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Comedy Plots

Banes at 12:00AM, May 4, 2017


I was going to go over the structure of a comedy story, based on the fine book “The Comic Toolbox” by Jason Voorhees.

If you have the interest, I can go into the structure outlined by Jason; he lays out a few different options that you may find useful.

But I found the main approach he uses to be REALLY close to The Banes Method, which is the most useful template for story structure ever belched from the Gods.

Instead, I'll go over the various comedy plot types that Voorhees identifies. I read them over earlier today, and they are pretty nice in terms of provoking ideas!

1. Center and Eccentrics

One sane person in the middle of a bunch of comedic nutjobs. Examples are Bob Newhart's shows, Life of Brian, and many sketches on talk shows like Conan O'Brien and David Letterman. To create the comedic nutjobs, you'd use various different comic perspectives as outlined in the last two newsposts. See our favorite movie “The Burbs” for a classic example!

2. Fish out of Water

Similar to Center and Eccentrics. Lots of crossover here. A “straight” character in a comic world, or a Comic Character in a normal world. Any “alien”-based comedy, Splash, Big, Tootsie, The Invention of Lying. Groundhog Day. The more contrast there is between the character and the world they're in, the better!

3. Character Comedy

Tension between comic opposites. Two characters are at odds but forced to be together. It's the Odd Couple, or Bonne-Cop, Bad Cop (though I've never seen it, a sequel is coming out apparently), Two and a Half Men, Sherlock, and Jeeves and Wooster. You get the idea.

A classic template with built in tension! Again, when you come up with your comic perspectives for each character, just make them compelling opposites and force the characters together, and voila! A good approach for a Romantic Comedy, obviously.

4. Powers

Some kind of magic or super-advanced technology is the comedic premise. The Nutty Professor, your Freaky Friday-type body flips, Liar Liar, What Women Want, Honey I Shrunk the Kids, Ghostbusters, and so forth.

5. Ensemble Comedy

Maybe there's a main character, but it's mostly about a group of comedic characters and their interpersonal shenanigans and their conflicts with the world at large. I guess my own “Typical Strange” would be here, when it's not doing the “Center/Eccentrics” and “Character Comedy” thing. Other examples are Cheers (when it's not doing the “character comedy” of Sam and Diane), MASH, Sex and the City and Entourage.

6. Slapstick

Not necessarily a story type like the others. This is physical comedy without the inner conflict stuff. Pies in the face. Slipping on the waxed floor. That sort of thing. The Three Stooges, many gross-out comedies. I remember when the Simpsons showed the origin of Sideshow Bob, who was a funnier Shlemazel because of his pompous dignity. THAT'S the guy you wanted to see get a cream pie in the face. Something to think about if you're writing or drawing slapstick.

7. Satire and Parody

Subjects for their own newspost. Maybe next week!

So there ya go!

Again, these are not “rules”. But if you want to write some comedy, this can be a way to ask yourself what kind you want to write.

Are you interested in more comedy approaches in the next couple newsposts? If so, I'll outline some.

'bye for now!

I would recommend the book that gave me all these ideas. Pick it up for much more detail and other handy comedy writing tools.

The Comedy Toolbox by Jason Voorhees (so glad he found writing; it's a much healthier hobby!):

The Banes Method (actually Blake Snyder's Save the Cat Method):

See you next time!



Zaptoid56 at 9:26AM, May 5, 2017

WHHOOOAAA...Bob Newhart...some are thinking ..was he the opening act on the Larry the Cable Guy world tour??

Banes at 6:37AM, May 4, 2017

@KL - thanks! Yeah, I think B&B would be ensemble comedy!

Banes at 6:36AM, May 4, 2017

@ironscarf - you're right! I'll hunt down that article and edit it in. Thanks man!

KimLuster at 4:55AM, May 4, 2017

Excellent stuff!! I'm certainly interested in more!! What category would Beavis and Butthead be? Ensemble comedy seems close!!

Ironscarf at 3:52AM, May 4, 2017

Interesting, but where's the missing link, to the crucial Banes Method?

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