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Writing Television Comedy

by Bryony Harrison (follow)
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writing television comedy, jerry rannow

Jerry Rannow is an American sitcom writer, who has worked on shows such as Happy Days, Love Boat, and Head of the Class. In 1999 he wrote a book called Writing Television Comedy, as a guide for all aspiring writers, who want to write comedy for Hollywood.

Although published in America, I found this book in a UK charity shop, and it is also available on Amazon. Despite being aimed at an American audience (or writers aiming to write for an American audience/network), it has invaluable information that is universal for all comedy writing.

I bought the book while I was studying Creative Writing with Film Studies at university, and found it helpful when trying to create some short comedies.

Rannow starts off with an introduction of how he got into comedy writing. Throughout the book you will be able to read examples of his work, such as extracts from I am King, a teleplay episode he wrote for Head of Class. These drafts show the progress of the editing process, and how the script improved over time.

Before you write anything, you first need an idea, which Rannow says he gets from life. Life is full of ridiculous situations, and he gives examples of humorous instructions found on products, such as a a label on Christmas lights saying 'for indoor or outdoor use only'. This got me thinking about a similar incident I experienced. Once I bought something that was murder to get into, and once I finally got inside, there were a list of instructions on how to put the thing together. Step one was 'how to open the box'.

I once watched a television documentary about the comedian/writer, Victoria Wood, and it praised her for how she just knew some words were funnier than others. Her repeated use of 'custard cream' remains in my mind. Why is this so funny? According to Rannow, it is because 'k' sounds sound more humorous. As do hard sounding words. There are names that are funnier than others too. His example compared Irving to Kevin. Which is going to make you laugh more in a comedy?

As well as writing tips, such as 'three laughs a page', Rannow also gives you advice on finding an agent, approaching a network, and pitching to a producer. The index also has a directory of writing guilds, resource information, and who to send to (all Los Angeles).

Even if you don't want to write for Hollywood, Rannow gives sound advice that you can adapt for your own country, and is enjoyable to read too.

#Non Fiction
#Reference Book
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