Comedy

In PART ONE, I talked about NEVER CHANGE A WORD in sitcom scripts because it will change the RHYTHM the writer intended. The other reason to follow the script to the letter is because a word in the script could be a funny word, making it part of a joke in a scene.

These funny words can lead up to a joke, set up a joke, heighten a joke, or they can even be the joke. Therefore, adding, changing, or dropping a funny word(s) could be disastrous. It will affect both the rhythm and the jokes on the page. So, let me show you how to go about… Finding the funny in Words.

Hard Consonants:

Words with Hard Consonants are big in comedy. For whatever reason, hard consonants like the letter “K” helps to create words that simply sound funny when played out in sitcom scripts. The letters “B,” P,” “C” and “T” have a similar effect.

Key Words:

A Key Word is a word (or words) that appears in a section of dialogue that requires a special emphasis or delivery. A Key Word can be underlined, italicized, bolded, in “quotes” or in ALL CAPS. It is a notation from the writer to emphasize this particular WORD” in your dialogue.

Writers use these sparingly so, when you see one, it means the writer is putting a flag up, telling you that there is a joke there. Your job is to find and emphasize the Key Word with the right motivation, in order to hit the joke and keep the rhythm of the piece.

Operative Words:

Operative Words are found in a section of dialogue or spread throughout an entire scene. They are funny words that, once again, help form the rhythm, either by setting up the joke or being the joke. Operative Words are usually repeated at least three times to gain their full comedic effect.

It’s important to note that writers generally don’t repeat words in their scripts, unless they are Operative Words. Repeating words is a device reserved for formulating and creating jokes. Also, Operative Words don’t have to be just words, they can also be “letters.”

Operative Phrases:

An Operative Phrase is a specific sequence of words—either a sentence or a portion of a sentence—found in a section of dialogue or spread throughout a scene. They can be repeated by a single character, or by two or more characters. Just like Operative Words, Operative Phrases help establish the rhythm by setting up the joke or becoming part of the joke. Again, they are usually repeated at least three times to produce an even bigger joke.

An Operative Phrase can also become a Catch Phrase when it appears repeatedly over the course of several episodes and becomes identified with a particular character, like Joey Tribbiani’s “How you doin’?”

You’ve learned how words, whether individually or strung together as a phrase, are beats that make up the rhythm (the music) of comedy. But words make up only one part of the rhythm.

In PART THREE of Scott Sedita’s Rules of Comedy, I will explore how the rhythm of comedy is also formed by Punctuation, especially in regards to timing and pace.


Scott SeditaWhether you’re auditioning for a co-star or a series regular on a half hour comedy, sitcom guru and acting coach Scott Sedita will teach you The Sedita Method of sitcom acting, which comes with it’s own terminology, coined phrases and unique glossary.

Scott’s internationally best-selling book, “The Eight Characters of Comedy. A Guide to Sitcom Acting & Writing, 2nd Edition” (which has been translated into different languages) has sold over 200,000 copies and has become a “bible” to Hollywood comedy writers, directors, producers, and actors and is used as a textbook in over 100 colleges and universities. Find Scott and his staff of professional actors, teachers and coaches at ScottSeditaActing.com.

 

 

 

 

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