Ricky Gervais wants to give you some comedy writing tips.
Whenever I want to laugh, I Google some Ricky Gervais comedy. Whether it's the classic episodes of The Office or Extras, his standup, or those incredible Golden Globes moments where he roasts celebrities, Gervais is an icon who knows how to make audiences laugh.
Aside from his comedy, Gervias is just one of our great writers. He knows what it takes to build a character and is so bold and daring when it comes to developing their arcs and storyline. So who better to gather ten writing tips from than the man himself?
Check out this screenwriting advice from Ricky Gervais, presented by Outstanding Screenplays.
10 Screenwriting Tips from Ricky Gervais
1. Make the ordinary extraordinary.
Maybe the biggest lesson from The Office is that you don't need to have a crazy place to work, just crazy people to fill it.
That's where the stories can evolve from and where the show will find its success. Gervias' genius was taking this middling paper company and creating a mainstay in Britain and America.
What can you do to amplify the ordinary? How can you bring new life to it?
2. Make your comedy a spectator sport.
As his career took off, Gervais was one of the people revamping modern cringe comedy. You had to watch David Brent as he sauntered around his paper company, harassing employees and being an arse.
One of the best and funniest parts of storytelling is giving people something they cannot turn away from. Not just exciting them with what they haven't seen, but giving them elevated versions of things they have experienced.
3. Your audience will find you.
So much of what people worry about when they start writing is finding someone to read it and make it. Instead, concentrate on doing your best work.
What can you do to make something special and entertaining? People are going to find great things and share them. This process takes time, but the only way it happens is if you are producing something great.
4. Comedy is about sharing your real self.
I don't know you, but I am sure you have a lot to say. When you sit down to write your story, it should encapsulate your worldview. What do you want your audience to feel while watching? Are there themes or an ending that means something to you?
Push your audience into identifying what you have to say and stewing on it.
5. Be provocative.
Push buttons. Comedy cannot be scared.
There are so many issues going on in the world, so allow people to laugh about them. This doesn't mean be offensive, but be someone who forces those hard conversations through jokes and storytelling. You have to stand out from the crowd, and your point of view will allow you to do just that.
6. Create empathy in your characters.
No matter if you're writing a villain or the protagonist, you have to make the audience care about them. Viewers don't have to be on their side, but we need to empathize with their experiences and decisions.
Why are they doing what they're doing? Make the audience see a little bit of themselves in the character.
7. Write as bravely and uncompromisingly as possible.
Tell your story. Don't listen to people who tell you it sucks without reading or knowing. In fact, don't pitch it until it's ready.
Be brave in knowing you are writing something that only you can access. What makes your worldview unique? What trials and tribulations brought you to writing? What do you need to get off your chest? Do it. Write it.
8. Do some normal house chores and let the ideas come.
Every writer I know deals with some sort of block. Writer's block can come from fear, frustration, exhaustion, or just a bad hangover. But the best way to deal with it is just to walk away. Go do anything else.
Gervais likes chores. You can sweep, mop, fold laundry, do some other task that not only lets your mind rest but also lets your subliminal mind start to work out the fixes you need. This will work, so go do it.
9. Don't write offensive stereotypes.
This shouldn't have to be said, but it comes up. When you're trying to write inclusively, please avoid using tired, bad stereotypes when talking about another culture. Just write characters that are empathetic, real, and honest. Go out and meet new people, borrow from their lives. But do not rely on tired, boring things. Get that first-hand experience.
10. Protect your ideas, even if it means taking on other roles.
Writing the idea is one thing, but if you need to protect it along the way, consider picking up another trade like directing or producing. The longer you can stay with a project, the more you can protect it from bad notes or change. This does not mean not taking notes or advice, it means making sure the soul or direction of the project is never lost.
That can take time in Hollywood, so prepare to be in it for the long haul.