Oh, my. It is week five of Brent Forrester’s TV Comedy Course! Now we get to draft our script. Brent keeps on providing encouragement to commit to a deadline and to remind us that these are the fun parts of scriptwriting. I really love Brent’s positive take and how he keeps us moving through the process. Trust the process. Boomsauce!
A lot of comedy script drafting is about writing dialogue writing. You are going to be writing a lot of words that your characters are going to say. Tone is important. Comedy writers talk about tone a lot in the writers’ room. What is the tone of your script? Your characters? It is always a good idea to have heart. The tone is a spectrum from artificiality to naturalism. Tastemakers draw a lot of inspiration from The Larry Sanders Show. Watching the Larry Sanders Show is a great way to learn about comedy if you are analytical. Find comedy from the behavior over banter.
Now it is time to turn the outline into a script. Brent uses the Final Draft software to write the first draft of the script. He shows us the process live with one of the outlines from another writer in the class. This is indeed the fun part of scriptwriting.
Start by taking your outline and breaking the chunks down further. The dialogue will be interleaved. A script starts with the cold open. The biggest insight that Brent discovered through teaching this course is to have the cold open introduce a character, their core comedic contradiction, and create a scene that provokes the core comedic contraction into comic behavior. and put them in a scene that provokes them. The cold open does not have to tie into the story. The cold open is a comedy scene. Write dialogue as an improv actor, get into character, and try to say something. Improvise the lines and throw them down. Overcome resistance to get started. I couldn’t believe how hard it was to start writing dialogue. As soon as I started, I got stuck, but then when I got the first line out, I was fine. Give your punchline to the main character. There’s a unit of joke. The shorter it is the punchier it is. When writing a character think about polar opposites. Big words and grammar vs. short sentences. Put everything you are thinking up on the screen.
If you worked at it full-time, expect to take 40 hours to write a half-hour comedy script from the outline. Use the V+2 approach: vomit plus two. Vomit is about speed and quantity, not quality. Try to get from FADE IN to FADE OUT as soon as possible, then make two more passes. Break writing down into writing sessions of two hours at a time. You can get two scenes done in a session.