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Writing A Screenplay For The Comedy Genre

A long-standing, continuing trend in comedy films is a storyline based on the antics of dysfunctional people. Consider the current box office hit, Meet The Fockers, a sequel to Meet The Parents. And past successes like As Good As It Gets, Animal House, The Addams Family, and The Royal Tenenbaums share common elements.

Screenwriters who want to write comedy screenplays can benefit from understanding what makes these films truly comedic.

Here are some common elements that these films share:

  • The protagonist has a character flaw he's not aware of. This flaw is so exaggerated that it leads to outrageous behavior, which becomes very funny.
  • Audiences can identify with the protagonist's character flaw because it's a common, human flaw. That's what makes audiences  laugh— they recognize this basic flaw in themselves.
  • The protagonist's character flaw impedes his relationships with others. Everything he does becomes self-defeating, out of control, and funny.
  • He becomes conscious of his flaw only when there's a crisis.

In Meet The Parents, Greg Gaylord Focker (Ben Stiller) is so eager to please and make a good impression that he doesn't think about the consequences of his actions before he acts. Greg tries so hard to fit in and be accepted by his girlfriend's family that he accidentally sets a fire, gets out of control in a water volleyball game, and spray paints a cat to look like the family's lost cat.

In Meet The Fockers, Greg's girlfriend is now his fiancée, and the comedy centers around his future in-laws meeting his parents. Greg's parents turn out to be as dysfunctional as Greg, and the outrageous antics continue.



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