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Writing Great Comedies Workshop with Tom Schlesinger

The 23 Rules of Comedy: Tom Schlesinger Storytelling Seminar

We host a stack of exciting events at TWG for Toronto’s amazing tech and entrepreneur communities. Events like Startup Stories: An Evening with ShopLocket, where we’ll be sitting down with the CEO of one of Canada’s rising tech superstars to find out about customer development, user acquisition and startup marketing. Being able to run events that touch on design, development, entrepreneurship and creativity is something we feel great about doing – and was one of the reasons we moved into our new home at 425 Adelaide last year.

The TWG space in action for #nerdlearn, our beer & pizza night for developers

As well as our typical community events, we also like to offer our space up for other events we feel passionately about, like this amazing art workshop with local artist Sammo for Childhood Cancer Canada, taking place on June 1. Next in the calendar is an amazing comedy writing workshop with Tom Schlesinger, a highly renowned creator who has taught film seminars for Pixar Animation Studios, Lucasfilm Ltd., the American Film Institute, the Writers Guild of America, the Directors Guild of America, and the National Film Schools in Berlin and Munich.

We invited Mike Schaus, the workshop organiser, to write a few words for the blog about the event and why learning how to write great comedy isn’t just for comedy writers – it’s for content creators too.


Tom Schlesinger: Storytelling Seminars – Writing Comedies
April 27-28, 2013

Register today

Whether you’re creating content or engaging the creative process in another format, (software development, entrepreneurship, etc) Tom’s seminars address the urge that initiates any creative process–to tell your story.  Learning the archetypal structures of storytelling can empower your authority within your personal creative process.

Comedies have a mythic dimension: comic characters descend into an underworld of chaos to lose control of their social standing in order to find out who they really are, beneath the social masks.  In addition to invaluable information about how to structure comedies and create comic webs of characters, you will be taking a journey into your own social fears only to find that they contain a treasure chest of great comedy stories.  You’ll also learn how the comedic structure can apply to your overall creative process.

Tom’s seminars also provide tools to develop story architectures and character networks that prioritize story for digital and transmedia extensions.  Learn how to build resonant and structurally sound source material to successfully leverage properties across media platforms.  He has truly helped get films nominated for and win Academy Awards.  Yep, Oscars. He’s worked with some of the best in the business.

Head here for more details, and check out Tom’s 23 rules of comedy.  Hope to see you there!

Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Comedy: Stepping Stones for the April 27-28, 2013 Toronto Writing Great Comedies Workshop.

1. Comedy is about redemption through chaos and destroys the illusion of perfection.

2. Comic archetypes include the trickster, the nebbish, the clown, the child, the know-it-all, the do-gooder and the grump.

3. In comedy, there is a dual point of view so the audience concomitantly can empathize with the main characters and see the comic irony of the situation.

4. Specific aspects that distinguish comedy from drama: – exaggeration
– irreverence – incongruity

5. Comedy is about the art of the reaction shot.

6. Comedy is based on a serious and substantial dramatic structure.

7. Comedy characters are more driven by what they don’t want to happen than by what they want to happen.

8. Comic characters are subconsciously driven to face their worst social nightmare, in public.

9. Structure: Comedy takes longer than drama to set up because of the comic complexities and nuances of the character web.

10. People laugh when characters are reduced from their high status to their low status.

11. Comic characters can be reduced to a robot, a beast or a child.

12. The opening dramatically reveals the character‘s mode and the character‘s problem.

13. Clarity is crucial in comedy; you must clearly show the character’s roles, goals and plans in both the A-storyline (your character’s Mode) and the B-storyline (your characters Need).

14. Characters in the character web, a.k.a. emotional network, tend to attack the main character‘s social weaknesses.

15. Relevance: Comedies reflect the social anxieties of their world.

16. The audience needs to be surprised: deliver the unexpected with wit.

17. Comedy functions at a higher level of energy than drama.

18. Precise timing is imperative.

19. For the audience, the setup is experienced as real, but the comic consequences are not.

20. Comic characters react in a less than adult ways to critical situations.

21. Comic characters are either the agents of chaos, the victims of chaos, or both.

22. The plot is acting on the characters in comedy because comic characters are reluctant.

23. Building comedy plots and characters is collaborative and cooperative. Say: “Yes, AND…” rather than “Yes, BUT…“.

About the author:

Michael Schaus

Michael Schaus is a film, television and new media producer with a respect for the traditional and a love of the new. Mike has done or been close to almost every aspect of the production process: from getting coffee for the Cheetah Girls (yup) to laying out the Business Affairs process flow of a 150 million dollar production company. Starting with a definition of New Media as the intersection of computers, telecommunications and content, Mike’s passion is understanding and respecting where and how people want to connect, and translating ideas to each idiom. Connect with Mike on LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter @schausm.


TWG is an Internet software company based in Toronto. We design, build and maintain web and mobile applications for a growing list of happy clients. We also incubate startup companies and host events for our community. Our mission is to be the best software company in the world to learn, work, and grow at.

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