The story should drive the jokes

Comedy writer Mike Scully on story vs. jokes:

I was recently cleaning out a garage in my house and found some of my first spec scripts that I remember thinking were quite brilliant at the time, and they were just horrendous. They were all basically a bunch of jokes thrown together with little story. So what I learned over time was how important it is to have a good story and conflict between your characters and that the jokes have to come out of that. My initial go was to let the story be driven by the jokes, which is not a good way to go. You’re entertaining yourself a lot when you write it, but when you read it, it’s really awful.


That reminded me of this bit from Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling: "You gotta keep in mind what’s interesting to you as an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer. They can be v. different."

One thing that's nice about narrative is that it can replace laughter as a hook. When people want to know what's going to happen next, they're still engaged and ok with not laughing for a little bit. But if there are no laughs AND no "edge of the seat"ness going on, that's when they start to drop out.

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