HOW TO WRITE ORIGINAL SKETCHES
A list from sketch writer @MadalynBaldanzi. "Comedy is a craft, but I think we should also strive to make it an art. And in order to do that, we must work to be original, to create something new. If for no other reason than the more original our work, the funnier it can be (because laughter = surprise, and originality = opportunity for surprise)"
- 1.Write for ActorsAny time you write a sketch, make sure that you’re writing each character with a specific actor in mind. Your characters will become so much more specific if you imagine what an actor can bring to the part when you write it. They will spring to life in a delightful way. If you’re not working with a team that will be performing your sketches, write for anyone in the community who you admire, or for your favorite SNL cast members. Your writing will become more specific, which means better.
- 2.Write for Your AudienceThe audience for your sketch is part of what makes it a special specific sketch that happens in one place & one time & not any other. I most often write for Maude Night, which is made up mostly of UCB sketch students & they are looking for game. Here’s the thing though– laughter=surprise. After that first game move, they’re going to expect more game moves. Which means they’re not surprised by them. So it’s important to have a very clear premise, that you can then deviate from in surprising ways.
- 3.Think Past Your First IdeaOne benefit that we have with sketch is that we can think about it a lot (unlike improv). If you’re writing a sketch, your first idea for a game move is probably an idea that the audience will have, too. They are not dummies after all, they were smart enough to come to your comedy show. They will not be surprised by that. Thankfully, sketch writers have the luxury of being able to brainstorm past that first obvious idea.
- 4.Make Everything SpecificGive everything in your sketch a specific place, time, and perspective. You could just have two generic people playing a game, but give them a lot of true things about themselves in the world of the sketch, and then you go from just having a comedic idea that you heighten, to having created a little comedic world. (Word of warning: you can go too far with this! Don’t forget the original sketch idea! You cannot propel a sketch with specifics alone!)
- 5.Don't Confuse "Having Been Done" with "Being Original"In writers rooms, a lot of times you hear, "ooh, I don’t think I’ve ever seen this idea before." This is a compliment- real sketch "artists” want to do something new! At the same time, truly everything has been done before. So instead of trying to come up with a crazy weird idea, come up with an idea that feels like only you could think of it. Put your weirdest thoughts and opinions into your sketches. Ask yourself, could anyone write this but me? Write what you like. You are special!