Comedy Writing Tips From Billy O’Connor – Dynamic Verbs And Specificity

Tip one: Verb – is Latin for word. Verbs are the engines that drive your sentences, so use active verbs. When you’re writing your set-ups, avoid forms of the “to be” verb: Is, was, were etc. They’re dull, insipid, static. You want dynamic verbs with juice and flair. What reads better? “

The stock market went down, yesterday,” or “The Dow Jones plummeted, yesterday?”

“The dog ate his food quickly,” or “Spot gobbled his Alpo?”
Also notice the “specific” nouns.

Not “the dog,” but “Spot.”Not “dog food,” but “Alpo” Not the “stock market” but the “Dow Jones.”

The reason for specific nouns is below.
Tip two: Specificity leads to credibility.

When you’re setting up a punchline, never “grab a cigarette.” Always grab a “Marlboro Light.” You don’t get in your car and start it. You, slide behind the seat of your Honda Accord and hear the engine roar to life.

Avoid adjectives and adverbs, they’re not your friends. If you’re using an adverb, you’re using the wrong verb. People are never, “very sad.” They’re “morose.”

Always, always, eliminate extra words. If you have a 10 minute to make an impression, utilize all 10 minutes on set-ups and punch lines, not on “meta-discourse.” More on meta-discourse, Monday. We’ll also discuss the advantage of “active tense.”