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How To Write Comedy Scripts With LOL Dialogue

 

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how to write comedy scripts

Learning how to write comedy scripts that makes a reader laugh out loud is no easy task. But if you’re writing a comedy screenplay, your dialogue had better be damn funny. Not jokey. Not just a comment. Not just blue throw away humor, but I’m-dying-from-laughter funny.

When wondering how to write comedy scripts with super funny dialogue, think of all the dialogue you hear with weak jokes or line deliveries. Now multiply that times a thousand. Because that’s how many different agents, managers and studio readers read last year. Most of which included those same jokes.

You don’t want to turn a screenplay in that makes the reader cringe with the awfulness, or even mediocrity, of the jokes. And the best way to do this is to make your characters truly witty.

When your characters say something witty and different to elicit a laugh, the reader will be impressed and think you are a better writer than you are. Trust me! I was one of those readers. So take more time giving your characters a razor sharp wit and it will pay off in dividends. But how do you do this?

How To Write A Comedy Script With Woody Allen Level Wit

How do we make all the gags feel like they’ve been written by a professional comedy writer? How do we give the characters Woody Allen-esque one-liners?

We steal!

Yes, that’s right — one great way to give your characters fantastic lines is to not even come up with the jokes yourself. Yes, I’m talking about ripping off existing jokes or modifying existing jokes. There are literally millions of jokes out there ready to be adapted to your comedy screenplay.

Say you have a guy in your script who’s really immature. You could spend ages trying to come up with a funny joke about how he acts like a 14 year old.

Or, you could pop into Google “jokes about immature men” and hey presto you have an abundance of ready-made professional gags waiting for you.

In a matter of seconds I found: “Men are like government bonds… they take so long to mature.” This can then be easily adapter to a one-liner along the lines of “He needs to grow up. I’ve seen government bonds mature faster.” You get the picture.

This will immediately give your characters the comedic edge over most the others out there in spec-script land.

comedy scripts

How To Write Comedy Scripts With Characters Who Aren’t Witty

But what about characters that are just generally “comedic” and not necessarily witty?

Take ‘O Brother Where Art Thou!’ Clooney’s character, I would argue, has the funniest dialogue in the film, but it’s Turturro and Tim Blake Nelson who play the “comedic sidekick” roles and are arguably funnier.

The Coen Brothers achieved this by giving each of the characters a voice.

They each have their own speaking style and very little of what they say comes across as “jokey.” This is because the humor comes from naturalistic (or humorously unnatural) voices, individualized within each character.

Great advice, I know: “WRITE LIKE THE COEN BROTHERS, STUPID!”  While I realize how difficult that is, my point remains:

Give your characters a point of view, and base any humor coming from them off of that point of view.

This the basis of all great comedy writing.

We discussed in an earlier blog post how to flesh out fully-formed characters using the Enneagram. Once you have done that, your character’s voices should come clear for you, and just like everyone you know has a different sense of comedic voice — for better and worse — so should your characters.

How To Write A Comedy Script: Conclusion

If you want to know how to write a comedy script with dialogue and characters that make studio readers, agents, and managers double up with laughter here’s what you do:

  • If you have a “witty” character, make sure that their jokes are super funny by stealing and modifying existing jokes.
  • If you have a “comedic” character, make sure that how they act rather than what they say makes them funny.

Do this and your comedy screenplay will be head and shoulders over 99% of the comedy specs out there and studio readers will be that much more likely to give it a “consider” or “recommend,” just on the strength of the humor alone.

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15 Comments

  1. Vivienne says:

    Im having trouble writing funny dialogue but this post helped a lot. Thanks.

  2. Bob says:

    If you have trouble writing jokes, team up with someone who is good at that. Professional comedians spends their whole lives crafting and refining their jokes and once they’ve appeared on television, film, or any other broadcast medium, they can’t use them anymore.

  3. Vincent says:

    If you see something that’s imaginative, adapt it for one of your characters. I have a friend who used the phrase “blowing sunshine up my skirt,” so I used that line when my lead was angry at her ex when he visited her.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Great tip, Vincent.

  4. Jonas Polsky says:

    No one would advocate writing “You had me at what’s up” in a screenplay. Why should comic dialogue be treated any differently?

  5. Nick says:

    I’m not sure exactly why but this site is loading incredibly slow for me…

  6. Tanner says:

    Woody “the master”… Manhattan is one of my favorite movies of all time.

  7. Mike says:

    Woody Allen dialogue is crap.

  8. Lola says:

    Its like you learn my mind! I’m writing a comedy right now and this really helps.

  9. Thomas says:

    Great post! 🙂

  10. Carter says:

    Love Woody 🙂

  11. Vincent says:

    Watch a lot of vintage comedies on TCM and elsewhere — screwballs with Lombard, Powell and Loy, the subtle elegance of Lubitsch — and while you may have to adapt some of the humor to reflect modern sensibilities, it can lead to great comedy. Smart humor is timeless.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Well said, Vincent!

  12. I really liked that you had mentioned that a lot goes into writing jokes and sometimes it will take awhile to come up with a joke that actually sticks to the audience. It’s really interesting to learn about how comedy works and how long the job actually takes to get a good joke out of things. I wonder if I can find a documentary on stand up comedy because I’m sure it takes them so long to write jokes and such.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Misery Loves Comedy is a documentary with stand up comics talking about the business – can’t remember specifics on joke writing but it’s worth a watch.

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