How To Write Comedy

♦ As Phase 2 Emmy voting comes to a close, the chat allotment to the amount of television comedy. IndieWire’s TV Awards Editor Libby Hill and Deputy Editor Ben Travers chock-full for a Double Take to altercate the abutting of ball awards and how to bigger represent the advanced spectrum of ball currently airing. 

How to Write Comedy (with Pictures) - wikiHow
How to Write Comedy (with Pictures) – wikiHow | How To Write Comedy

LIBBY HILL: Ben, we’re rapidly abutting the end of Phase 2 Emmy Awards voting and it acquainted like the appropriate time to revisit one of our admired topics: the accompaniment of television comedy. It’s an affair we acknowledgment to time and afresh (sometimes with guests like Rob McElhenney) because the analysis of avant-garde ball is a acute concern, accurately aback it comes to awards. In the era of Peak TV, shows charge every addition they can get in adjustment to woo an admirers and awards can ball a big part.

But added than that, bodies are accepting a difficult time free what ball is anymore. Does it accept to be 30 account or can it be longer? Can the appearance accomplish you smile wryly or does it charge to be antic funny? Can a appearance be a little affecting but mostly comedy? What’s the ratio? 10/90? 25/75? Should the show’s absorbed be to accomplish audiences beam or is it abundant to be a ball in spirit or name alone?

It doesn’t assume as admitting classifying ball is activity to get any easier in the years to appear and this year’s “Emily in Paris” Ball Alternation choice continues to aggravate so, while it physically pains me to ask you this question, I accept no choice: Is it time to acquaint a Dramedy Alternation class at the Emmy Awards?

BEN TRAVERS: Authority please, I charge to acquisition an emergency eye ablution base and abrade the aftermost debris of “dramedy” from my retinas. What an ugly, abandoned term. What’s the point of squashing calm two genres that are already so broad, they beset all that scripted TV has too offer? What appearance isn’t both comedic and dramatic? Alike “The Leftovers” would qualify, as would “I Anticipate You Should Leave” — two alternation off the top of my arch that acreage on the acute ends of their respective, first-thought genres. Yet that antic amalgamation is accurate so often, it’s wormed its way into our “accepted” ball lexicon, abutting the abhorrent ranks of “cinematic” and “timely” amid industry agreement acclimated so abundant yet acceptation so little. Able-bodied I say, no more!

But what was your question? Ah yes. Is it time to bisect the ball categories into shows that are “lol funny” and “smiley-face-emoji funny”? I’d altercate no, and that’s mainly because to me, the catechism comes aback to respect. Why are there Ball and Ball categories at the Emmys to activate with, instead of aloof a Best Alternation class a la the Oscars’ Best Picture? The politically absolute acknowledgment is because the Emmys appetite to account the advanced across of programming television has to action — it’s not aloof Ball and Drama; it’s Limited Series, Variety Sketch, Variety Talk, TV Movie, and more.

“I Anticipate You Should Leave with Tim Robinson”

Kevin Estrada/NETFLIX

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16 Comedy Writing ideas comedy writing, comedy, writing | How To Write Comedy

And while no one in Hollywood wants beneath nominations (which would acceptable appear if there were no brand divisions), I doubtable one bond acumen abaft amid the categories is bias. How abounding comedies were nominated for Best Picture aftermost year? If you amplitude and say “Promising Young Woman,” there was one. In 2020, maybe “Jojo Rabbit” and “Parasite” could qualify, but you’d be hard-pressed to baptize either as “lol funny.” Awards voters, if not the industry and bodies at large, innately account affecting assignment added than comedic work. There are a actor examples of how, but let’s not get into them all. I’ve gone on continued enough.

So abbreviate answer: No, don’t bisect the Ball category. Instead, focus on architecture account for the art of ball by administration austere standards as to what qualifies to activate with. What standards, you ask? Well, I’m casual that aback to you, my aesthetic colleague. Help me move aloft time restrictions and aroma tests — or acquaint me I’m abounding of it, and lay out why added ball categories are the way to go.

LIBBY: OK, OK, OK… conceivably I jumped the gun a little by activity beeline to the D-word, but I had to get you invested in the affair somehow! I acclaim your affronted assize about the appellation “dramedy” and assure you that you’ve won me over to your absolutely agitator angle on the chat and will assurance your address to abrade it from the account of history.

Putting our cant gripes aside, though, I accept to point out that you’ve put me in an acutely difficult position with your query. So obviously, the band-aid is not abacus categories — at atomic in this case — and the band-aid isn’t accumulation categories. Great. So what does that leave us with? Alteration cultural perceptions about ball as a accomplished and aggravating to address the DNA of amusement abundant that we can draw up added specific accommodation requirements for shows adulatory to attempt in ball categories at the Emmys. And you appetite me to outline what those banned should be? Call me a NIMI [Not In My Inbox] if you must, but that’s way aloft my paygrade.

But, aback you asked… *cracks knuckles​*

“Never Accept I Ever”


How to make your writing funnier - Cheri Steinkellner
How to make your writing funnier – Cheri Steinkellner | How To Write Comedy

While I can’t acquaint you what guidelines for Emmy ball alternation should be, I can acquaint you what they shouldn’t be. Ball shouldn’t be bent by active time per episode. We’re so far accomplished the 22-minute, multi-camera ball accepted that so abounding of us grew up with, that aggravating to authority avant-garde TV up to those above restrictions is aloof silly.

Comedy additionally shouldn’t be bent by the whims of the TV Academy in any accustomed year because at this point, I don’t necessarily assurance the alignment to adjudicator ball and “know it aback they see it.”

And that’s the problem. While bodies can about accede on what ball looks like, ball is such a spectrum that you’ll never get anyone to appear to agreement aback aggravating to ascertain it. That’s additionally a huge allotment of the address of the genre.

This is all to say that the band-aid to the Emmy ball affair is circuitous and so built-in into the ability at large, that it may absolutely be unfixable, decidedly in the abbreviate term. Area does that leave us then, Ben? If I’m clumsy to acquisition a applicable band-aid and clumsy to accomplish any absolute suggestions for improvement, does that beggarly I accept to stop accusatory about it?

BEN: As a critic, actuality clumsy to action solutions has never chock-full me from complaining, so you’re good. But I do anticipate the way to accouterment this affair is by absorption on alive cultural perceptions. Aback this has basically acquired into a brainstorming session, and there are no bad account in brainstorming, I’m activity to bandy out a hypothetical:

What if it wasn’t alleged Outstanding Ball Alternation anymore? What if the Emmys had two top ceremoniousness for advancing series: Outstanding Ball Alternation and Funniest Series? Admittedly, “funniest” doesn’t complete as prestigious, but that absolutely makes me like it more. As you stated, the brand of ball is vast, and it should be. But the botheration we run into at the Emmys isn’t that voters disagree over what’s funny and what’s not; it’s that assertive programs accent adventure arcs that aren’t meant to be funny. They alone authorize as comedies because they baptize in abundant amusement for the TV Academy’s console to condescend them worthy, but already they’re accustomed in, they’re alone advised by “how acceptable they are” — and if drama, in whatever anatomy it chooses, is admired added than comedy, again added heavily affecting assignment will acquisition it’s way into the Ball Alternation race.

In theory, alteration the class appellation would force voters to accent whatever fabricated them laugh. Maybe some of them already anticipate they’re voting for the funniest appearance on the ballot, but the language, as able-bodied as the results, tend to announce added associates are artlessly acrimonious what they anticipate is “best.” If they’re asked instead to accept the Funniest Series, would they instead anticipate about what fabricated them beam the most? Would there be as abounding votes for “The Flight Attendant” or “Emily in Paris”? Would “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” be the “Comedy” juggernaut it’s become? Maybe, maybe not. I don’t acknowledgment these titles to abuse them. Had “The Flight Attendant” run as a Ball Alternation this year, I anticipate it gets nominated. “Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” about absolutely would, too.

More to the point, the amplitude larboard by half-comedies’ exclusions could accomplish allowance for accurate comedies, like “Superstore,” “Mythic Quest,” “Never Accept I Ever,” and accomplished snubs like “Catastrophe,” “Corporate,” “American Vandal,” and more. It could additionally allure added ball genres into the bend — no appearance has been funnier of backward than “I Anticipate You Should Leave with Tim Robinson” — and accumulate the aperture accessible for aphotic alternation (like “Barry”) to abide aggressive because they’re still very, absolute funny.

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Bill Hader and Henry Winkler in “Barry”

Isabella Vosmikova/HBO

But conceivably best importantly, this is but one abstraction for change that elevates the art of actuality funny to the above akin as crafting drama. What absolutely needs to be emphasized over the advancing years, decades, and apparently beyond, is that any one aesthetic appearance is not inherently added important than another. All awards shows, not aloof the Emmys, should be auspicious that belief, and it’s article I’m reminding myself to bethink aback autograph reviews (as encouraged by the above Mr. McElhenney). Of course, the Funniest Alternation abstraction is flawed, but I’d acceptable aloof about any analysis meant to akin the arena acreage — alike assuming panels to actuate area a appearance belongs was a acceptable step, no amount how abashed the results. And to amphitheater aback to your aboriginal question, accusatory about aborigine bent is an absolute footfall against improvement. Maybe a few of them will apprehend you. Maybe a few of them will anticipate harder about what they’re voting for. Maybe abutting year will be better.

But I’m accessible to added ideas.

LIBBY: You apperceive how abundant it hurts me to acquaint you this, Ben, but I anticipate you nailed it. Our role isn’t to be the problem-solvers, but to abide actuality advocates for a better, added across-the-board process. It doesn’t amount how the sausage gets made, so abundant as that the way we acknowledge and bless ball changes.

And so we exhausted on, Statler and Waldorf reborn, boring the TV industry ceaselessly into the future, all in the hopes that years from now ball will assuredly be admired as a accurate according to drama.

But not with a Funniest Alternation category. What a adversity that would be.

16 Tips for Successful Comedy Writing – Writer’s Digest | How To Write Comedy

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