Screenwriting Blog
Posted on by Courtney Meznarich

Serious Tips for Writing Comedy for TV and Movies, From Comedian Monica Piper

What makes something funny? While extremely subjective, theorists and comedians alike have established some guidelines that could bring you closer to writing a guaranteed knee-slapper. Between our interview with a comedian who literally made me laugh out loud on set, combined with more scientific advice (yes, there are people who study comedy!), today we’re going to help you find the funny in your next screenplay.

Hold your place in line, screenwriter! We’re getting closer to launching SoCreate Screenwriting Software to a limited number of beta testers. , without leaving this page.

Monica Piper is an Emmy-winning writer, comedian, and producer whose name you may recognize from hit shows such as “Roseanne,” “Rugrats,” “Aaahh!!! Real Monsters,” and “Mad About You.” She is naturally funny, but she says most anyone can be.

“Funny is all around you,” she said. “Your antenna has to be aware of where it is,” because then you don’t even have to find the funny, and as Monica told us, “the funny finds you.”

Most things that are humorous, across cultures, fit into one of many theories of comedy, according to Peter McGraw and Joel Warner. They wrote this Slate article on a recent attempt at a unified, global theory on comedy.

The Superiority Theory says that people will laugh at another’s misfortune – take slapstick or teasing, for example. The Relief Theory says that people will laugh as a means to relieve their own psychological tension, overcome their inhibitions, and reveal suppressed fears or desires, which is why some people find dirty jokes hilarious. The Benign Violation Theory says that something is funny when it strikes the precious balance of being wrong or threatening, while still being okay or safe. Of course, the person you’re telling the joke to matters almost as much as the joke itself.

“Jokes that are funniest come from twisted expectations,” Monica told me, which is at the root of the Incongruity Theory – when there’s an inconsistency between what you expect to happen and what actually does.

But theories aside, Monica said the funniest moments, especially in TV and film, are ultimately derived from character.

Funny is all around you. Your antenna has to be aware of where it is. Sometimes you don't need to find the funny. The funny finds you.
Monica Piper

Her tips for writing hilarious scripts are rooted in story:

  • Comedy should be based on some element of truth

  • Comedy should have a point of view

  • Comedy cannot be emotionally neutral

“How do I feel? What do I hate? What do I love? What confuses me? The idea is to exaggerate,” she said.

If you’re having trouble writing a joke, try working backward. What’s not funny? According to theorists, a joke that’s too extreme on either side of a sliding scale, between benign and a violation, probably won’t hit the right notes with your audience. The key is finding the sweet spot.

“Look at the story as the bracelet,” Monica said. “You need the bracelet before you can put the charms on it, and the jokes are the charms.”

Seriously funny,

You may also be interested in...

3 Serious Mistakes Screenwriters Can Make, According to the Hilarious Monica Piper

3 Serious Mistakes Screenwriters Can Make, According to the Hilarious Monica Piper

I'm surprised you can't hear me chuckling through most of our recent interview with Monica Piper, an Emmy-winning writer, comedian, and producer whose name you may recognize from hit shows such as "Roseanne," "Rugrats," "Aaahh!!! Real Monsters," and "Mad About You." She had plenty of jokes to dish out, and they all seemingly flowed so easily. She's had enough experience to understand what's funny, and she's seen enough mistakes also to dish out some very serious screenwriting career advice. Monica has observed writers throughout her career, and she says she sees them make ...

10 Tips for Writing

Your First 10 Pages

10 Tips For Writing The First 10 Pages Of Your Screenplay

In our last blog post, we addressed the “myth” or rather FACT about the first 10 pages of your screenplay. No, they are not ALL that matter, but they are certainly the most important ones when it comes to getting your entire script read. For more information on this, check out our previous blog: “Debunking the Myth: Are the First 10 Pages All That Matter?” Now that we have a good understanding of their importance, let’s take a look at a few ways we can ensure these first few pages of your script shine! Set up the world your story takes place in. Give your readers some context. Set the scene. Where...

Construct a Killer Logline

Hook your reader in seconds with an unforgettable logline.

How To Construct A Killer Logline

Condensing your 110-page screenplay into one sentence is no walk in the park. Writing a logline for your screenplay can be a daunting task, but a completed, polished logline is one of, if not THE most valuable marketing tool that you have for trying to sell your script. Construct a killer logline and wow those readers with the tips outlined in today's "How To" post! What Is A Logline? Imagine you only had ten seconds to tell someone about your new script. What would you tell them? This quick, simplified explanation of your entire story is your logline. Wikipedia defines a logline as a "A brief...