Why Comedy is King – Even in Drama
The Importance of Being Funny – Beyond Comedies
by Herbie J Pilato
Back in the day, classic television shows, and feature films for that matter, made time for humor to balance the drama. After World War II, as big-screen movies became darker and edgier (which today’s productions seem so intent on embracing and displaying), humor began to vanish and was labeled as too old-fashioned.
Humor, however, is a substantial part of life, not to mention sanity – and its inclusion in all creative properties, for the big-screen or small, the live stage or the recorded word or musical lyric, is imperative for a well-rounded presentation and production, particularly when a writer seeks to ignite interest and/or showcase their wares on TV – the most intimate of all mediums.
It’s all about connecting with the audience, viability and likeability….just like when dating – and making the attempt to show your best-side to your potential new romantic interest; in other words: getting someone to like you.
As a writer, you want your audience (your readership; your editor, your supervising producer, your boss, etc.) to like your script; in effect your wordsmith style and panache.
Humor’s inclusion in every script you write, be it comedy, drama, adventure, espionage, and even horror, is an important part of that style and panache; an intricate piece to the completed puzzle and strategy to have a hit television creation. In one sense, it’s just as pertinent as an actor’s likeability factor in interpreting and performing as even one of the most unlikeable characters.
For example, classic television actor Larry Hagman was first best-known to television audiences for his comedic portrayal of Major Anthony Nelson on the hit 1960s sitcom, I Dream of Jeannie (in which he played opposite the immortal Barbara Eden). He later became significantly more popular for portraying the dastardly J.R. Ewing on the super-hit night-time soap opera Dallas.
Despite the fact that Jeannie’s Major Nelson was a likeable, comedic character (even within the realm of the somewhat politically-incorrect “master-genie” scenario), and also despite that J.R. was an unlikeable dramatic character (in fact, despicable, at times), it was Hagman’s likeable performance as both Nelson and JR that viewers came to relish. It was his delicate display and dance of creativity that he so brilliantly branded with his own sense of style and panache.
Such is the similar strategy that is substantially imperative to adhere to when the writer sits down to pen their TV script. Be it a drama or comedy, humor in some capacity must be injected into at least one or two scenes to properly, productively – and realistically balance out the totality of the writer’s vision…and for the script itself, and ultimately, the television show or TV-movie, to pan out as relatable, and yes, likeable.
So, lighten up that dark and dingy drama, horror, sci-fi, adventure script of yours – and get your audience to like your word savvy.
Make ‘em laugh!
Herbie J Pilato is a Contributing Editor to TVWriter™. You can learn more about him HERE.