Script Coverage Chronicles – November 2018: Avoid This Common Comedy Killer In Your Screenplays

When I read scripts, there’s a phenomenon that happens fairly often.  It goes like this:

The writer manages to impress me with some fresh comedy in the early pages, and I’m looking forward to more of the same.  

But then the writer does something that threatens to ruin the whole script.

Don’t worry if you’ve done this in your screenplay, because it’s not a very hard fix. 

It’s just a matter of having the discipline to NEVER do this one thing.

What monumental and yet easily remedied mistake do all these writers keep making?

They re-use old jokes.  

Even one outdated/over-worn gag will make your entire screenplay feel less original. Producers looking for writing samples will worry that you’ll throw tired old comedy at their project.  Readers who were enjoying your story will stop in their tracks and question your abilities.

But again, there’s no need to panic, because all you have to do is ready up your delete button and take out any old jokes.

Here, for purposes of illustration, is a non-exhaustive list of overused gags:

Things being what “she said”.

Anything about injuries leaving a mark. 

Anything to do with falling and not getting up.

Star Wars homages.

Generic hard-to-assemble-furniture bits.

Saying hello to “my little friend”.

Any riff on if the glove doesn’t fit.  

Yucks about being the most interesting man in the world.

Any play on happenings staying in Vegas.

You get the idea.

Is it possible to write a joke in one of these heavily trodden areas with such a clever twist that it feels fresh once again?

Sure, it’s possible.

Anything is possible.

But it’s much more likely that it will do more harm than good.

If I see this kind of hackneyed humor in a screenplay I’m reading at Four Star Feedback, will I turn against the entire project with inordinate levels of annoyance and disdain?


That won’t happen.

But I will mention that you can do better.  

And don’t worry -- I won’t badmouth you around town.  What happens at Four Star Feedback stays at Four Star Feedback.  :-)