Posts tagged as writing

How Improv Helps Television's Best Comedy Writers

The best comedy lives in the moment, and improvisation is as in-the-moment as it gets. Improv proves you can create great comedy on the spot by listening, taking big chances, and working alongside a team, which is probably why the writing staffs of most television comedies today count at least a few experienced improvisers among their ranks. Similar to standups, writers of scripted comedy are tasked with conceiving, writing, reworking, and redrafting funny moments that, when at their most successful, land so naturally that an audience can't help but wonder: "Was this scripted or improvised?"

But true improvisation, Whose Line aside, rarely exists on television. Most of today's shows — [...]

Should All Standup Comics Write Their Own Jokes?

I was thirteen when I first saw a comic glance at his notes on stage, and I remember wondering why I was surprised to see this. Did you think he was making all this up on the spot? I asked myself. Well, I guess I did. Years later, when I began regularly attending comedy shows and would end up seeing the same set a dozen times a year, I began to have a similar feeling. What, I again asked myself, did you think comedians come up with a new routine for every show? Well, I guess I did. After all, isn’t that the rouse that so many standups employ in [...]

'Seinfeld,' 'All in the Family' Top the WGA's List of the '101 Best Written TV Series of All Time'

The Writers Guild of America this weekend released a list of the "101 Best Written TV Series of All Time," and several comedies ranked high on the list, which was determined by online voting by WGA members. While The Sopranos took the top spot, the list also included comedies like Seinfeld (#2), All in the Family (#4), M*A*S*H (#5), The Mary Tyler Moore Show (#6), Cheers (#8), and The Simpsons (#11).

Check out the full list, which also included Freaks and Geeks, Larry Sanders, and Louie, below:

A Look Back At Charlie Kaufman's Sitcom Work

Charlie Kaufman isn’t exactly an impersonal writer. His attempts to adapt The Orchid Thief turned into Adaptation., a movie about a painfully self-aware screenwriter named “Charlie Kaufman” falling apart while attempting to adapt The Orchid Thief. It’s a struggle to imagine Kaufman, either fictionalized or IRL, thriving in the anonymous and often abrasive environment of a sitcom writer’s room. So it’s surprising that, before breaking into screenwriting, Kaufman worked in television for almost a decade, staffing on sketch shows like The Dana Carvey Show and The Edge and sitcoms like Get A Life and Ned & Stacey.

There’s evidence to support the idea that Kaufman might not have thrived [...]

Twitter Advice From Champions of the 140 Character Count

Where the most relatable creative ambition was once to write the Great American Novel, it is now to maintain the Great American Twitter Feed. And who better to give advice on how to tweet comedically than the Fitzgeralds and Hemingways of Twitter? Here's a sample tip from Mystery Science Theater 3000 writer Bill Corbett:

Try to understand the short form, and be playful within it. Not everything needs to read like a classic "premise, punchline" joke…But understand that tastes vary wildly. Not everyone will think you're hilarious, and some dicks will make sure to tell you so. Don't worry about it.

Quick, before he gets away, let's all [...]

Video Game Comedy Is Hard, But it's Getting Easier

Recently, I revisited one of my favorite games from last year, The Stanley Parable. Developed by Davey Wreden and released for Steam, it’s a bit difficult to describe the game in brief (particularly since half the fun is just diving into it), but basically, it’s structured like a choose-your-own-adventure story. You assume the role of Stanley, a faceless drone who leaves his office one day to discover all his co-workers have gone missing.

As you move through the office to investigate, the Narrator, brilliantly played by Kevan Brighting, comments on your actions and surroundings and, crucially, speculates on your next move. For instance, when you come to two open doors, [...]

Jeff Schaffer, Writer for 'Seinfeld', 'Curb', and More Explains How He Writes Comedy

"I learned how to write comedy from Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld and it was all about structure. Structure, structure, structure. A Seinfeld episode and a Curb episode and a League episode are all written the exact same way."

The League co-creator Jeff Schaffer, who's previously written for Seinfeld, Curb, and Sacha Baron Cohen's movies, in a detailed interview with Fast Company about his writing process.

Jonathan Ames Shares the Ins and Outs of Writing

"I think with every project we expect something more than what happens. We all love to be disappointed… The biggest crusher for me was that my second novel, The Extra Man, was rejected by about twenty publishers. I had been certain it was a good book and had devoted nearly five years of desperate living to writing it. They were my brokest, leanest years, which included moving back in with my parents at age 30 after a crack-binge, and so I was devastated when no one wanted the book. Then, months after all the rejections had rolled in, breaking my heart and my fragile ego, one publisher did want the book."


A Look Back At Joss Whedon's 'Roseanne' Episodes

Before Joss Whedon convinced an absurdly large number of normal world citizens to see a movie about Norse gods, frozen past-men, and Robert Downey Jr.’s goatee, he was the nerd-worshipped creator of cult hits like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, and (the author begrudgingly included) Dollhouse. Even before that, however, Whedon was a sitcom writer. At the tender of 24, he was a story editor and staff writer for Roseanne, securing the writing credit on five episodes in the second season: The Little Sister, House of Grown-ups, Brain-Dead Poets Society, Chicken Hearts, and Fathers and Daughters.

Staff writing on a television show typically isn’t a place for individual flair; [...]

Alan Zweibel and Dave Barry's Long-Distance Writing Relationship

Did you know that Lunatics, the book that an upcoming Steve Carell movie is based on, was co-written by original SNL writer Alan Zweibel and columnist Dave Barry while living many states apart from each other? This interview with Zweibel describes the writing process as a very slow, very long improv scene which is only now concluding with the book's release on Jan. 10.

Since we started writing this we have seen each other twice. Once was when Dave was up here promoting something and we had dinner. We went to dinner with the thought of ‘OK, maybe we would plot out the next hundred pages.’ That [...]

What a _________ Job: How Mad Libs Are Written

“There’s a very small number of people on this planet who have this very specific job.” That’s how Mad Libs editor Laura Marchesani describes her work, and the exact thought that made me curious about a game I hadn’t played in decades.

Mad Libs have been a household name since their first release by publisher Price Stern Sloan (now a division of Penguin) in 1958. The game has a sophisticated origin story, told years ago by its inventor Leonard Stern: Stern’s friend Roger Price, whom he’d met when they were writing for The Tonight Show, had come over to polish a humor book they’d written together called What Not [...]

Dan Harmon Explains His Writing Process and Breaks Down a 'Community' Episode

Community creator Dan Harmon wrote two Tumblr posts this weekend that are worth reading if you're interested in his writing process. One is on breaking story and the other breaks down Community's Dungeons & Dragons episode using his Joseph Campbell story circle/story quadrant method. Read it and steal Harmon's story example about raccoons.

Kelly Oxford Wants You to Know She's Done More than Write a Few Tweets

Kelly Oxford has taken issue with how some have decided to portray her. Particularly The Chicago Tribune, who recently headlined an article about her, "Writer takes short route to Hollywood success." She writes on her blog:

The message I am getting from this is that living my whole live as a writer, writing for years and years meant nothing. Growing up as the annoying kid on the street who wrote plays and tried to force peers to perform them, going to screenwriting seminars, blogging daily (exercise) for 12 years, staying up for days and days to finish scripts was a waste of my goddamn time. The message I’m getting [...]

The Life Cycle of a Joke

Here's a fun look at the development of one standup joke (by comedian Myq Kaplan) from its earliest conception, through workshopping in front of different audiences, to delivery on Conan. It's really cool to see how the most concise delivery of a funny idea gets honed in on, and how much impact each small choice has on the whole.

With jokes every word matters. So Mr. Kaplan’s first breakthrough was three days later onstage at the Comedy Studio in Boston, where on the spot he changed “bottom of your shoe” to “lady feet-bottoms.” He liked the sound. When he ran the entire joke by Josh Gondelman, a comic [...]