This is a good book. It's definitely one to add to the arsenal of books. It covers basic comedy writing technique and of course looks at characters. I'm using it for studying how to write sitcoms and there's some great information in this. This book, The Comic Toolbox and Evan Smith's Writing Television Sitcoms are probably the only three books you'll need. And on the plus side it's an enjoyable read too!
Definitely a wise buy this. It does what it says on the tin , as it were, and gives you eight very recognisable characters of comedy. They were always there; you just didn't think about them. It is written about American comedy programmes but it is equally applicable to British ones. The British just tend to focus on class differences a bit more. The book is written mainly for actors and then for writers. It also gives good comedy writing information before it discusses the eight characters of comedy. I reckon you could use this book to write a comedy in a mechanical way. You could select which comedy characters you wanted; attribute the various characteristics to them, ask them what they want and watch the plot develop.The Eight Characters of Comedy is a very clearly written and easy to understand book; you know what to do after having read it.
This book is great. It gives fantastic tips for actors and writers. Without being too gushing, it's everything I hoped for.
"Actors... AND writers...?" Yeah, I was dubious about how effectively it would handle either in handling both. But, as Sedita points out, there is a close correlation between acting and writing. Me, I'm a budding writer, not an actor, yet I appreciate even the actorly advice he gives in this due to the connection between the two disciplines. Furthermore, I have to repeat myself: the handling of both acting and writing in no way compromises the quality of either; acting and writing are both well covered.
The Eight Characters of Comedy The best bit of this book is the title and the reason I bought it: the eight characters of comedy. Each chapter deals with a different character ("The Logical Smart One", "The Lovable Loser", etc), gives examples and extracts from real comedies, outlines character traits of each and how they interact and pair up with other characters of the eight.
If you wanted to, you could use this book to mechanically create a sitcom. Not that you would be guaranteed success, mind; creating a successful sitcom comes down to some serious alchemy. None-the-less, you would probably be able to create a half-decent comedy by fully absorbing the lessons of this book (and that's something, at least).
I particularly found the chapters on the eight characters useful as a lens through which to view the characters I had already created. That is, as opposed to using it to create characters in the first place. By using this "lens", I have gained a greater insight into my characters, and these are insights I am finding invaluable.
American SitComs The book focuses exclusively on American SitComs (which I'm not overly familiar with) -- although there is a brief (and amusingly random) reference to UK SitCom "Absolutely Fabulous". However, there are plenty of examples using US SitComs that I do know well: "Friends", "Seinfeld", "Frasier", "Married... With Children". And, the references to other US SitComs, has kind of inspired me to look into them, too.
But, the major "problem" with being US-focused is that stylistically it is too American. British SitComs often tend to be less aspirational (more depressing?) than American ones. Also, UK SitComs usually have a strong "monster" (Fawlty, Brent, Blackadder, etc). However, the book loses none of its worth by virtue of the differing emphases in US and UK SitComs.
Further Reading I have admitted Sedita's book into my writing canon which consists of exactly two other books: Marc Blake's "How NOT To Write A Sitcom", and Smethurst's "How to Write for Television". BUY ALL THREE. Now.
THIS is a good book. It is meant for actors AND writers, and I am both, and therefore well placed to gauge all it has to offer. This book will help you choose, and orchestrate (Egri vocab), and shape comedy characters, and help you to keep them true throughout a story (writing). In acting, so often scripts seem barren of detail, so it's hard to know who the hell the character is, but this book helps to impose a finite though liberating attribute list for each character type, and you'll therefore always be able to fashion appropriate character behaviour regardless of the situation or storyline confined within. It won't write your stories for you, nor get you up on stage or in front of camera, but this book will help you arrive at funny, viable characters (writing), and give you the knowledge and confidence that you are performing your character truthfully (Stan'i vocab). Many books are 'jack of all trades,' dissipating and spreading themselves thin, but this book capitalises upon the close relation and synergy between acting and writing. (It is no accident that formal theatre arts courses include writing classes.) That said it is more than worth the price if you are at present only into one of said disciplines...
Although targeting the American Sitcom market this book is very useful to any prospective sitcom writers in this country. It's easy to see famous UK sitcom stars in the examples he gives for each sitcom archetypal character. He explains with great passion, humour and understanding what is needed to create a potentially great sitcom character. Altogether one of the more useful books I've purchased in my quest to write some funny stuff. My recommendation is BUY IT NOW.
From an aspiring writers perspective i found this book to be very informative and also very entertaining. The one-liners used as examples from various TV shows had me rolling about the floor! great insight into what makes a character tick and how the different types of character all play off each other to generate some great comedy. If your planning a career in television this book not to be missed.
I have just finished reading this and it's amazing how it makes you look at sitcoms differently. You start to see how almost all sitcom characters are based on the archetypes Scott Sedita sets out. Once you start to slot the characters you know into these archetypes, it becomes easier to understand how the comedy works and what makes some combinations of characters inherently funny.
Sedita talks about American sitcoms, a lot of which I didn't know, e.g. The Honeymooners, All In The Family, Hogan's Heroes, The Mary Tyler Moore Show (and lots more), but I still found the book very useful as it's easy to look up clips on youtube of any programmes you're not familiar with. Also he gives bits of dialogue from the shows as examples in the book. He also talks a lot about the sitcoms I HAVE seen, e.g. Seinfeld, Friends, Roseanne, Will & Grace, Cheers, etc.
I think this book is as useful for writers as it is for actors, especially if you're still in the planning stages.
This is a great read, not only for those trying to write screenplays, but also for actors and actresses and for fans of joke telling and sitcoms alike. The way the author breaks down your favourite sitcoms, past and present into very understandable categories as well as examples of how to play these characters really impacts the way you view sitcoms, in a good way. As an example, the way the author explains that Joey Tribiani falls into the category of Wo/Man Eater is so easy to understand when he uses examples of his students attempting to play Joey in class. Most fail until explains that the character isn't trying to be sexy and alluring, he is simply just horny all the time. Now when he explains that each student now needs only tap in their experiences and act like they're horny they nail the character everytime.
This book is brilliant as a blue print to writing characters in comedy. Since using this my writing has come on leaps and bounds and it's so much easier to develop them as people and within story arcs. I love this book, every writer should read this, it's THE blueprint to character development. Highly recommend.