Boarding the plane in Sydney, before a twelve hour flight, I asked our playwrights what they were hoping to get out of the tour. The general consensus was that they wanted to be able to make a compelling, succinct and memorable pitch.
Tom Holloway wants to be able to summarise hours of information into one sentence or a few key phrases. Reg Cribb wants to know how to be industrious about his worth. Lally Katz wants to become more confident, meet new people, make connections and Maxine Mellor wants deeper insight into how the big players actually operate.
After clearing customs and hiring a minivan at LAX, we were straight into a Steve Kaplan Comedy masterclass at The Standard Hotel in West Hollywood. Comedy seemed appropriate given everyone was “running on empty.” Steve posed many rhetorical questions that got our jet-lagged brains working: “Why is something funny on Tuesday and not Friday?” “Why is something funny the first time you read it, but not the fifth time?” Steve concluded that at the heart of comedy was the ability to tell the truth about human beings.
In the best comedies, characters are given the permission to do what they have to do to win (to make people laugh). A good comedic show consists of a group of finite characters, all working in sync, making some sort of dysfunctional family, where everybody has a role to play. For example Friends and Seinfeld. After 9 years of Seinfeld it was discovered that the most common comedic line ever was “What?”
Steve’s all time favourite comedy? Groundhog Day.
The big thing Tom got from Steve today was the difference between something being funny, and something being comic, comic is about the revelation of a truth; the art of revealing the something real, as distinct from just “having a laugh.”
Reg thought Steve distilled what he himself needed to do for his comedy project and the few dot points for each of the playwrights for their pitches were warmly received; integration started straight after the workshop finished. These points also impacted what might help in attacking the next draft, Steve was relaxed and enjoyed working with the team to help them clarify their dramatic intentions and flesh out the comedic potential of key characters.
Lally got out of Steve that you should follow your instinct, but be disciplined with it…
Max really enjoyed getting personal feedback; and breaking down comedy into the nuts and bolts of execution, something that’s more easily comprehensible.
Tomorrow: the Writers’ Journey with Chris Vogler…