"Laughter is such a strong spice, it’s hard to taste anything else. If you write something funny enough, you can get away with murder."
- Former Seinfeld writer/producer Peter Mehlman wrote a piece for this month's Reader's Digest Magazine called "How to Write a TV Show," and it's full of Seinfeld anecdotes and great advice for aspiring comedy writers.
For his senior thesis at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Johnny Carson created an audio program that explained how to write comedy for radio. You can listen to the 45 minute thesis here. (Ignore the first completely unintelligible minute or so.) Using clips from popular programs, he analyzed how to perform things like running gags and comedy duo routines. Beyond being interesting for any fan of Carson's, he does do a really great job explaining the mechanics of certain types of bits. For example: "Step 1: Call your yourself something 'the Magnificent.' Step 2: Hold an envelope up to your head. Step 3: Say an ambiguous phrase. Step 4…"
So you love Community, not just because it's funny but because it's impressively written. It seems each half-hour episode packs in a movie's worth of story: spending time on all 8 characters, taking them on a journey away from their study group and back, hitting a joke in each line and then along the way throwing in a parody of a deleted scene from The Terminator that you thought only you saw.
In addition to that, Community jumps genres from episode to episode — one week it's zombies, the next it's a note-perfect parody of The Right Stuff or the ridiculously intricate paintball/28 Days Later episode from season one. [...]