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Everything You Need to Write Sketch Comedy

 

 

 

 

Thanks for downloading the Everything You Need to Write Sketch Comedy Ebook

 

In this guide you’ll find:

 

Sketch Idea Generator

 

Sketch Writing Cheat Sheet

 

3 Ways to Better Comedy

 

How to Format Your Sketch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When you’re ready, let’s get started!

 

 

 

 

How to Generate Ideas for Sketch Comedy Writing

This is a guide you can use to generate sketch ideas. Keep in mind that out of 10 ideas in comedy, maybe 1 is going to turn out great. But, using these methods you can pump out ideas very quickly and get to that 1 really great idea faster. Enjoy!

Adjective/ Profession/ Location – Mis/Matching

This one is all about pumping out ideas quickly. Make 3 lists. First a list of adjectives. Second a list of professions. Third a list of locations. Then you just connect them in a way that makes sense or in a way that makes no sense at all. Here’s an example:

 

<>.
p<>{color:#000;}. Professions
<>.
p<>{color:#000;}. Locations
<>.
<>.
<>.
<>.
<>.
<>.
<>.

 

If this were on sheet paper by hand I would just draw arrows (i suggest doing it that way). But, for the sake of keeping this digitally coherent, here are some connections I could make:

 

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Loud ---> Librarian ----> Art Museum

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Quiet ---> Actor ---> Grocery Store

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Scared ---> Mechanic ---> Truck Stop

And so on…

 

Then you look at your connections and you try to think of some situation that those make sense. Or you go the complete opposite and connect ones that are total rubbish to put together.

 

For example, what if a librarian, who is forced to stay quiet in her natural environment (the library) made up for it by being loud everywhere else?

 

Next, you would brainstorm that scenario.

 

Here is another example, A mechanic is very comfortable working on cars, but we find out at a truck stop that he is deathly afraid of trucks. How would that play out?

 

If you need help flushing out the idea you can check out our [+ Sketch Writing Cheat sheet+] (<--- click there to go to the website where you can download it for free) or you can “Sketch Story Board” it.

 

The main point of this particular idea generating exercise is Don’t Overthink It. Go with whatever comes to you and whatever sounds fun to create. With this exercise you can pump out really quick sketch ideas really quickly and it’s all about getting that initial idea. Don’t go past those ideas until you’re ready.

Use Music

Another great way to generate ideas that maybe you haven’t thought of is to listen to music. Hit random on Spotify or even pull up one of your favorite songs. Close your eyes and then picture in your head whatever that music inspires you to think of.

 

This exercise was taught at a workshop from Andel Sudik of The Second City and it sparked in me an idea of a guy who goes through a party high fiving, joking around with people and just going through the entire house.

 

It then lead to this sketch:

 

On stage we see a bunch of people just standing around lethargic. One guy knocks on the door, it’s opened but the lethargic states continue with everyone on stage. There’s a guy pumping beer out of a keg slowly. There’s another person playing chess by himself. No music is on.

 

Enter our hero. He knocks on the door and when it opens the door person comes to life with a high five. Music starts playing. The hero passes through the stage bringing everyone to life with high fives, belly rubs, some type of handshake. Once he does that with everyone they all start dancing and having a good time.

 

Then, hero leaves the room to go to the bathroom. Music stops immediately. Everyone goes back to their starting positions and continue their zombie like states. Hero re-enters and the music starts again, high fives ensue and dancing/energy from everyone.

 

Hero takes a phone call, steps outside. Music stops. Everyone back to starting position and no energy again.

 

Hero comes back in – music starts, energy – everyone is alive. But, the hero announces he is leaving and then leaves. They’re all sad and shocked and back in their starting positions.

[
Hero jumps back on stage and proclaims “Ah, I’m just kidding! Come on everyone” Then hero leads everyone off stage and around the theater while the music plays and everyone dances.]

 

Blackout.

 

It was fun, simple and a great way to get everyone on stage together for the final sketch of the night.

 

Music can be great inspiration. It’s a great go-to when you feel like you’ve exhausted your options or you want a very visual sketch idea.

Theme of the Day

The Theme of the Day is all about thinking about the hot topics or themes that are going on lately in the world, in your office, in your house – wherever.

 

How are people acting about this? How does what’s going on make you feel? How can you represent it in a different/interesting way? Here are some examples of themes that you could pull ideas from:

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Big games in sports – ie, Superbowl, March Madness, fantasy sports, etc

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Weather – ie, snowstorm, rain, tornado, etc

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Politics going on -ie, Trump (obviously), presidential elections, News shows

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Something happens at your work – ie, guy making copies (that’s been done, though)

 

Just think about whatever is going on in the world that seems important or affects the people around you

For generating ideas off of themes, it’s all about using what information you have around you and being topical. If you are leading up to a show, it’s a great way to generate a quick sketch idea that you can use to relate to your audience and be topical and fresh. Just keep it simple and come out looking like geniuses for being so “cutting edge.”

 

So, there are three great ways to generate ideas for sketches. I hope this helps you and if you found it useful, let us know. Email me at [email protected] or go to our Facebook page.

The Character Sketch Idea

Developing a character sketch can seem really tough. But, it doesn’t have to be. Whether you have an idea for a character already or not, you can do a few things that will help you develop the character first and then we will develop the sketch around that character second.

Develop the Character

One of my favorite ways to develop characters is through human interaction with real people. Ever meet someone who has an odd tick, speech pattern or interesting mannerisms? Maybe it’s a subtle thing, but you noticed it about them once and now every time you talk to them all you can do is pay attention to it?

 

Or what about cashiers that you’ve run into at the grocery store. They seem to be an odd bunch at times, right?

 

Ever watch people at the mall food court?

 

Essentially, this one is all about observation. It usually begins with a physical movement that then turns into the sound of their voice, followed by weird things they say or do.

 

For Bill Hader’s character Stefon on Saturday Night Live, him and John Mulaney combined a couple of characters based on people they knew. Mulaney’s inspiration came from a guy he knew who would suggest parties and interesting things around the city to him. Hader’s guy was a barista who looked and talked like the character Stefon, that they would create.

 

Inspiration for characters can come from anything. Some people just start walking around funny in rehearsal and develop characters for themselves that way.

Add Life to the Character

Once your character starts to take on some personality and flair, then it’s time to develop it further. You can do this by having a partner interview you as that character. All of a sudden you are answering questions no longer as yourself, but instead as this made-up character. It’s a great way to learn about the character and figure out what drives them in life.

 

Questions like:

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Where do you work?

*
p<>{color:#000;}. How old are you?

*
p<>{color:#000;}. What do you do for fun?

*
p<>{color:#000;}. What drives you crazy?

*
p<>{color:#000;}. What’s your family life like?

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Who are you voting for?

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Why did you… [fill in the blank]?

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Tell us about the last time someone was nice or mean to you.

*
p<>{color:#000;}. And so on and on…

The point of this exercise is to get as much information about this character out as possible. It’s to help the actor really dig deep into what it’s like to be them. There are no wrong answers and you are just making things up as you go along. But, once those specifics are determined, you begin thinking about what that means to that character.

Add the Environment

In a way we are all characters in our own rights and we play those characters out depending upon what environment we are in. At work, I’m an employee and my boss controls what I can/can’t do. At home, maybe I have children and I get to control (or at least try to) what they do. At a formal dinner I’ll act a different way than I would at The Cracker Barrel.

 

We all play characters in our lives. Therefore, it makes sense that your characters would act differently in their different settings as well.

 

Your first task for figuring out the environment to place the sketch is thinking about 3 things: Home, Work, at Play.

 

What is this character like at Home? At work? And at Play?

 

Then it’s a matter of going through those three things and figuring out what is most fun. You can try each of them out to figure out the final direction you want to take your character sketch into.

Developing Sketch Ideas Through Improv Comedy

All of these ways for generating sketch ideas can be placed into an improvised scene to help you figure out what’s working and what’s not. Ideas generated from characters are especially great for doing this. Essentially, to flush out a sketch idea using improv you just place your character in a scene with a partner and let them go at it.

 

For example, a director might tell two actors:

“Target Lady you are behind the counter at Target and your customer brings a random assortment of merchandise for you to check out. Go!”

 

You do this type of thing a few times and talk about what worked, what dialogue was the funniest, what mannerisms drew laughter and you scrap the rest. Then you write it down, expound upon and present it as a sketch.

 

Improv to sketch is a really great way to generate dialogue, sketch ideas and it helps the actors to memorize lines because they made them up themselves anyways.

 

If you are doing an improv scene (for a show, in rehearsal, whatever) you can also find characters or scenes that you’d like to flush out more. You just take note of something fun that happened and tell those actors to go off to the side and develop that scene even further. Write down the beats (you can use our cheat sheet if it helps) of what a sketch with those characters would look like and then have them present it after they put pen to paper. Give them some notes and then have them rewrite it.

 

+++

 

There are lots of ways to generate sketch ideas. It’s really about using what inspires you at the time. When you have to develop a bunch of sketches for an upcoming show, some of these may be more useful than others. But, it’s important to have a big tool belt of idea generators in times of need. When you’ve done a lot of shows in your career you’ll need them and when you are helping others develop their sketch comedy skills it’s nice to have concrete ways that have helped you develop ideas that you can pass along to them.

 

What’s your favorite way to generate sketch ideas?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sketch Writing Cheat Sheet

Idea/Summary of sketch: _____________________________________________________

__________________________________________________________________________

__________________________________________________________________________

 

Characters/Actors:

1. 4.

2. 5.

3. 6.

Location/Mood of sketch: (ie. bank, at night, on Mars, etc)

_________________________________________________________________________

 

Format/Design: (ie. Call in radio show, town hall meeting, interview, etc.)

_________________________________________________________________________

 

Main theme of Sketch: (ie. morals, good vs evil, shits n giggles, etc)

_________________________________________________________________________

 

What changes by the end? (ie. someone’s opinion, hope fails/lives, something is revealed?, etc)

_________________________________________________________________________

_________________________________________________________________________

 

What happens in Beat 1? (lines of dialogue, what game begins?, important pieces, etc.)

_______________________________________________________________________

_______________________________________________________________________

 

Escalation – Beat 2 (make it bigger or more important or more absurd)

_______________________________________________________________________

_______________________________________________________________________

 

Escalation/Turn – Beat 3 (make it even bigger, even more important, even more absurd)

_______________________________________________________________________

_______________________________________________________________________

_______________________________________________________________________

 

How does it end? (joke “button”, someone changes, turn it on its head, etc)

_______________________________________________________________________

_______________________________________________________________________

 

Quick tips: *If a character isn’t necessary cut it *When in doubt, throw more gas on the fire *1 page equals 1 minute (generally) *Get into the action as quickly as possible, back story is unnecessary in sketch *You should be able to fit your idea in one or two sentences

 

 

3 Ways to Better Comedy

The best comedy in the world is relevant to the human experience. So, be relatable to other humans.

 

The best writing, whether it’s comedy, drama, or even teen vampire books are all about digging deeper to get past the stuff that anyone, anywhere could write on their first try.

 

Wasting dialogue is a mistake. You should only write dialogue that is needed and that helps explore the reason behind the piece in the first place.

 

People love patterns. Ever notice that a movie has a seemingly minor detail presented up front, then towards the end, that minor detail comes back to help save the day or put a button on the ending? It seems so clever and the audience eats it up. It’s the same reason we love synchronized swimming and flannel. (Note to Self: Create flannel bathing suits for synchronized swimming. That’s $$$.)

 

+ =

 

For those that don’t want to read any further, thank you for your time. For those that actually want to know how to accomplish these things. The rest of this book is for you. Read on.

 

 

#
h3<>{color:#434343;}. Make It Relatable

 

Why? Take a second to think of your favorite comedian (I’m counting on 80% of you saying Louis CK).

 

Here is a quick joke from Louie in a meme, cuz who doesn’t love memes?

 

(source: https://www.pinterest.com/explore/louis-ck/)

 

That’s funny. But, why is it funny?

 

Mostly it’s funny because it’s true. At least it is true for most people, most of the time.

 

The greatest comedians and writers in the world are able to tap into what it is that makes us all human. Comedians like Eddie Murphy, Louis CK, or Bill Cosby (Note to Self: Remember to delete Bill Cosby and replace with a different name). That’s the common thread in all of these examples; relatability.

 

table<>. <>. |<>.
h3={color:#434343;}. Action Item #1 to make your comedy writing funnier:

Make It Relatable |

 

You can make it more relatable by thinking of situations you’ve been in. How did you act in that situation? What’s real about it? How did you feel at the time? Have you ever eaten an entire pizza in one sitting and felt like a massive failure? Delve into human emotions on a regular basis. Judd Apatow has been quoted with saying:

 

“Less semen, more feelings!”

2. Dig Deeper

 

I come from an improvisational background. One of the lessons you learn in improv was taught by the late great Del Close. Here is an excerpt from Poking a Dead Frog: Conversations with Today’s Top Comedy Writers – by Mike Sacks :

 

table<>. <>. |<>.
p<>{color:#000;}.

|

(image courtesy of: http://www.sandpapersuit.com/2014/10/adam-mckay-on-working-with-del-close.html)

 

“…always go to your third thought…”

 

All great writing will go further than the first thought. If we all just wrote what exists at the very tip of our mind, then we’d have even more jokes about food, sex and toilet behavior. Not that there is anything wrong with jokes about food, sex and toilet behavior. There’s just already an awful lot of it out there, why add to the noise?

 

Instead dig a bit deeper, to your third, fourth, or 18th thought. You will come up with things that are a bit more interesting and will probably touch someone on a deeper level. It will still make sense, because it’s derived from the original idea, but it will be much more impactful.

 

Let’s try this out with the Louis CK joke above:

 

What might the first thought had been?

 

“I don’t stop eating when I’m full.”

“The meal is not over when I’m full.”

The meal is over when I throw up everywhere as if I’m Caesar in a vomitorium.”

 

(Note To Self: Make sure to let them know that, in no way, do you think you are as good a writer as Louis CK.)

 

There is a joke there, maybe it’s not very funny, but it’s a joke. It’s sort of relatable. Most of us know what it’s like to just shove food in our faces until we are ready to puke. But, unless you know about Roman culture, you may not get it or relate to it.

 

Let’s try again. Here is a second thought.

 

“I don’t stop eating when I’m full.”

“The meal is not over when I’m full.”

The meal is over when I have to cut the string at the waist of my sweatpants.”

 

(Note to Self: Do NOT forget to let them know you are trying your best to be helpful here and that you are NOT Louis CK joke-worthy.)

 

Again, it’s a joke. Maybe you think it’s funny, maybe you don’t. That doesn’t matter right now. It’s a little more relatable. We all know what it’s like to wear sweatpants on the days we feel extra fat then have to take the waist of those sweatpants out a little bit by retying that string. Then we can’t get the string out of the knot so we just cut it off. Everyone does know what that feeling is like, right? Right!?

 

Then, maybe we get to the third thought:

 

“I don’t stop eating when I’m full.”

“The meal is not over when I’m full.”

The meal is over when I hate myself.”

 

Crushed it CK. Great job!

 

How has this joke evolved?

 

The first one above (that I made up) was a little clever, right? It’s assuming the audience knows something about how the Romans would have these massive feasts and then puke their guts out so that they could keep eating and show everyone how rich they were. (You too can Google Roman Vomit Collectors.)

 

(image ℅ Life of Brian and the Guardian)

 

It hits on the nerd level and but for most people, unless they have a deep affinity for roman history, wouldn’t find it very funny or relatable.

 

The second one is more relatable. We all know about unfastening our belts after a big meal to make room. Then, we put in a twist. We’re so fat that we even have to unfasten our sweatpants (which are already our fat pants). This becomes the joke. This will probably strike a few more people as cute and funny (maybe), but we can take it even further. We’re heading in the right direction.

 

When Louie comes in to save the day with his joke (thanks Louie, I’m dying here!) he makes a joke that is on a much deeper level and strikes more of an emotional appeal. In fact, he is directly going into the emotion of overeating.

 

This is how jokes evolve. Maybe it takes more than 3 rewrites and maybe it takes less. The point is, you find the one that fits the best through trial and error.

 

table<>. <>. |<>.
h3={color:#434343;}. Action Item #2 to make your comedy writing funnier:

Dig Deeper |

 

3. Don’t Waste Dialogue and Develop Patterns

 

Most people aren’t going to care about what you think or say in life. There are more people out there who don’t know who Louis CK is than people that do. (Note to Self: Look up how many times you can mention someone before having to pay them royalties.)

 

Whatever it is you are saying needs to be condensed and have a purpose. There should be no “throw-away” lines of dialogue in your writing. Especially in sketch writing where you are keeping things to just a few minutes. Every sentence should MEAN something. It should either move your story forward, make a joke hit harder, or it should be cut.

 

table<>. <>. |<>.
p<>{color:#555;}. “Many times, the best way to improve dialogue is to cut it. Once you’ve let a scene sit for a while, revisit it with a red pen and look for what could be cut. If a piece of information isn’t essential, it should probably go. And a joke isn’t worth it if you’ve had to break the scene to achieve it.” – Scriptwriter John August (source: http://johnaugust.com/2007/how-to-write-dialogue ) |

 

(Note to Self: Mention that John August also has the best podcast on script writing called Script Notes and everyone should listen to it.)

 

Find reasons to cut dialogue. It also helps your actors remember lines and have stronger performances.

 

Which of these is more satisfying to look at?

 

table=. =. |=.
h1={color:#000;}. _/?><][{}!@#$%^&*() |

 

or

 

table=. =. |=.
h1={color:#000;}. /_?/!/?/!/?_/ |

 

Unless you’re a serial killer, it’s the second one. Actually, you could argue that serial killers probably love patterns even more than regular people, so not sure that fits. (Note to Self: Look up serial killer and patterns, when not on your work computer)

 

Humans love patterns. We want to be led down a path. Further. Further. Then BOOM! The payoff. Even if you plan on breaking the pattern at some point, you have to actually take the time to create it.

 

So, how do you develop these patterns in your own writing?

 

Look for connections throughout your piece. Look for something that you’ve repeated or could repeat over and over again. But, don’t overthink it during your first draft.

 

Mainly, this is something you want to focus on in the second draft. If you try to do it on the first one, you may never finish writing. Instead you’ll just sit there with a blinking cursor and eventually give up. If a pattern doesn’t reveal itself right away, just focus on finishing the piece without judging it. The pattern that makes the most sense will become clear when you revise it.

 

table=. =. |=.
h3={color:#434343;}. Action Item #3 to making your comedy writing funnier:

Don’t Waste Dialogue and Develop Patterns |

 

Even in the quick joke by Louie, there is a pattern that he develops within three lines. He says the same thing twice, but in a different way. It’s not wasted dialogue or a nervous tick. It’s careful and calculated. He also doesn’t waste any words, each sentence is short. The more you can say in the fewest words possible, the bigger an impact the sentence will have.

 

Speak less, mean more.

 

Audiences are always looking for a reason to stop paying attention to you. Long drawn out lines of dialogue or sentences that twist and turn make it real easy for them to hop on Snapchat instead.

————————————-

 

There you have it.

 

3 Ways to Better Comedy

 

I hope this helps you in your comedy writing career and I hope that you learned something valuable.

 

If you’d like more comedy writing tips and advice you can join us over at sketchpadcomedy.com. We are the only writing group in St. Louis, MO that invites new comedy writers to join us every single month to put on a live show.

 

Also, be on the lookout for more Ebooks, Online Courses and Live Workshops.

 

You can find us on Twitter, the Facebooks, and through our email.

Do you have a writing tip that helps you create funnier comedy?

 

We’d love to hear it. Just email me by clicking here.

 

Keep creating. Keep writing.

-Jason, Sketchpad Comedy

 

 

(Note to Self: Don’t forget to remove all the Notes from Self)

(Also, let’s hope people get that everything in red was meant to be a joke…)

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Format Your Sketch

AWESOME SKETCH TITLE

By Nameof Personwritingthis

Date (Version #)

 

CAST

Bob – 40s

Jane – 40s

Barista – 20s

 

(This is the setting of your scene.

Something simple, such as: a coffeeshop.)

 

JANE

My name should be written in all caps. It’s not a character choice, but part of writing

 

BOB

Yes, yes. We get it your name is in caps. I should also point out that the dialogue runs all the way across the length of the…

 

JANE

…page. Yeah, Bob.

BOB

(upset)

Well, how dare you!

 

(Jane calls over the barista.)

 

BOB

What do we need him for?

 

(The barista walks over.)

 

BARISTA

Can I help you?

 

JANE

What font do you write in?

 

BARISTA

Courier. It’s always in Courier.

 

JANE

Really? No Comic Sans? Times New Roman? Nothing fun?

BOB

Seriously? Can we get with the times, there’s so many other options…

 

JANE

Don’t be rude Bob!

 

BARISTA

Courier is neat and clean. Easy to read.

 

BOB

And borrrrringggg.

 

JANE

Bob!

 

BARISTA

It’s okay. We get this a lot. It’s even more, boring as you put it, when it’s in twelve-point size. As all scripts and writing should be.

 

BOB

But, that wastes so much paper! The trees!!

 

JANE

I’m on Bob’s side on this one, actually.

 

BARISTA

Sorry. Hate the game not the player.

 

JANE

Do you feel like something’s watching us?

 

BOB

Yeah.

(points up to the corner of the celing)

 

BARISTA

It’s a page number. They made us install them. Sorry, something about recording and things getting lost.

 

JANE

I think it’s time we get lost.

 

BOB

Yeah. I’d say are work here is done.

(they high five 90s sitcom style.)

 

(Blackout.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you for taking the time to read Everything You Need to Write Sketch Comedy Ebook!

 

I hope you enjoyed it and you are now able to write amazing and hilarious sketch comedy.

 

If you have any feedback or questions you can always reach Jason at [email protected].

 

Keep creating, keep writing.

 

-Jason

Sketchpad Comedy

 

PS – if you enjoyed this book, Jason has another book called Keep Creating: 83 Ways to Keep Creating the Things You Love. You can get that on Amazon as well.

 

 


Everything You Need to Write Sketch Comedy

In this short ebook, you'll find exactly what the title says: Everything You Need to Write Sketch Comedy. * You'll learn how to come up with ideas for sketches whenever you need them through multiple exercises. * You'll be taught how to format your sketch the same way professional writers do it. * You get the smaller ebook, 3 Ways to Better Comedy. * And your writing will be made easier with the sketch comedy cheat sheet. Even with little to no experience you can take the ideas and exercises in this book and create sketch comedy today. The book is written by Jason Flamm (author of Keep Creating) and produced by Sketchpad Comedy. Sketchpad Comedy was created in 2014 as a way to help people learn how to create and perform sketch comedy in St. Louis, MO. Since then we've helped over 175 writers (many of them brand new to comedy) write and perform hundreds of sketch comedy pieces. Our monthly shows feature a new cast of writers every month. Jason Flamm has been in sketch comedy for a good chunk of his life. He's been fortunate to learn from great sketch comedy writers and performers. People such as Kevin McDonald (Kids in the Hall), Rich Talarico (Key & Peele) and Andel Sudik (The Second City). He also graduated from The Improv Shop in St. Louis and taught improv at Bill Chott's The Improv Trick. Praise for Sketchpad Comedy "Through SketchPAD, Jason Flamm has carved out a special place for sketch comedy in St. Louis, where people new and old to sketch writing can come together and perform with each other." - Stephanie Kozikowski "A ten a ten a mothafuggin ten." - Rafe Williams To learn more about Sketchpad visit http://sketchpadcomedy.com or to learn more about Jason Flamm visit http://jasonflamm.com/about

  • ISBN: 9781311486264
  • Author: Jason Flamm
  • Published: 2016-07-02 19:06:38
  • Words: 4426
Everything You Need to Write Sketch Comedy Everything You Need to Write Sketch Comedy