Tuesday, August 19, 2008

On Writing Comedy and the Use of an Outline

I learned three things about myself recently, while writing for Rakista, wich airs every Thursday, 7 pm on Channel 5:

1. I can write comedy;
2. I can write in Tagalog; and
3. I finally understand why people need outlines.

Fiction-wise, I never thought of myself as someone who could write scenarios that people would laugh at (because they were well-written, not because they were ludicrous, though sometimes, that works too). Some of my work has been deemed comedic by Doc Jun, an old boss who said that my jokes were mostly of the black sort, and then seesawing between extremely dry and extremely stupid. and Erwin did say that Yvonne and Vanni thought that "Seek Ye Whore" was pretty funny. And Yvonne and Vanni laughing is a very, very good sign.

Here's a secret: I have always dreamed of writing comedy, in all its forms and genres. Before I found out that the genre that I was most suited to was horror, my dreams were of writing funny. I wanted to write a Ghostbusters. I wanted to write a Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle. I wanted to write a Big Lebowski. American Pie. If Looks Could Kill. Army of Darkness. Lost Boys. Mean Girls. Enchanted. Ella Enchanted. Pare Ko. Palibhasa Lalake. You get the point. It didn't have to be great. I didn't want to write The Great Filipino Comedy; I just wanted to write something that would make people piss their pants from laughing.

But when I found myself drafted into Ralkista, essentially a lighthearted teen TV series two months ago, I had cause to worry. After jumping around with excitement, I immediately warned Quark et al that a. I'm not sure I can do comedy, and b. my Tagalog sucks eggs. "You'll be fine," they said. Such is the blind belief between friends.

My first script was pretty hard to do. I had trouble with the outline. I had never really used one before, apart from in English and film class. It had been a while since I was forced to map out my thoughts on paper. I didn't know what to put in, wasn't sure how to structure material. When it was put forth for brainstorming, its reception was less than warm. Too little content. Not enough slapstick. Jokes too 'high' (a comment I've been getting for as long as I can remember - now I regret watching so much Frasier). My colleagues were nice enough to provide me with the needed content before sending me off to write the script.

I enlisted the help of Luis, who enlisted the help of Kidlat, mainly as a Taglish consultant. I took it as a good sign that Kidlat was laughing at the bits I wrote. With Luis' help, the script turned out pretty well. Some comedy, some teen drama, some heart. And Kidlat didn't comment on my Tagalog, which I took to be another good sign. This means my grasp of the language has improved. It's shameful, really, not being proficient in your own language. Stinky fish and all that. So the script was taped and guess what? It turned out quite nice. My second one, I did all on my own. Am hoping ot comes out good.

As for using an outline, I've found that it can be a big help, especially during crunch time, as all your thoughts are laid out already so all you have to do is follow them. I realized that, at least when it came to certain projects, not having an outline wasn't going with the whims of one's creative spontinaety, it's just sheer laziness. So while I'm going to stick to my technique of keeping my short fiction as spontaneous as possible, I'm probably going to keep using an outline for bigger projects.

Tune in to Rakista, Thursdays 7pm on TV5. It's a fun ride.

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