This might prove small comfort to many…but there’s actually a very good reason why comedians “die” on-stage!
Because in the same way the human body needs both nutrient-rich, as well as oxygen-replenished blood to survive; this same life-giving dynamic exists between the Quality-to-Quantity ratio of your comedy dialogue. An organic nexus; ultimately determining whether your dialogue lives to be loved another day. Or dies an ignominious, “DNR-style” Death on page or stage!
So what if you have already fallen prey to a mass-audience walkout – or worse: they stayed! But just to hurl eggs? Don’t worry! Pick yourself up! Wipe the egg off your face! And put that Stiff Middle Finger to much better use, by turning a fresh page on your comedy writing craft: through these Six Steps to a Higher Level of Dialogue.
Step 1: Keep your Audience’s Attention. And by any means necessary! Which usually means – on those rare occasions when gratuitous Nudity is out of the question; that good Comedy is always a pretty decent stand-in! Note how even amongst all of the Romance and History native to a Regency period-drama like Bridgerton, much room was still left for merriment to periodically waltz in.
One perfect example being, that much talked-about convo between Simon and Daphne! One conducted surprisingly al-fresco; since dealing with the touchy subject of masturbation. And one unsurprisingly embraced by a salacious Memeland, who dubbed it: When You Touch Yourself in fine, plagiaristic fashion.
A dialogue segment whose rather abrupt climax has oddly proven to be its most irresistible feature – for me, at least! One begging therefore to be extended; and which unstated plea I shall use as my own jump-off point here, to illustrate how the remaining five steps to Comic Redemption might be attained.
And before anyone prematurely screams: ”Kall Kim Kardashian!” Allow me to defend my own self here, by disclaiming that: “No copyright infringement is intended.” Since all of the following dialogue, is entirely – and uniquely: my own!
DAPHNE: Surely you have forgotten something!
SIMON: What…are you staring at my hand like that, for? Take it, Daphne! And let us be on our–
DAPHNE: Wait, Simon! First tell me what men do…with their own hands, I mean? At night! Is it much the same thing?
SIMON: Well, if no one else’s is handy…then, sure! But—
DAPHNE: Good Heavens! Must you continually speak in riddles?
SIMON: Because…Daphne! Day or night? A true gentleman infinitely prefers to give his hand…merely in a courteous, opening gesture, you understand? To a waiting lady! Now…will you please take mine?
Step 2: Keep Things Rolling Merrily Along. The operative word here being “merrily!” And how? Simply by providing more-of-the-same…but with a twist! Some great tools to use, being: euphemisms, inconsistencies, equivocations and ambiguity. All of which should even further extend the humorous situation:
DAPHNE: I see…by your smile? You must think me quite a fool…
SIMON: Innocent, yes! Foolish? No! It is your parents who very unwisely unleash girls like you unawares unto society! Armed with precious little knowledge…save the vital necessity of first landing! Then lugging… seemingly any old Title back home! Too bad ‘tis often the title of—
DAPHNE: Simon! But…perhaps you are right. And for that, I do envy you! As much the doubtless scale…as the evident scope, of your own lived experience.
SIMON: Oh! You haven’t seen the half of it, Daphne! Not yet…
Step 3: Keep Track of your Delivery-Arc. Within a nominally six-point article as this, I should ideally by now have: identified the Problem! Suggested the Solution! And be half-way-through not just listing the remaining steps requisite to success; but also illustrating how each one should lead in the same direction as the plot! Simon’s bitter words below provide a glimpse into his own character, as well as that of others. And in further complicating the story, enables the plot.
DAPHNE: But, how did you gain it? Such vast experience, I mean! And is there similar hope for me?
SIMON: Anatomically…no! Because in my case, it was a matter of Nature and Nurture. In the first instance… thanks to much early neglect from my dearly departed Devil of a father!
SIMON: Oh! They will be good enough to forgive me…especially when I say: “May God rest his evil soul where only HE could’ve found both time and strength to fling it!” See?
And in the second instance–
DAPHNE: Simon…stop! How can you speak so…so…
SIMON: Truthfully? Quite easily, Daphne! It just takes the long delayed death of a tyrant! Plus a seeming lifetime of hard practice! Or at least it did…for me.
Step 4: Keep Them Guessing. It is only after having safely arrived at this point in the exposition, that you are free to make a sharp segue with your writing elsewhere. Not too far out into left-field, however! But somewhere fresh; still interesting, and very much related to all that went before.
SIMON: But enough of the past! I must confess…Daphne! That what you have so discerningly termed my “vast experience”…got its tender shoots of dissolute life…through peeking!
SIMON: Rather too early, I fear! And mostly at the head butler… a Yorkshireman? Whose free-wheeling style of running the house, extended into his hands-on approach with the maids!
DAPHNE: I see.
SIMON: And so did I, Daphne! ‘Least whenever those bits of the scullery maid momentarily became visible… since seemingly always to be found somewhere beneath him!
DAPHNE: How naughty of you! Was the butler angry? What did he do?
SIMON: Obviously not enough! Judging from how truly angry the maid looked…when first he lifted himself, then her…off the dining room table! Under which I was hiding…
DAPHNE: You must have been rather a precocious child, Simon!
SIMON: Others call it a born rake…but only when they believe themselves to be uncharitable. Not so the butler…who next lifted a jam tart with a practiced-hand! And, placing it into one of mine…led me to the stables by the next!
Step 5: Keep Close to your Delivery-Kerb. Your dialogue should be flowing freely by now – no sudden jerks! These are certain to crop-up all by themselves. Invariably in the front-row. And unmistakable in their equally-loud, and overly-bright, checked shirts…
DAPHNE: The stables! Good heavens, Simon! Whatever for?
SIMON: Because my favourite horse was in heat, there…
DAPHNE: Ah! Because of the heavy weather, no doubt!
SIMON: No, Daphne! Doubtless because of the proximity of the brood mare’s hefty arse! To Blackamoor’s flaring nostrils! Good God, girl! Are you really this—
DAPHNE: Oh! I’m truly sorry, Simon! I didn’t quite–
SIMON: No! ‘Tis I who should apologise, Daphne…and I do. But it was there the butler knelt alongside me, winked and said: “Now watch reel careful, young maister! An’ yee’ll soon see fer yer randy young sel’…what goes wheer.” And left!
DAPHNE: Left! You mean…abandoned you?
SIMON: Why not? Another lusty maiden had been left not just unattended…but also in heat! Remember?
Step 6: Keep Something Back. Even when it appears the punch-line has well and truly landed, good writers should always have “something left in the kitty!” Well, with the possible exception of all writers writing any cheques to me!
DAPHNE: Quite! But…what on earth could you have learnt from—
SIMON: Apart from the little matter of size monumentally mystifying my impressionable young mind, you mean?
DAPHNE: No, Simon! I mean…what was the point of you standing so shamefully neglected in that stuffy stable! Staring sadly perplexed upon that unfortunate pair of much-overheated horseflesh! Which…from all appearances? Were lodged too closely to…what? Why are you staring at me like that!
SIMON: I fear you will need to gain quite a bit of my “vast experience”…Daphne! Before you can fully grasp all that I desire to impress upon you!
DAPHNE: That it was downright cruel you mean? To you! And to them?
SIMON: Cruelly humbling…now, to realize! That it must have been then I first developed…quite a voracious appetite for sweet…and not just sticky tarts!
That’s it, folks! Next week, the topic to be discussed will be entitled: “How Come Women Have Their Funniest Sex On-Screen?” Be sure to tune-in and find out which movies best portray this female reality
D. J. PAYNE, Dialogue Doctor – Denise is a banter dialogue specialist whose favourite thing to do is help other writers take their scripts from funny to Funtastic.
© Copyright 2021. D J. Payne. All Rights to this Material fully Reserved by Author D. J. Payne.