Home > Script Writing > Writing Comedy Scripts

Writing Comedy Scripts

By: Jennie Kermode - Updated: 6 Apr 2011 | comments*Discuss
 
Comedy Script Sketch Sitcome Jokes

Writing comedy is one of the biggest challenges any writer can undertake, but it's also a great way to break into theatre or TV and make your name. Good comedy writing is always in demand. You can produce short sketches, whole acts, or even sitcoms and other comedy series. Once you know what you're doing you could try your hand at writing a film. Learning the ropes, however, takes patience, and you can expect to make a lot of errors before you find your feet.

Comedy Styles

There are many different ways to approach comedy and the first thing you will need to do is to determine which is right for you. Comedy is an area where it's really important for a writer to find their own voice. Don't try to write what you think will amuse other people, even if your words are intended to be delivered by an established star. Write what feels instinctively funny to you.

Writing comedy begins with thinking about a subject, character or situation and considering what's funny about it, but you can develop your style from there in a variety of ways. The simplest comedy invites an audience to laugh at things they already consider absurd. This can be very effective but unless it's exceptionally well done it won't make you stand out as a writer. More sophisticated comedy uncovers absurdities where the audience might not previously have noticed them.

Jokes vs Humour

Often, comedy begins with a joke. Individual jokes are relatively easy to think up and can be worth recording - a lot of writers do well by supplying them to comedians. Developing this kind of comedy into something which can be sustained in a script, however, is more complicated.

When you're writing a script you can't rely on a simple series of punchlines. The longer your piece of writing is, the more you will have to move away from jokes and onto humour. This involves developing situations that are funny even though individual lines of dialogue might not provoke laughter. Think of it like a traditional shaggy dog story in which you take a wayward approach to a conclusion signposted at the start.

Of course, what is funny to you might not be funny to everyone, and it's always useful to have somebody else read through your comedy writing - or listen to you read it - before you complete your final draft. This will also help you to refine and tighten up your work, trimming out material that doesn't communicate anything useful.

Developing Plots

In order to be successful, comedy has to stay focused. This doesn't mean there is no room for meandering anecdotes in stand-up or sub-plots in sitcom episodes, but it does mean that you as a writer need to keep careful track of your main themes at all times and return to them periodically to keep audience attention. Don't overload your writing with a surfeit of ideas that you then lack the room to develop properly.

When structuring situations, it's useful to think about that old mainstay of comedy, the catchphrase. Deliberately attaching a catchphrase to a particular character or performer rarely works - these things tend to emerge over time as you find natural themes to return to. You can, however, use repetition of a phrase within a single piece or writing very effectively to reward audience attention or to create humour by reducing a familiar phrase to something that sounds absurd.

Laughing At vs Laughing With

If you were ever told off for picking on somebody as a child you will have been told that there's a difference between laughing at somebody and laughing with them. Many comedy writers do make use of the former and it can work well in satire, but it's hard to sustain in most types of script for one simple reason: the audience will lose interest if it doesn't care about the characters. If you ridicule your characters too much they will cease to seem worth laughing at.

Developing comedy that can be sustained over anything longer than a single sketch usually requires creating characters that your audience can laugh with. This doesn't mean they need to be likeable in the conventional sense, but they do need to be engaging and this means they need to have agency - they need to drive the story rather than simply having things happen to them. Often comedy characters are developed around a single personality flaw that can be relied upon to generate trouble.

Some kinds of comedy writing also use the audience as targets of humour, laughing at them, but this is something you should approach very carefully if you are to keep them on side. Ultimately, comedy is about social bonding and feeling good, so make sure you give your audience a pay-off that will leave them wanting more of your work in the future.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Why not be the first to leave a comment for discussion, ask for advice or share your story...

If you'd like to ask a question one of our experts (workload permitting) or a helpful reader hopefully can help you... We also love comments and interesting stories

Title:
(never shown)
Firstname:
(never shown)
Surname:
(never shown)
Email:
(never shown)
Nickname:
(shown)
Comment:
Validate:
Enter word:
Topics
Latest Comments
  • Shay_Marie
    Re: Learning to Think Like a Writer
    I'm a young women who's graduated high school, and not yet been able to go to collage, but I have a passion for writing, and I…
    24 October 2017
  • Elena
    Re: Plot vs. Character
    I've been studying screen writing for 18 but feel I never can learn enough. I want to master the craft - eventually.
    23 August 2017
  • Chris
    Re: Script Writing Dialogue and Description
    Many, many thanks for the crafting of this scientific and auspicious art form of creativity*** you are hitting the…
    29 July 2017
  • JCarlos
    Re: What is a Synopsis and How to Write One
    I have no problem with writing screenplays but when it comes to writing the synopsis I just can't seem to write it…
    28 May 2017
  • deepu
    Re: Creating Your Website
    Use the prologue to provide backstory. One way to use a prologue is to provide backstory on a character or several characters. A backstory…
    15 May 2017
  • Nikki
    Re: What is a Synopsis and How to Write One
    Am writing a book on an African language and I wanted to know if i have to write a synopsis.
    7 May 2017
  • Giles
    Re: Narrative Journalism
    Hi there You might be interested in Well Told - it's the first conference in the UK to be dedicated to narrative and longform journalism.…
    18 April 2017
  • vanweha
    Re: Learning to Think Like a Writer
    i am young man who recently finished his high school. i have that passion of becoming a writter but i am too vulnerable to…
    12 March 2017
  • Lexy
    Re: Informative Writing
    This helped me with my informative essay for English honors 1. This was very helpful thank you.
    27 February 2017
  • Xeptional Angel Emen
    Re: What is Microfiction?
    can I write a micro story that the ending isn`t actually the end, like keep my audience in suspense or I must complete the story to give it…
    27 February 2017
Further Reading...
Our Most Popular...
Add to my Yahoo!
Add to Google
Stumble this
Add to Twitter
Add To Facebook
RSS feed
You should seek independent professional advice before acting upon any information on the ExploreWriting website. Please read our Disclaimer.