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The Comedy Plot, Toolbox Edition (part two)

Banes at 12:00AM, May 18, 2017

Welcome to part two of a twenty-seven part series about outlining simple comedy plots!

Who is the Hero
What Does the Hero Want?
The Door Opens
The Hero Takes Control

So last week we went over the first two items. A particular character who wants something on a surface level, and needs something on a deeper level that the Hero is not aware of. Usually that “deeper want”, in a conventional comedy plot, is LOVE.

All of this is cribbed from Luthor Vandross' book, “The Comedy Toolbox”.

Buy it here:

welcome to Jurassic Park!

Now that we've established a comedic Hero and that Hero both wants and needs something, the Hero's life has to CHANGE in some way. Hyena Hell did a great post about this a couple weeks back; you establish a character and where they're at in life, and then throw a curve ball at them.

So “The Door Opens” is where the Hero is thrust into a new world (literally or figuratively). They encounter the “magic” in a magic-powers tale. Or in a “comic opposites” story, this is the part where the pair meets each other (see Lethal Weapon for a classic meeting of comic opposites. That's the first one that came to my mind for some reason).

Dorothy is whisked away by a tornado. Andy accidentally reveals his 40-year-old virginity. Phil Connors realizes Groundhog day is repeating. The Nutty Professor turns into Eddie Murphy.

I think you get the idea. Some parts of a story are hard to identify for we students of structure (anybody else try to figure out the Midpoint? I feel ya).

But “The Door Opens”? That's usually a big moment that's very, very obvious.

It's called “plot point one” by Syd Field, or “The Catalyst” in Save The Cat.

In The Comic Toolbox, comedy stories are defined by the WANTS we mentioned earlier. And this is the part of the story that allows the Hero to pursue his Want

Well, the outer want, that is - what he really NEEDS is still invisible to him at this point.

follow the Yellow Brick Road!

An opportunity has been presented by the open door. And in this section, the Hero walks through that door!

The hallmark of this section is SUCCESS toward what the Hero wants.

So if you know what your Hero's Outer Want is, this is the time to play out little victories along those lines. Depending on the length of your story, this could be several scenes.

Meeting new friends, having new adventures…life is improving!

This is also about choices. The door opening was not necessarily a choice. This part is. The Hero is choosing to do things.

Remember that these are OUTER victories. The Hero might be loving it, or might be tentative about it, but this section feels like progress!

But it's not. What the Hero really NEEDS is not being addressed. So the victories are actually hollow ones. And the Hero is going merrily along, not realizing they're about to hit a wall.

Next time: Monkeys!

see you then,




Banes at 7:59PM, May 18, 2017

Zap, you've got it! A damn structure genius, you are!

Banes at 7:58PM, May 18, 2017

Hulk dogs. haha. I'm still hoping they'll lock up some great scripts for more Hulk solo movies. The guy deserves another chance!

Zaptoid56 at 10:56AM, May 18, 2017

First you introduce Luthor...the first bald headed Superman villain..(hmmm..maybe his only bald foe who knew where the fortress of solitude was located?!?) Then Godzilla with badly dubbed dialogue ...but highly unrealistic stop motion photography..thus ending with the Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album by Elton John. There is no doubt in my mind now that Lois Lane really didn't recognize Superman once he wore eyeglasses. Correct me if I'm wrong Banes...

KimLuster at 10:27AM, May 18, 2017

Aw C'Mon, that Hulk-Poodle was awesome!! ;)

Banes at 7:19AM, May 18, 2017

@KL - For sure! This guy's structure outline is a lot more loose than some others in terms of timing these sections. And we probably have more freedom in web comics (or novels or sketch comedy). But moving things along is good to keep in mind. Oh, how I was saddened by those Hulk movies! Why you gotta bring those up? ;)

Banes at 7:17AM, May 18, 2017

bravo - you nailed it! and thanks!

KimLuster at 6:52AM, May 18, 2017

Mo' great stuff!! Timing matters on these things!! In the first Hulk movie, I remember thinking it took long for Banner to get stuck in the Hulk-ification machine. When similar happens with comedy movies (and they do seem like they're getting longer...) some of the gut-punch can get lost!!

bravo1102 at 2:36AM, May 18, 2017

Monkey, as in monkey wrench being thrown into the works? Another great one.

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