back to list

COMEDY - part one - The Premise

Banes at 12:00AM, April 13, 2017


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…

Plus laughs.

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 !



KimLuster at 5:16AM, April 16, 2017

I love all things Pythonesque!!

bravo1102 at 11:30AM, April 15, 2017

Probably the most famous users of incongruity was Monty Python. In fact a new word was coined "pythonesque" to describe their at times surrealist incongruity. Like good old John Cleese anywhere behind a desk saying "And now for something completely different..."

PaulEberhardt at 9:59AM, April 15, 2017

Even small incongruities can become dead funny, if it's done right. For instance I remember an old sketch where a typical tourist family in beachwear wander around a shabby 1960s high-rise quarter, looking for a beach that clearly isn't anywhere near, while a narrator reads passages from an ad for an idyllic holiday resort, that strangely seem to fit the pictures in a way, even if they patently shouldn't. Ok, so it doesn't sound all that funny when I describe me, but trust me: it is. My point is, even ordinary people and an ordinary setting can make for great comedy, providing they don't match.

bravo1102 at 6:14AM, April 14, 2017

Think of any joke. It always begins with a premise. "Horse walks into a bar..." There's the premise and it's ridiculous. A horse in a bar? "A rabbi, a pastor and a Catholic priest are talking..." Premise. Three clerics are talking. The simplest stuff can be the hardest to understand because it's taken for granted as opposed to being broken down for you. And that's what's glorious about Banes. He breaks it down.

cdmalcolm1 at 4:47PM, April 13, 2017

Comedy can be added to anything, (i believe). I'm not a big comedy writer BUT i do find myself adding bits of comedy in the scripts or passages I write due to the MOMENT of the character. I do agree with Banes combos because I used them for situations or spur of the moment reaction. Love the article, Bane.

Tantz_Aerine at 12:16PM, April 13, 2017

Good article! Comedy is one of the things that I just don't feel able to do on demand or on purpose. I'm told I make people laugh when in the spur of the moment but I just can't get in that head space to make comedy as an art. Good tips though! Looking forward to the next installment.

Ozoneocean at 8:04AM, April 13, 2017


bravo1102 at 6:21AM, April 13, 2017

Doing anything --------- with an aggressively eccentric millionaire describes dozens of "Lucy" shows as well as any "Gilligan's Island" episode with Mr. Howell. Many of the Dean Martin roasts with Don Rickles are on YouTube. He was magnificent.

KimLuster at 6:15AM, April 13, 2017

Good stuff again! According to what I've read, laughter is a biological response when you realize you're okay/safe after being shocked/frightened!! Supposedly, all comedy, on some level, is disturbing because we're, as you say, facing something that isn't part of our normal, safe world. Laughter is the rush of facing danger and then realizing you're... not in danger! Think Peak-a-boo with babies - the sudden appearance of a face and a loud 'PEAK-A-BOO!' scares them a bit, but then they realize they're safe and they cackle with glee!!

Gunwallace at 1:03AM, April 13, 2017

Legally Blind ——————> but refuses to admit it : I always did like Mister Magoo.

Forgot Password
©2011 WOWIO, Inc. All Rights Reserved Mastodon