This past weekend, I did some yukking up under the guise of Steve Kaplan, comedy expert and guru to some of the top stars and TV shows in the industry. Yup, we watched video clips of classic comedy sketches (hello Abbott and Costello) … but it was the beauty of the clips from movies that were rolled … then pulled apart line by line. And here is what was cool: good movies and bad movies—both with people and animated were used to illustrate the six hidden tools of comedy.
Now, you may be thinking … I don’t write comedy … why should I give a fig Judith?
Ahhh … so glad you asked. Comedy makes us real … it adds to your writing … even in the most tragic of storylines. Comedy sprinkled in the right place, delivers the relief that is needed … and few realize it. As Kaplan said, “Comedy tells the truth …”
Have you even been to a funeral at a gravesite? I have and the most memorable one was for a close friend of a good friend of mine. I went with her to just be with her. Her friend had been a huge man … I mean so huge, that his body was delivered to the gravesite via a pickup. Good enough, you make do with what you need to make do. As they many worked to pull the casket out of the truck … the OMG happened … it slipped. And it wasn’t a little slip. The casket and its contents turned into a sled, sliding down the hillside. We all watch with our mouths gapped … and then it happened. A giggle and a muffled gasp … the domino reaction started. Then someone said, “Henry would have loved this …” I didn’t know Henry, but golly, knowing that he would haven’t gotten a kick out of his final exit made me like him a lot. It was the truth and told quite visually.
Steve Kaplan of KaplanComedy.com shared his 6 Hidden Tools of Comedy throughout the weekend:
Winning: In comedy, you take whatever action you think you need to do in order to win. Kaplan says, “Comedy give you the permission to win.” His best examples came from Groundhog Day.
Non-Hero: Someone who lacks some, if not all the skills and tools to win. Kaplan calls it, “Don’t know.” His example is from the classic scene from Something About Mary and the hair gel.
Metaphorical Relationship: The essential relationship beneath the surface relationship: a unique way to see the world. Kaplan added, “Even shy people have babies … they must figure out a way.”
In reality, the perception of a character can be quite distorted to reality … yet it’s a relationship of sorts.
Positive Action: Every action the non-hero takes is done with the hope or expectation that it will work, or at least make a bad situation better. Kaplan shared, “No one likes to suffer except poets and actions.” Then the aha: characters are the master of their own disasters. Then he showed a delightful clip with John Cleese in Faulty Towers … an episode I had seen many times. With his guidance, I saw so much more than just a laugh out loud outrageousness.
Active Emotion: the emotion that naturally occurs in the course of trying to win. His add, “In comedy, we protect ourselves with a screen door.” That’s where body language and facials are huge … lots from the Seinfeld gang was walked through … what was happened … and then what was really happening.
Straight Line / Wavy Line: The true essential dynamic of comedy: The one who sees and the one who does not see; the one creating the problem and the one struggling with the problem. One of the masters of the straight line / wavy line form of delivery is John Cleese. His words, “We used to think that comedy was watching someone do something silly … we came to realize that comedy was watching somebody watch somebody so something silly.”
So … my challenge for you this week is to become a “watcher” … watch a few comedies. Think about the scenes … the words … what is happening Next, revisit your own writing. What can you do to juice it up a bit. Remember, sometimes the visual screams louder than words
Happy writing … and have fun.
Judith Briles is a book publishing expert and coach. She empowers authors and is the Founder of AuthorU.org, a membership organization created for the serious author who wants to be seriously successful. She’s been writing about and conducting workshops on publishing since the ’80s. Judith is the author of 35 books including Author YOU: Creating and Building Your Author and Book Platforms (Foreword IndieFab Book of the Year), Snappy Sassy Salty: Wise Words for Authors and Writers and a speaker at publishing conferences. Book #35 was published in 2016: How to Avoid 101 Book Publishing Blunders, Bloopers & Boo-Boos. Get your copy now.
Each summer, she holds Judith Briles Book Publishing Unplugged, a three-day intensive limited to a small group of authors who want to be seriously successful. In 2017, the dates are June 22-24th. Her audio and workbook series, Creating Your Book and Author Platform is now available. Join Judith live on Thursdays at 6 p.m. EST for “AuthorU-Your Guide to Book Publishing” on the Toginet Network at bit.ly/PublishingShow.
Follow @AuthorU and @MyBookShepherd on Twitter and do a “Like” at AuthorU, and join the Facebook group Book Publishing with The Book Shepherd. If you want to create a book that has no regrets, contact Judith at Judith@Briles.com.
Author U is a non-profit membership organization dedicated to the author who wants to be seriously successful. Monthly education programs delivered face-to-face and online, The Author Resource ezine, BookCamps, and the annual Author U Extravaganza are tools designed for authors pre-, during and post-publishing of their books. Join AuthorU.org today.
If you are looking for FREE author and book coaching … call in to Judith’s Author Monday Mornings at NOON Eastern each Monday if you are an AuthorU.org GOLD member. The number is 218-632-9854; Access Code is only availabe to members … have your questions ready–there’s a full hour to ask and listen. Join us.