When Should You Use Jokes In Your Script?

Hey, it’s Michael. So today I want to talk to you about the power of jokes and well, why you have to be really careful about when you’re using them. So most comedy writing rooms today, especially when I was starting out, they’d ask you a question, they’d say, so are you a joke guy or a story guy? And the brightest usually fell into those two categories, joke guy, or story guy or girl. Right. But I’m gonna say guy for the video, make it easy. So early on, I was definitely a joke guy, and my partner, he was a story guy. We kind of teamed up and that’s kind of what led to our success in the beginning is that we kind of had the package. But the joke guy, the joke guy gets all the credit because he hits the home runs because you pick something funny at the table, it gets a big laugh. 

And if all the writers are laughing and you see it on his feet, on the floor and everyone’s laughing and we’re like, oh, that’s his joke or whatever. And even in the room, there’ll be a bunch of joke guys. And we all kind of like we would duke it out. It was a very friendly rivalry. But if he had a better joke or a faster growth than me, I was like, woah. And vice versa, they’d be jealous. And it kind of made the show really fun to work on.

At the end of the day, if I were choosing sides, if I were to start a show right now, and I had six picks for writers, the first five would be story guys, story guy, they don’t get credit, but they are far more important than anyone who knows.

And so even over the course of my career, I’ve moved from joke guy to story guy. There are moments in every script, and I kind of talk about this a lot in the course, there are moments in every script that you do not want to joke up. The moment has to land. And if you put a joke there, it’s just not going to land with the audience. The joke could do more damage than good. Even if it gets a big laugh, it could do more damage to the story as a whole. And so knowing where those moments are and knowing how not to joke them up are really important. Even now, as I write, like I said, I’m a joke guy. Like I can do that. I find myself pulling out more jokes. So it’s something I talk about. So the goal is not always to be funny. The goal is to tell a compelling story. If it’s funny, great. But knowing when not to use a joke is just as important as being able to write one. Okay. Hope that helps. Good luck.

Author Details
For the past 26 years, Michael Jamin has been a professional television writer/showrunner. His credits include King of the Hill, Beavis & Butthead, Wilfred, Maron, Just Shoot Me, Rules of Engagement, Brickleberry, Tacoma FD and many more.