Is that Comedy?

Being a creative writer  I have so many items to consider and infuse into a story. The chapters, dialogue, the world of the story, themes, and, the one that I find challenging, comedy. To identify and be able to write smart comedy is a challenge in my regular writing, let alone for the musical that I am currently writing. The musical, Searching for Normal, is an adaptation of my creative nonfiction book being considered for publication.

While I have taken writing courses for creative writing, radio, and screenplays, writing a musical is a reminder of how much a student I am at the process. My experience in musical theatre comes from not only attending but also being a performer in class productions. Then I have attended large-scale musicals from Les Miserables to The Lion King and from Wicked to Rent. All have such powerful characters, stories, and themes. Perhaps the musical that inspired me most at a young age was Annie (1982). As it ran on television a few weeks ago, I was reminded how such a heavy topic could also be infused with comedy.

Some readers of my writing have commented how scenes made them laugh. I never made a conscious effort for those passages to be ‘humorous’. This began my journey to study comedy writing. What makes things humorous?

I started with a Google search and numerous readings. One website, Script Frenzy, has an article with advice from Fred Rubin with five rules to apply to ensure writing has some elements of comedy. Fred suggests to be specific, use a funny word at the end, use a word with a hard C or K sound, don’t write a joke, and get rid of jokes that are not working. Another, Scribds, shared the Seven Laws of Comedy Writing.  David shares to provide your best joke, make yourself laugh, joke grows out of character, timing, step sheet, write a funny story, and don’t watch television when writing. Both of them gave good advice to follow.

While I was impacted by the advice that some writers can write comedy and some perhaps should not. Watching comedy sketches highlighted that humour is frequently taken from the human condition and situations that arise.

I now believe that comedy writing is finding the humor within character and in humanity and sharing them. Aristotle provided a quote that highlights my journey: “Humor is the only test of gravity, and gravity of humor; for a subject which will not bear raillery is suspicious, and jest which will not bear serious examination is false wit.” – Aristotle


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