Friday, July 13, 2007
Dressing Up A Standard-Issue Pig
If you've written a lot of sketches or seen a lot of sketch revues, you've probably noticed a lot of scenes that feature the same location and/or the same relationship. It happens. And it may not even be a case of these scenes being tired or overdone, but, in your experience, if you see another doctor scene you're going to jump from your seat and scream at the actors until they turn the plane around.
This assignment helps address that by first embracing it.
The ol' tried and true "List of 10." In this first list, write the ten locations that you ALWAYS see pop up in sketch revues. The hard part will probably be trying to limit it to ten. Here's mine. This is from my own experience of seeing sketch revues and hearing scenes read every week. Your experience might be completely different. Feel free to add to it in the comment section.
2 - doctor's office
3 - living room
4 - bedroom
5 - boss's office
6 - a park bench
7 - bowling alley
8 - office cubicles
9 - classroom
10 - TV talk show
Another list of 10. This time, the relationships you ALWAYS see pop up in sketch revues. Here's mine...
1- attorney and client
2 - co-workers
3 - roommates
4 - father and daughter
5 - retail clerk and customer
6 - doctor and patient
7 - father and son
8 - brothers
9 - heterosexual couple
10 - boss and underling
Exciting, isn't it? Can't you just feel the comic possibilities bubbling up inside you? It gets better. Now, take your most over-used scene location and most over-used relationship and put them together. Take a few minutes to draft a quick scenario of a simple, standard comedy scene you might write with those components. For me, it's an attorney and client meeting in a restaurant.
My little scene might go something like this; the client is being sued for sexual harassment and is meeting with his female attorney to discuss the merits of the case. Although everything he says is quite innocent, he punctuates his conversation with raised eyebrows, winks, and that intonation that a guy can do that makes anything sound dirty. He pisses off his lawyer, the female server, maybe a male customer, and the person suing him will probably storm in, too. Voila! Comedy gold, my friend.
You might be satisfied with what you have at this point. Great. Stop. Go write your scene. It's perfectly okay for you to have another break-up in a restaurant scene. Really, it is. It's your voice that will make it unique. However, if you think what you have is fairly average, proceed...
Now, put those two lists and your standard-issue comedy scenario aside and brace yourself for another list of 10. This time, list ten places you have NEVER seen used in a sketch. Don't worry about stagability. Letting loose your imagination is key, here. Doesn't matter how absurd it gets. Feel free to share your list in the comment section, unless, of course, you're worried someone might steal your idea for a scene in Arnold Schwarzenegger's rectum (Michael Brownlee, copyright 2007). Here's mine...
1 - head of a pin
2 - inside someone's left nostril
3 - a shed
4 - in an L station kiosk near the turnstiles
5 - the attic of a church
6 - in a caved in coal mine
7 - on Pluto
8 - in a petrie dish
9 - in the head of the Statue of Liberty
10 - sweatshop
The final step. Take your tired location and relationship and place it in the most interesting location on your new list. You may need to transpose it a bit - alter genders or occupations - but maintain the spirit of the original. For me, I'll take my attorney and client and place them on the head of a pin. And I'll change them to angels. The head angel has received a complaint about sexual harassment about the new guy so needs to have a talk with him. I like the potential of an angel that sexually harasses people. And since they're angels and it's the head of a pin, I can have countless angels dancing in and out.
The assignment is to develop a scene out of the old relationship being in a the new dynamic uncharted location. Have fun!