You’re Doing That Wrong is a journal of various successes and failures by Dan Sturm.

That's Not Funny

In the episode of Scriptnotes titled Mistakes Development Executives Make, Craig hit upon something that has long been an area of difficulty for me during script development.

Craig: ...But my sort of corollary for that for comedy is when a producer or development executive says, "I don't think this line is very funny." Well, are you funny?

John: [laughs]

Craig: Because so many people that I meet in Hollywood actually are funny. They're not funny in the sense of “I can write a funny script" or "I can write a great line here" or "come up with a great idea or situation," but they're just generally funny people. They laugh at things that I find funny; they don't laugh at things I don't find funny. And they have an innate sense of rhythm, which is what comedy is all about.

But then I meet a lot of people who don't, you know. And when those people start telling me what is and isn't funny, and I think to myself: "You? You're as funny as a toothache." Well here's the deal: No. Absolutely not. If I say, “You know what? It's a marginal line," or, “Oh, yeah, you're right," that's my judgment. But if I say, "Nope, I believe in this." And then the director says, “I believe in this." Back off.

Because, listen, nobody bats 1,000 when it comes to comedy, but I cannot — you know, Bob Weinstein comes to mind — I can't tell you how many times he and I would fight over something that would absolutely kill in the theater, I mean, just lay people out. And I would turn to him and he would be so angry, [laughs] because he was wrong, you know. But I'm like, “But the point is you're not funny. Thats not a shameful thing, it's just you're not funny. I'm sorry. What can I tell you?"

You know, know your strengths. And if you're not a funny person and you're dealing with a comedy script, stick to the stuff that you think you're strong at. And then let the funny people deal with the funny stuff.

I've had similar conversations about comedic elements in scripts I've written, but far more often the difficult conversation is about what's "cool." Personally, I think people are willing to accept that comedy is a subjective art far more readily than they're willing to accept that they have no idea what a given demographic would consider to be cool.