After thinking about what I need to do to write for comedy, it dawned on me that I know just the person to ask!
I asked my friend Jon Brittain, whose writing credits include Radio 4’s ‘The Now Show’, Cartoon Network’s ‘The Amazing World of Gumball’ and numerous stage productions, to give me some pointers on writing comedy.
“First of all,” he said “and it might sound really simple, but try and write stuff that makes you laugh.”
This echoed what Armando Iannucci: ‘write for yourself’. This is what I like to call the ‘Field of Dreams’ mentality; if you write it, they will come. Don’t try and write for an imaginary audience, don’t try and guess what you think others will find funny. Write what you think is funny, and there’s a good chance other people will find it funny too.
“I’ve found that when I’ve been true to myself and done something I think only I will like more people have enjoyed it than usual.”
“Secondly, finish your draft. Push through to the end even if there’s stuff wrong. Because you can go back and fix that. Don’t get stuck rewriting the first 30 pages.”
I was aware of this, it’s the old adage ‘Writing is Rewriting’. It tends to be how I work anyway, just trying to get the piece finished, get the bones down, then you can work on fleshing it out. If you’re constantly re-writing the first act, you’re never going to get to the second act. Finish it, get an ending down on paper, then go back and change it.
Edit, rewrite, cut stuff, streamline, edit, rewrite, cut stuff, streamline, repeat ad nauseum. Rewrite it as many times as you can. It will probably never be ‘perfect’, but you can get pretty close by rewriting it a ton of times. Get people to read it out, hear how it sounds in real life. If stuff jars or needs changing, then change it, it’s as simple as that.
“The first draft’s meant to be shit, so that you have some material to work with to make good.”
Finding a story can be hard, but quite often it will come through in the rewrites. First draft, you’re just spitballing. Trying things out. See what sticks.You need to have a plan, but if you get too caught up in the planning stages you might lose enthusiasm for writing the actual piece. The more you write a story, the more it will become apparent how it should be. It’s like getting to know someone, the more time you spend with them, the more you will know about them. Once you’ve got a first draft, then from there it’s just working out what fits.
Try and write for a few hours a day. If you want to write more, spend more time at the desk. “Even if you don’t write anything just try. And if nothing’s coming then try writing something else, it might unlock something.” The important thing is to try and just keep trying.
Cheers Jon, wise words, and helpful.