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Screenwriting Help E-Mail (Previous)

Updated every Monday, one selected e-mail will be posted and answered here each week. With many years of experience in the film and television business, I look forward to providing answers to your questions (often with a humorous eye) about screenwriting or the entertainment industry in general.  Please send your e-mailed questions to: Script Advisor.  You may also wish to visit our Screenwriting Help E-Mails - The Archives.

This week's question: 

I'm very funny and think I'd be a great writer on a sitcom.  How do I do that, DcH?


This week's Answer: 

Why Don't They Call It A "Standcom"?

Arlin, I've had some experience in the sitcom world:   pitched some ideas to producers, written some specs, even had a few ideas paid "homage" to.  (The only thing the show didn't pay was money.) It can be a school of hard knocks (and sometimes that's literally knocking hard on agents' doors ) when it comes to trying to write for sitcoms.  The key is to have the talent on the page and get that page and several more like them (often there are about 60 or so for each script) to the right people who will recognize that talent and want more of the same for their specific show.  If you're truly set on being a sitcom writer, then my suggestion is to continue to watch and study sitcoms, keep reading and writing scripts, and get them out to the literary agents (the ones you right, that is) who handle sitcom writers.  If a literary agent thinks he can sell you, he'll send your specs out, especially in the fall when shows are staffing up (which is much better than staffing down).  It's the persistent writers who get those staff jobs -- the ones with the talent, of course (well, let's say the ones who have enough talent to get by with).

Sitcom writing -- or "keeping the jokes coming" -- can be a lot harder than it seems.  A sitcom structure needs to be heeded and the "funny" must be a very prominent and perfectly executed.  There's always a dramatic through-line even though it may be covered in comedy, so to speak  Basically, you have to pour your talent and humor and creativity into a specific format that will fill that half hour in just the right way.  Once you get the hang of the Sitcom Way of Doing Things, you'll be home free.

If you truly love sitcoms and feel you can contribute to them, by all means, do so.  Write so.  Send do. Contact agents so.  Get on a staff so.  Make a living, writing sitcoms so. 

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