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Things tend to get weird in sketch. We all love blackout lines—“It’s not if your dog can salsa dance, it’s if you can train him to salsa dance.” “That’s what we get for vacationing in hell!” “I’m pretty sure all dentists comb their patients’ hair, so don’t be weird.” All good fun, but boring and gimmicky without context.
Weirdness, especially in scenic comedy, is wonderful, but it can’t just exist. It needs to exist for a reason. If you want a room of adults to smash pies in one another’s faces, the audience needs to know why or they won’t care.
There are two basic ways to approach answering ‘why’ for the weirdness, or justifying. We can either explain the character’s motivation for being weird through exposition, or we can maneuver from a grounded, reasonable situation to a crazy one.
If we choose to use exposition, we need to be careful and not grind our scene to a halt. In having a character stand and explain what in their past has motivated them to smash pies in people’s faces, we lose the fun of them actually smashing pie in people’s faces. Try and work it in. For example:
If we go from a grounded situation to a crazy one, we merely need to watch how we heighten. We don’t want to jump a level. For example, this is bad:
This invites in too much crazy, and now we have to work backwards and justify to the level of Laura’s heightening.
If we go step by step, though:
A quote I’ve heard attributed to Neil Casey that I like: “You can take the train to crazytown, but you’ve got to take the local.”
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