I finished reading Steve Kaplan’s book on comedy The Hidden Tools of Comedy and now those pesky little comedy tools have nowhere to hide!
As a summary. The Hidden Tools of Comedy shows you how comedy writers write from the viewpoints of authentic characters in ordinary conflict situations that amuse and embarrass the audience and other characters watching them. The strength of good scriptwriting books is that they try to tell us all the great factors which help to create highly watchable comedy and drama. By showing us what isn’t comedy, Steve also teaches drama and he also delves into the history of comedy and archetypal comedy characters. He uses real scripts from funny and not so funny movies – ie drama. Steve also reveals a little of what goes on in his classes. The most important aspect for me is that this book is written for actors, writers and directors without any distinction. Great films live on because everyone not just the writer/s, actors and director/s are working to make the story and the characters who fire up the story believable. Steve Kaplan places a great emphasis on how all characters including secondary characters must feel and be authentic as they respond to real situations. He gives examples of how authenticity is what adds real value to a story. The characters in these ordinary but amusing or conflict-led situations are the ones we talk about. I believe it is only when we see real characters that we start to see how human beings on film and stage feed off each other as much as they do in life. Perhaps it helps us to see beyond the mundane situations and instead look at how people respond to each other. Steve shows how comedy finds ways to make terrible situations better by helping us to laugh at the things that we sometimes find yucky or hard to stomach. The book is a must for comedy writers/actors/directors. Don’t just believe me, there are a lot of funny writers/performers/animators, yes animators who have worked with Steve including David Crane, Ellen Sandler, David Fury, Disney. The list goes on…and on…and on…
Some of Steve Kaplan’s book was tough for me. No more bad puns he insists especially those that have nothing to do with the story. Oh alright then! Instead let the character and the story lead. Anything negative – The very beginning felt a tiny bit repetitious. Did I say repetitious? He tells you to steal great work and pay homage. Didn’t someone else say that? On top of this, I had another hairy moment when the book reminded me of that one time when I wasn’t at band camp and I was asked to rewrite bits in my work. You know to add more funny even though it detracted from my story. The truth is my characters must be real otherwise neither me or any potential audience can engage and it is my work that will lose its authenticity. It is our job as writers/actors/directors to maintain the truth in our work. It is no good me saying it’s tough. It is what needs to be done.
Hidden Tools of Comedy is a great practical book that debunks the myths, suggests some other useful books but I believe any writer who sits down and runs through the films and exercises mentioned, will be on their way to writing funny that is real for them as well as other people.
I first learnt about some of Steve Kaplan’s comedy tools because I read an article by someone who had been lucky enough to have been to a Steve Kaplan seminar. I was hooked because they made so much sense. I still went off to watch the comedies suggested and discovered all of his tips added up. I became a fan. I know most writers never have money to go to writing seminars because we get paid nothing or very little for our craft but this book is a cheap way to test out if your comedy works.
In the meantime, if your a rich writer or just want to know more from the man himself, the link to his page is: – http://kaplancomedy.com