Features

Writing a comedy script

Judy Upton is a writer, you can find her short film Milk here and a number of her short comedies are available as podcasts here. Her comedy feature film My Imprisoned Heart won Cobravision: Make Your Mark In Film and premiered at the Edinburgh Film Festival. Judy has shared with us some of her writing tips…

1. Start With A Comic Premise.

Find a subject and then look at it in a skewed or slightly odd way. For my short film Milk (produced by Arts Ed Drama School) I wondered ‘What if milk no longer contained actual milk?’ To give this a comic slant I made the person who discovers this fact, lactose intolerant. To ramp it up still further, she was on a blind date with a dairy farmer at the time.

2. Find Comedic Conflict.

In Milk the government were involved in the conspiracy, putting our heroine in jeopardy. A comedic conflict might spoof a scenario we recognise from thrillers, horror films or even serious dramas.

3. Create A Comic Character.

A comic character sees the world in a slightly different way. Maybe they’re more naïve, more optimistic, grumpier than your average person. Establish what the exaggerated personality trait is early on, and then start putting him or her in situations where their character trait will cause comedic problems i.e. grumpy girl is made lead cheerleader, or becomes a life coach.

4. Funny Vs Real.

Try placing a funny character in a very normal, real world situation. Or else put a very normal, realistic character into a funny, skewed world. Both will often create a ‘fish out of water’ situation, e.g. a vegan is hired as a butcher.

5. It All Gets Worse And Worse And Worse.

Building disaster on top of disaster can make your script funnier and funnier. A disaster happens and your character tries to put things right, but in doing so they go a lot more wrong, e.g. In my short play/podcast True Grit a man from the council sells their supply of road grit just before a late freeze. He needs to replace the grit before his mistake is discovered. Chocolate cornflakes prove a solution, until they come into contact with snow, pigeons and finally his defence solicitor’s car. This is a rule of three; the disasters build to a climax – worst last.