Online Narrative Comedy Classes (with British Comedy Guide)
Updated: Apr 25, 2020
We're in a golden era of 'sitcom as half-hour comedy drama' with the likes of Fleabag, Detectorists, Atlanta, Catastrophe, Better Things, Mum, Home, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Motherland, This Way Up and more. At the same time classic multi-camera studio audience sitcoms like Friends, IT Crowd, Big Bang Theory and Black Books continue to be hugely popular. What unites all styles of sitcom is character and recognisable, truthful relationships and dilemmas.
My online Narrative Comedy Writing course gives you comprehensive and personalised training and guidance on creating characters, developing relationships, building your situation, structuring scenes, writing dialogue and constructing plots. We’ll look at both multi-camera studio audience and comedy drama sitcom. Small group sizes ensure personalisation and you can focus on your own area of interest. This course will also be relevant for writing comedy shorts for film festivals and comedy plays, both of which can be valuable showcases for your writing and steps along the way to sitcom too. We can also look at the particular demands of writing radio sitcom and you can nominate sitcoms of your choice that you’d like to analyse and discuss on the course.
The course features feedback on your writing from former BBC Comedy Commissioner and boss of Yellow Door Productions Lucy Lumsden. She'll read ten pages of your script and provide you with invaluable industry insights from the commissioner and producer's perspective. Chris works closely with Lucy and so you will be well prepared.
How it works
Each course is made up of weekly 2 hour Zoom sessions. These are fully interactive, creative classes. Relevant comedy clips are shown, discussed and analysed. You’ll undertake creative exercises tailored for the online environment to explore the tools and techniques we’re working with. There’ll also be a breakout period for you to create something to bring back and share with the group. Throughout the classes you’ll receive immediate, helpful and inspiring feedback on your developing work. The sessions end with homework being set and then you have the week between sessions to work on the comedy writing task. You can submit your work in advance of the next session for personalised feedback.
We will work through these stages:
Characters into Scenes The course gives you the time, tools and space to go deep with your characters, find the truth in them and their relationships, taking your time to find the deeper, realer funny in scenes. This is the stuff of comedy drama and if you do want to be broader and bigger and write farcical multi-camera studio audience sitcom, it will be with a truth and groundedness that all comedy ultimately needs. We’ll work with observation of real people, synthesising traits from different people into one character and bring elements of yourself to your characters. We’ll initially get characters talking via speeches and then will put them into scenes with other characters. While we will pay attention to their background and biography, there will be less emphasis on writing descriptions of them and more on getting them talking and interacting which is where you’ll really find them. We’ll work too on crafting an ensemble of characters using my boss/ striver/ fool and foil model.
Scenes into Stories Having taken the time to go deep and ground your characters and their world, it's then playtime. Write a lot of funny scenes with your characters without worrying initially about where they’ll slot into a story or even what they’re for! This freedom will allow you to make discoveries of scenes and situation that will be highly useful to your script and will take your characters places you’d never considered. You’ll discover new characters too and you’ll have a number of spin-off sketches and scenes that can be used for other projects. Once we have this resource of scenes, in the latter weeks we will look at how to build stories in and around scenes using the plotting from set-pieces approach.
Stories into Scripts
With feedback from Lucy Lumsden
Equipped with rich characters and relationships and a panoply of scenes and situations, now you will work on putting together a plot for a full script, learning about story structure and working with multiple plot-lines. We’ll work with scenes you have already created and explore how to put them into an episode. You'll then plot out the scenes you need to complete the script. At this point you will select ten pages of your developing script to share with former BBC Comedy Commissioner and boss of Yellow Door Productions Lucy Lumsden (pictured below). Chris and Lucy regularly work together on training. Lucy will give you feedback from the producer and commissioner’s perspective.