Instructor: Dominic Dierkes
Date Taken: August 2008
At about the same time I decided to jump back into improv, I also decided to take a sketch class. I never really had much interest in writing sketch for the stage, but figured the class could give me some good insights on overall comedic writing.
Below are the notes I took from the sketch class. Find out more about UCB’s training program here.
- Assignments every week- will then read them through as a class
- Everything in your sketch should serve your premise
- There should only be 1 game in your sketch, otherwise trim the fat
- Sketches are 3-5 pages
- Everything should heighten (reactions, the stakes, etc)
- Have a beat, explore those ramifications, then heighten to next beat
- Always get to the game quick
- As soon as the epiphany (or a complete reversal) occurs, the sketch is over
- Premise should be specific and can be expressed in 1 sentence.
- If you heighten too quickly you lose the value of what you do after
- Characters should be defined, even it it’s not told to the audience. The writer (and ultimately actors) should know their motivations
- Have only 1 game (take/angle/etc)
- Be in the active, don’t just talk about it
- Character Sketches:
- Even though it’s a character sketch, you should know “his deal.”
- Characters should still respond to people (rather than ignore them). They should still be a “person” i.e. there is something believable about them.
- Be as succinct as you can (especially in stage directions)
- Commercial Parodies:
- Good skill to have, it is a part of your writer’s packet
- Parody something as specifically as possible
- Game always comes from where you deviate from the actual commercial
- Find that one thing you can change and then execute it the same way as commercial
- Generally fall into 2 categories: (1) The product is weird. (2) The way you’re advertising is weird.
- If you try to both of the above, you are probably trying too much in the sketch
- Make them visually similar – think about the types of shots
- Should be less than 2 1/2 pages
- Ridiculousness isn’t enough for a sketch, you still need to know and play your game
- Common questions/comments when reviewing a sketch:
- What beats do you like?
- What’s your game?
- Get to your game quicker.
- Which beats match your game? Which don’t?
- How can you blow this out more? What else is true?
- Genre Parodies
- Similar to commercial parodies: pick 1 thing to change and keep everything else the same
- Make it as specific as possible without requiring people to have seen the original
- 3-5 pages, don’t worry about capturing an “entire episode” if parodying a show, just show one scene of it
- Play the conventions of that drama
- For genres, the visual style and feel of it is incredibly important (must match the genre)
- Sketch 201 – more focused on building your packet (as extension of 101)
- Sketch 301 – More specialized (putting up a sketch revue, working with actors, etc)
- Best advice: put your stuff up (at UCB, other places, Liquid Courage, on the Internet)
- Try to put on a spank show, do sketch “open mics”
- Tips for Video:
- Robert Rodriguez’s book about making a really cheap film
- Equipment is important
- Check out Improv Resource Center for thread about shooting your own sketches
- If you have a camera but little experience you can easily find people to work with
- 3 Things for Video:
- Sound (shotgun or lavalier mics)
- Tripod (Not shaking)
- Lighting – 3 point lighting setup
- Political/Topical Sketches
- Sketches inspired by the news
- Characters are pop culture icons
- Take a news story and take it to the extreme
- Have to have a specific angle
Sketch Rewrites. No notes.
Sketch Rewrites. No notes.