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How to Write Comedy Scripts With Laugh Out Loud Dialogue

Try These Simple Hacks to Stop Struggling to Come Up With Funny Lines for Your Characters

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by Script Reader Pro in How to Write Dialogue
July 15, 2015 68 comments
comedy scripts

How to Write Comedy Scripts With Laugh Out Loud Dialogue

Learning how to write comedy scripts that make readers laugh out loud is no easy task. But if you’re writing a comedy, your dialogue had better be damn funny. Not jokey. Not just a comment. Not just blue throwaway 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’ve read in spec scripts with weak jokes or line deliveries.

Now multiply that by a thousand. Because that’s how many different execs, producers managers and studio readers were left nonplussed by the humor in all the comedy scripts they read last year.

The best way to avoid the above scenario 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’re a better writer than maybe you are. So take more time giving your characters a razor-sharp wit and it will pay off in dividends.

But the question is, how do you do this?

How to Write Comedy Scripts With Woody Allen Level Wit

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

One great way to give your characters fantastic lines is to not spend hours wracking your brains to come up with an amazing joke yourself but modify an existing joke. There are literally millions of jokes out there ready to be adapted to your comedy scripts.

Say you have a guy in your comedy screenplay 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 head online and run a search on “jokes about immature men.”

Within seconds you’ll find an abundance of gags ready to be adapted waiting for you. For example:

“Men are like government bonds… they take so long to mature.”

This can then be easily adapted to a one-liner said by one of your characters 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 others out there in spec-script land.

The idea is to take the initial joke and adapt it or be inspired by it, not outright lift it from the internet into your comedy script.

But Still… Isn’t This Stealing?

Some newbie writers love to complain “You can’t do that. It’s stealing!” But the fact is there are literally millions of jokes out there.

The chances that an exec or manager is going to recognize that a one-liner in your script has been adapted or inspired by one them is close to zero.

Obviously, in an ideal world, we’re all gifted with the ability to come up with completely original zingers off the tops of our heads. But most comedy writers (even professional ones) need a little help.

Take Woody Allen’s joke in Annie Hall about him wanting to do to his ex-girlfriend what the government had been doing to the country for years. This is an adaptation of an old Jack Benny joke.

But does anyone really care? Does anyone think Woody Allen’s not funny because he adapted an old joke? No. (Unless you’re one of those Woody Allen haters, of course.)

comedy scripts

How to Write Comedy Scripts Which Contain Characters Who Aren’t Witty

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

Take George Clooney’s character, Everett, in O Brother Where Art Thou? We would argue he has the funniest dialogue in the film. But it’s his sidekicks, Hogwallop and O’Donnell, who are arguably funnier.

The Coens 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, we know: “Just write like the Coen brothers, stupid!” While we realize how difficult that is, our 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.

You could also try fleshing out fully-formed characters using this screenplay character development method.

Your characters’ voices should then become clearer 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 should do:

♦  If you have a “witty” character, make sure that their jokes are super funny by modifying and being inspired by existing jokes found online.

♦  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 scripts will be head and shoulders over 99 percent of the specs out there and studio readers will be that much more likely to give it that RECOMMEND grade you’re looking for.

###

How do you come up with jokes for your characters or make their personalities as funny as possible? What do you think of our methods to punch up your comedy scripts? Let us know in the comments section below.

comedy scripts

Enjoyed This Post? Read More on How to Write Good Dialogue and Comedy Scripts

On the Nose Dialogue Examples and How to Stop It Killing Your Script

How to Write a Screenplay That’s Unlike Any Other in 6 Steps

Script Dialogue: If Your Characters Are Just Talking You’re Doing It Wrong

[© Photo credits: Wikimedia CommonsUnsplash]

68 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.

  13. Zoe Gifford says:

    My scripts rely a lot on physical humor. I don’t need funny jokes because how the characters behave and move is soooo funny. Readers always tell me how talented I am but agents and managers keep telling me my protagonist is too passive.

  14. Diane says:

    Great advice! And I’m writing my first comedy. Yet my dramas always end up much more dramady. I know people hate that word but it works.
    I recommend reading “Sick In The Head” by Judd Apatow. Fantastic interviews with comedians, comic writers and actors.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Diane, that’s a great piece of advice – thanks!

  15. The Aluminum Man says:

    Oh how I wish I could be naturally funny but I’m not.

  16. ogundele clement says:

    i just want to in to comedy hw do i start wit this

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Hi Ogundele, I’m not 100% sure what you mean. Can you expand on this?

  17. Murdoch says:

    Do you have the script to Blockers? Please post it online.

  18. Marcus R says:

    Keep working , impressive job!

  19. Adrian says:

    This is a lifesaver for my comedy TV pilot. Thank you!!!

  20. Rich Gussow says:

    I want to write a comedy script.

  21. Hans Knittle says:

    What about movies that aren’t comedies but have funny moments?

  22. Lester says:

    Ι’m liking this blog more and more. So much great screenwriting advise. Thank you script reader pro.

  23. Tilda says:

    Are comedy scripts still hot in hollywood?

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Yes, they’re always popular 🙂

  24. Billy says:

    This is great stuff I’m gonna use this. Thanks guys!

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks, Billy, and best of luck with your script!

  25. Maxine says:

    I can’t believe you mention that despicible man Woody Alan in your post. Why when he is clearly a peaodophile??

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Please read this article written by Moses Farrow who, unlike you, was actually there.

  26. Kyle Thomas says:

    Right now it seems like everyone I know wants to be a comedy writer.

  27. Eddie says:

    I can’t find any decent jokes to modify 🙁

  28. Umar says:

    I like it. Good idea guys.

  29. Fabrizio says:

    Behind a “simple” joke there’s often meticulous and hard work: finding the right topic with an original comic perspective, a clear premise and an effective punchline – with the minimum amount of words.

  30. Jay Rathod says:

    This is what I was searching for, thank you

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Great – thanks for the comment, Jay!

  31. Tristan B says:

    Hadn’t thought of this but it’s so simple. Love it.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Good luck with the script, Tristan.

  32. Solo says:

    Hahaha! Just looking at the image of the article used got me laughing already. Thanks a lot, guys! This was helpful.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks, Solo!

  33. Pia says:

    Very useful technique I will use in my current script. Thanks!

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Glad it helps, Pia!

  34. Lazaro Calderaro says:

    I know this is kind of off topic but I was wondering if you know where I can download Annie Hall for free? Just reminded me what a great movie it is.

  35. Toby Fitzherbert says:

    Just wondering if this is legal. I mean you’re stealing other peoples jokes right?

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      What we say is you should use old jokes as a basis for your new ones. Find the angle and put a fresh twist on it and adapt to the situation in your script.

  36. Myriam says:

    Great way of finding jokes quickly and easily. Thank u.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      You’re welcome, Myriam!

  37. Martin Mittleman says:

    Wonderful “hack” as usual ScriptReader. Thanks!

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks, Martin!

  38. Evita Espino says:

    I have read so many articles on how to write comedy dialogue but none that hits the nail on the head like this. Keep posting!

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks so much, Evita!

  39. Brandon Smith says:

    Good tip not thought of this before. Thanks scriptreader.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks, Brandon.

  40. Dennis says:

    I’ve written 4 comedy scripts and wish I knew this first.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      It’s never too late to polish ’em up!

  41. William Whiteford says:

    Also, writing against the reader’s/viewer’s expectation can produce a “fan.”
    Thank you for your great advice.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks for the comment, William!

  42. Lorraine Evans says:

    I just stumbled upon your site just in time, I was about to give up screenwriting. Now I feel inspiried to carry on thank you SRP!

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      That’s fantastic – keep at it, Lorraine!

  43. Marcelo says:

    Great tip I will use this for sure, thanks SRP!

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Go for it! Thanks, Marcelo.

  44. Robbie the Writer says:

    Please me email me at [email protected] I have a comedy script with laugh out loud dialogue to sell

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      We don’t buy scripts Robbie, but good luck with it!

  45. Elisabeth Southgate says:

    Thank you for your information about how to write comedy scripts. My daughter is wanting to be a script writer. She will be interested to know that you said it is as easy as having your character say a one-liner.

  46. tiktok star says:

    She’s really good!

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