WRITING: The Unnerving Joy of Writing Comedy
June 23, 2011
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After focusing all of my attention on darker, harder-edged dramas for my last few projects, I’ve started digging into a lighthearted comedic pilot. It’s a radically different feeling, for a few reasons.
For one: it’s fun in a completely different way. While dramatic writing is all about striking these really strong character beats and driving home powerful moments, comedy is all about getting the laugh. You can’t betray your characters, but being funny comes first. And in the first draft, when nothing you write is funny, the only real metric you can use for success is how much fun you’re having writing these characters. And damn if I’m not. Even if the lines themselves aren’t that strong, I can feed off the energy between these two characters and burn through pages quickly – and have fun doing it.
At a time where all of my dramatic projects have stalled, I’m almost twenty pages into this one-hour action dramedy. That’s entirely due to the three characters within it, who I really enjoy ‘watching’ bounce off one another. Within the next few pages, I’ll be introducing another character who should liven things up even more. With my favourite new show being a comedy – a Canadian comedy, no less, Showcase’s Almost Heroes – it feels like I’m craving a break from the heaviness of my typical fare.
But the joy of writing comedy is undercut by the constant fear of failure. Even while writing it, I know much of the jokes wouldn’t elicit laughs even from myself. I know I’m no good at comedy, and that first drafts are the worst thing ever written ever, and that’s exactly the kind of thought I have to push down when working on this project. My last comedic pilot was a startlingly poor exercise in self-indulgence that I regret showing other people, despite really enjoying spending time with those characters. Even though I’m enjoying this pilot, I’m actively developing scripts for my portfolio, which means there is something at stake here.
So… joy, sprinkled with fear, as writing always is. And we moved ever forward.