Eight Essential Screenwriting Principles

Many things are converging just now: The Quest, Go On Your Own Quest. Plus starting next Monday, I will be teaching Core II: Concept, the second of eight Core classes through Screenwriting Master Class on a bi-weekly basis through November 11.

One of the most important lessons we all took from the run-up to and experience of “Go Into The Story: The Quest” was a reminder how of critical it is to work with a good story concept. Manager-producer Gavin Polone drove home this exact point in a recent column. Here is the money quote:

“People pay money for concepts. Having a star doesn’t matter. There are a couple of stars who work within a concept. Daniel Craig is the best example; he hasn’t worked outside Bond. There is a legitimacy in Liam Neeson. I feel that Brad Pitt legitimized Inglourious Basterds. It made it mainstream. But if you have to take a leap with the concept, like on [Johnny Depp’s] Rum Diary, then it doesn’t matter. I’d rather have a $6 million actor and a good concept than someone else for $15 million and hope that the concept works.”

I’m not sure you can find a more thorough and helpful resource on generating, developing and assessing story concepts than Core II: Concept. For more information and to learn how you can redeem your entry into “The Quest” initiative for a free Core or Craft class, click continue.

The Core curriculum, a combination of 48 lectures, dozens of insider tips, and a series of short, but effective writing exercises to put theory into practice, is based on what I consider to be Eight Essential Screenwriting Principles. They are:

1. Plot = Structure.

2. Concept = Hook.

3. Character = Function.

4. Style = Voice.

5. Dialogue = Purpose.

6. Scene = Point.

7. Theme = Meaning.

8. Time = Present.

Each Core course builds off the foundation of those principles, exploring subject areas in depth, and from a specific point of reference, what I call a character-based approach to screenwriting. Here is the schedule of Core classes:

Core I: Plot [July 23-July 29, 2012 / Completed]
Core II: Concept [August 6-August 12, 2012]
Core III: Character [August 20-August 26, 2012]
Core IV: Style [September 10-September 16, 2012]
Core V: Dialogue [September 24-Septemger 30, 2012]
Core VI: Scene [October 8-October 16, 2012]
Core VII: Theme [October 22-October 30, 2012]
Core VIII: Time [November 5-November 11, 2012]

Each is a 1-week online class that includes 6 lectures written by me, forum Q&A, a 90-minute teleconference with class participants and myself, and the opportunity to workshop one of your stories.

You may take individual classes or a new offer: The Core Package. For almost 50% off, you can enroll in all eight classes. Furthermore you may choose to do each 1-week session from now through November or you can opt to have access to The Core Package site with all 48 lectures, insider tips and writing exercises to go through at your own pace. That option also includes two teleconferences with me.

Finally as you may recall, I promised every person who submitted a logline for “The Quest” a free Core or Craft class. Obviously I wasn’t expecting 1500+ entrants, but I’m a man of my word. So here is an opportunity for another complimentary class:

* The first five people to post a request in comments here can take the upcoming Core II: Concept course for free. I will make the same offer for each of the Core and Craft courses as they come up on the schedule through the end of the year. Remember: You must have submitted a logline to the recent “Quest” initiative to qualify for a free Core or Craft class.

* If you don’t want to wait around for a class or if you would prefer, I can send the six Core II: Concept lectures to any other “Quest” entrants. Just email me with your request and that will act as an equivalent of your complimentary class. This has proved to be a popular option as I’ve probably given away 100 complimentary classes via lectures.

For those who did not enter “The Quest,” consider taking Core II: Concept which starts next Monday. Or if you are interested in learning what I think is a unique take on screenwriting theory and practice, save nearly 50% by signing up for The Core Package, and learn all about Eight Essential Screenwriting Principles and a comprehensive, coherent, character-based approach to the craft.

I look forward to the opportunity to work with you.

Genre Essentials: Comedy

The idea: If you want to write in a genre, you should know [at least] the essentials of that genre. Dynamics, themes, tone, pace, feel, atmosphere, characters, dialogue, scenes, memes, tropes, and so on. So we are dutifully compiling lists of essentials for every major movie genre. For those who care about the comedy genre, please hit continue to vote.

Based on your suggestions, per these five areas:

– 10 Movies You Must See

– 10 Scripts You Must Analyze

– 10 Books [Fiction] You Must Read

– 10 Book [Non-Fiction] You Must Cover

– 10 Resources [Blogs, Websites, Journals, Magazines, DVD Commentaries] You Must Track

Special thanks to Shaula Evans who has taken on the mammoth job of overseeing these posts and compiling the data.

Here is a list of comedy movies. Please vote for no more than 10!

  1. 10 Things I Hate About You
  2. 3 hommes et un couffin* (1985, France)
  3. 3 Idiots (by Rajkumar Hirani – 2009)
  4. 40-Year Old Virgin
  5. A Fish Called Wanda
  6. A Night at the Opera (1935)
  7. Adam’s Apples (2005, Denmark)
  8. After Hours
  9. Airplane! (1980)
  10. Al-irhab wal kabab (a.k.a. “Terrorism and B.B.Q.” – 1993)
  11. Amelie (2001)
  12. American Graffiti
  13. American Pie
  14. Anchorman
  15. Animal House
  16. Annie Hall (1977)
  17. Arsenic and Old Lace
  18. As Good As It Gets
  19. As It is in Heaven*(2004, Sweden)
  20. Austin Powers
  21. Austin Powers in Goldmember
  22. Back to School
  23. Back to the Future
  24. Bad Santa
  25. Bad Teacher
  26. Ball of Fire
  27. Bananas
  28. Baseketball
  29. Battle Royale (2000, Japan)
  30. Beverly Hills Cop
  31. Big
  32. Billy Madison
  33. Billy Madison
  34. Blankman
  35. Blazing Saddles
  36. Blazing Saddles (1974)
  37. Bon Cop, Bad Cop (2006, Canada) by Alex Epstein
  38. Borat
  39. Bridesmaids
  41. Bringing Up Baby
  42. Bruce Almighty
  43. Caddyshack
  44. Chasing Amy
  45. Clerks
  46. Clue
  47. Clueless
  48. Coming to America
  49. Crazy People
  50. Dazed and Confused
  51. Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid
  52. Delicatessen
  53. Dogma
  54. Dr Strangelove (1964)
  55. Duck Soup (1933)
  56. Dumb and Dumber
  57. East is East
  58. Eat Drink Man Woman* (Taiwan, 1994)
  59. Eating Raoul (1982) by Paul Bartel & Richard Blackburn
  60. Election
  61. Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex But Were Afraid To Ask
  62. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
  63. Finding Nemo
  64. Flirting with Disaster
  65. Forgetting Sarah Marshall
  66. Forrest Gump
  67. Four Weddings and a Funeral
  68. Funny People
  69. Ghostbusters
  70. Groundhog Day
  71. Grown Ups
  72. Half Baked
  73. Happy Gilmore
  74. Happy Gilmore
  75. Harold & Maude (1971) by Hal Ashby
  76. Highway 61 (1991, Canada) – best portrayal of Satan on film
  77. His Girl Friday
  78. Home Alone
  79. Hop
  80. Horrible Bosses
  81. Hot Shots
  82. How To Murder Your Wife  by George Axlerod (1965)
  83. In Bruges (2008)
  84. Intermission
  85. It Happened One Night
  86. It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
  87. Italian for Beginners written by Lone Scherfig (2000)
  88. Jacob, the Liar* (1976, Germany)
  89. Juno (2007)
  90. K-9
  91. Kentucky Fried Movie
  92. Kicking and Screaming (1995 Noah Baumbach)
  93. Kind Hearts & Coronets (1949) by Robert Hamer & John Dighton
  94. Knocked Up
  95. La Cage Aux Folles
  96. Life is Beautiful (1997)
  97. Life of Brian/Holy Grail
  98. Little Fockers
  99. Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
  100. Love and Death
  101. Magic Mike
  102. Mallrats
  103. MASH
  104. Me, Myself and Irene
  105. Meet the Fockers
  106. Meet the Parents
  107. Men in Black
  108. Meteorman
  109. MIB3
  110. Mimino (by Georgi Daneliya – 1978)
  111. Modern Times
  112. Monty Python – Now for something completely different
  113. Monty Python and the Holy Grail
  114. Monty Python Life of Brian (1979)
  115. Monty Python’s The Meaning Of LIfe
  116. Mostly Martha (2001, Germany)
  117. Mr and Mrs Smith (2005)
  118. Mr Hulot’s Holiday
  119. Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)
  120. My Big Fat Greek Wedding
  121. My Cousin Vinny
  122. My Favorite Wife
  123. My Left Eye Sees Ghosts (2002, Hong Kong)
  124. Naked Gun
  125. National Lampoon Christmas
  126. National Lampoon Vacation
  127. National Lampoon’s Animal House
  128. Brother Where Art Thou?
  129. Ocean’s 11 (2001)
  130. Office Space
  131. Old School
  132. Orgasmo
  133. Pauline and Paulette (2001, Belgium)
  134. Peculiarities of the National Fishing (by Aleksandr Rogozhkin – 1998)
  135. Peculiarities of the National Hunt (by Aleksandr Rogozhkin – 1995)
  136. Pee Wee’s Big Adventure
  137. Philadelphia Story (w/ Kate & Cary, not so much Grace & Bing)
  138. Pineapple Express
  139. Planes, Trains and Automobiles
  140. Police Academy
  141. Pretty Woman
  142. Pulp Fiction
  143. Private Benjamin (1980) by Nancy Meyers, Charles Shyer, & Harvey Miller
  144. Raising Arizona
  145. Ratatouille (2007)
  146. Romancing the Stone
  147. Rush Hour
  148. Rush Hour 2
  149. Rushmore
  150. Safety Last (Harold Lloyd)
  151. Shall We Dance? (1996, Japan)
  152. Shallow Hal
  153. She Done Him Wrong (1933)
  154. Shop Around The Corner
  155. Shrek
  156. Sideways (2004)
  157. Sleeper
  158. Sleepless in Seattle
  159. Smokey & The Bandit
  160. So I Married An Axe Murderer
  161. Some Like it Hot (1959)
  162. Something about Mary
  163. South Park, The Movie
  164. Spaceballs
  165. Stir Crazy
  166. Strictly Ballroom (by Baz Luhrmann – 1992)
  167. Super Troopers
  168. Superbad
  169. Swingers
  170. Tampopo (by Juzo Itami – 1986)
  171. Team America
  172. Ted
  173. Tenacious D
  174. The ‘Burbs
  175. The 40 Year Old Virgin
  176. The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994, Australia)
  177. The Apartment
  178. The Awful Truth
  179. The Court Jester (1956) by Norman Panama & Melvin Frank
  180. The Dentist
  181. The Diamond Arm (by Leonid Gaidai – 1969)
  182. The Dinner Game
  183. The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972) by Luis Buñuel & Jean-Claude Carrière
  184. The Fatal Glass of Beer
  185. The Flying Deuces (Laurel & Hardy)
  186. The Foot Fist Way
  187. The Frisco Kid
  188. The Full Monty (1997) by Simon Beaufoy
  189. The General (1926) by Buster Keaton, Clyde Bruckman, et al.
  190. The Gold Rush (1925) by Charlie Chaplin
  191. The Graduate (1967)
  192. The Great Race
  193. The Hangover
  194. The Irony of Fate, or, Enjoy Your Steam [Banya] (by Eldar Ryazanov – 1975)
  195. The Italian Job (by Peter Collinson – 1969)
  196. The Jerk
  197. The King of Hearts (1965, France)
  198. The Lady Eve
  199. The Life Of Brian
  200. The Man With Two Brains
  201. The Mouse that Roared (1959) by Roger MacDougall & Stanley Mann
  202. The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!
  203. The Nutty Professor (1963) by Jerry Lewis & Bill Richmond
  204. Office Space
  205. The Other Guys
  206. The Party (1968) by Blake Edwards, Tom Waldman, Frank Waldman
  207. The Philadelphia Story
  208. The Pink Panther (1963) by Maurice Richlin & Blake Edwards
  209. The Princess Bride
  210. The Producers
  211. The Royal Tenenbaums
  212. The Ruling Class (1972) by Peter Barnes
  214. The Thin Man (1934) by Albert Hackett & Frances Goodrich
  215. The Toy
  216. There’s Something About Mary
  217. This is Spinal Tap
  218. Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines
  219. Three Amigos
  220. Tommy Boy
  221. Tootsie (1982)
  222. Top Secret
  223. Trading Places
  224. Tropic Thunder
  225. True Lies
  226. UHF

Based on your suggestions, here are comedy scripts that are available online. Vote for no more than 10.

An asterisk indicates the script is available as a PDF.

*The 40 Year Old Virgin (2005) by Judd Apatow & Steve Carrel –  script

*Adaptation (2002) by Charlie Kaufman & Donald Kaufman – script 1, script 2

Airplane! (1980) by Jim Abrahams, David Zucker & Jerry Zucker – AFI #10 / LTO #2

*Analyze This (1999) by Peter Tolan, Harold Ramis & Kenneth Lonergan – script

*Annie Hall (1977) by Woody Allen & Marshall Brickman– AFI #4 / LTO #4

The Apartment (1960) by Billy Wilder & I.A.L. Diamond – AFI #20 / LTO #47 /

*Barbershop (2002)  by Mark Brown & Don D. Scott – script

Being There (1979) – AFI #26

*Bridesmaids (2011) by Kristen Wiig & Annie Mumoloscript

Bull Durham (1988) by Ron Shelton –

*The Big Lebowski (1998) by Joel & Ethan Coen – LTO #13 script

*Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) by Stanley Kubrick, Terry Southern & Peter George – AFI #3 / LTO #14 script

*Duck Soup (1933) by Bert Kalmar, Harry Ruby, Arthur Sheekman & Nat Perrin- AFI #5 / LTO #17  script

*Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind by (2004) Charlie Kaufman – script

*Fun with Dick and Jane (1977) by Mordecai Richler – script part 1 & script part 2

*Ghostbusters (1984) by Dan Aykroyd & Harold Ramis – AFI #28 / LTO #23 http script

The Graduate (1967) – AFI #9

*Groundhog Day (1993) by Danny Rubin & Harold Ramis – AFI #34 / LTO #8 script

* The Hangover (2009) by Jon Lucas & Scott Moore –

Harvey (1950) – AFI #35

His Girl Friday (1940) – AFI #19

It Happened One Night (1934) – AFI #8

*Juno (2007) by Diablo Cody – script

*The Lady Eve (1941) by Preston Sturges – AFI# 55  script

*Legally Blonde (2001) by Karen McCullah Lutz & Kirsten Smith  – script

*Little Miss Sunshine (2006) by Michael Arndt – (**SPEC SCRIPT SALE)

M*A*S*H (1970) – AFI #7

Major League (1989) by David S. Ward –

*Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) by Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones & Michael Palin – LTO #5 script

Moonstruck (1987) – AFI #40

The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek (1944)  - AFI #54 (excerpt)

*Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005) by Simon Kinberg – script

Ninotchka (1939) – AFI #52

*Ocean’s Eleven (2001) by  Harry Brown, Charles Lederer & Ted Griffin – script

*Office Space (1999) by Mike Judge – script

The Palm Beach Story (1942) – AFI #77 (excerpt)

*The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970) by Billy Wilder & I.A.L. Diamond – script

The Producers (1967) – AFI #11 / LTO #30

*Raising Arizona (1987)by Ethan Coen & Joel Coen – AFI #31 script

*Rushmore (1998) by Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson – LTO #29 script

Shampoo (1975) – AFI #47

*Some Like it Hot (1959) by Billy Wilder & I.A.L. Diamond – AFI #1 / LTO #9  script

Sullivan’s Travels (1941) – AFI #39 (excerpt)

The Thin Man (1934) – AFI #32

This is Spinal Tap (1984) / LTO #1

¡Three Amigos! (1986) – LTO #40

*Three Men and a Baby (1987) by  by Jim Cruickshank, James Orr, and Coline Serreau – script

*Tootsie (1982) by Don McGuire, Larry Gelbart & Murray Schisgal – AFI #2 / LTO  #43 script

*Vicky Christina Barcelona (2008) by Woody Allen – script

Withnail & I (1987) – LTO #7

Young Frankenstein (1974) – AFI #13

AFI# refers to the ranking on the AFI 100 Best Comedies list –

LTO# refers to the ranking on the Time Out Londong 100 Best Comedy Movies list –

We will pull out these suggestions for a special romantic comedy list:

As Good As It Gets –

Harold and Maude (1971) – LTO #46

*When Harry Met Sally (1989) – AFI #23 / LTO #50

His Girl Friday –

The Princess Bride –

Based on your suggestions, here are comedy books [fiction]. Vote for no more than 10.

Title Recommendations

Ant Farm: And Other Desperate Situations by Simon Rich
Better Living Through Plastic Explosives (2011) by Zsuzsi Gartner
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger
Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
A Complicated Kindness by Miram Toews
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
The end of vandalism by Tom Drury
Erasure by Percival Everett
Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
Henderson the Rain King by Saul Bellow
High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Adams
Indecision by Benjamin Kunkel
In my Sister’s Shoes by Sinead Moriarty
Jesus’ Son by Denis Johnson
The Master and Margerita by Mikhail Bulgakov
The Nose by Nikolai Gogol
Stand On It by Stroker Ace
This is a Book by Demetri Martin
Money by Martin Amis
Mystery Man-Murder, Mayhem and Damn Sexy Trousers by Colin Bateman
One Day by David Nicholls
Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marrisa Pessl
Straight Man by Richard Russo
Strange Heaven by Lynn Coady
White Noise by Don Delillo

Author Recommendations
Samuel Beckett
Robert Benchley
Charles Dickens
Nora Ephron
Helen Fielding
Carl Hiaasen
Ann Patchett
S.J. Perelman
Terry Pratchett – Discworld books
Robert Rankin
Mordecai Richler
Leo Rostin
David Sedaris
Jonathan Swift
James Thurber
Mark Twain
Kurt Vonnegut
P.G. Wodehouse

Here are your suggestions for 10 comedy books [nonfiction]. We can use more suggestions.

How to Write Comedy

Bossypants by Tina Fey
Comedy Writing Secrets by Melvin Helitzer
The Comic Toolbox by John Vorhaus
How To Be Funny (Discovering the Comic You) by Steve Allen with Jane Wollman
Impro by Keith Johnstone
Improvise by Mick Napier
The Joke’s on You: How to Write Comedy by Stephen Hoover
Make ‘Em Laugh by Steve Allen
The New Comedy Writing Step by Step by Gene Perret
Seriously . . . I’m Kidding by Ellen DeGeneres
Show Me The Funny by Peter Desberg & Jeffrey Davis
Truth in Comedy by Charna Halpern
Writing Comedy by John Byrne
Writing the Comedy Blockbuster by Keith Giglio
Writing the Comedy Film by Stuart Voytilla and Scott Petri
You’re Funny by D. B. Gilles

An Academic Reading List on Comedy in Film

Accursi, Daniel. “Les `Gueules’ du Cinéna Comique.” CinémActon: Revue de Cinéma et de Télévision Dirigée par Guy Hennebelle 82.1 (1997): 116-122.
Agee, James. “Comedy’s Greatest Era.” Humor in America. Ed. Enid Veron. NY: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1976, 281-97.
Anderson, Janice. History of Movie Comedy. New York: Exeter, 1985.
Anthony, Brian, and Andy Edmonds. Smile When the Raindrops Fall: The Story of Charley Chase. New York, NY: Scarecrow, 1998.
Bacon, James. How Sweet It Is: The Jackie Gleason Story. NY: St. Martin’s Press, 1985.
Bailey, Peter J. The Reluctant Film Art of Woody Allen. Lexington, KY: University of Kentucky Press, 2001.
Balordi, A. Emma Sopeña. “Les (Autres) Vacances de Monsieur Hulot.” Humoresques 6 (1995): 95-104.
Barth, J. “Kinks of Comedy.” Film Comment 20.3 (1984): 44-47.
Baudin, Henri. “Le “ça” retrouvé: l’irréalisme burlesque dans le dessin animé.” Humoresques 6 (1995): 55-72.
Baudin, Henri. “Sacha Guitry Cinéaste: La Fantaisie Novatrice,” “Le Dessin Animé Comique, un Art pour l’Enfance?” CinémActon: Revue de Cinéma et de Télévision Dirigée par Guy Hennebelle 82.1 (1997): 59-64, 206-212.
Bendazzi, Giannaltergo. Cartoons: One-Hundred Years of Cinema Animation. Bloomingtion, IN: Indiana University Press, 1995.
Bernstein, M., and D. Pratt. “Comic Ambivalence in ‘Risky Business.’” Film Criticism 9.3 (1985): 33-43.
Berthomieu, Pierre. “La Comédie Américaine: La Sophistication du Récit Edénique.” CinémActon: Revue de Cinéma et de Télévision Dirigée par Guy Hennebelle 82.1 (1997): 86-91.
Beylie, Claude. “Eloge du `Nanar’ Français: le Comique Ringard.” CinémActon: Revue de Cinéma et de Télévision Dirigée par Guy Hennebelle 82.1 (1997): 123-131.
Bier, Jesse. “The Higher Criticism–Or Flash Gordon Revisited.” Thalia: Studies in Literary Humor 7.1 (1984): 20-27.
Bishop, Ellen. “Bakhtin, Carnival and Comedy: The New Grotesque in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” Film Criticism 15.1 (1990): 49-64.
Blansfield, Karen C. “Woody Allen and the Comic Tradition in America.” Studies in American Humor NS6 (1988): 142-153.
Blayac, Alain. “De la littérature au cinéma: le cas d’Evelyn Waugh.” Humoresques 6 (1995): 85-94.
Bordat, Francis. “Chaplin, Le Comique Cenéaste.” CinémActon: Revue de Cinéma et de Télévision Dirigée par Guy Hennebelle 82.1 (1997): 51-58
Bordat, Francis. “Sur quelques caractères du gagg chaplinien.” Humoresques 6 (1995): 43-54.
Brasch, Walter M. Cartoon Monickers: An Insight into the Animation Industry. Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State University Press, 1983.
Byrge, Duane, and Robert Milton Miller. The Screwball Comedy Films: A History and Filmography, 1934-1942. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1991.
Byron, Stuart, and Elisabeth Weis, eds. The National Society of Film Critics on Movie Comedy.” New York, NY: Grossman, 1977.
Cavell, Stanley. Pursuits of Happiness: The Hollywood Comedy of Remarriage. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1981.
Chamberlain, William, and Nancy Pogel. “Humor Into Film: Self Reflections in Adaptations of Black Comic Novels.” Literature/Film Quarterly. 13.3 (1985): 187-193.
Chard-Hutchinson, Martine. “Les Nourritures Spirituelles ou Quelques Histoires Juiives d’Amérique è l’écran.” CinémActon: Revue de Cinéma et de Télévision Dirigée par Guy Hennebelle 82.1 (1997): 182-187.
Chard-Hutchinson, Martine. “OEdipus Wrechs (New York Stories) et Manhattan: l’illusion comique chez Woody Allen.” Humoresques 6 (1995): 129-139.
Charney, Maurice. “Comic Creativity in Plays, Films, and Jokes.” Handbook of Humor Research. Volume 2. Eds. Paul McGhee and Jeffrey Goldstein. NY: Springer-Verlag, 1983, 33-40.
Charney, Maurice. “Preface.” Pirandello and Film by Nina da Vinci Nichols and Jana O’Keefe Bazzoni. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1995, ix-xv.
Charney, Maurice. “Woody Allen’s Non Sequiturs.” HUMOR: International Journal of Humor Research 8.4 (1995): 339-348.
Ching, B., and R. Barnard. “From Screwballs to Cheeseballs, Comic Narrative and Ideology in Capra and Reiner.” New Orleans Review 10.1 (1990): 3-13.
Clausius, Claudia. The Gentleman Is a Tramp: Charlie Chaplin’s Comedy. New York, NY: Lang, 1989.
Cohen, Karl F. Forbidden Animation: Censored Cartoons and Blacklisted Animators in America. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1997.
Conroy, M. “Crashing the Party in Scorceses’s ‘The King of Comedy.’” New Orleans Review 19.1 (1992): 72-80.
Corrigan, Robert W. ed. Comedy: Meaning and Form. San Francisco, CA: Chandler, 1965.
Curry, Ramona. “Goin’ To Town and Beyond: Mae West, Film Censorship, and the Comedy of Unmarriage.” Film Comedy in History: Narrative, Performance, Ideology. Ed. Henry Jenkins and Kristine Karnick. 1995.
D’Allonnes, Fabrice Revault. “Hors du Commun, Fioretti per Moretti.” CinémActon: Revue de Cinéma et de Télévision Dirigée par Guy Hennebelle 82.1 (1997): 107-115.
DeMourgues, Nicole. “Le Générique du Film Comique.” CinémActon: Revue de Cinéma et de Télévision Dirigée par Guy Hennebelle 82.1 (1997): 14-21.
Deleuil, Patricia. “Le comique de Tex Avery.” Humoresques 6 (1995): 73-84.
Doyno, Vic. “Recent Western Movies: A Speculation about Cultural Myths and Social Problems.” Studies in Contemporary Satire 2 (1975): 4-8.
Dudden, Arthur Power. “The Dimensions of American Humor.” East-West Film Journal. 2 (1987): 3-16.
Durgnat, Raymond. “Raymond Durgnat’s World of Comedy.” Films and Filming PARTS I-VII: 11.10 (1965): 8-13; 11.11 (1965): 10-15; 11.12 (1965): 8-12; 12.1 (1965): 16-20; 12.2 (1965): 14-19; 12.3 (1965): 42-48; 12.4 (1966): 40-46.
Durgnat, Raymond. “Hollywood’s Comedy of Manners.” Films PARTS I-IV: 2.9 (1982): 20-23; 2.10 (1982): 18-21; 2.11 (1982): 16-19; 2.12 (1982): 16-19.
Eaton, M. “Laughter in the Dark.” Screen 22.2 (1981): 21-28.
Erb, Cynthia. Tracking King Kong: A Hollywood Icon in World Culture. Detroit, MI: Wayne State University Press, 1998.
Erens, Patricia. “You Could Die from Laughing: Jewish Humor and Film.” East West Film Journal 2.1 (1987): 50-61.
Evans, Jeff. “Comic Rhetoric in Raising Arizona.” Studies in American Humor NS4.3 (1996): 39-53.
Everson, William K. “British Humor on the Screen.” Films in Review 8.9 (1957): 433-442.
Everson, William K. Hollywood Bedlam: Classic Screwball Comedies. New York, NY: Citadel, 1994.
Everson, William K. “Screwball Comedy: A Reappraisal.” Films in Review. 34 (December 1983): 578-584.
Fairchild, Pete. “‘Plastics’: The Graduate as Film and Novel.” Studies in American Humor NS4.3 (1985): 133-141.
Fericano, Paul F., ed. Stoogism Anthology. Milbrae, CA: Scarecrow, 1977.
Feuerhahn, Nelly. “Les Gagmen Associés: Maurice Baquet, Acteur de Maurice HJenry et Arthur Harfaux.” CinémActon: Revue de Cinéma et de Télévision Dirigée par Guy Hennebelle 82.1 (1997): 132-139.
Flashner, Graham. Fun with Woody: The Complete Woody Allen Quiz Book. NY: Henry Holt, 1987.
Forrester, Jeffrey. The Stooge Chronicles. Chicago, IL: Contemporary Books, 1981.
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For the other resources, here are your suggestions. We can probably just include all of these, no need to vote.


Jane Espenson’s Archives

Sitcom Geek by BBC Comedy writer James Cary

Wagstaff by Stephen Hoover

The World as Seen by a TV Comedy Writer…by Ken Levine


The British Comedy Guide Forum, which includes a Writers’ Discussion section and Critique, a peer review section


The British Comedy Guide newsletter
Chortle Digest weekly roundup of comedy news
Steve Kaplan’s newsletter

The first two have a low signal-to-noise ratio, but come through with gems on occasion. The third is the best way to find out about Steve Kaplan’s upcoming comedy workshops; it’s a low frequency newsletter and as I recall sometimes has article or interview links as well.

Plays & Playwrights

Edward Albee
Fernando Arrabal
Alan Ayckbourn (Taking Steps)
Samuel Beckett (Waiting for Godot)
Anton Chekhov (The Proposal)
Ray Cooney
Noël Coward (Blithe Spirit)
Christopher Durang
Friedrich Dürrenmatt
Georges Feydeau (A Flea in her Ear)
Michael Frayn (Noises Off)
Herb Gardner
Larry Gelbart (A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum)
Eugène Ionesco (Exit the King)
George S. Kaufman
Ken Ludwig (Lend me a Tenor)
Anthony Marriott & Alistair Foot (No Sex Please, We’re British)
Ann-Marie MacDonald (Goodnight Desdemona [Good Morning Juliet])
Don Nigro (Ravenscroft)
Harold Pinter
Jean Poiret (La Cage Aux Folles)
Peter Shaffer (Black Comedy)
Shakespeare’s comedies
George Bernard Shaw (Pygmalion)
Neil Simon
Sir Tom Stoppard (Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead)
Paula Vogel (The Baltimore Waltz)
Wendy Wasserstein (The Heidi Chronicles)
Oscar Wilde (The Importance of Being Ernest)


Creative Screenwriting Magazine has an amazing archive of mp3 interviews with screenwriters, many of whom are comedy writers.

Dave Cohen’s What are you laughing at? The British Comedy Podcast discusses the latest comedy news, TV and radio programmes, and the live circuit.

Rob Long’s Martini Shot, a wry take on life in Hollywood

Websites hosts a variety of daily wordplay games that foster abstract and creative thought. Jesse Eisenberg from “Zombieland” and “The Social Network” came up with it. A comedy writer friend recommended it to me and said he’s “found it to be an addictive way of getting my brain going in the morning”. (A Facebook account is required to play.)


Online Comedy Writing Workshop – GITS Reader Shaula Evans runs an online comedy-writing workshop called The Comedy Wing. It includes an archive of hundreds of articles about the theory and practice of writing comedy, plus space to brainstorm and workshop with other writers. If any GITS readers would like to check it out:
1. set up a (free) account at Zoetrope; and
2. send her a “zmail” on the site’s private message system to username “Comedy Wing” asking for an invitation, and she’ll give you access.
Lurkers are welcome as well as active participants. (This is 100% free, created to support and network with other comedy writers.)

Steve Kaplan’s Comedy Intensive Workshop

The London Comedy Writers Festival

Tuesdays with Tom Benedek: “Large Spartacus / Small Spartacus”

The latest guest post from screenwriter (Cocoon) and long-time friend Tom Benedek:

Right now, I am working on an adaptation of a non-fiction book. I am trying to stay true to the spirit and facts of the story, but I am also seeking to elevate the drama. This balancing act/struggle may continue for some time. I have to figure out a way to tell the large story without diminishing or totally fictionalizing important details.

In Spartacus, a film directed by one of my heroes, Stanley Kubrick, there was a conflict about those kinds of issues which put screenwriter, Dalton Trumbo, in conflict with director Kubrick. There is a 78 page set of notes that screenwriter Dalton Trumbo gave to Kubrick and producers Eddie Lewis and Kirk Douglas after seeing the first rough cut of the film. I will say that again – Dalton Trumbo banged out 78 pages of notes for his director and producers about the rough cut of Spartacus. Below, an excerpt including Trumbo’s Large Spartacus/Small Spartacus analysis.

“I am going to try to point out as objectively as I can what I consider to be our past mistakes which have brought us to this present condition, not to arouse old differences between us, but to resolve them in a way that we shall not have to fear their repetition in the future. From the very beginning there have been two perfectly honest points of view on the nature of the Spartacus story. They are, I hope, objectively summarized below:

LARGE SPARTACUS: The revolt of the slaves was a major rebellion that shook the Republic.
SMALL SPARTACUS: That it was, in reality, more on the scale of a jail-break and subsequent dash for freedom.

LARGE SPARTACUS: That it lasted a full year.
SMALL SPARTACUS: That it was much briefer duration.

LARGE SPARTACUS: That it involved a series of brilliant slave military campaigns, and the defeat of the best Rome had to offer.
SMALL SPARTACUS: That it was a simple dash to the sea.

LARGE SPARTACUS: That it was finally put down only by the overwhelming weight of three Roman armies against the single slave army.
SMALL SPARTACUS: That it was put down by one Roman army.”

Trumbo argued for a large Spartacus. This was not an Indie film. This was not a history book. Spartacus was to be an epic film, a Hollywood movie. Trumbo preferred a Spartacus which moved hearts on the silver screen over historical veracity and perhaps character enigma.

Kubrick saw the film very differently. He told an interviewer: In Spartacus I tried with only limited success to make the film as [historically] real as possible but I was up against a pretty dumb script which was rarely faithful to what is known about Spartacus. History tells us that he twice led his victorious slave army to the northern borders of Italy, and could quite easily have gotten out of the country. But he didn’t, and instead he led his army back to pillage Roman cities. What the reasons were for this might have been the most interesting question the film might have pondered. Did the intentions of the rebellion change? Did Spartacus lose control of his leaders who by now may have been more interested in the spoils of war than in freedom? In the film, Spartacus was prevented from escape by the silly contrivance of a pirate leader who reneged on a deal to take the slave army away in his ships. If I ever needed any convincing of the limits of persuasion a director can have on a film where someone else is the producer and he is merely the highest-paid member of the crew, then Spartacus provided proof to last a lifetime.

For my non-fiction script, the goal is to be LARGE without fudging the truth. No matter what the scale of the story being told is, the inherent proportions of the events, the stakes need to be internally massive, emotionally real for the characters. The emotions inherent in a script may be epic without battalions of soldiers on-screen whether it is a big movie or very small film.

This goes right to the heart of a series of questions I have raised before: Is this story big enough to be a movie?

If you have any comments or questions for Tom, he will be happy to respond.

Dispatch from The Quest: Brandon Cohen

Over the course of the 24 weeks I will be working with the writers in “The Quest,” I will be posting ‘dispatches’ from them to the GITS community. There are several reasons for this, the main one being educational: Hopefully you will learn something of value for your own understanding of the craft from the experiences of the Questers.

I should also add they are a great group of people, so I expect you will enjoy getting to know them.

Today I would like to introduce Brandon Cohen.

Brandon Cohen was born and raised in New York City. He claims it was a lot like “Gossip Girl” if you substituted the hot girls and drugs for his brother and XBOX. He got his BA in Economics from Vanderbilt University in 2008. Upon graduation, he got a job working in the non-scripted department at William Morris Endeavor, and parlayed that into a job working in Program Development at the cable network truTV. He recently decided to leave his job at truTV to focus on comedy writing full time. In addition to comedy, he enjoys 90s music, watching cops arrest drunks, dogs, videos of people falling down, karaoke, complaining, all beach sports, people watching, and any restaurant/bar on a roof. He currently resides in NYC, and often lies awake at night wondering if Frankie Muniz will ever make a comeback.

Photo Cohen2

Here is Brandon’s first dispatch from his Quest experience:

It was a little over two months ago that I sat down with my parents and told them “I’m going to quit my job next week to become a comedy writer.” While they were definitely taken aback, I think that based on the gravity with which I presented the news, they were just happy to find out that nobody was pregnant (…yet). Still, it wasn’t an easy conversation to have, and it definitely came out of left field for them; they had no idea about my aspirations. At that point, their only exposure to my writing career was when my Dad tried to help me get a finance internship while I was in college. After an interview with a firm, the interviewer told me she was a big fan of comedy and would love to read an article I wrote for my college’s satirical newspaper. I sent her the article, and didn’t hear anything about it until three weeks later, when my Dad called me in a huff after hearing that I sent the interviewer a “dirty email.” Apparently, she wasn’t a fan of comedy in which the first sentence to the article made an anal sex joke. Oh well. I never thought finance was for me anyway.

So, my parents were extremely supportive from the get go, but like any parents, their gut reaction was “so…what’s your plan?” As much as I had one in my head –write spec after spec after spec, land a manager, get hired to write some jokes for the Oscars, hit it off with Mila Kunis backstage, land a gig as a staff writer at SNL, split time between my NYC West Village brownstone and Mila’s Malibu home, sell one of my film specs, quit SNL to focus on movie writing, ditch Mila for a younger more impressionable starlet, so on and so forth – I didn’t really have a specific plan about how this was going to go down. I already had a couple of specs under my belt, and thought that if I could focus on writing full time, it would allow me to generate more content, and also light a fire under my ass. The longer I stayed at my day job, the more I felt that it was a now or never situation. I decided to go with now.

I quit my job, and as luck would have it, the week I quit Scott posted this. I was never someone who believed in fate, unless you count every time I had prolonged eye contact with a hot girl on the street and thought she was “the one”, but I couldn’t help but feel this was a sign. I submitted my two best loglines, and continued working on other projects every day, and by “other projects,” I mean refreshing Go Into the Story every seven minutes until the announcement. And here I am.

It took me two years to work up the courage to quit my job, and I kept waiting for there to be some big event that would allow me to quit. Eventually, I realized that it was never coming, and I decided to create my own event. Things won’t start to happen unless you make them happen. I’m talking as if I’ve just won an Oscar and everything has worked out swimmingly for me. I’m obviously at the very beginning of this journey, and who knows how this will end for me, but what I do know is that regardless of what happens, twenty years from now when Mila Kunis and I are in the midst of working out our divorce settlement, I’ll at least be able to say that I gave it my best shot.

If you have any questions or comments for Brandon, feel free to post them in comments.

Tomorrow: The beginning of a series of reflections from the Questers about story concepts.

For background on “Go Into The Story: The Quest,” go here and here.