So far with this blog I’ve focused mostly on
writing jokesfor comedy routines or perhaps to put into a speech. Today’s post is a little different however, as I’m interviewing my good friend Nancy Beverly who is a playwright. Nancy and I have been hiking together a couple times a month for years, and during these hikes we usually end up having a “meeting” to update each other on our projects and give each other inspiration and ideas. I think her insights will inspire you to use humor in a script you’re working on or one that you’ve been dying to write. Enjoy!
About Nancy Beverly
Nancy Beverly’s rollicking stage comedy COMMUNITY (where everything that can go wrong at a community theatre play… does) just made the finals of a national play contest. Pray that she gets into the finals and reaps a full production out of it. Her drama HANDCRAFTED HEALING is up for a workshop production through her writers group Fierce Backbone and the webseries THE CALAMITIES OF JANE that she co-wrote has been filmed and will launch on-line in 2015. She’s also putting together her first full-length feature film, SHELBY’S VACATION. It was either that or build a rocketship blind-folded. She took on the more challenging project.
Where do you look for comedic inspiration?
Strangely enough, I don’t. I look for situations and characters that grab me. Because I’m a playwright and a screenwriter, I’m not writing jokes per se. I’m writing human beings who are trying to muddle through life as best they can. I used to work on sitcoms and saw writers who could only focus on funny lines, and those “jokes” felt forced. Better to work on the character’s needs and the conflicts they encounter – and out of their hair-brained schemes and desperation… comes humor.
How do you know something is funny before you use it or sell it?
The beauty of live theatre is you can hear it first before it’s written in stone. I go to a writers’ group called Fierce Backbone every Monday night in Hollywood. The writers bring anywhere from 15 pages to a full-length play, and we have excellent actors up on stage giving it their all. You’ll know instantly if something is working.
In a script, what elements make a character funny?
Their own flaws, misunderstandings, desires, and as I said before, desperation. And then the audience identifies and empathizes with them and their foibles… creating a magical synergy.
Many people think they have a funny script inside them. . . what advice would you give them to get started writing it?
Join a writers / actors group. Bring in your material regularly and listen to how the audience responds during the reading and then take note of the feedback given to you afterwards.
Why do you like writing comedy?
I love to laugh and I love hearing other people laugh at my work – you feel this amazing connection of humanity when it happens. We’re all in this crazy ship together!
What is your best comedy writing tip?
Don’t force things. Stay true to who the character is. An audience loves the truth. They won’t laugh if they feel you forcing jokes down their collective throat.