As part of my work on the low-budget comedy spec, I’ve made an effort to read other comedies to help get a better understanding of how it could be done and hopefully some guidance I could apply to mine.
It’s always been tough for me to read comedy because my sense of humor doesn’t always align with others. Many’s the time I’ve read a script that garners universal praise for being gut-bustingly hilarious, but doesn’t do anything for me.
There is, however, one detail I’ve noticed that keeps popping up:
Things that seem to happen only for the sake of a joke, and not much else. These often feel forced and inorganic to the plot. Almost as if the writer thought “Hey, wouldn’t it be crazy if ____?”
In theory, potentially a good idea, but in execution – not really.
Some might argue that since it’s comedy, things don’t have to be realistic as long as they’re funny.
I beg to differ. If I don’t think something could actually happen, I will most likely not find it funny.
**side note – this doesn’t necessarily apply to slapstick or absurdist fare, which are two entirely different discussions**
Sure, there are comedies where the entire premise isn’t all that realistic to begin with, but even the humor in those should stem from the situation, rather than being a crazy assortment of wacky gags.
Going for the easy laugh or cheap joke doesn’t take much skill and shows a lack of sincere effort. If a writer does it once, chances are they’ll do it a lot. It also doesn’t offer anything new. Who wants a joke they’ve probably seen or heard a thousand times before?
Looking at comedies that would be considered strong, there are a lot of instances where the joke is an integral part of the scene, rather than feeling like something tacked on.
You’ll hear that the best comedy is the kind that makes you think. I prefer comedy that shows the writer did a lot of the thinking.