Rob Grant’s Comedy Writing Tips

I was meant to do this before the London Comedy Writers’ Festival but a horrible bug struck me down for some weeks, causing me to miss the actual festival itself!

Anyway, here are my notes from Red Dwarf c0-creator (and therefore Legend) Rob Grant…

GENERAL TIPS
It takes 10,000 hours to be excellent at something. You can only get better by writing all the time.

The first joke in a script should come early and set the tone for the rest of the script. It should make ‘the deal’ between you and the audience. ‘This is what to expect.’

The task is to make the person want to read the next page.

Try to get 5 to 6 laughs a page. Tick them if needed.

Avoid clichéd situations. Even better is to twist them.

A scene has to have a point and you should start late and end as soon as that point is made.

An alternative to swearing is to make up a swear word. Such as ‘Smeg head’ in Red Dwarf.

Read a script a day.

Don’t use exclamation marks to highlight a joke. That’s not the correct use for them! (sorry!)

WRITING PRACTICES
Write something. It’s easier to make crap good than to get something good out of nothing.

Learn how to touch-type. It will save you hours.

FORMATTING
Final Draft is industry standard but Rob uses Word.

Don’t start a scene on a new page for submitting scripts.

Don’t make a sitcom more than 30 pages. 27 pages is ideal.

Send as a PDF.

Go to the BBC Writersroom for script formatting examples.

SITCOM REQUIREMENTS
Keep it to a maximum of 3/4 sets.

It should be about characters who don’t get on but are trapped together.

Studio audience sitcoms are in demand now. (Miranda, IT Crowd)

When writing treatments do it in the genre of the script. So make it funny if it’s a comedy.

The story shouldn’t dominate so much that it doesn’t allow the characters to show themselves.

END

I hope that is useful. For me, it reinforced a lot of ideas that I already had and added quite a few too. Plus this was from someone who has actually been very successful at the subject that he was teaching, which made it pretty valuable.

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One response to “Rob Grant’s Comedy Writing Tips

  1. Phew, I feel like I just was being chased by a maddened comedy writer. Do I have to write as fast as I read that?

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