The comedic premise is very much the same idea as a premise in any other genre. It's got the same elements…Character, goals, themes, conflict…
One way to look at or create a comedic premise is that it has some kind of separation from reality. Reality meets the unreal or the unusual.
A regular person in an irregular world: Back to the Future, Planes Trains and Automobiles, Ghostbusters
Or an irregular person in the regular world: Mrs. Doubtfire, Hancock, Charlie Bartlett (sorry…some of these are a bit obscure but they're the only ones coming to mind).
Or a more complicated, hard to define mix of the two: Big, Tootsie, The Big Lebowski.
So if you want to write comedy, instead of trying to come up with a funny premise from whole cloth, which is tough to do, one way to break things down is to think of A/ a regular thing, and mix it with B/ an irregular thing.
Some quick ones I thought of (which may be terrible ideas, but illustrate the exercise):
Going to a dinner party ———> disguised as your opposite gender
Graduating High School ———> for robots
Going Fishing —————–> with an aggressively eccentric billionaire
Babysitting ——————-> a sasquatch
Legally Blind ——————> but refuses to admit it
Obviously it uses the principle of CONTRAST, which I've talked about before as one of the essentials in writing. This is step one in thinking about the underlying structures in comedy (or other) premises.
I hope this makes some sense; if you have the interest, you could scribble down five or ten REGULAR/IRREGULAR combinations. It's a way to begin thinking STRUCTURALLY about comedic ideas, and a much easier approach than thinking “what's a funny premise?”
We'll continue this with COMEDIC CHARACTERS next time.
This is the first part of a little discussion about comedy writing…this stuff came from a book called “The Comic Toolbox”.
By the way,
Don Rickles, RIP.
There's nobody else like him !
Banes at 12:00AM, April 13, 2017
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