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June 4, 2017

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There’s Been a Breakthrough in Understanding How Comedy Is Created

May 25, 2017

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Behind the Keyboard: Why We Wrote Now That’s Funny! The Art and Craft of Comedy Writing

 

A Book for Two Seasons

 

There are two kinds of people in the world, those who believe that there are two kinds of people and those who don’t. As university professors, we identified two kinds of students: Those enrolled in television and screenwriting programs who want to understand how comedy is written so they can sharpen their skills and those who are interested in the study of comedy. We wrote Now That’s Funny! The Art and Craft of Comedy Writing for both of them.

 

Aspiring Comedy Writing Students

 

Until now students had a choice of how-to books that told writers how to plot or interview books in which authors reminisce about how they believe they wrote. We created the Process Interview – a new format where some of Hollywood’s most accomplished writers from The Brady Bunch, Frasier, Everybody Loves Raymond, SNL, There’s Something About Mary and The Simpsons create on-the-spot. We gave them the same generic comedy premise we created and then watched as they developed it into 24 unique stories with compelling characters, relationships and conflicts. And it all happens in real time.

 

We told the writers that there were no rules or boundaries. They could rework the premise any way they wanted. This was just as well; these are writers after all, their process doesn’t involve following rules. Many worked alone, a few in teams. We told them they could incorporate us if they wanted to create the feel of working in a Writers’ Room. In each of these sessions we recorded their questions, musings and comments that emerged as they worked; and of course, their development of the premise.

 

Even Better Than a Guest Speaker

 

Writing students are often treated to a guest lecture from a prominent television or screenwriter. Students listen to their stories and interact with them. Imagine how much more valuable it would be if a well-known writer came into their class and actually created something new in front of them. Now multiply your imagination by 24 and you have the essence of Now That’s Funny! The Art and Craft of Comedy Writing.

 

A Deeper Understanding of Comedy

 

A student who is studying comedy would salivate at the opportunity to sit next to a comedy genius like Sherwood Schwartz, creator of Gilligan’s Island and The Brady Bunch, as he works. It would be even more magical if he could hear Sherwood “think out loud” about how-or-why he came up with an idea. Until now, you had to know someone who could get you into a Writers’ Room. One of the reasons we wrote Now That’s Funny! The Art and Craft of Comedy Writing the way we did was so that the writers wrote in real time, but simultaneously, discussed their ideas and processes about comedy as they did it.

 

Now That’s Funny! shows readers how a story is created. It follows creating characters, dimensionalizing them, coming up with story ideas and then heightening the conflict until we all recognize ourselves in them, which produces much bigger laughs.

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