23 January 2013

There is always another joke

The previous post reminds me that one of the best pieces of design advice I know comes from the screenwriter Jane Espenson.

There is always another joke. This is probably the biggest lesson of comedy writing. No matter how much you love a joke, even if a particular joke was why you decided to write a certain episode, there is always another one. I've seen scripts where a given spot in a given scene is (temporary) home to more than a half-dozen jokes over the course of a week. And those are just the pitches that made it onto the page at some stage. Many more will have been pitched in the room.

Give it a try. Pick a random joke in your script. It can even be one you like, and imagine you've just been told that the only change you need to make is to improve that joke. I bet you can do it. Now do it with every single joke in your script.

There is so much goodness in this.

  • Don't get attached to solutions. If there's a problem with something you've proposed, don't work too hard to preserve it, because you can always come up with something else.
  • Early in the process, don't worry about every little problem being solved perfectly. Take time to ensure that you have a solution for what you need, then go back later to find the solution.
  • Iterate. Iterate. Iterate.

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