One night I got caught in one of those youtube traps; clicking from video to video and not knowing how I got to one place to another. I came across an old web series of these two girls in New York called, Broad City. It was different and as a video director — do able! I enjoyed their interview with Amy Poehler about writing a sitcom.
If you were to see my Netflix Instant Queue, you would see nothing but sitcom’s being watched. Its a dying art that I cheer to come back! Give me can laughter, bright lights and punch lines! Maybe I’m just a child from the 90’s who grew up on this stuff or maybe I have a natural liking. Either way, I started to think about episode I would create.
My first amazon search gave me Evan S. Smith, Writing Television Sitcoms. This book is amazing! It was like going behind the scenes and sitting at the writers table. Of course that first thing I picture was 30 Rock.
For a few weeks I listened to my friend’s jokes and pin pointing why it was so funny which made it difficult to find anything funny. When writing tweets, I started to think about how I was setting up my thought.
“‘displacement’ of an audience’s train of thought; as in, the setup for a joke causes to have certain expectations, but the punchline yanks the rug out by providing a very different, incongruous payoff. The result? Tension is discharged and the audience laughs.”
“On another level, all humor incorporates some elements of surprise within its structure. When we create a funny scene or joke, we try to reel the audience in with a realistic setup, then hit them with a surprise twist at the end.”
“…an unfortunate truth of the sitcom world is that “three-quarters of all writing is rewriting.”..It’s not uncommon for the staff of a show to rewrite a script five or more times.”
I started to see how I could use this new found knowledge in other areas of my work. Learning how many times a script is re-written before they go in production help me at work prepare to share drafts with other. Feed back is gold! I’ve always been the artist that would say, “Don’t look, its not done!” When I started to ask my co-workers to view my work and tell me what they think I would get very insightful help. Usually they would pin point what wasn’t working. Also allowing my clients to see the drafts before the deadline to get some feed back.
The biggest revolution was when I was reading the chapter about the premise driven comedy, which to me, means the story, (the- what happens question).
“When You Can’t Find the Right Punchline, Here’s a tip: When you can’t find the right punchline, go back and check the setup. Once, I agonized over a joke through several drafts of a script, spending hours trying to replace a single weak punchline. A producer who was passing by my office tossed off a casual suggestion – “Change the setup?” Hmm. I went back, tweaked the joke’s premise, and suddenly – half a dozen great punchlines popped into my head. Problem solved.”
I started to edit my videos differently after I read this. How important the setup was! Especially when it came to testimonials. You build up the story and the best part of what happens becomes more powerful.
Half the book was about the writing and the other about the business. I forced myself to read the details about the business but I’m glad I did. It gave me a better idea about the piratical part of writing in as a career.
As for my web series, now I have no excuses. Time to write. But first, I must watch a few more sitcoms for research!