Comedy skits are an essential part of the comedy writer's craft. Whether you're a fan of Monty Python or Saturday Night Live, it's important to realize none of your favorite sketch shows would've ever existed had their creators not known how to write great comedy skits (also known as sketches). Sketch writing is easily one of the most difficult tasks in the comedy world, as you commonly must convey a complicated idea in a short amount of time, or stretch a simple idea into a larger concept. Like anything, it takes practice, but here are some helpful hints.
What's the Idea?
The most important aspect to sketch writing is coming up with an idea-which, as you would imagine, is done just by thinking. Did you notice somebody do something funny in your everyday life? Have you unintentionally found yourself in a situation that left you laughing? Perhaps most importantly, have you met anybody that struck you as being "quite a character?" You could create an entire sketch around that person, or a caricature that draws on one two or three individuals. Another approach, made famous by Saturday Night Live, is to create a parody-that is, a "send-up" of something that exists in real form. Good sources for material include popular television shows and movies or current events (Presidential press conferences, news footage, etc.). Study the actual source material to get a feel for the people involved and how they would translate as comedic characters. Then, take the approach of, "Wouldn't it be funny if…"
Make an Outline
Another key element to creating a good skit is to make sure it has structure-that is, a good beginning, middle and end, as well as well-conceived character introduction and integration. While much of your good writing and jokes will come on the fly, it's still important to set up what you want to have happen in the sketch so that you can set it up properly.
Develop Your Characters
A common mistake when writing sketches is incorporating either too few or too many characters. As you write, make sure that each character is serving a purpose-be it in the background or in the dialogue. A good rule of thumb is to create at least one "straight" character-that is, the "normal" person whose role it is to set up the funny character on which the sketch is most likely based.
Write a Good Ending
It was alluded to above, but bears repeating-a sketch is not truly great unless it has a good ending. While a great ending often involves a twist or unseen departure from where things seemed to be going, it is not necessary. At the very least, the sketch should end on a good joke or gag that ties up one of the piece's main ideas-or lends itself to a similar problem on the horizon ("Here we go again…").
Watch and Learn
Perhaps the best piece of advice is to watch and study established sketch shows to get a feel for their sensibility and tendencies. More than anything, however, this will help you get a feel for comedic timing. How do they work the audience? If it's filmed single-cam style, what angles do they use to get you to laugh? Chances are they're your best bet in terms of entertaining your audience.
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