The Bernie Meme and how it applies to comedy writing



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  • The Bernie Meme and how it applies to comedy writing

    It's always a concern in a comedy writing room -- A joke or a bit or sight gag gets a huge laugh. So to get the most out of it you bring it back, maybe in a slightly different form. And that gets a big laugh too. So you repeat the process.
    Until you run the joke into the ground.
    Comedy writers have to be vigilant because it's a lot easier to go with the 57th variation of the same joke rather then come up with a brand new one. My position: stop it before it even becomes a question of whether the joke has been driven into the ground.
    I bring this up because of the recent Bernie Sanders Meme. By now we've all seen the shot of him at the Inauguration.

    Later that day a few photoshop posts appeared on social media inserting him into various scenes. And they were very funny. I really laughed at the first seven or ten. And I get that it represented a relief and joy after four years of sheer hell.

    But by the weekend half the posts on my Facebook news feed were Bernie and his mittens. -- inserted into family photos, movie one-sheets, famous paintings, historic scenes, rock concerts, the moon, etc.
    So tell me, do you still find them funny? They stopped for me.
    Be careful in your writing. Don't milk every joke for the last drop of comedy. Don't use the same catchphrase five times in one script.
    When I see that in spec scripts I immediately say, "Lazy writer."
    "Callbacks" are a useful and handy tool. Trying to get out of the scene? Think back to one of the things that happened in the scene and make reference to it in the final joke.
    But beware! Too many callbacks and you suck the life right out of them. A good example is the Reverend Jim TAXI scene I posted over the weekend. There is a repetition on "What does the yellow light mean?" When they were filming, Chris Lloyd (who plays Reverend Jim) got so many laughs he just kept repeating it and repeating it. But the producers wisely knew that there was a cut off point -- from when it was funny to when you wanted to kill everybody on the screen.
    I'll be interested to see just how long this Bernie-mitten/"Where's Waldo?" phenomenon continues to dominate Facebook. Hopefully, by the middle of June some people will be screaming, "OKAY! WE GET IT!"
    It's a comedy trap. Don't fall in.

    Last edited by Done Deal Pro; 01-25-2021, 07:46 AM. Reason: Added tags