and who you know

Woody Allen and Diane Keaton in Annie HallOne of the best ways to learn how to write a screenplay is, yes, to just write one, but if you’ve never written one before, it’s easy to get derailed by the debilitating thought, “what should I write about?” Just write the film or TV show you want to see, for you’ll naturally be drawn to the genre that interests you the most, which, in turn, Continue reading “Write what you like and who you know”

How to write a sitcom (step #2): The setting

All television shows have a few primary locationsAll television shows, regardless of genre or “on location” shooting, have scenes in every episode set in a handful of primary locations:

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”

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