Successfully transferring your sense of humor from speech and actions to script can be one of the more difficult skills to develop when pursuing a career in screenwriting. The key to comedy is timing, and anyone who’s ever tried to tell a joke or amusing anecdote knows that if you drift off on a tangent or deliver the punch line too early, you’re likely to lose your audience’s interest and the moment can pass without so much as a smile – not so good if you’re trying to write a hit sitcom!
The pressure to get it right is doubled when screenwriting comedy. Agents, producers and creative executives can be unforgiving, so you need to show them you can be funny while telling a coherent story right from the first page.
A major sticking point for most unsuccessful comedies is the plot. Regardless of how many jokes you cram into a scene, without a compelling storyline it’s highly unlikely that the person reading will make it to the end. Laughs can be added later as long as there is a strong story to build on.
It can also be a good idea to find at least one other person to write with, or at least bounce ideas around with. The combination of a technically skilled, conscientious writer, and an off the wall joker, with a gift for one-liners, can reap dividends when screenwriting comedy.
Finally, you need to discover your genre. Are you better suited to writing a laugh-a-minute sitcom, such as 30 Rock, Seinfeld or Frasier, or is your style more drama but with the occasional laugh, similar to shows like Glee and Entourage? Figuring this out will help you to learn how hard and often you need to push a joke in order to get the comedy blend just right.
For newcomers to the industry, it’s always worthwhile investing in screenplay writing software. Knowing how the write a script properly can make life so much easier, especially for inexperienced comedy writers. Screenwriting can be a challenging process, and using screenplay writing software to help structure your plot can make it much easier to work out where best to place your biggest laughs.