Steve Kaplan Comedy IntensiveThis past weekend I attended Steve Kaplan’s Comedy Intensive workshop in Los Angeles.

He had some pretty nifty insights for comedy writers. So over the next few days I’ll try to decipher my chicken scratchings and post a few of the key things I learned or that I think you’ll find interesting.

The focus of day one was The Six Hidden Tools of Comedy. I’ll tell you about three of them that I thought were especially compelling.

First up…


Great comedies tend to feature “an ordinary guy or gal, struggling against insurmountable odds, without many of the required tools to win, yet never giving up hope.”

Of course many great dramas also feature ordinary guys or gals struggling against insurmountable odds, but the main point he was making was that the comedy protagonist is so woefully unprepared as to be laughable.

Those characters in Tropic Thunder had zero actual skills to survive in the jungle. Whereas Schwarzenegger and his team in Predator were army commandos.

Paul Blart was just a mall cop, who had difficulty detaining an old man in a wheel chair. Whereas John McClane in Die Hard was a trained police officer with a gun.

And so on…

Does the protagonist of your comedy have too many skills at the outset? Is (s)he too aware of what’s going on? “In drama your characters know too much. In comedy they don’t know enough.”


Tomorrow I’ll go over another one of Steve Kaplan’s comedy tools — the “Metaphorical Relationship.”

Note: There’s never a good substitute for taking a class yourself, so if any of the ideas posted here intrigue you, I encourage you to sign up for the workshop the next time it’s offered.

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