Throwback Thursday: Structuring Comedy

August 7, 2014 § Leave a comment

Frasier and Niles CraneComedy writer Ken Levine has written scripts for Cheers, M*A*S*H, Frasier, The Simpsons and many other shows as well as a fair number of movies. He’s also written a memoir: The Me Generation…By Me about growing up in Southern California in the 1960’s, and a book of travel essays, Where The Hell Am I? Trips I Have Survived.

In Mr. Levine’s blog, he dissects jokes, comedic characters, and sitcom scenes. Pretty much a master class in writing funny. His breakdowns of scenes to show why a certain punchline resolves the action, or how a character shows change, are terrific technical advice for anyone writing an episodic memoir, funny or not. Even when a writer approaches facts, figuring out goals and motivations and how they are thwarted or fulfilled in a classic set-up-pay-off structure can make a much more satisfying essay. Actively using a dramatic structure can help the writer organize material and figure out what elements of a true story are most important.

On farce, Mr. Levine writes:

First off there must be jeopardy. Something the characters need very badly and are willing to go to the greatest lengths to achieve.

…Secondly, a farce is built on a lie. A character lies and then to keep from getting caught must lie again.

Sounds like a gripping memoir.

Read his blog post here.

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