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Each time I come across any script, I can feel the amount of hard work that has been put into it to make it look funny. But somewhere something seems to be missing. Somewhere the feel is not smooth…things look intentional, humor doesn't seem to be flowing with the situation. As they say …'although this is the world of laughs, the least funny thing in the world is to create comedy'. So why not to have a look at what all it takes to write for comedy?
Something going wrong
Jim Carrey - "The Mask"
'Charlie Chaplin', 'The Mask', 'The Hangover', Shrek, 'Ace Ventura'…and the list goes on. These are the kind of movies which are so fresh in our mind as if released yesterday. There is something about these movies…scenes, dialogues, situations, expressions or probably all of it…something which has made us come out of our world and enjoy being in their shoes even for just few seconds. We have laughed our hearts out. We have enjoyed being in their world. But having a closer look at it, we will realize that in most of the funny movies, the comedy situation occurs only when the protagonist is thrown in unpredictable situation, something where things are not how they are meant to be…where everything is going hay wire or simply wrong. One can take above mentioned movies itself for reference. So don't be scared to play with situations and try not to find logic in each and every sequence. Comedy is no science.
Point to be noted: The most important thing to remember is that humor has greater significance when people are involved in it rather than things. Only if a person lands up in a situation and handles it in a funny way, we can see the audience smiling.
Charlie Chaplin managed to make audience go rolling on floors without even uttering a single word. That is the real power of visual comedy. The expressions, body language, dressing itself is planned in a way where silence has its own meaning. Their physically comic features compensates for everything else. Same is the case with Johny Lever in Bollywood and Vadivelu in Kollywood. Even if you mute the dialogue, somewhere that humor will still make sense. Visual Comedy always comes from extremes. Anything too subtle won't make audience laugh.
But then what about actors like Jim Carrey or Bradley Cooper? Their looks to die for makes comedy a very serious business. No wonder for them their characters are bit exaggerated. While writing the story itself, one has to keep these people in mind and structure it accordingly.
Point to be noted: Many comedians have their separate team to write comedy scenes for them. They know how to make best in a given kind of situation. So usually the initial draft of the script is handed over to the team and they insert comedy situations wherever required.
Something which makes you laugh need not look funny to some other person. Same is visa versa. So how you go about creating a universal appeal for your comedy scenes?
Choose the most typical setting in which the incident happens for your protagonist to get stuck into. Create a familiar image for quick audience comprehension. There are some situations where each one of us get into at some point of time or the other. Those are the situations you need to highlight for comedy scenes. And most importantly it has to be simple. In funny scenes, there is no time for audience to interpret the complexities. They are always ready to see the absurdity in an otherwise normal situation.
Point to be noted: The premise of the story itself should be funny and most importantly, timely. For instance, bachelor's party in Hangover. It just suits the ideas and situations in contemporary era. Always remember that less no. of words in dialogue, bigger the impact.
Reality vs Believability
In comedy, realism and believability have a wrapped point of view. Reality is not necessary for a comedy writer till the time you are able to maintain consistency with believability. A truly comic character lives in a world of his own, beyond the limits of our society.
For example, in 'The Mask' the kind of situations in which Jim Carrey lands up is far away from reality, but still we tend to believe that he is stuck in to those situations and somehow manages to come out of it. The incongruity and biological impossibility of the character gives him his platform for humor and Carrey's physical comic dexterity.
'Ace Ventura', 'The Animal'…they are far beyond reality, but somehow we tend to believe what the actors are going through. So audience are already prepared for that ride. All they want is a good laugh.
Point to be noted: Never consider your actors as 'them'. Characterize each and every actor separately. You cannot get humor if you think of them as 'them'. Each and every character of the scene should have their own comic value.
I think above mentioned points would atleast make you begin with the comedy genre. And as I say each time, write, write and rewrite. That's the only secret of a good script writer.
Last but not the least, genuine thanks to Pat Silver- Lasky for her contribution for 'Screenwriting'. Definitely it was of great help for my research for the topic.