The 100 Jokes That Shaped Modern Comedy

Our hats are off to the good folks at Vulture for putting together this most informative  – and funny as hell – look into the humor of today!

pic by Giacomo Gambineri

by Jesse David Fox

The oldest joke on record, a Sumerian proverb, was first told all the way back in 1900 B.C. Yes, it was a fart joke: “Something which has never occurred since time immemorial; a young woman did not fart in her husband’s lap.” Don’t feel bad if you don’t get it — something was definitely lost in time and translation (you have to imagine it was the Mesopotamian equivalent of “Women be shopping”), but not before the joke helped pave the way for almost 4,000 years of toilet humor. It’s just a shame we’ll never know the name of the Sumerian genius to whom we owe Blazing Saddles. But with the rise of comedy as a commercial art form in the 20th century, and with advances in modern bookkeeping, it’s now much easier to assign credit for innovations in joke-telling, which is exactly what Vulture set out to do with this list of the 100 Jokes That Shaped Modern Comedy.

A few notes on our methodology: We’ve defined “joke” pretty broadly here. Yes, a joke can be a one-liner built from a setup and a punch line, but it can also be an act of physical comedy. Pretending to stick a needle in your eye, or pooping in the street while wearing a wedding dress: both jokes. A joke, as defined by this list, is a discrete moment of comedy, whether from stand-up, a sketch, an album, a movie, or a TV show.

For clarity’s sake, we’ve established certain ground rules for inclusion. First, we decided early on that these jokes needed to be performed and recorded at some point. Second, with apologies to Monty Python, whose influence on contemporary comedy is tremendous and undeniable, we focused only on American humor. Third, we only included one joke per comedian. And fourth, the list doesn’t include comedy that we ultimately felt was bad, harmful, or retrograde.

The list was put together by Vulture senior editor Jesse David Fox; New York senior editor Christopher Bonanos; comedians Wayne Federman, Phoebe Robinson, Halle Kiefer, and Rebecca O’Neal; comedy historians Yael Kohen (author of We Killed) and Kliph Nesteroff (author of The Comedians); and journalists Elise Czajkowski, Matthew Love, Katla McGlynn, Ramsey Ess, Dan Reilly, Jenny Jaffe, Lucas Kavner, and The Guardian’s Dave Schilling. (Fox, Bonanos, Keifer, O’Neal, Czajkowski, Love, McGlynn, Ess, Reilly, Jaffe, Kavner, and Schilling wrote the blurbs.)

Without further ado, here are the 100 Jokes That Shaped Modern Comedy. They are listed below in chronological order, complete with video or audio. Use the timeline slider to jump to different eras or specific comedians….

Read it all at Vulture

Web Series: ‘Unicornland’

Unicornland is both a funny and serious look at sex. Unlike most web series about anything – especially sex – the show is actually mature. Yes, for reals, about grown ups having, you know, sex.

Truth to tell, Unicornland is more mature than our first paragraph. Definitely something to see here.

Something very good.,

Stareable, our fave website devoted to web series, gives Unicornland 5 stars. But we here at TVWriter™ believe it’s a better series than most of the 5 star shows out there.

Unicornland on Stareable is HERE

The entire series is HERE

Why Adverbs Are The Tequila Of Writing Dialogue

TVWriter™ visitor Marcia Anonymous (not her real name, in case you wondered) recently sent us this article, found at South African writing site WritersWrite. According to Marcia:

When I first saw the title, “Why Adverbs are the Tequila of Writing Dialog,” I got all huffy and immediately barked out, “No! She’s wrong.” But now that I’ve read it I understand and recommend Mia Botha’s point. I’m also kind of embarrassed about what she says about tequila here. Seems like it’s way TMI. Not about writing, but about Ms.Botha. Oh well. It’s nothing a little Tequila Blu Reposado won’t fix. Maybe LB and Ms. Botha will both join me?

LB says to tell you he’s hoisting one…or two…or three right now. Meanwhile, for the rest of us, here’s the article:

by Mia Botha

I have been writing about dialogue these past few weeks.
Today, I want to talk about adverbs and why you should try to avoid them.

Adverbs tell us how something was done. You should rather try to show
us how it was done. When I talk about adverbs I want you to be pay close
attention to the words that end in –ly, namely adverbs of manner. Instead of using these, I want you to try to use
verbs, but not any old verb will do. I want you to use strong verbs, for example, stride instead of walk, sprint or race instead of run.
Knowing which verbs to use will be easier if you know your
character well. Think of the difference between a woman who strides and a woman
who shuffles. Each verb creates a different person or a different scene.
You don’t have to obliterate adverbs, but often they are
redundant or could be replaced by a strong verb. Adverbs are the tequila of writing. There is no such thing
as one tequila and there is no such thing as one adverb. Once you have used
one, more will sneak in. Be careful.
When all is said
That said I want to talk about the word said. Said is
awesome. Use it. Don’t replace it with words like admonished or exclaimed.
Stephen King recommends using them only 10% of the time. It’s good advice. Said
is invisible to a reader.
Below is an example of dialogue with adverbs and verbs other
than said. I used the prompt: ‘Keep your morals away from me’.
“Don’t do it.” Alice demanded angrily.
“Keep your morals away from me.” Janet said snidely as she
stood over John, tightly tied up in the corner.
“You’ve never minded my morals before.” Alice retorted
sarcastically.

2017 WGA TV Writer Access Project Honorees

We would like to be saying, “This just in from the Writers Guild of America, West,” but, unfortunately we’re a couple of weeks late in relaying what this genuinely important WGAW announcement.

The Diversity Department of the Writers Guild of America, West is pleased to announce the honorees for the 2017 WGAW TV Writer Access Project, a program designed to identify excellent, diverse writers with television staffing experience.

Qualified WGAW members were invited to submit their work in one of five diversity categories: minority writers; writers with disabilities; women writers; writers age 55 and over; and LGBT writers.

Scripts, which underwent two rounds of judging, were read and scored on a blind submission basis by WGAW members with extensive television writing experience, including current and former showrunners and writer/producers.

The honorees, which include four minority writers, four women writers, and two LGBT writers, are listed below.

Drama:
– Adrian A. Cruz
– Rachel Feldman
– Sharon Hoffman
– Peter Hume
– Donald Joh
– Tonya Kong
– Zak Shaikh
– Mollie St. John
– Ben St. John

Comedy:
– Hilary Weisman Graham
– Eddie Quintana

Congrats to you all from TVWriter™!

Honorees are now participating in WGAW workshops that will teach them more about careers in television, and the Guild also has made their work available to showrunners, producers, executives, agents, and managers.

For more about the program and how you can become involved with it, CLICK HERE. Tell ’em TVWriter™ sent you…but please don’t say we were late.

Our apologies for not getting this out when it was hot…but it’s still meaningful for us all.

LB: 3 Shows I Just Can’t Watch Anymore

by Larry Brody

I  don’t watch a lot of TV these days, but when I do watch, I become very committed. I don’t watch anything twice, but that one time…ah! I savor every minute, giving each episode 100% of my current attention span. When Larry Brody watched TV he’s definitely in the moment.

This week, I’ve dropped three shows from my commitment list. Instead of soaring as they once did, they’ve been flailing around for weeks, and I can stand the agony of their dying spirits no more.

Here they are, three TV series that for all I know will continue to go on for decades to come, but which for me have lost all vitality. They are existences without essences. Zombies walking all over without their souls.

LEGION: I loved the first 3 episodes of Legion for the same reason so many critics and fans (including my #1 Favorite Writer John Ostrander as he expressed his thoughts HERE), the fantastic look of the series and the mindfuck it gave not only the heroes (and villains, as it’s turned out) but the audience as well.

However, the last few episodes have just been more and more of what’s become the show’s same-old-same-old, and instead of feeling more intrigued, or even as intrigued as I was at the beginning, I’m getting bored at the limited bag o’writing and cinematography tricks.

Besides, the damn show keeps giving me nightmares! And at my age I’ve got enough bad real memories to terrify me and sure don’t need to be overwhelmed by fake ones.

(See, if you’ve been watching Legion you know what I just did there…the whole fake memories thing, I mean. If not, well, that’s not nearly as spoilery as it might sound. We know by the end of the pilot that the fakery is afoot. Which is why now the whole business is just a drag to me.)

SHADES OF BLUE: I was all gung-ho about this series its first season. Loved the less-than-perfect (to say the  least) lead characters. Loved hating the even more less-than-perfect villain who thought he was so much better than they were.

But now that we’re into Season 2, everyone’s total lack of comprehension of even the most basic ethical values of human behavior, combined with the way the characters’ limited intelligence seems to have slopped over onto the writers, creating an overall storyline that lacks the slightest bit of credibility or sense of even “TV reality” has finally gotten to be too much for me.

It’s with great sorrow that I say avoir to Jennifer Lopez, who is always so wonderful to look at, but saying good-bye is much better than her character probably would do to me. No, Shades isn’t giving me nightmares, but it has reminded me of my longtime aversion to being shot by beautiful women and then – no, I’ll stop here before I do get too spoilery.

NCIS:

Buh-bye Legion and Shades of Blue. Maybe your makers can take comfort in the fact that I’ve also decided to abandon my formerly favorite bad, bad, bad-but-so-what? TV series ever. That’s right, I’ve had it with NCIS at last, after 13 1/2 seasons, of which that last half feels, well, it feels like it’s been going on even longer than all thirteen years that preceded it combined.

Leroy Jethro Gibbs walking around smiling? WTF?

So You Want To Make a Web Series – Step 3

Money
by Bri Castellini

Money can’t buy you love but it can buy you camera equipment, fruit snacks, and fake gun props. Even the simplest project requires start-up cash, so what follows is an exploration of the most common financial options as you go forward in your independent filmmaking journey.

Option 1: Crowdfunding

Let’s just get this one out of the way. Crowdfunding is a full time job from the moment you think about starting a campaign to the moment you finish sending out the final perks. There have been a handful of massive success stories for independent, unknown artists, but it is by no means a sure thing.

General tips:

  • If you’re going to commit to crowdfunding, commit. Have a detailed plan for when you’ll update your social media with new pleas, when you’ll announce pertinent production information to backers, and when you’ll send out all the extra rewards for donors.
  • Pick the platform best-suited for your particular needs. My top two picks would be IndieGoGo, for their flexible fundraising option (meaning you keep any money you raise, regardless of reaching your goal), or Seed&Spark, for their filmmaker-centric platform, which allows people to “loan” you things like props, equipment, and locations instead of donating money for you to purchase them yourself.
  • Try to offer intangible but personalized “perks” for the different levels of donations. Things like social media shout-outs, a personalized thank-you video from the cast and crew, or access to secret behind-the-scenes material don’t cost anything to provide, which means more money from the campaign can fund the production itself.
  • If you’re going to offer physical perks, like posters or t-shirts, make sure you’re actually making a profit. If a poster costs $11 to print and $6 to ship and you’re only asking for $20, you’ll end up with $3 per poster for your production budget. Is that really worth it?
  • Build as much of your team, cast and crew before you launch the campaign, and insist that everyone involved. The more people you have promoting your campaign, the more likely you are to create a groundswell of support.

Option 2: Grants and Festivals

Another route might be to get funding from an individual source. While there aren’t many web-series specific grants, at least not in the US (yet another reason to move to Canada!), there are some, so get Googling. Plus, plenty of contests and film festivals have screenplay categories, so once you have a script, submitting it on its own might get you some cash or other prizes useful to production. You can also use those laurels when approaching other fundraising sources.

General tips:

  • Make an account on FilmFreeway or WithoutABox and start searching for screenplay contests. These sites make it super simple to submit to multiple contests and festivals without having to redo your application each time.
  • Figure out what sets your script or team apart from the crowd, because many grants have specific qualifications for consideration. For instance, are you a minority writer or director? Do you have a female cinematographer? Is your script about mental health, or does it promote a political cause? Are you a student filmmaker? Find your niche and work it.
  • Submitting to grants and festivals comes with an up-front fee, usually between $10-$60 per submission. Keep in mind that these can add up and don’t guarantee a return on investment.

Option 3: DIY

This route is isn’t mutually-exclusive with the other options. You should consider this to supplement funding or as a fallback fundraising method.

General tips:

  • Use your script breakdowns to make a budget template. Find price quotes for different props on Amazon, for different locations on Yelp, etc, and add it all up to give yourself an idea of how much you’ll need, best case scenario. Then do that same exercise but for the worst case scenario that still allows you to make your project.
  • Cut as much from the script as you can without sacrificing the story or the heart. We talked last week about all the “realistic rewrites” you’ll end up doing as you start to take stock of your available resources, and this is round two. If something can be cut, cut it. Sometimes this means whole episodes are either condensed, combined, or discarded entirely. Be ruthless, because you literally can’t afford everything you want.
  • Beg, borrow, and steal. Post on Facebook to see who in your existing network might have a fake gun, or a sweater vest, or an empty living room to loan you. If there’s a free option, use it. Those options might not always be the ideal ones, but they’re the cheapest, and if you’re smart, creative, and focused on your ultimate production goal, they’ll work just fine.
  • Don’t forget about the basics — food and water on set (a necessity whether or not you’re paying your cast and crew), transportation to and from shooting locations, and general contingencies.

Even the simplest, most straightforward production will cost you something, and it’s important to be realistic with yourself about what you can and cannot afford. In any case, you literally cannot move forward with your web series before knowing what your money situation is.

Now that all that gross finance talk is out of the way, it’s time to expand your team! The next two weeks will explore hiring the rest of your crew and casting the characters who survived your realistic rewrites.


Bri Castellini is an award-winning filmmaker as well as the Community Liaison at Stareable, a hub for web series. Check out www.stareable.com to find and read reviews of thousands of web series, all in one place. For more great articles about the craft of web series, visit the Stareable blog.

‘Girls’ to Women: How to Make Your Characters Grow Up

Standard tropes for different folks – a lesson in TV writing that in its way makes way too much sense:

by Kathryn VanArendonk

Spoilers ahead for season six, episode four of Girls.

Last [week]’s episode of Girls introduced a major development for the endgame of the series: After a one-off, freewheeling weekend with her surf-camp instructor, Hannah learns she’s pregnant. It is a complete surprise to her, even though the episode introduces us to the potential crisis of such an event in the opening scene. Hannah interviews a famous, well-established older female writer who tells her, in no uncertain terms, that “childlessness is the natural state of the female author.” The question of how hard it is to be “a writer and a woman at the same time” is also unequivocal — it’s not as hard as it seems, the older author tells Hannah. It’s harder. But although she provides few details on that front, the dictum against parenthood for women who want to write is presented as an obvious statement. Maternity and writing are fundamentally incompatible. Dutifully, Hannah scribbles the rule in her notebook.

It’s too early to say how this plot will play out for Hannah Horvath. She responds with understandable affront when her ER doctor instantly offers to help arrange an abortion, but that is the obvious path forward for her. Her pregnancy arrives at a moment when her career is finally headed toward a stronger footing, but long before she has any kind of financial stability. The father is nowhere to be found. And yet, as the episode’s closing moments suggest (and promos for the next episode make even more clear), Hannah’s not entirely sure what to do.

As a move for the series, though, Hannah’s decision matters less than you might initially think. The event itself — the mere presence of this choice in her life — has already set in motion a train of rhetorical and narrative tension that will chug along irrespective of what Hannah chooses to do. The choice and its implications are already in front of us, and whatever Hannah decides, the mere existence of this story has already served its purpose. Hannah’s growth, her commitment to her career, her status as an “adult” and what kind of adult she wants to be will now be measured by the yardstick of this question….

Read it all at Vulture