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01/28/2008: Petty Force
Another action-packed day on the picket line today, Gentle Readers. I was at my new default location, Fox, which was also home to the SAG/WGA Unity picket today. What a mob scene! Speeches! Writers! Dogs! Wind! Batemans!
The wind was fierce, snapping Joss Whedon's picket stick and sending the sign whipping backwards where it narrowly missed taking out 20 plus or minus 5 percent of the staff of Numb3rs.
I had a long and interesting conversation about comedy with another former colleague. We talked a bit about the comedy gold that comes with smart people acting stupid. Thinking about it later, it seems to me that the key concept might be "pettiness." The whole idea of focusing on something small, especially in the face of larger problems, is funny and identifiable. It's hard to find a comedic supporting character of the Frank Burns or Ted Baxter variety who isn't petty. But often the best moments of comedic leads, who have to be more likable, come from this same trait, as well. Frasier's need to appear sophisticated, Jamie's desire to be liked by her neighbors on Mad About You, Jerry's every move on Seinfeld... they came out of a highly focused need that from the outside appears petty. It's not an alienating quality like jealousy or meanness. It's highly identifiable and the nature of what prompts the pettiness tells the audience huge amounts about the character.
If you're struggling with a comedy script because you're having a hard time making a central character both flawed and likable, ask yourself the question, "What would make this character act petty?" It's a variant on "What do they want?" that could put you on a humorous path.
If you want more comedy advice, I've got the place for you. I hear that "Teaching Thursday" over on the Warner Brothers' picket line is a huge success so far. Here's an update from the organizers:
For our second Teaching Thursday hilarity will ensue! It's MULTI-CAMERA COMEDY DAY! Not sure how to write for geeks when you're tragically hip? The cool kids from "The Big Bang Theory" have answers! Want to know how to get your own personal studio audience? Writers from "The War At Home" know! And remember: If it rains on our heads, it's tragic. If it rains on yours, it's comedy gold!
The usual disclaimers:
If you're a writer for a Multi-Camera Comedy (or have been one) and want to show up, please know:
No one will solicit you to read their brilliant spec script. No one will ask for your phone number or email address. No one will expect anything of you other than your ability to answer some story/structure/dialogue questions.
If you're an aspiring who wants to take advantage of getting some truly great advice from the folks who have lived, eaten, breathed it:
Definitely join us -- all you need to do is pick up a sign! What you should not do: solicit the writers to read your brilliant spec script. Do not ask for phone numbers or email addresses. Do expect brilliance, because that's what you'll get!
MULTI-CAMERA COMEDY DAY: Thursday January 31st, 9 AM-12 PM, Warner Bros Gate 2.
I won't be there for this event, although I plan to join in when and if they conduct a "light drama" or "vampire slaying" or "spaceship" day.
Lunch: sushi at Echigo again. Warrrrm rice.