How To Write A Sitcom Essay, Research Paper
How to write a sitcomHave you ever sat through a turgid half hour of humourless television and thought to yourself, I could write a better sitcom with my eyes closed, one hand behind my back and a colony of vicious drone ants living in my underwear? Have you?Well, of course you have. And if you’ve ever had a go at writing your own comedic masterpiece, you’ll have found that it’s a whole lot harder than it looks. Characterisation, pacing, timing and – above all – being hilarious is tough. The internet is not an obvious place to look for help in writing a sitcom. Being funny is, after all, a creative process, not something that can be searched for or bought on an auction site. Or so I thought, until I took a long hard look at my own half-written pilot episode. It had decent characterisation and reasonable plot development but – at the end of it all – not a single funny line. In desperation, I headed to the web and discovered a wealth of resources. The Write Stuff is the official website of the BBC’s comedy script unit, which receives between 1,200 and 1,500 scripts each year. It is essential reading: the writers’ guidelines tell you everything you need to know about submitting your script, including formatting pages, tips on concepts and, importantly, what the Beeb is really looking for in a sitcom. At the other end of the scale is www.hahabonk.com, a website that develops and produces original animated sketches and sitcoms. They are actively looking for new concepts and scripts for online animated short films – the only criterion, they say, is that “it has to make us laugh”. Unfortunately, most production companies aren’t very good at supplying online submission details for would-be sitcom writers. This is where insider contacts and friends of friends come into their own but, of course, you’re just starting out, so you don’t have any industry chums. Fear not, there are ways around this: the UK Sitcom Writing List is an online discussion forum for sitcom writers. Recent topics include Steve Coogan’s new production company and tips on how to behave when meeting the new ITV head of comedy, Sioned William. A great place for advice, discussion and insider information. Another excellent site with a community feel is Situations Vacant, which “works with new writers and performers to devise, develop and test on stage sitcoms and comedy concepts for television and radio”. It also organises London-based sitcom trials (next show in September), has an archive of original scripts and supplies a comprehensive top 10 of sitcom dos and don’ts. If it’s advice you’re after, don’t miss out on Sitcom Writing http://members.aol.com/dsimon9874. It features interviews with professional comedians, tips on how to structure your sitcom and sample sketches from Smack The Pony. Another invaluable resource is Writing for Performance www.kelly.mcmail.com. This is the most comprehensive sitcom site I’ve seen, offering an excellent guide to sitcom basics, transcripts of interviews with television producers, and contact details for 20 comedy production companies. If you’re not sure that your script is ready to be sent to a producer, the Screenwriters’ Workshop at www.lsw.org.uk may be the place for you. It has links to writing groups and offers a professional, paid-for, script evaluation service. If you think you’d benefit from taking an online course, take a look at TV Comedy College. For ?100 you can buy six foundation units in comedy writing, taught by three experienced sitcom writers with impressive pedigrees. (A free sample module is available on request.) Finally, when you’re working on your script and the words just won’t flow, pay a visit to Tom’s Comedy Quotes at http://tomsquotes.amhosting.net. This has inspirational quotes by the bucketful from those greats of the sitcom world, Cheers and Seinfeld. Another good place for kick-starting your creative juice pump is the TV Comedy Database, which has cast, production and episode details for more than 600 British sitcoms. Browsing through these programmes can be both depressing and invigorating. The chances of you coming up with something even half as wonderful as Fawlty Towers on your first attempt are extremely slim. But at least you’ll be able to manage something funnier than Heartburn Hotel and Up Rising (two of the direst sitcoms it has ever been my misfortune to endure) simply by persuading a city gent to fall into a manhole when distracted by an attractive young lady. Oh, my sides.