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Home » Archives » May 2006 » Admiral Adama and a Frilly Lampshade
[Previous entry: "Tears On Your Keyboard"] [Next entry: "They could look like footstools sometimes"]

05/15/2006: Admiral Adama and a Frilly Lampshade

I've been cooking a lot lately. Lots of stuff with soy. And you know what happens? Eventually, you just can't look a tofu in the face anymore. Bleah. And it occurs to me that you all might be feeling the same way about a steady diet of Buffy exemplars. So I went searching to see what comedy scripts were available online, so I could mine them for cool examples. But, instead, I stumbled across a British web site with comedy writing instruction on it. Looks a bit like this blog, really. I'm not gonna give the link because I'm about to criticize something they say, and I don't wanna point a finger. Besides, I've said loads of dumb things in here, so why invite the tit-for-tat?

Anyway, here's the quote that jumped out at me:

"There's nothing you can't write a joke about - nothing. Someone once told us that some subjects just weren't funny. He picked up a cushion from the sofa he was sitting on and said, 'This cushion for instance - nothing funny about that.' So we decided to prove him wrong and wrote a joke about scatter cushions. No, we're not going to tell you it - but it turned on the word 'scatter' and if you're any good at this game, you can probably figure it out. Or write a better one. Go on."

First off, I think they're talking about throw pillows. So whatever joke they're thinking about (I suspect it involves the phrase "scatter-logical humour") won't work in American English. But I think there's a bigger problem. This is simply not how I'd approach the exercise. Script jokes – good script jokes – aren't about things. They're grounded in character.

Instead of trying to write random jokes about random objects, it would be much better training to write jokes about established characters and their relationship to objects. Niles Crane and a throw pillow, Roseanne Conner and a window treatment, Michael Scott and a handmade quilt… you probably already had a gut reaction to each of those pairings.

Let's see… Niles is critical of his pillow because it doesn't perfectly fit the small of his back; "my small is, counterintuitively, rather large." Roseanne is amused by the whole idea of a window treatment: "I pretty much let my windows go untreated." Michael talks about how every quilt tells a story if you know how to read the patterns, then he claims that this quilt tells an off-color joke. Then he admits that he's kidding. Then he tells an off-color joke. Then he apologizes. Then he laughs at the joke.

Those are off the top of my head. They're not great, but they didn't take long. But, just thinking "throw pillow… go!" I'd've been here all day. I would've panicked and decided I couldn't write comedy. Don't let that happen to you. If you can write people, you can write comedy.

Lunch: Went to the food court at the local mall, and had a shredded cabbage salad. Pushed it down with something from the Godiva Chocolate shop: a fresh strawberry and banana kabob covered in chocolate. Yum!


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Walt Disney Writing Fellowship Program
UC Berkeley
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May 2006

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