A five-page play or screenplay will be approximately 800 words. The only way to prove that you truly, deeply, and on a cellular level understand the concepts of comedy learned in this class and the human sensibility represented by the comedy genre, is to put them into practice. An athlete can read all the books she wants on the principles of a serving a tennis ball, but the proof is in the pudding: can she serve a tennis ball? Therefore, your final assignment is an exercise in which you create a “comic sketch.”A sketch is a short, comic scene, such as one might see on Saturday Night Live or Funny or Die. Your sketch should be five (5) pages long, but you may go as long as eight (8) pages (if it’s really funny). It is appreciated if the piece is properly formatted as a play or screenplay, but as long as it’s neat and comprehensible, formatting is a minor issue, and you may feel free to make up your own style of formatting.
In addition to the sketch, you must include a paragraph explaining your comic premise, and a paragraph explaining what is funny about at least one character. Do this first, and it will make the actual writing of the sketch better! Again, your sketch may be done in screenwriting format or playwriting format, or a format you invent.
Playwriting format: Various approaches to play formatting are available online and you are free to use any of them, as long as they are clear. One of the simplest explanations is here:
Screenwriting format: Screenwriting format is thoroughly explained in the required text, Screenwriting for Neurotics. Also, various websites explain screenplay formatting. One of the simplest is here: https://www.oscars.org/sites/oscars/files/scriptsample.pdf
Preparation: You have access to YouTube. Go online and watch ten or twelve comedy sketches (how’s THAT for fun homework?), and note why the characters are comic characters, and what the comic premise is. Hybridization of type? Parody? Fish out of water? Then, think up a comic premise of your own, or start with a comic character and build the premise around the character. In other words, if your character is a terrible fussbudget, always cleaning a tidying, you make him a fish out of the water by having him move in with the messiest, dirtiest, sloppiest guy on earth. Voila! The Odd Couple. In general, the easiest way to make your way through any plot is to give your character a goal, and opposition. To understand it more deeply, “Screenwriting for Neurotics” from University of Iowa Press can help. You will be graded on the basis of whether your work is neat and shows care, and most of all whether it reflects what you have learned this semester about the principles of comedy.
Bonus points on the final script: You will get 10 bonus points on your final script for every time you make the reader—me—laugh out loud. And I mean literally laugh out loud. Don’t count on it. I smile, I chuckle, but laughing out loud is hard to get. New, original work; no adaptations. All scripts must be original and not based on material from another medium(that includes prose works you yourself authored). Your idea (spine)may be rejected by the instructor, if he believes you will have trouble making it work. You may not “rework” scripts you began outside this class. Work must be new and original. These rules are designed to help me help you succeed; the beginning writer doesn’t always know what he should be writing. DO NOT TURN IN WORK YOU HAVE TURNED IN FOR OTHER CLASSES. To do so is serious academic
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