Post 76 / Hour 79: Comedy Writing Tips from the Greats
By Jenn Dlugos
Heading into the climax of the “100 Hours of Humo(u)r” initiative, I found Dave passed out under his computer desk, drooling on his power strip. Before he lost total consciousness, he asked me to do a guest post on his blog on comedy writing. Below I present my favorite tips from comedy legends, which should give the fire department enough time to determine if Dave’s drool is a safety hazard.
“Comedy has to be based on truth. You take the truth and you put a Curly-Q on the end.”
It’s impossible to laugh at something that does not have a relatable truth at its core. The Daily Show caters to people who follow a certain political thought. Jeff Foxworthy’s The Blue Collar Comedy Tour poked fun at certain “truths” of the Southern lifestyle. Find the truth in your mockery, first — then add a Curly-Q of absurdity.
“Comedy is tragedy plus time.”
— Carol Burnett
My humor book series Mug Of Woe publishes true, shocking, and embarrassing tales of life gone wrong, because the funniest stories begin with woe. At the core of every great comedy act lies a crappy childhood, social awkwardness, a long-held grudge, or another source of pain. Most people try to hide their flaws. It’s a comedy writer’s job to flaunt them.
“Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool out of yourself.”
Ask any stand-up comedian how long it took him or her to get a joke “just right,” and you’ll get a response of hours, days, or weeks. Comedy screenplays undergo dozens of rewrites and line changes up until the moment of filming. Improvised comedy troupes practice for months to develop a chemistry that seems natural and effortless. Comedy writers wade through an endless stream of bad jokes, weak scenarios, and forced comebacks to find that elusive effortless comedy bit. Let go of your frustration with the insecurity, writer’s block, and dumb ideas. Instead, embrace the struggle as part of the creative process.
Jenn Dlugos is the co-editor of the award-winning Mug of Woe humor book series, a collection of true, embarrassing stories submitted by comedians and humorists from all over the world. When she’s not reading about bad blind dates or people trapped on their porch by angry raccoons, she finds herself behind the camera making funny films. Last October, one of her comedy films was chosen as one of five finalists in the Lifetime Television Unscripted Development Pipeline Competition. Jenn teaches screenwriting and offers one-on-one screenwriting tutoring. You can visit her writing tips website, www.thescriptscribe.com.
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