So, we’ve finished NaNoWriMo, we’ve recovered from the effects of tryptophan on Thanksgiving, we’ve put cold compresses on our bruises from the Black Friday scrums, and now our thoughts and emotions are leaning in the direction of Christmas. So, let’s relax, put in a Brian Regan or Jim Gaffigan DVD, and set aside those inspired aspirations of novel writing for just a while, and think about a little comedy.
Don’t tell me you haven’t thought about writing something funny a time or two. In fact, I suspect that some of you even keep a little stash of humorous one-liners or hilarious anecdotes tucked away in a secret folio on your laptop. I do too. So, because we all have these bits-and-pieces of comedy sitting around, we could easily make it in the world of television comedy writing. Right?
Perhaps. So, in case you’ve decided to chart a different writing path in order to satiate your funny bone, here are a few pointers to consider:
· Know Your TV- Do you know the difference between a sit-com and a drama-dy? Do you have enough guffaws for a half hour show (minus commercials, of course)?
· *Write a Spec- Like an artist or a photographer creating a portfolio, you’ll need a collection of writing samples. Anything will do; your 11th Grade debate team speech, a humorous blog posting from Halloween, a full text article you would like to get published, or even the first chapter of that ‘special’ novel you’ve been fretting over. Then, you’ll also need to include a “spec” script, which is essentially a sample script you’ve written of either an existing popular TV comedy or something original. You’ll want to make sure your ability to create characters, situations, and character voice shines brightly in the story line. Did I mention that it should be funny too? Just sayin’.
· Take Your Medicine- Get three or more vicious enemies (aka good friends who are not afraid to be brutally honest with you; usually a sibling or best friend) to critique the heaven out of your spec. If you’re brave enough to sit and watch them read it, watch their facial expressions. When that eyebrow shoots up or those lips pucker, there could be something to fix. If your skin is thick enough, and you have enough tissues, let them speak frankly: “I don’t get it!...Was that part about the wheelchair and the chimpanzee supposed to be funny?”
· Road Trip- Now, you’ll need to move to either Los Angeles or New York City. Just kidding (Were your lips puckering?). While it’s true that a majority of comedy writers do live in these two evil empires, it isn’t necessary to move there. Just recently, our species invented the fax machine, computer, and internet. In fact, ‘phoning it in’ can actually be stylish and retro as you write from your 100 acre alpaca ranch in Wyoming next to Al Pacino’s and Katy Perry’s humble spreads.
· Network the Networks- Go to comedy writer events, take an assistant or freelance job in the hee-hee biz, take a class specific to comedy sketch writing. Do NOT camp outside the network studios with a stack of specs to hand out to people going in the building. The humble-homeless approach is quaint, but usually not effective.
· Get An Agent- Why would I need an agent if I work for the network? Since getting an agent is the great catch-22 of Hollywood—To get an agent, you need to be a working comedy sketch writer and to become a working comedy sketch writer…. *So, the most productive way to get an agent is to focus on bullet points 2, 3, and 5 above, with emphasis going mainly to creating a stellar spec.
Becoming a comedy sketch writer for television is a good goal. For me, I’d rather focus on my efforts to create a bestselling series about a young wizard who gets invited to attend a school of wizardry and ends up saving the planet from a noseless bad guy. But that’s just me.
Stay focused, stay driven, keep writing, and keep finding the funny in the world around you. Eventually, you’ll get what you want.