This week's Answer:
You Should Ask
it: Funny you should ask. You asked about
"funny" and I used "funny" in my
title. See how that's funny?
a perfect example of how to not write funny. Never explain
why something is funny. And here's another axiom: Never
try to be funny. Another way of saying it is never
show that you're trying to elicit laughter. As soon as a
reader/viewer detects that the writer or the characters
saying the writer's lines is trying to be funny, it
stops laughing. If it was ever laughing in the first
place. Just go to a comedy club and watch how an audience
gets very quiet when it realizes the stand-up comedian is
struggling to get them to laugh. In other words, trying to
written many comedies: features, sitcoms, radio shows,
etc. and, here's something important I discovered: If I'm
laughing and enjoying myself as I write the script or
laughing with co-writers while doing so, then I know I'm
on the right track. In fact, next week, two other
writers and me are putting on a reading at a theatre in
Hollywood for a sitcom pilot we've been working on on and
off for years. And every time we have gotten
together to write our original sitcom, we were laughing
and enjoying ourselves. We never tried to be funny. We
just wrote what we thought was funny to us. We were
entertaining ourselves. It would be great if
others like our script: the actors, the audience. Anybody
who wants to produce our show.
suggestion: Love your characters. Give them special
traits, original idiosyncrasies, special mannerisms, ways
of being and talking. Give each character a different
voice, a different way to express him/herself. Or itself
if it's a dog or a raccoon. Show how through their
actions, motivations, and words who they are. If you love
them for their unique qualities, chances are your reader
will, too. You want your characters to become part of your
"family". Even the antagonistic ones. They
can be funny, too. And often are because they often take
themselves too seriously.
do we tune in every week to our favorite sitcoms? Because
of the brilliant writing? We can appreciate the writing,
but we are coming back to see our favorite characters.
Somehow we relate to them, feel connected to them. We like
them. Even love them. Or we love to not like them. Either
way, it's always for the characters.
never play for the laugh. In your writing, never show that
you are begging for a laugh. Let your "funny"
come organically, from the situation, from the conflict
between characters who want what they want and often it's
not what somebody else wants. Presto! Conflict: the main
ingredient for comedy (and, of course, drama). Did
you know that comedy is actually drama.