Sketchy Advice: A comedy writing column from UCB Comedy. Established sketch writers from the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre offer sketch students advice on being creative, the writing process, and adding to a writer’s room
This week’s featured writer is Geoff Garlock, a writer for former UCB Maude teams Slow Burn and iBadger, writer and performer in the sketch show “I LAUGHED UNTIL I DIED” (which had a very successful run at the UCB Theatre), and current sketch teacher at UCB’s Training Center.
See more of Geoff by listening to his Worst Gig Ever Podcast, watching his Worst Gig Ever Webshow, or checking out his Youtube Channel.
-Figure out the difference between a constructive conversation and an argument- You should not be writing in a void. Which is most writing. You are sitting in your apartment, staring at the blinking cursor on your screen, fighting every instinct to go look at Facebook for the billionth time or to go do those dishes in your sink that seemed fine sitting there all day until you started writing your sketch. But at some point, you need to and should get the work in front of people. At that point in the process, TAKE THE NOTE!!!! Don’t fight notes. You have to learn to take notes, write them down, and process them. You obviously aren’t going to take every single fart joke people suggest you shove in your sketch. But a lot of times, that suggestion is just the fart joke you are looking for. If those notes are coming from a director or a teacher, this goes double. There is a reason you are in the position where you are getting notes from them. And you may not always agree. But don’t get into fighting mode all the time. If you are able to make some sort of constructive argument for a joke, or a beat, that is great. As long as you are still hearing the other side of the argument. But if you are just fighting to the death for every half-baked idea, figure out if that is the hill you want to die on. Notes will always exist. Feedback exists always and is just there to help. The only person that probably escapes it is Steven King and that is why we are left with 1500 page books that are solid except for that 500 page excerpt on his nostalgia for Wonder Bread and when music on the radio really meant something.
Bad Company Fudge Company: a COMMERCIAL PARODY from UCB Comedy
-It’s just a first draft- And never forget it. It’s just a draft. So get it out. You are going to rewrite it. And that is where the real writing will come in. And there is no set amount of “rewrites” on any project. It will be done when it is done.
-A.B.W. Always Be Writing- That’s what Alec Baldwin’s speech in Glenngary Glenn Ross is right? Whatever it is. Write. ALWAYS! Sketches, screenplays, spec scripts, novels, blog posts, twitter jokes, something. Just write a lot of material. You will only get better and better. And make sure you have deadlines. Deadlines are key. If you leave things open to write, “When you get to it” you will never get to it. I know from experience. And when I say experience, I mean I probably experienced it on the day you are reading this. I am terrible at deadlines and am working on it myself. We can all be better at deadlines, and setting up the right workflow for ourselves. But with a large body of work, you will slowly work out the kinks. By doing this you slowly build up a muscle memory for the basics (game, heightening, etc) and you can let your mind flow into new weird territories.
Domino’s New Crust Stuffed Crust Pizza: a COMMERCIAL PARODY by UCB Comedy
-Be Weird- If you want to be. Or write really straight-laced, first thought parody sketches. Really follow your heart on what you want to be writing. If you don’t care about writing some topical sketch about some dumb thing Miley Cyrus did today, that is fine. If you wrote that sketch and did not care about it at all, and it “hit” then it would be a hollow victory anyways. One of the last sketches I shot was a sketch called “Brandy Brandy” about a brandy company named after the song “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)”. I was not sure if anyone would care about it, or if people remembered the song. But it fell simply in the category of “something I wanted to write”, which was good enough for me. The world wants to hear your unique voice. I want to hear your unique voice. So let it out. That being said, also don’t pigeon hole your writing. Have a growth mindset, not a fixed mindset. You want to write more political/topical sketches. Do it. I was in punk bands for a long time. Trust me no one cares how punk you are more than yourself. Spread your wings and fly. And keep your eyes on your own paper.
-Go watch a horror movie- or any movie, or read a book, or inform yourself on some aspect of life you don’t know much about. You don’t need to know everything, but it doesn’t hurt. Don’t be willfully ignorant on subjects. I am not impressed that you don’t watch TV, or movies etc. It doesn’t hurt to be able to at least paint in broad strokes on subjects you generally don’t care about, because you might find a new angle on life and your writing. The other day I decided to re read “A Farewell to Arms” which I have not read since high school. The main reason being that I didn’t have much of an opinion on Hemingway and I certainly couldn’t trust high school Garlock’s version of Hemingway. That Garlock was a nut. But now that I have read it, I am able to talk at least somewhat intelligently about how I think his dialogue is incredibly clunky, and how interesting it is that he can go back and forth between making these very sharp profound statements about life and war, and then switch harshly to being a weird, drunk misogynist who doesn’t understand what a non boring conversation is. And maybe one day I will write that killer Hemingway sketch. That being said I will never care about sports. They are the worst. If you want to have an in depth conversation about my cultural problems with the “A Nightmare on Elm Street” series though, let’s do this.
-Learn to love the rope- if you are a friend or former student of mine you have probably heard this thought and possibly been freaked out by it. But trust me it is valid for writing and life. So there is a movie everyone should see called “Rolling Thunder”. It stars William Devane and Tommy Lee Jones. Former Vietnam POW’s who come back to the United States and Devane’s family is murdered and he goes on a revenge mission. Trust me it’s great. Someone asks what they did to him in the prison camp and he explains how they would tie his arms back with a rope and pull it up until you heard the bones crack. And then he makes the guy do it to him. Brutal! When he is asked how he got through that, he simply states, “You learn to love the rope. That’s how you beat ‘em. That’s how you beat people who torture you. You learn to love ‘em. Then they don’t know you’re beatin’ ‘em.” Stick with me here..I know. It’s maybe a little intense. BUT, apply it to writing. Writing/comedy is hard; it is not an easy path. It doesn’t have a clear trajectory like other jobs. You aren’t going to get that promotion from the big boss and get the corner office. And it is easy to get beaten down. But if you learn to love the good and the bad experiences for what they are, and learn to appreciate them, then the payoff in the end is the best in the world.
-Give therapy a try- I just think everyone could use it. It has helped me out tons and has slowly helped some mental blocks that have affected my writing.
-Don’t Drink- I don’t know. Aren’t we all struggling artists, just trying to write comedy and get by? Alcohol is expensive. I think one of the main reasons I was able to afford living in NY especially in my lean years was because I didn’t waste money on alcohol. Besides being a drunken writer is a boring cliché. And don’t take cabs. Cabs are for suckers.
Amy Poehler on Smart Girls.
Watch the full video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-djoZKPnLU
"Marty! My desk says you’ve got to come back with me!"
Very cool video from our friends at Cracked! How many clues did you notice?
This week, UCB Comedy’s #WCW is the lovely Keisha Zollar!
Photo courtesy of: www.ucbcomedy.com
Keisha Zollar is a woman of many talents. Like, a ton of talents. She is a producer, she performs improv and sketch comedy around New York City, she’s been in TV shows, an award winning film, and some hilarious online videos, including videos from UCB Comedy!
Keisha is a true thespian. Prior to studying comedy, she studied theatre and acting at some top notch schools. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Theatre from UCSD, and a Master’s degree in Acting from the New School for Drama. Keisha brought her talents to the Upright Citizens Brigade in 2005 when she started studying improv and sketch comedy. Less than five years later, Keisha became the Training Center’s Diversity Coordinator. She has also taught classes at UCB.
Keisha is a member of multiple hilarious improv teams. She is one third of the longform improv team, Doppelganger, which she formed in 2010 with Sasheer Zamata and Nicole Byer. She is on the three person comedy team, Walking Contradiction, and was a member of The Red Tie Mafia, a short-form improv group. Keisha is also part of the improv group, Nobody’s Token, which is an improv group that turns an audience member’s life into a sitcom. Keisha hosts The Soul Glo Project Jam, a variety show at UCB that showcases new comedic talent and celebrates everyone! Keisha can also be seen hosting and performing regularly at the PIT (People’s Improv Theater) and the Magnet Theater.
Outside of the improv and sketch comedy world, Keisha has been doing big things. She was in the feature film, See You Next Tuesday, which has been featured in a number of film festivals and has won awards like the Audience Choice Award at the Chicago Underground Festival (click here to watch the trailer)! Keisha has appeared in programming and content for major TV and online networks, like NBC and Adultswim.com. Keisha was recently featured in Orange is the New Black, Broad City, and CollegeHumor Originals. Keisha is currently working on a solo show for release this year called, The Joyful Nihilist. Is there anything she can’t do!? Keisha is insanely talented and a a great comedian, and we’re proud to call her this week’s #WCW!
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Matt Besser, on life and comedy. (source: http://www.lifeisafunnyscene.com/interview-matt-besser/)
We see some familiar names in this lineup!! :) Woot!
Page 19 of the UCB Improv Manual.
April 15th! Its the perfect time to catch up on So You Think You Can Audit? a PARODY from UCB’s Horse + Horse!
Photo courtesy of www.ucbcomedy.com
Our featured performer this week is Michael Kayne!
Michael Kayne is a very talented UCB performer. He was most recently the star of the hilarious Horse + Horse video, “Grandpa Can Have Dinner With Anyone,” and was a guest on the UCB Comedy Round Up.
Michael Kayne is a comedic triple threat. The NYU grad is a performer, producer, and writer at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in New York. He’s performed in the extremely popular UCB shows What I Did For Love, Baby Wants Candy, and ASSSSCAT. Previously, Michael was on the UCB Harold team Badman and was a UCB Tourco cast member. Michael is on the improv team, Sabonis, with Don Fanelli and Connor Ratliff. Sabonis was the winner of the 3 on 3 Improv Tournament at the UCB Theatre in Chelsea in 2011 and 2012.
Outside of UCB, Michael has been in a number of online videos and TV shows. He’s appeared in videos from College Humor, Above Average, Funny or Die, and Improv Everywhere. He has also performed on The Chris Gethard Show a handful of times. Michael has written for Billy On The Street and @midnight, and is also the co-creator/writer/producer/star of the hit web series, Terrible Babysitters, along with D’Arcy Carden. Terrible Babysitters is in its second season and has already had some fantastic guest appearances, like Nicole Byer and Chris Kelly. Terrible Babysitters is so good it was even part of this year’s SXSW Festival. Last year, Michael’s TV pilot, Good Dads, was an official selection at the New York Television Festival Independent Pilot Competition. In addition to his comedy career, Michael is an accomplished tutor and singer. Michael is doing big things and we’re excited to see what happens next for this excellent performer!
Official UCB Profile: http://ucbcomedy.com/user/8402
Follow him on Twitter: https://twitter.com/MJCKayne
Tickets for What I Did For Love: http://east.ucbtheatre.com/shows/view/3065
Watch Terrible Babysitters here!
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Grandpa can have dinner with anyone. His choice might surprise you.
Matt Walsh on Comedy Bang! Bang!