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54 Tips for comedy writers:


This article is from the Stand-up Comedy FAQ, by Steven Rosenthal and Steve Silberberg (stevebo@onramp.net) with numerous contributions by others.

54 Tips for comedy writers:

* Obtain the Comedy USA directory. Send material to comics listed in the
directory in advance of an appearance at a club or hotel. They may buy
your material
* Agents generally prefer a project such as screen play, script or book
which is a moneymaker for them, however they may send material to
Letterman, Leno or a sketch show for you as well.
* People become staff writers after selling a few one-shot scripts to a
* People almost always get those jobs from pitch sessions after hearing
many, many times "We've already done that" or "We have that idea in
the works already."
* People get pitch sessions after a recognised, licensed agent -- a list
of them is available from the Writers' Guild of America West --
usually someone IN L.A. or Hollywood --- has sent out a sample script.
* You usually do a sample script for Series A to sell to series B.
* Usually "they" only buy pilots from people who have already been staff
writers for an existing series ("of Cheers" helps sell a series).
* Don't bother attempting to sell a premise or treatment: that game is
reserved for proven writers and that's because they have a track
record of delivering a tight, polished script.
* Agents must represent your WRITING, therefore they must see your
WRITING, like in a finished script, to sell your skills.
* Most of the time, that wonderful spec script idea will NOT be what you
sell (THELMA & LOUISE a notable exception that proves the rule) but
your writing skills will be what that agent will sell to most likely
get you an editing or rewriting job.
* Consider collaboration. Writing by yourself can be fun and you are
ultimate master of your work, but you tend to get tunnel vision. The
work can end up suffering.
* Two people can write a script together, but you tend to reach an
impasse rather quickly. e.g. One thinks the bystander should say
"Grape Nuts" and the other thinks the bystander should say "intestinal
* Three people shouldn't write a script together, however having three
people in a "riff" session can be optimal. Plus, there's always
someone to break the deadlock.
* 4 people is too many to get anything done.
* Always know who you are sending material to. Unsolicited material sent
to a general address shows the intended recipient that you're not
connected. Thus you can't touch them.
* If you write for T.V/Film - Writers Guild the stuff. (See address
* Write as often and as much as you can. Find a network of comics
(always know the names) and work with them. They may not be famous
now, but a couple of years. $$$. Trust me.
* Have a really dysfunctional background.
* Probably the single most important thing about collaborative writing


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