Is there a market for "just" comedy anymore?

(Barbara Mc Thomas) #1

I’m in the middle of funding my series and as I talk to potential backers I keep running in to the same obstacle. They ask me what my message is, what I’m trying to say with this project.

Honestly, we just want to make people laugh. Personally, I’m exhausted with the world right now and I want to provide an amusing distraction. That seems to be fine for a tumblr devoted to cute cat pics, but is it enough for a series?

(Bri Castellini) #2

I’ve run into that before too, people asking what the larger message is. Depending on the project, I either bullshit something (for my zombie rom com with no larger message, at least in the seasons we managed to film, I would say shit like “hope post-societal-collapse and identity negotiation after trauma”) or spin off about how comedy and distraction is necessary for mental health. Consider:

I definitely think there’s a market for “just” comedy, you just have to sell it confidently. “Yeah, it’s a story designed entirely to make you laugh. Wouldn’t you agree we all deserve that in our lives right now?”

(Bri Castellini) #3

Would love to hear from @movieguyjon @Jessi_Almstead @whoisjonporter @mintypineapple @Alex_LeMay @Alex_Spieth @filmwritr4 @gmcalpin @Anthony_Ferraro @mdec24 @ronVceo @mkatiehunter @MsSophiaStyles

(Bri Castellini) #4

I will also say, if you can point to giving opportunities to women, people of color, and the LGBT+ community in front of and behind the camera, that’s plenty for a message.

(Gordon McAlpin) #5

I think if you look beneath the surface of your writing, there’s GOT to be something a little bit under the surface of your comedy. What are the jokes really ABOUT? The stupidity of other people? That’s social commentary! Is there a general thrust of bad shit happening to the central character? How do they react to it? That’s a character study.

Pure comedy that is truly not saying ANYTHING at all about anything at all is VERY rare… and, um… apologies for interjecting my opinion here, usually pretty bad. (Because, among other reasons, it’s usually saying something unintentionally.) Monty Python had some DEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP satire, for instance.* The Kids in the Hall often lampooned the self-seriousness of businessmen and other professionals.

The “message” doesn’t need to be deep or anything; it’s just whatever your theme is. My own short/series (like the comic strip they’re based on) is about how people relate to each other through film and pop culture. And it’s “just” comedy, too.

(Joseph Steven Heath) #6

Yeah, I agree. Even if it’s nothing deep, it should be about something, even if it’s not a super conscious decision to do so. I did a movie review series that was mostly just me creating this bizarre universe through parodying films. While it was mostly just silly fun, it was also about parodying movie tropes and taking them to their silliest extremes. The comedy itself can be the message. “This is what I find funny or silly about this topic or situation.”

(Meg Carroway) #7

Seconded! Most things are about SOMETHING, even if you have to dig a bit to uncover it and word it for people.

(Katie Adele Nazim Hunter) #8

Comedy itself is never “just” comedy in my opinion. Comedy requires commentary – we laugh because we recognize something, or our expectations are subverted. Comedy can’t exist in a vacuum – though people who say “I just want to make people laugh, it’s a story designed entirely to make you laugh” probably aren’t making great content, or don’t understand the function of their own content.

Even shows that claim to be “just comedy” – I’m thinking about traditional, big audience hits like “Big Bang Theory” or “Friends” are commenting on the role of intellectualism in the Millennial generation, or (in the case of “Friends”) one of the first representations of what we now call “struggling to ‘adult’”. “How I Met Your Mother” is a straightforward comedy with an interesting structural framing that comments on dating, the nature of relationships, how we reflect on and embellish the past.

(Katie Adele Nazim Hunter) #9

This, and I also find that some sketch comedy writers I know don’t go into their story with a larger thematic idea in mind, they go into it with a funny idea that when developed always has larger themes than the writer(s) were conscious of when first drafting. One of my writing partners and I write in opposite ways – he likes to start with the theme, I start with the funny idea. Then we each work the opposite direction as we write.

(Ron Valderrama) #10

This is an excellent point. Seed&Spark is definitely helping to promote diversity on their platform.

(Bri Castellini) #11

I also start with the funny idea! Then a theme presents itself by accident (though I usually pretend I knew my theme all along lol). Brains started as a “wouldn’t it be funny if a girl who studied brains and was obsessed with using psychology to get boys was stuck in a zombie apocalypse because zombies eat brains haaaaah what if I called it Brains.” Sam and Pat Are Depressed started as “my friend Chris just said out loud that he’s worried he’s depressing his therapist, which is a hysterical thing to worry about but also really relatable. Wonder if I could build a show around that…”

(Ron Valderrama) #12

How are you trying to fund it? Investors, sponsors or crowdfunding? I think the answer can change depending on who is forking over the money.

(Alex Le May) #13

I would say that funders and buyer, when asking that question, are just trying to find out what differentiates your project from others. They want to know that they are buying into something that will generate traction. Besides, most financiers aren’t funny so they lack the context for why a simple, amusing distraction can work.

(Bri Castellini) #14

I dunno what else she’s doing but I do know she has a crowdfunding campaign right now:

(Gabriel Crutchfield) #15

I can’t get into this too much because for now, my series is just about a character struggling with adversity through an absurd situation, but there are plans to reveal a larger theme later. But, I’d definitely say it will be hitting the social commentary angle.

(Jonathan Hardesty) #16

I didn’t really have a codified theme in mind when creating Flagon, but I was very much led by nostalgia for JRPGs like Final Fantasy and all the quirky systems in place that make those games so memorable. And now, with the new season, I’m very much taking apart those (and other) systems and amplifying how ridiculous they are when it comes to narrative. I’m not being very complex with the idea, but I don’t really have to be.

(Carlo Delmar) #17

This reminds me a little about the web series “We Might Be Superheroes,” made by a local (New York City) filmmaker:

(Barbara Mc Thomas) #18

Thank you all for the great feedback! You’ve given me new perspective on how to market this.

The project is a parody of the Avengers, and the superhero genre as a whole. We do poke fun at superhero tropes, such as tragic backstories (if you don’t come with one already, SHIELD will give you an adorable puppy and then take it away). the plight of a superhero love interest (you’ll get dumped in a pointless attempt to save your life, get kidnapped anyway, and then disappear from the narrative), and we do make fun of things like society’s dependence on memes as a method of communication, men’s fear of tampons, and Insane Clown Posse.

But it’s gentle fun. We’re not edgy or subversive, we mock with affection for the source material. I think that’s more what I’m getting at. Right now, we’re at a point where audiences that have never had anything made for them/by them are finally getting traction, and we’re over here being goofy.

I’ve always believed that while there’s nothing that’s not been said, it hasn’t been said by YOU so paint your picture, write your story, etc. (Okay I am actually paraphrasing Stephen Sondheim but still).

Bri, in terms of diversity behind and in front of the camera, I’m a woman, my co creator is Hispanic, although you can’t tell from his name, and while our other producer is a white guy, he is hearing impaired, and we make a point of captioning all our videos. We tried very hard to get a diverse cast (that could be another discussion topic!).

Again thank you to all for the feedback.

(Chris Hadley) #19

Underneath the surface of the comedy in my series THE LATE, LATE NEWS, there’s plenty of criticism of today’s 24-hour news channels and the news media in general. In fact, the very first script I wrote for it parodied a real life incident where discussion of an important news story was interrupted for live coverage of Justin Bieber’s DUI arraignment.

In the script, the anchor’s attempts to do a straight newscast were frequently interrupted by live reports from a Bieber-like teen pop star’s criminal arraignment. There were even screaming young girls waiting outside the courthouse, all trying to get on TV.

Though it didn’t get produced, and though it was at a time where I had absolutely no idea how the show would even get produced, I was making a statement about the ridiculousness of how trivial news stories take greater precedence over stuff that actually impacts everyday life. I might do another script in that style for season 2.

The first episode that did get produced, though, poked fun at cable news channels’ reliance on opinionated pundits just to provide “balance” between left and right. Often, those debates turn into heated shouting matches, with the anchor playing both moderator and referee.

The culture of the news business is another thing I explored, specifically when it comes to age and experience. In the case of my show, you have an experienced newsman having to work alongside two very inexperienced young reporters who seem to have been hired for their youth appeal and telegenic presence rather than their talent.

Here’s the first season, 4 episodes total:

(Shruti Saran) #21

this sounds so fun!