INSIDE THE ART, CRAFT AND BUSINESS OF WRITING for Film, TV, Books, Stage, Print or Digital Media (with Particular Attention to Comedy)

The Shaula Evans Comedy Punch-Up Method (from the Blacklist)

The Shaula Evans Comedy Punch-Up Method

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
– Reveals
– 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) .

See also:

8 Rewrite Notes for Any Comedy Script

29 Different Ways To Get a Laugh

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Awesome art by Marc Giai

6 comments on “The Shaula Evans Comedy Punch-Up Method (from the Blacklist)

  1. Shaula Evans
    March 8, 2014

    Hi, Gregory. I’m glad you liked the punch-up list. I’ve read and enjoyed your writing here at The Other Network for a long time and it’s a pleasure to connect.

    • gregorymilleris
      March 8, 2014

      Likewise. Is Blacklist a job for you or just an adventure?

      • Shaula Evans
        March 8, 2014

        It’s definitely an adventure.

        The Black List is one of our two sponsors along with Go Into the Story, but the Black Board (the site itself) is 100% my project.

      • Shaula Evans
        March 8, 2014

        Oops. Hit “post” before I meant to:

        The Board is a complement to/outgrowth of my own work and writing, a way to give back to/supporting other writers, and also a way for me to create and be part of a creative community.

        Not so unlike your site for you, I’m guessing.

      • gregorymilleris
        March 8, 2014

        Write on.
        I’m sure you saw this recent post compiling all the story formulas: ?

        Also writer/writer’s helper-to-writer/writer’s helper, I’d be glad to send you a copy of my book, which I think you’ll enjoy. Let me know if you’d like kindle or pdf format and an email to send it.

  2. Shaula Evans
    March 8, 2014

    Actually, I hadn’t seen that post yet. It’s fantastic to have all those references in one place. Thank you for the (massive) work of putting that together.

    I’d love a copy of your book. PDF format would be best for me. Please send it to shaulaevans at gmail dot com. Thank you!

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This entry was posted on March 8, 2014 by in Comedy, Rewriting and tagged , .
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