Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Hidden Tools of Comedy

The Serious Business of Being Funny
by Steve Kaplan

Book review by Ann Baldwin

Steve Kaplan is the industry’s most sought-after expert on comedy writing and production, a script consultant, producer, director, author, and teacher. He has taught at UCLA, NYU, Yale and other top universities. In New York he was co-founder and Artistic Director of Manhattan Punch Line Theatre where he developed writers such as Peter Tolan (Analyze This, Finding Amanda), writer/producer David Crane (Friends, Joey, The Class), writer/producer Tracy Poust (Ugly Betty, Will & Grace), Michael Patrick King (The Comeback, Sex and The City, Will & Grace), Will Scheffer (Big Love), Howard Korder (Lakeview Terrance starring Samuel Jackson), Kenneth Lonergan and Mark O’Donnell (Hairspray starring John Travolta), and Sandra Tsing Loh (Chicken Little). In Los Angeles, he created the HBO New Writers Project and the HBO Workspace, a developmental workshop in Hollywood that introduced and presented performers such as Jack Black and Tenacious D, Kathy Griffin, and Josh Malina. At the Workspace, he was Executive Producer for the award-winning HBO Original Programming documentary Drop Dead Gorgeous. Steve has developed, produced, and directed in regional theaters and Off-Broadway. Steve has been teaching his Comedy Intensive workshops to thousands of students across the globe. In his new book, The Hidden Tools of Comedy: The Serious Business of Being Funny (Michael Wiese Productions 2013), Steve gets to the heart of our funny bone, so you can give life to your comedies that will leave your audience in stitches.

Through Steve’s abundance of knowledge about and experience working with comedy he’s developed several tools for fixing scripts that aren’t producing enough belly-laughs. While he doesn’t consider his book a ‘how to’ for creating comedic films and T.V. shows based on a specific set of structures to follow, Steve does give you instruments to use to repair parts that aren’t functioning properly; it’s more of a ‘user’s manual’ to show you the mechanics of comedy and how it works. This process allows you the freedom to use your instincts to create and write what’s funny to you.

By understanding the dynamics of what makes us laugh and why we find certain things funny, you can develop better skills for crafting your comedies. Some of the things you’ll learn are the physics of comedy, ‘The Comic Equation,’ the power of the ‘Non-Hero,’ how to apply ‘Metaphorical Relationships’ among your characters, and how to create comic focus using the ‘Straight Line/Wavy Line’ tool. He gives clear, concise examples from films such as Big, Groundhog Day, There’s Something About Mary, Liar Liar, Meet The Parents, Annie Hall, and As Good As It Gets along with T.V. shows such as Seinfeld, Friends, The Big Bang Theory, Saturday Night Live, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Monk, The Odd Couple, and Everybody Loves Raymond.

Steve’s approach is “keep it simple, Silly, and the comedy writes itself.” Clarity served with humor; what better way to learn the Art of Comedy?

To connect with Steve Kaplan, you can visit his website at http://kaplancomedy.com and purchase a copy of The Hidden Tools of Comedy at Amazon and MWP.

Ann Baldwin is a screenwriter (The Power of Dreams, Scent of a Trail, Dream Catcher) with several spec scripts in development. She reviews books on screenwriting and filmmaking, writes articles, interviews, and has several books (fiction & non-fiction) in-progress. Prior to launching her writing career, she was a special event coordinator and manager in the hospitality and entertainment industries for over 25 years. You can visit her website at http://www.annbaldwin.net and her blog page at http://ahigherfrequency.blogspot.com

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  1. Bradford ~ Thank you for the nice compliment & taking the time ~ :) The information Steve shares in his book is incredibly valuable ~ a great book for all writers ~