The Value of Being Original?
Being original when it comes to sketch comedy is incredibly important. And I talked about this a year ago in a different form, but I want to revisit it again. Laughs come from surprises, and if the audience has seen your sketch before (in one form or another), they’re not going to laugh. All the best writers and comedians bring something new to the table- something that’s never been seen or done or written before.
At the same time, we’ve all seen (and written) those sketches and shows where the creators are focusing so hard on doing something new that the comedy is thoughtful but unfunny, or irritatingly pretentious, or plain incomprehensible. I find that in my own strivings to be original, well, a lot of that stuff ends up in the “weird for the sake of being weird” pile. I’m sure many others can relate, and we all know that the “weird for the sake of being weird pile” is not a great pile to be in.
I realized, however, that we frame creating original comedy in the wrong way. So many times I’ve given the note and heard other people give the note, “Yeah, this sketch is well-written, but such and such group/show did this, so I don’t know if we can do it.” It’s putting the focus on things that have merely been done before. If we look to do things that have NEVER BEEN DONE BEFORE, we’ll end up just making comedy that goes into the “weird for the sake of being weird” category.
Instead of attempting to make original comedy, we should urge each other to write comedy that no one else can write. It’s a small but important difference. It’s not so much that I want to see something I’ve never seen before (impossible, anyways), it’s that I want to see something that no one else but the person who wrote it could have written. I want to see something that takes the most unique parts of your own perspective, the things about you deep down that make you most human, and I want to see those onstage so I can find myself in them. Don’t be lazy; dig deep for premises that you LOVE, not that you just understand to be comical; pack your writing with specifics.
I wish finding our own voices was something that we talked about more in our writers rooms. Of course you have to master game and structure and joke writing to have a good sketch, but why aren’t we talking about finding our own voices, as well? I wish this were just as important in our conversations as revealing that first game line. This is something that can be taught and learned, and I think we are missing this half of the process.
If we, as a community, focused more on pushing individual voice and encouraging ways to explore this, we would have way more interesting Maude Nights and way more interesting career opportunities for all of us.
I Got Lost On My Way Back From Chipotle
I’m so sorry I’m late for the meeting.
Well, I got lost.
On my way back from Chipotle.
Yes, I know I’ve been working here for five years. But when we all left the office to get lunch, something happened to me. I went to Chipotle, and you all went to the salad place next door, like normal. After I got my burrito I wanted to ask David a question about my presentation, so I decided to break tradition and meet you guys in the salad place, except you’d already left. But here’s when the crazy thing happened. I’ve eaten lunch at that Chipotle every day for the last five years, and I’d never been in that salad place. So when I walked out of those doors, a whole store over, I got a new perspective. The street looked different! Did you know there are eight trees on that street?! So I decided to walk a little further away from the office, and guys, guess what? Did you know there’s a Cosi on the other side of the salad place?!
Well there is! So that made me feel kinda bold, and I decided to keep going, and do you know what I found? A soup place! Can you imagine that? A whole soup place! You don’t have to get a burrito or a gross salad for lunch! You can get soup! Tracy, did you know there’s a nail salon next to the soup place? Your nails don’t have to look like that! And then next to the nail salon- get this- there’s a deli. I went in that deli, and I found out that you can ask them to make a sandwich whatever way you want! Like Chipotle, but with sandwiches! And, well, at that point I realized that I’ve been missing out on a lot of great stuff in New York, just getting off the train at Penn Station, coming straight here, going straight to Chipotle for lunch, then going back to Penn Station at the end of the day. I made a mental note to explore that street one day, and decided to head back to the office.
But since I walk the same exact way to Chipotle and back every day, I kind of wasn’t sure where the office was in relation to other stuff? So I ended up in front of this really weird old church with a weird old graveyard. Grant, do you have a burial plot yet? I think you’d really like this place. Anyways, I retraced my steps, but I retraced them wrong I guess because I ended up getting a tour of a YMCA that I’d definitely never seen before. Would not recommend it, too many kids. Suffice it to say, I was just plum lost.
Now, I’m no idiot. At this point it did occur to me to use my phone. But using your phone to get back to your office from Chipotle seemed worse than being lost. I asked strangers for directions, but no one knew where the Grant Consulting offices were. So I walked up to a police officer and asked him for directions to Chipotle. Nicole, I know you’re very single and I think you would have really liked this police officer, Officer Reyes? You should look him up. Anyways, he gave me directions to Chipotle but guys. Guess what?! It was a different Chipotle!! Why didn’t you tell me there was another Chipotle?!
WHAT DO YOU MEAN THERE’S THOUSANDS OF CHIPOTLES?!?!?
We live in a big world, huh?
Ok so then, I figured that this Chipotle would have directions to their other location- I was so naive then- and when the manager told me there were four others close by, I started to hyperventilate. And that’s when the paramedics came. They took me to Columbia Presbyterian, and guys, have you been in New York City in a moving vehicle before? It’s incredible! Yogurt shop, grocery store, yogurt shop, grocery store, deli, yogurt shop, Thai food, pizza parlor, Old Navy, yogurt shop, church, pizza parlor, deli, grocery store, shoe store, yogurt shop, KFC, Taco Bell, movie theater, pizza parlor, church, yogurt shop, shoe store, deli, pizza parlor, yogurt shop- I mean, it goes on forever and ever! Well, I got treated at the hospital and I asked them if they could take me to Penn Station, since I definitely know how to get here from there. So then I got right on the C train, and uh yeah.
That’s where I’ve been since yesterday lunch.
Yeah. I know. I’m a forty-two year old man.
Aw crap, my burrito is cold.