Welcome to your new comedy course or coaching!
Please familiarize yourself with these terms.
COMEDY/SITCOM RULES & VOCABULARY
SCRIPT ANALYSIS RULES
1. Comedy Comes in Three. Any 3 things in a scene. Could be 3 people, 3 phrases, 3 buttons, 3 words, etc. For
example, a joke starts with "a blonde, a brunette, and a redhead…" Another example is when a pattern is created
with the first two items. Then the third item is not the expected completion of the pattern. (See also Rule #3 "The
Turn or Turnaround ") Sometimes there is a 4th item, (the Topper), that gets an even bigger laugh and completes the
2. "K" Sounds are Funny. Really, ANY hard consonants, like the letters "C", "T", and "P" are funny. Also,
rhyming words, funny sounding words like oogly-googly, and alliteration (Jolly Molly took her dolly on the trolley.)
3. The Turn or Turnaround. The point between the Setup and Punchline or the Mislead and Punchline, where
the information or emotion switches unexpectedly to another direction. The joke starts with a strong intention and
then "turns around" with something completely the opposite, and unexpected, with an equally strong intention. For
example, a flight attendant asks a passenger, "Coffee, Tea, or Me?" The 1st two lead the audience down a certain
path, and then the word "Me" takes it in an entirely different, unexpected, direction.
SCRIPT ANALYSIS VOCABULARY:
Banter: Quick, short, teasing, sometimes Ironic or hurtful, remarks between characters. playful and friendly
exchange of teasing remarks. See also, Patter.
Blow: A final joke at the end of a scene, usually a big joke. See also, Button.
Button: Joke at the end of a scene, usually a small joke. Emphasis given to the end of any joke. See also, Blow.
Callback: A reference to previously mentioned material or piece of business. Repeating a big joke.
Dichotomy: Literary tool dividing an idea into separate contradictory classes, thereby bringing out the funny. See
also Irony, Sarcasm.
Echo: An exact Callback. Repetition of the same word or business, exactly.
Exposition: The beginning part of the joke. See also Pipe, Setup, Laying Pipe and Mislead.
Irony: A literary device in which the meaning of the words is used in the opposite of their usual sense. See also
Laying pipe: Providing the Exposition. See also Setup, Pipe, and Mislead.
Mislead: To intentionally take the audience in one direction with an idea, so they are then surprised by the Turn.
See also Setup, Pipe, Laying Pipe and Mislead.
Operative Word: The word to be stressed. The important word to understand the plot or joke. Must be wellarticulated.
Patter: Rapid or smooth-flowing continuous talk. Amusing lines delivered rapidly by a performer. See also, Banter.
Pipe: The Exposition of the script. See also Set-up, Laying Pipe, and Mislead.
Punchline: The funny part of the joke. 1st comes the Set-Up, Exposition, Pipe, or Mislead. Next is the Turn.
Then the Punchline.
Sarcasm: An essential tool for comedy. Remarks that mean the opposite of what they seem to say and are intended
to mock or deride. See also, Irony, Dichotomy.
Setup: The statement or premise that has to be understood for a joke to get a laugh. The front half of a joke. See also
Pipe, Laying Pipe, Exposition, and Mislead.
Tee-Hee Factor: Words, gestures, sounds, etc. referring to any bodily function, especially sex.
Throw Away: To de-emphasize information. To make information more casual so as not to Telegraph the joke that
Topper: A Punchline right after/on top of another Punchline.
Twist: An unexpected plot point. A surprise.
Understatement: A joke employing Irony. It deliberately states the truth inaccurately or too weakly.
Wrinkle: The complication during Act Two.
Once you've analyzed your script, then there is a whole set of"rules" for the best way to deliver them.
1. Make Sure You Set It Up. The audience will not laugh if they don't clearly understand the premise or setup (also called
exposition, pipe, or laying pipe) of the joke.
2. Faster is Funnier. Pace and energy cause material to be more comedic. Remember the Energy Scale of Commitment - keep
yours at least between 6 and 10 at all times while performing, 10 being the most energy and commitment to your character's
intentions and feelings.
3. Gotta Be Clean for Comedy. (Yes, wash your hands and use mints!) There is a rhythm and there are subliminal signals that
an actor gives an audience that indicate where the jokes are. Any extraneous words or movements that distract from this, hurt the
comedy. Do not add or delete any words. Pay strict attention to the writer's punctuation, as well.
4. Hold for Laughs. Laughs are an important part of comedy/sitcom rhythm. Actors must actively think and feel their character's
Subtext while the audience is laughing, before going on to deliver their dialogue or business. Don't let the laugh completely die
out before coming in with your dialogue or business.
5. Don't Move on the Joke. The joke is most important. Moving on the joke distracts the audience from listening to the
punchline. Moving after the joke gives a place for the audience to laugh without missing dialogue. There are at least 3
"languages" that an audience gets from a performer - the words, the movements, and the emotions. When there is unspecific
movement, the audience follows that "language", which may make them miss the words and the emotions. Actors should refrain
from moving, except to use specific movements that help accentuate images or thoughts. Otherwise, they should be, not frozen,
but still. There's a difference.
6. Say the Line, Then Move. (Kinda like #5. Guess it's that important.) Movement distracts from the important material. It
causes the camera to widen, further distancing the viewer from the information and intent.
Banter: Quick, short, teasing, sometimes Ironic or hurtful, remarks between characters. Cue-bites can be effective here. See
Blow: A final joke at the end of a scene, usually a big joke. Use of non-verbal expressions are especially effective here. See also
Button: Joke at the end of a scene, usually a small joke. Emphasis given to the end of any joke, like buttoning it together. Use of
non-verbal expressions can be especially effective here. See also, Blow.
Cue Bite: To abruptly take out the pauses between the lines. For example, once your character knows what the other character is
going to say and doesn't want to hear anymore from them (because of their past relationship/knowledge of that other character),
your character then "bites" the end of their partner's line with their scripted line, forcing the other character to stop talking.
Deadpan: A face that shows no emotion, e.g. a poker face. The human face has been referred to as a "pan" since 19th century
Double-take: A sight gag involving rapidly turning the head twice. A character looks at something, doesn't process it, looks
away, and then whips their head back, sees it for what it really is, and reacts accordingly. Also, triple & quadruple takes.
Energy Scale of Commitment: On a scale of 1-10, keep your character's intentions & feelings at least at a 6. And, preferably 10!
Land: The ability of a joke to get a laugh or score.
Non-Verbal Expressions: Use of non-verbal utterances & sounds to express what your character is feeling when there are no
scripted words for the feelings. Especially useful at the end of the joke, or the Button/Blow.
Patter: Amusing lines delivered rapidly and with complete articulation by performers. See also, Banter.
Pause: Employing the pause right before the joke/pay off, gives suspense to the audience as they quickly try to figure out what
the joke is going to be. "Lay the Pipe" masterfully, PAUSE, then give the Punchline for the laugh.
Pay It Off: Deliver the Punchline, or Pay Off.
Sarcasm: An essential tool for comedy. Remarks that mean the opposite of what they seem to say and are intended to mock or
deride. See also, Irony, Dichotomy.
Schtick: An extreme piece of physical business such as a pratfall. The old Yiddish term for piece or routine. It described the
physical comedy or little dances of vaudeville.
Sight Gag: A joke whose laugh is predicated upon a visual.
Slow Burn: A sight gag involving a slow turn of the head.
Spit-Take: A sight gag involving spitting.
Sub-text: What an actor is thinking while he says the line; Sub meaning "under" and text meaning "wording". It is the silent or
hidden message. It especially must employed while Holding for the Laugh. It's an important tool for an actor especially when a
character is thinking something different from, or more complex than, what the scripted words (or lack of words) allow her/him
to say aloud.
Take: A specific look from an actor, usually a close-up or chest-shot. Also, each re-do of a scene or portion of a scene. It is
assigned a take number for keeping things straight during editing.
Throw it Away: To de-emphasize information. To make information more casual so as not to Telegraph the joke that is coming.