Friday, 31 May 2013

Why Square Pegs are Good for You

It can be tough finding comedy ideas, or any writing ideas, for that matter. I’ve been reading Stephen King’s marvellous book “On Writing” in which he tells how some of his best ideas came in the shower, while driving, while shaving… Unfortunately the poor comedy writer, labouring to drum up 6 sketch ideas within a 72 hour deadline, doesn’t have the time (or the money for the water bill) You need to create ideas cold, while you’re sitting by your laptop on a bleak Thursday morning.

One of my favourite ways of getting your brain to stand up, comedy-wise, is to think of square pegs - people in a situation they weren’t built for and can’t handle. Many great sketches were built on this situation. First of all, jot down a list of professions.

Such as: Undertaker. Surgeon. Supermodel. Tour Guide. Dentist. Submarine Captain. Doctor’s receptionist…. Write down at least 20 of them.

Now jot down adjectives for human characteristics: Happy. Lecherous. Negative. Monosyllabic. Overfamiliar. Boring... Do 20 of these.

Write them in columns. What you do now is mix and mismatch. How about a negative tour guide? Tour guides are meant to be enthusiastic. How about one who’s very negative,  and puts down all the lovely sights. What would happen? How would the tourists react? When someone doing a job has all the wrong attributes for it, you’re creating tension and conflict, the staples of comedy.

Or an overfamiliar doctor’s receptionist? The cliché is that of the forbidding, frosty gatekeeper. But if she (it’s always a she, for some reason) is a chatterbox who tries to elicit your symptoms while she shares hers with you and the rest of the room, you’re breaking a mould and creating embarrassment and anxiety. And if you don’t think these two emotions are wonderful comedy subjects, then go back to your office desk.

These lists aren’t mechanical. They stoke your creativity to help you write sketches, stories and articles. Good luck with them.

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