Saturday, August 6, 2016

Comedy Lessons: Sketches

This week's lesson on comedy (hopefully helping to grow my meager toolbox* of humor tools) is about writing sketch comedy.  I'm a few chapters into Jenny Roche's Comedy Writing, and I've become disillusioned.  There isn't much on how to be funny.  I'm sure there are many people out there who would benefit on lessons on how to sell your comedy, write in the correct format, and so on.  It's just that my problem is I'm not funny, and I need to be funny.

Oh well.  I'll keep trying.  At some point, I will look down at one of the eggs I've laid and see a great chicken of comedy hatch forth.

So, let's get going.

Exercise 1: Study a radio sketch show and a television sketch show.
Me as a 2 year old: Do I have to?
Jenny Roche: You love humor.
Me: I want to finish my novel!
Her: Honey, you've been writing your novel for literally twenty years!
Me: But it's almost finished!
Her: No it isn't!
Me: It's almost almost finished!
Her: No.
Me: Okay, it's almost almost almost finished.
Her: Close enough.  How about you think about sketch shows you watched in the past?  Can you think of any?
Me: Monty Python.  Saturday Night Live.
Her: What about for radio?
Me: Rush Limbaugh.
Her: No.
Me: The Bob and Ray Show?
Her: Close enough.  There isn't much funny on the radio anymore.  Just Michael Krasny.  There's podcasts....
Me: Ugh.

Exercise 2: Come up with premises for five radio sketches podcasts.

Who has time to listen to podcasts?

Exercise 3: Come up with premises for five four television sketches.
Made Fresh
A man and a woman meet at a bar.  He introduces himself as "Fresh."  He's upset because he's just been laid off from his cushy job as a chef.  He explains he works for a large food service corporation just sitting on the floor where the food is made.  He legally changed his name to "Fresh Ingredients" so they could claim their food was "Made with Fresh Ingredients."  They fired him because they hired a guy named "Fresh Daily."

First World Nooooo Theater
People from the audience recount their (minor) annoyances from their lives.  Some examples:
  • Getting a parking ticket because the meter was broken.
  • Waiting in line for food and having it run out just as they got to the front.
  • Not being able to go to a movie because the babysitter doesn't show up.
At the end of each piece, a clip from a movie is played where a character screams "Noooooo!"

Stephen King for Kids
Note: Of course this requires Mr. King's participation.  Can be switched with any other horror author or an actor pretending to be creepy and reading made up stories.

Stephen King reads a truncated version of his stories to a group of small children.  When the kids start to freak out, a more cheerful author or character jumps in and changes the story.  Some examples:

  •  The Shining: In the end, the Torrance family throws a big party for the ghosts who go away happily ("Until next year!").
  • Christine: The car has bad brakes and repeatedly crashes before it can hurt anyone.
  • Carrie: After the bad kids dump cherry Kool-Aid on her head at the prom, she uses her powers to spank them.
The author grows increasingly agitated until he storms out in disgust.  The kids reveal themselves to be monsters in disguise and attack the cheerful guy.

Modern Twilight Zone
Stories with terrifying, twist endings that are immediately undone by modern technology.
  • Teens are chased by a monster until they call 911 on their cell phones.
  • A couple lost on an endless, mystical highway, turn on the GPS and find their way back.
  • A man visited by horrifying visions takes antipsychotic medication and they go away.

Aaaaaaand I'm going back to my novel.

*Meager Toolbox was my nickname in high school.

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