Comedic writer wants a shot
December 19, 2007 7:20 AM   Subscribe

How to get started writing comedically?

I am a sort of casual-writer with the ability to write (supposedly) "hilarious stuff". I write situational kinds of little things, and whatnot, and constantly get barraged with compliments and friendly suggestions that I missed my calling.

So, my question is this: without risking too much (i.e. giving up my day job) what is a good way to get started in the writing (specifically comedic) field?

More specifically, what is a good place to shop for small resume-building gigs? What sort of stuff is a good idea to put together for a portfolio? Etc.

Any and all help would be greatly appreciated, if you have any inside-tips you'd rather not give to the world, please do not hesitate to send them along to

Thanking any responders in advance.
posted by aleahey to Writing & Language (9 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
What exactly do you want to write? Essays? Sketches? Sitcoms? Movies? They're all very different industries.
posted by sugarfish at 7:39 AM on December 19, 2007

Any good with pithy one-liners appropriate for a picket line?
posted by zemblamatic at 7:43 AM on December 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

I recently attended a workshop with a sitcom writer. One of the books he suggested was "Story" by Robert Mckee. I just started it, and while it's billed as a screenwriting how-to, I've found a lot of the principles he writes about are applicable to all forms of writing.
posted by studentbaker at 7:52 AM on December 19, 2007

Some colleges have comedy writing programs. Humber in Toronto for example. There is probably something closer to you.
posted by GuyZero at 7:55 AM on December 19, 2007

Forgot to mention that he also suggested “On Writing” by Stephen King. As well as starting a blog (which it seems you have) joining a local improv group, writing articles for local magazines and newspapers, writing spec scripts, write, write, write.

I’ve also heard that performing stand-up is a great way to discover your own rhythm. That’s not to say that all comedians are great writers, but that it can sharpen the skills of people who can write.
posted by studentbaker at 8:03 AM on December 19, 2007

At least as of 10 years ago, the Tonight Show accepted unsolicited joke submissions. You'll may want to wait until the WGA strike is ended, but once it is, call them up and ask about it.
posted by willnot at 8:04 AM on December 19, 2007

First, figure out more specifically what you feel best suited to write.

Then, become more literate in it by absorbing as much of the current crop of that kind of work as you can.

Then, sit down and start writing your own versions of them.

If it's sitcom or hour-long, pick your favorite current series and write what they call a "spec", or speculative episode. You write their characters, their style, but your idea and jokes.

If it's sketches or individual jokes, write a packet of those.

If it's film, do your best to learn the basic format of what happens on page 30, page 60, and page 90, and try one. But don't write a movie just to write one. Tell a story that really excites you, that you know in your guts.

Also, get your hands on real scripts and read them. It's rather different from watching the completed works, and it can be very helpful.

As for "breaking in", heaven knows. You kind of have to know people out here. My writing partner worked at an agency for 18 months and made a ton of connections that have really helped us out. But that's an awful job. If you're not doing it yourself, do you know someone who has?

There might be smaller, more open agencies in town that would be willing to glance at submitted material. But I don't really know much about that part.
posted by Doctor Suarez at 9:31 AM on December 19, 2007

I asked a kinda similar question a while back. May or may not be useful to you.
posted by nitsuj at 9:58 AM on December 19, 2007

If you're interested in writing for tv, Jane Espenson's blog is a great course in how to write, how to pitch your work, and how to handle yourself on the job. She's also recently been recommending several related blogs from other professional tv writers.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 11:42 AM on December 19, 2007

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