In my personal life, there are few things I despise more than deception. To deceive someone, especially someone close to you, is among the biggest insults I believe you can deliver. While this is a personal conviction of mine, in the realm of comedy screenwriting, the act of deception can be the primary catalyst for the entire film. It’s important to note that deception in this concept doesn’t always mean deceiving to hurt or gain advantage over another character. No matter how you choose to engage with this writing method, always strive to look for comedic ways in which this technique may be used.
Deception is a dirty personality trait; however, in comedy scripts it can add a unique and dynamic level of realism, intrigue and humor. Follow my guide to ensure your comedy deception is just that – comedy.
The Rules for Writing Deception in Your Comedy Screenplay
Okay, first off, this section title is a little misleading. I am a firm believer that in the realm of creativity there are no rules. Rather, there are suggestions on how to formulate a story to ensure it’s captured by readers, and ultimately audiences, in the way you intended. The following three “rules” have been professionally gathered by working alongside some of the most talented and creative screenwriters in the film industry.
One of my favorite examples of how deception adds to comedic value of scripts is found in the film, “Scary Movie 2.” While this raunchy film series is not the best example of world-class comedy, as much of its content is toilet-humor geared toward a specific brand of audience, it’s a pretty cut-and-paste example of deception in the role of a comedy.
During the beginning of the film, the professor (played by the ever-talented Tim Curry) deceives an unexpected group of misfit college students into spending the night at a mansion to take part in a “sleep study.” While slap-stick and purposefully unbelievable (as this film a parody of the “Scream” franchise) it clearly showcases how the act of deception created a unique story platform to produce comedic scenarios.
As the film progresses, another vital element of deception in comedy script writing is made clear. While the students believe for the first several scenes in the mansion that they are there for a class assignment, it is quickly revealed through a series of (ridiculous) events that they were deceived. Therefore, the characters move from feeling as if something terrible is unknowingly happening to the fact that they were set-up to explore the paranormal activity within this historic home.
When you engage with deception in your comedy screenplay, you must work to set up the reveal. Never allow the characters to go through the whole movie deceived (at least, don’t let all the characters continue without figuring out his truth). The revelation of being deceived in the realm of comedy provides a golden avenue to continue injecting comedic scenarios and character reactions.
Above all else, remember that the writing deception into your comedy requires a solid understanding of how this deception navigates the story. If you find that your level of deception doesn’t push the characters toward their goal, then go back to the drawing board.