The Key Rules of Comedy Writing For Screenwriters

Comedy writing is not an easy feat, it takes a lot of precision, expert craft, and creativity to capture your audience’s attention and bring them to laughter. The key comedy writing tips for screenwriters will be laid out in full today, from discovering the perks of a strong story to working with a comedy writing partner – trust us, it’s worth partnering.

So… We thought we would bring you an article to help you quickly improve your comedy writing with a few key comedy writing tips.

Key Comedy Writing Tips For Screenwriters

Strong story > a weak story

person-swimming-at-the-pool-in-grayscale-photo-2157168 (1)There’s more to this than the above title – a lot of writers and myself included earlier on in my screenwriting journey would opt for multiple jokes over a strong story with fewer jokes. This may have been due to the fear of no one laughing at the story and not wanting to risk that big joke failing.

However, the jokes are not what matters here, it’s the story – a weak and flimsy story with a lot of jokes will not stand the test of time, it needs to have a solid story or it will not get read from the first page to the last.

Try and incorporate your jokes into the main story and remember less is more – This is an essential comedy writing tip, in fact, an essential writing tip in general.

READ MORE: What is a film treatment and how do I create one?

Give the protagonist an authentic voice

You want the protagonist to have an authentic voice so the readers connect with them immediately, without the connection to the main character the story will flop, and unfortunately the laughs too!

Make a connection with the audience through the authenticity of the voice of the character, it doesn’t have to be what people believe in or agree with, just something they’ve possibly witnessed.

For instance Ricky Gervais’ character David Brent in The Office, or Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory, they’re unique characters but they are authentic, you would’ve crossed someone with their personality to an extent.

A great technique is to write down unique characters you’ve met and maybe merge different attributes, maybe a personality with the other one’s job, and their interests. Write a few down, it may just be the start to your next sitcom.

Here’s our character development sheet if you need a starting point:

Writing with a partner

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Tina Fey and Amy Poehler

Yep, it’s actually incredibly beneficial to write with a partner, not just anyone though! Having a comedy writing partner has plenty of benefits, you can share ideas and your styles will differ.

The differences in styles are actually beneficial to you, one may be better at writing quips and gags, whereas the other writer is better at developing a story.

You can bounce ideas off of each other, some will stick some won’t, but it gives you an instant release when suffering from writer’s block.

You really get a unique storyline something you wouldn’t produce yourself, and by having a writing partner it allows you to develop the story with multiple dimensions.

A few of our favourite writing duos are:

  • Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.
  • Damon Beesley and Iain Morris.
  • Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon.
  • Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph.

This is one of the hidden comedy writing tips, but we can reassure you it will make the world of difference.

READ MORE: 7 screenwriting tips for beginners

Saying funny isn’t writing funny

Sadly it isn’t, we wish it was – it would save you a lot of time, you’d produce award-winning comedies in days, well not days, but you get the gist.

Writing funny is a lot different from being funny. You want to write an intricate story, that contains incredibly crafted dialogue, mixed with a few big laughs that are relatable but keep your audience gripped.

A joke about how your work colleague farted on his brother sandwich will just not cut it unless written incredibly well of course.

Make it unpredictable

Make your story unpredictable, it will keep the viewers gripped but produce laughter like no other when something completely unexpected happens.

A lot of the time, if you watch a lot of comedy you kind of expect something to happen, and when it does, yes you laugh but not as much as if something straight outta left field blows the scene up.

Not literally blowing the scene up, but causing enough unexpected jeopardy that viewers would never expect the twists and turns the storyline provides.

Be awkward, really awkward

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Jim – Friday Night Dinner

Everyone loves an awkward character or an awkward moment. It brings out a mixture of laughs and an uncomfortable feeling you may get before a prostate exam, but it’s funny, well the prostate exam isn’t.

It’s never funny when it’s happening directly to you, but if it’s not. there’s an element of humour in the situation.

Think Jim from Friday Night Dinner, his interactions are hilarious, until you find him living next door.

Goodbye for now

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Goodbye for now!

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