How To Write Funny Characters

We've all been in that situation. You are either given a script to read or thrust into an improv scene in which you are instructed to "play a character" and "be funny." And…GO! No pressure! It is an arduous task to create a character that is both recognizable in the sense that they are the kind of person you "just know," as well as wholly original and, as a cherry on top, humorous. It can send you groping around in the dark or cause you to regurgitate some cliche stock character you have previously seen in an episode of Love Boat or a British farce. You have a "wooden" feeling and a sense of self-consciousness. No one's laughing. You suddenly feel like all the room's oxygen has been sucked out. Voices begin to tell you, "You're not funny! You're a dramatic actor. You are unable to carry this out! But in point of fact, you can. You can play a character who is both hilarious and unique. You must discover how to get "in" on the action.

1. Listen!

When developing a character, focusing less on your creativity and listening ability would be best. When it comes to you, what do the other characters in the play have to say? What kinds of "labels" do they affix to you? Engage in behavior that is consistent with their expectations. I'm curious, what is your name? It was believed that a person's name could foretell their future, so naming a child required much consideration in ancient times. The same can be said for writers. If you play "Olivia Baxter," your social status is high, your manner is refined, and perhaps you are a socialite with a strong will.

On the other hand, you may be grumpy and uninteresting if you play the role of "Deloris Clustermeyer." Improvisation follows the same pattern. So what does your partner "label" you as?

You are not my birth father because you are a slacker. You immediately play a "deadbeat," light up a cigarette, take a long pull from your beer, and sneer, "Just because I made your diapers out of newspaper." Or perhaps "ice-cream parlor" is what you have in mind when you think of an open scene. Who frequents ice cream parlors, and why do they frequent them? Your options are a spotless "mom's boy" or a cranky old lady. Even natural ice cream can provide you with helpful information. On the other hand, you might wonder, "What does ice cream taste like?" and decide to play an unresponsive, listless, and drippy character.

2. Look!

How does your character appear to other people? What is their age range? What exactly are they donning there? What kind of footwear do they have on? The shoes are the first step in developing a good character. The character's gait, how grounded they feel, and how they experience the world are all impacted by the shoes they wear. When practicing without your costume, you should always wear shoes that correspond to the one you will be performing in. Do they have a prominent upper front tooth? Have some fun with your face. Even though it may sound cliche, starting with a strong facial quirk can be a great way into a character. Imagine Amy Poehler's portrayal of Leslie Knope on Parks and Recreation as having the same naive grin as Zoolander's iconic pout.

3. Speak Up!

One of the best places to begin developing a character is with a voice that sounds peculiar or one of a kind. Imagine Ellen Green as the character "Audrey" from Little Shop of Horrors. It is impossible to separate this character icon from her sweet whimpering voice and low rent lisp. The voice you give your character conveys everything (pun intended). You may have low self-esteem, so you talk in the back of your throat rather than express yourself openly. An insincere salesman is accustomed to talking for a living, so his speech will be rapid, with polished diction and soothing tones because that is what he does for a living. The character Momma Rose from Gypsy is a hard worker focused on ensuring her daughters' success. Perhaps she thinks the world's weight rests on her shoulders, which explains why her voice is so weighty, intense, potent, and guttural. You need not be concerned about sounding cliché. If these internal qualities inform your character's voice, you will always have an original voice. When performing improv, you can begin from the outside in. A woman with a low, clipped voice may be a tollbooth operator with the soul of a poet. Because her feelings are so profound, her speech may be clipped.

4. Judge!

Taking everything you've learned about acting and applying it to comedy might make this seem counterintuitive, but comedy is its animal. People who are deeply flawed and who, despite the odds, believe they can succeed are the building blocks of comedic characters. That is one reason why we adore them. However, they have shortcomings, and you should "lovingly make fun" of them. Perform a mimicry of one of your parents as a fun and helpful exercise. What is it about their character that drives you bonkers? Because he doesn't look for integrity or find redeeming qualities in his character, "9 to 5" allows Danny Coleman to have a great time playing the sleazy, egomaniacal twit Franklin Hart Jr. In comedy, it's perfectly acceptable to have only two dimensions. For a change, isn't that a lot of fun?!

Here are resources I recommend to get more in-depth knowledge

Storytelling 101 teaches you how to write compelling stories worthy of commercial success. This is best for screenwriters, novelists, filmmakers, videogame writers and storytellers.

Children’s Books 101 teaches you how to write stories that children will love. This is best for aspiring children’s book authors and storytellers.

Owl AI is the revolutionary AI-powered content production platform that helps storytellers, writers, and bloggers of all subject matter easily create highly-polished content.

Success, Money & Mindset Subliminal is a self-hypnosis recording that we recommend to new writers to help with focus, concentration, creativity, and motivation.

Shadow Work Journal: 240 Daily Prompts contains inner work exercises related to relationships, anger, anxiety, self-love, healing trauma, abandonment issues, depression, forgiveness, etc.

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