INSIDE THE ART, CRAFT AND BUSINESS OF WRITING for Film, TV, Books, Stage, Print or Digital Media (with Particular Attention to Comedy)
1. Comedy needs a story spine to hang on. Fix up structural, character, and plot problems before you start your punch up. (See also: David Zucker on Comedy.)
2. Make strong character choices. Comedy that comes from character is funniest–strong characters make for more distinct dialogue, which in turn lends itself to more comedy. Likewise, find ways to give characters distinct physical styles.
3. Know your story world. Don’t make jokes that break the integrity of your world, but do add jokes that support the world you’ve built and abide by its story logic.
4. Look for these opportunities to add more humor
- Character names and place names
- Could the scene take place in a funnier location?
- Visual gags – a least one per scene
- Sound gags
- Slapstick / physical comedy
- Cultural (/anachronistic or period) references
- Reactions (from other characters)
- Can the characters have funnier business (and are they pouring coffee or spilling jelly?)
- Comedic Narrative Voice: can the scene descriptions, action lines, etc., be funnier?
- Zucker-style background gags
- Verbal comedy – room for jokes? Could a word or phrase be funnier? Does the line end on the funniest word or does the joke need to be excavated? For really good advice on verbal comedy, read the archives at Jane In Progress.
- Callbacks to earlier jokes / running jokes. Can you add a topper to a current joke, or otherwise extend it, or turn it into a running joke?
5. Add minimum of one joke per scene or page, whichever is shorter.
6. End scene and every sequence on a joke, aka put a “button” on the scene. (Here are tips on how to end your scene on a joke.)
7. Make sure there are at least 3-4 comedy set pieces (extended blockbuster comedy sequences) .
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