Life is funny
I’m taking a new class at the comedy theater that produced the master class show I was in earlier this month. It’s called Intro to Sketch Comedy Writing, and I’m totally digging it. Our teacher is a writer for Tyler Perry Studios – specifically for the television shows Meet the Browns and House of Payne – and I almost gave myself carpal tunnel writing down every word that came out of her mouth last Saturday. One thing I think I’ve learned about myself over time in my adulthood is that I am very interested in learning the formula behind things. I like to observe successful and interesting people, things, experiences, etc. and figure out what makes them what they are. And that was exactly what the first class was all about – the basic formula for writing sketch comedy. Of course, knowing that formula doesn’t guarantee automatic comedy gold – you also have to have a grasp on what might actually make an audience laugh and then have the ability to translate that into words in a script. But hearing her talk about her work and then going through various already-written sketches and deconstructing them was fascinating to me, and tied right in to all the things I read and loved in the book about humor writers I just finished. She also pointed us to some of her online work, including this parody of Leave it to Beaver, which shows you the classic TV show in “colorized” form. (Also “colorized” for your enjoyment: The Addams Family.)
One point our teacher made on Saturday was that the best ideas in sketch comedy often come from the things that make us angry and uncomfortable. That really resonated with me, and has helped me figure out a little bit more about why humor has always been so important to me and how I relate to the world. And also, why the world needs it. It’s clearly already helped me deal with my grief over leaving medical school and the continuing struggle I feel about who I am and what my value to others (and myself) might be. I shudder to think where I would be without this blog and all the enjoyment it’s brought me over the last three years. I imagine it would probably be a place that involved a secret passion for emo music and a closet full of pleated khaki pants with a soft taper at the calf. I think I speak for L as well as myself when I say thank God it didn’t come to that.
Our homework assignment last Saturday was to bring in five ideas for the next Saturday so that we could start crafting them into actual sketches. Maybe it was new class excitement or just a release of several years of my subconscious, but by Tuesday I already had seven. Maybe I’ll turn one or two of them into killer material, or maybe they’ll all be colossal duds that lead to nothing even remotely funny.
Either way, I can hardly wait to get started.
During the introduction portion of our first class, we were asked to say briefly what we find funny. Some of my answers included Eddie Izzard, Bernie Mac (R.I.P.), smart humor á la Jon Stewart and The Onion, and colorful, witty storytelling like the illustrated narratives on Hyperbole and a Half. (This is an abbreviated list, obviously.) I have become really interested in people’s answers to this question, and would love to hear yours. What/who do you find funny? Hit me up with links, if you got ’em!