I thought about putting this title up and then leaving a one sentence glib response along the lines of “be funny” or “get the audience drunk” but – at best – it’d raise a half smile and nothing else. It’s a Twitter response, not a blog answer. So go to the toilet quickly, this could be a long one.
The reason that it is the subject of this post is thanks to good old Auntie herself: the BBC. For anyone who happens to be reading this who is unfamiliar with the acronym (people outside the UK most likely); it stands for British Broadcasting Corporation and is a public service broadcaster. It’s produced some astounding documentaries (basically anything Sir David Attenborough has been involved in), fabulous sports coverage (London 2012 Olympics springs most readily to mind) and world class programmes. Of course, for me, Doctor Who is the main one but there are many others.
Anyway, the BBC opens it’s digital doors twice a year for new scripts – and this time they’re asking for comedies. I’ve never written comedy before aside from quips and jokes included in dramas and short stories. Consistent fun is a new challenge for me that I don’t know if I can rise to but I’m going to give it a go.
So, how to be funny? The best way to start is to acknowledge that you simply cannot make EVERYONE laugh. We’re all too different. I adore Monty Python, the South Park Movie, The Play That Went Wrong, Jasper Fforde books and many stand up comedians. I’m not really a fan of American Pie, The Office or Adam Sandler. But all the things I love will have haters, and the things I don’t like will have ardent fans baying for my heretical blood.
Once this is acknowledged you only need write for one person: yourself. Your best writing will always be that which makes you giggle. You’ll be prouder of it, be more willing to return to it and tune it, be happier to share it with others. I speak from personal experience here with my first attempt at a comedy script. I’d got a setting that I liked (parents outside the school gates – I believe that I have mentioned it on this blog before) and some character ideas that I was fond of. So I started writing… and it didn’t make me laugh. Don’t get me wrong, there were a few lines that made me chuckle (I particularly enjoyed some of the students giving each other nicknames) but mostly I was left a bit cold.
It took me a while to realise that this was because I was spending the writing time wondering if other people would find it funny. Will an agent like this? Will a cast member like reading that? Will the audience keep with it? My lack of enjoyment was translating to the text and I eventually decided to chuck it out and start over. And, whilst it’s in its early days, the fact that I’ve managed to already include a breakdancing epileptic joke without mocking epileptics has been very heartening. I find it funny and I’m confident that others will too.
Now I’ve just got to make a whole episode’s worth of funny. Piece of cake…