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1 October 2014
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Advice

Seven Rules of Comedy

Ever wondered how the industry's best comedy writers produce such top class sitcoms? Here we give you Seven Rules of Comedy from some of sitcom's finest.

Ben Elton

Ben Elton, Rule One - Plots

Comedian, screenwriter and novelist, Ben Elton has made his mark on the comedy industry with a bang with the famously British series' 'Blackadder' and 'The Young Ones'.

One thing that I can say I learnt from Richard Curtis was a greater respect for plot. Up until then I'd always written entirely kind of improvisationally, organically. I'd start with a pen and a typewriter and just see where it took me and sometimes that took you into some nice plot areas, sometimes up many a cul de sac, none of which you wanted to get rid of because they had some funny stuff in it. Richard does that too, but he did introduce me to the idea of perhaps trying to work out a plot first.

 

Image from  Yes, Prime Minister

Jonathan Lynn, Rule Two - Relate to Current Events

Co-writer of many successful sitcoms including 'Yes, Prime Minister', 'On the Buses and Life After Life', Jonathan Lynn has been in the comedy business since the 1960s.

Because it's tremendous fun to write about hypocrisy, to write about the difference between the public face and the private face, comedy in my opinion is all about human weakness. I keep a copy of the seven deadly sins on my desk: lust, avarice, greed, envy etc - I mean these are the staples of comedy. Cowardice should be added as the eighth deadly sin. It was tremendous fun to be able to take these ideas and relate them to current events.

 

John Sullivan

John Sullivan, Rule Three - Gloom Works

His best known sitcom was recently voted Britain's Best Sitcom, but you wouldn't initially think of 'Only Fools and Horses' as a gloomy comedy. Here John explains why it works.

If it was just 50 minutes with pure happiness you've lost your comedy. You've got to have the grit, which I think we did. In one particular episode Rodney and Cassandra aren't together; as long as I know at the end then I'm sure the audience know at the end that they really are together then you can have the happiness, but only at the very end. Which is like reading a great story. You always end with a happy ending.

 

Image from Keeping up Appearances

Roy Clarke, Rule Four - Get Physical

The prolific Roy Clarke seems to never stop creating winning programmes. From 'Keeping Up Appearances' and 'Open All Hours' to 'First (and subsequently 'Last') of the Summer Wine', Roy has created some of the most loved scenes in British comedy.

For me the balance between dialogue and physical humour is very important. I think always the belly laughs come from the physical stuff. I mean the real deep enjoyment comes from the physical stuff which is very difficult to get absolutely right, but when it does work and it was in wonderful hands with David Jason and Ronnie Barker (Open All Hours), that's where the big booms come from. It's worth trying, even if obviously sometimes you go over the top, it's worth a bash, it really is.

 

Rules five to seven



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