As improvisors, the coin of uncertainty is the very currency in which we trade.
I’m graduating from the Writing Program at Second City.
Excuse me while I blast some Boyz II Men, pour a little red out (but not in a dead sort of way) and contemplate the end of this road by following the classic improv Rule of Three:
Here’s my Top 3 Things I’ve learned from the Second City Comedy Writing Program.
1. You’re Probably Funnier Than You Think You Are
(Or, You’re Definitely Funnier Than Anything on CBS)
Imagine my shock when I discovered there’s actually a formula to writing something funny. It’s not even about writing jokes. In fact, the more I TRY to write a joke, the less it works.
Funny is having a point of view that’s bat-shit crazy, but just realistic enough to believe.
Funny is finding the right detail and descriptions. Pleather pants are funny by design… but having a pregnant character’s water break in her pleather pants? And describing said pants as a “rain boot for my vagina?” There it is!
Of course, funny is important, but the hardest part of writing is effing writing. Let me break it down for you:
Letters = Words = Sentences = Scripts.
Actually finishing something puts you ahead of like 90% of writers. This is why there is crap on TV, in movies and in books. Great is the enemy of done.
2. Awful and/or Humiliating Things That Happen to You Make the Best Material
(Or, I Now Appreciate Bigots, Bible Beaters and other WTF? Perspectives)
Big fight with your bestie?
Awkward encounter at a funeral?
Uncomfortable-yet-“unintentional” racist bomb dropped in your presence?
It’s all material. Get mad, get offended, and get to work.
People are idiots. More importantly, they’re funny idiots. USE THEM. Write down what they say. Take notes on life; the greatest dialogue is happening around you and constantly evolving in REAL TIME.
Like the time the guy sitting next to me in the theatre laughed a little too hard during Django Unchained. Total ass, but made for a great line in my aptly-titled “Racist Song.”
3. You Aren’t Getting Any Younger
(Or, Craft Beers on Weeknights After 10 p.m. After 30 Are A Terrible Idea)
The action is always happening NOW. Remember that, and you’ve got the catalyst for dynamic dialogue. Every single line moves, creates, embodies ACTION.
I waited approximately 8 years too long to discover the Training Center. Don’t wait any longer than RIGHT NOW to begin to discover what you were meant to be doing all along. If something’s not working for you, let it go, and find something that does.
So get going already! Stop reading articles about how to write– and start writing. And if it’s not writing, then improv, or acting, or singing, or French class, or underwater basket weaving. Or whatever it is that makes you come alive.
As my Uncle Scoot says, “Put your foot to the juice, and let your booty cut loose.” (Haaay.)
Oh, and if you find yourself at Corcoran’s or Old Town Ale House post-class… do yourself a favor and stick to the watery beers. That Half Acre seasonal brew may sound delicious, but leave the heavy lifting to the twenty-somethings– or your teacher, who can probably drink you under the table.
Your productivity will thank you.
Jill Frank is a television producer, writer and an almost “Officially Funny” graduate of The Second City Training Center. Her W6 show Hot Town, Dumber In The City is currently running Fridays at 10:30 p.m. in Donny’s Skybox through July 19th. @jill_frank