Sometimes when you are stuck on a scene, it’s best to go back and look at the basics. I’ve been writing sketch comedy for almost 6 years now, and I still have to go back and check out the basic structure of a scene on occasion because it just might show help you out of a trouble spot.
I have recently been fighting with a scene idea I had a while back. Everyone here at RvD Headquarters has heard me talk about it because I just can’t figure out how to write it. Here is the basic premise:
A guy walks into a pizza shop. He wants a slice of pizza. The guy behind the counter says, “Sure, we got pepperoni, we got sausage, and we got this one here. It’s the best in the city, but I gotta tell you, it don’t like black people. It’s a racist pizza.”
So that’s the jumping off point. As the scene is currently, other people come in and learn about the racist pizza. Hilarity does not ensue.
It seems pretty racist, right? The scene is even called Racist Pizza. But that’s not the point of the scene.
As it’s written now, the guy behind the counter basically tells everyone that the pizza is racist and what the pizza is saying about them. After three and a half pages of material, I realized I had a scene that wasn’t funny and was, quite possibly, incredibly racists.
So what to do? I like the idea. I think “Racist Pizza” is a funny sounding phrase. The point of the scene is to actually show how absurd it is that an inanimate object can have an idea like racism projected on it.
How do I fix it though? I started to think that I should go with something else, like “Patriotic Pizza” or “Gay Pizza.” This might work. It’s the same idea, but for whatever reason “Racism” strikes a chord that might be interfering with what I’m trying to say. The more I think about it, the more it seems like it would work in my head. I think I could go and write “Gay Pizza” right now.
But as an exercise, I think I want to write “Racist Pizza,” just to see if I can pull off the trick of writing a funny scene that could be horribly racist but make it a funny scene that isn’t racist at all. It’s all about what is the target of the humor.
So, back to my initial idea of looking at the basics. Here is what we’ve got.
Set Up: A man walks into a pizza shop.
What Does He Want?: A slice of pizza.
Conflict: The pizza is racist.
Heighten the conflict: Different people come in, all discovering the pizza is racist.
Find a solution: Someone comes in and—
Wait a minute. I think I found the problem (one of the problems) with the scene. It’s in the heightening aspect of the scene. As it’s written, people come in and we find out that the pizza called this one a certain slur, and that one another slur, etc. So there really is no heightening. It’s just a list of (incredibly) racist terms. No wonder it’s not funny and is quite possibly racist.
I haven’t finished the scene yet, but in my next go around I think I will focus more on how offended everyone is about the racist pizza, and heighten that. I don’t know where I will go with it, but when I finally get a draft that I think is funny and doesn’t make me look like Strom Thurmond I will post it here.
So by going back to the basics, you just might find out what it is that is holding you up. We will see. If not, “Gay Pizza” awaits.
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Also, the winner of the Subway $10 gift card for last week's caption contest is Geoff Crump for his introspective caption "I can't believe how much delicious cock they stuffed in this sandwich!" Thanks to EVERYONE who submitted a caption. And by “thanks” I mean “Fuck You Nat Topping.”
Geoff will receive his gift card next time I see him.