3 Seinfeld-Approved Tips for Writing Comedy that Students in Television Schools Can Try!

Posted on October 28th, 2016 - Written by: Trebas Toronto

television schools
The years pass, but the influence of the sitcom Seinfeld lingers on. For many, the show was a perfect mix of relatability and clownishness, taking experiences familiar to many and making hilarious sport of them. It was life made extraordinarily funny.

A big part of Seinfeld’s success is owed to the wit of the writing, and though the show first aired all the way back in 1989, there are plenty of lessons for writers in the present day to take away.

Want a little wisdom from one of the most acclaimed comedies ever? Here are three takeaways from the Seinfeld writers’ room that are worth thinking about.

1. Students in Television Schools Can Make Small, Relatable Ideas Funny

Sometimes, it’s big, ridiculous ideas that get the laughs. Take Seinfeld’s “The Soup Nazi,” the rude man behind the counter at a soup restaurant. Funny? Yes, and he’s one of the most famous characters from the series. But situations like those aren’t the only kind that are laugh-worthy. Smaller, relatable moments are also great for getting audiences laughing.

In an interview with Vulture, former Seinfeld writer Peter Mehlman shared an idea he pitched to showrunner Larry David: “What if Jerry’s dating a girl who hates George?” That simple idea ended up being the basis for part of an episode. While a “smaller” premise might not seem as flashy, it can be easier for audiences to connect to.

2. For Writing Success in Your Courses In Television, Use Seinfeld’s Chain Method

Students in television schools might already know that finding the motivation to complete a project can sometimes be challenging. Fortunately, there are all kinds of ways to motivate yourself. Jerry Seinfeld himself has a method he uses when writing comedy: don’t break the chain.

For this method, he has a printout of the calendar for an entire year, all on a single page. Every day he writes gets a red ‘X’ drawn across it in marker. The goal is to never break the chain of days with red Xs.

 

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To make progress on a project, devote time to it every day

Apps like “Habits” for Android and “Way of Life” for iOS can serve the same purpose, with the added benefit of regular reminders not to break your chain. However you manage it, regularly putting in a little bit of work toward completing a project will let you see real progress.

3. Writing Comedy for TV Is a Group Effort, So Don’t Take Changes Personally

In his interview with Vulture, Mehlman also talks about collaboration on the series, and having to surrender scripts over to Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld for editing and punch-up.
“There were times when it was like a complete makeover, and other times where it was more of a massaging,” he said, and though he said he got more control over his scripts as time went on, the process still risked instilling feelings of “a little loss of ownership.”

Higher-ups making changes are a guarantee in the TV business, and even showrunners have to answer to networks. Whether working on projects for courses in television, or for a show like Seinfeld, it’s important to accept that other people will have input into and comments on your work.

 

film and television schools

When writing comedy, be prepared for others to edit your scripts

Considering all kinds of ideas, working consistently toward a goal, and learning to accept feedback are all important tips to help you further a career in comedy writing. These Seinfeld-approved tips are things worth practicing while enrolled in television school and beyond!

Do you want to hone your comedy writing skills at film and television schools?

Contact an advisor at Trebas today to find out more!

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