Comedy Writing Secrets…Revealed by Shmeo Shmenvenuti (not real name)

img_4995-2I am a professional writer. I’ve written on a dozen TV shows and sold as many movies. You may ask if the hundreds of writers that I’ve worked with are funnier than you? My answer would be “no.” What they have that you don’t, is “comedy writing secrets.”157_leo065

Almost every writer working in show business implements the following “trade secrets” on a daily basis. Why don’t you know about this? Well, for one, the Writer’s Guild of America’s bylaws forbids it. Number one rule of WGA: The WGA doesn’t exist. The number two rule: Never reveal comedy writing secrets to the public… UNTIL NOW, (which is why I don’t use my real name in this article). I will let you in on this exclusive, esoteric language, the professional verbiage that sets the profession apart.

Let’s begin.

The Switcheroo: take something and do the opposite.
To Tee something up: setting up a joke or situation.
To make Edgy: make something dirty.
The Send up: take something and make it funny.
To Irish it up: take something and put an alcohol twist to it.
The Upsie Daisy: a big build-up with immediate letdown with comedic twist.
The Titsy McHooterman: a laugh received by employing a funny character name.
The Penile twist: a comedic turn that ends in pain or discomfort.
The Voce Dominus: take something and make it louder.
The Gran Rippen Gauche: ripping off somebody’s big idea or concept.
The Petite Rippen Gauche: ripping off somebody’s line or joke.
The Reach around: take something, dismiss it, re-introduce it through some back door method, then employ a bodily function to pay it off.
To do a Miss Hobenhabermish: take something and do it like Jerry Lewis would.
The Punani Mon Amore: anything analogous to the complexity of the female reproductive organs.
The Labia Majora: The big broad joke or take.
The Labia Minora: a subtle joke or take.
To Put the stones to it: similar to a “send up” but with a sexual innuendo payoff.
The Shaking the bush, boss: a non edgy misdirect.
The Piss pot porridge: an edgy misdirect.
A “Robert Fulton”: an obscure reference.
To Pop a queen: adding insult to injury.
To Pop a queer: adding insolence to injury.
To Pop a quince: adding obnoxiousness to injury.
To Pop a pimple: An outburst.
To Poo in a piddle: telegraphing a joke.
The Clitoral Hood: a capper to a capper
The Dagoba System: any ethnic joke

Before I learned these terms, I used to say, “How can we make it funnier?” but that’s when I sounded like an amateur. There are literally 1000’s of tools employed by professionals to say just that. But the more you know, the more precise you can be in achieving your comedic goal and the more precise, the more professional.

The following is an actual, eye witnessed account taken from a television writer’s room. I’ve labeled the players by their credits as to protect their identity and their standing in the WGA.

A room of ten writers, all with script in hand look to the Show Runner who stands behind a podium. A spotlight isolates him.

Show Runner: I don’t like how this next scene plays out. It’s like we need some kind of Voce Dominus in there somewhere.
Writer One: Piss pot porridge?
Show Runner: I don’t know. I just don’t know.
Pause.
Writer Two: May I pitch a send up?
Show Runner: We don’t have time. Let’s concentrate on just this scene.
Writer Three: How about we take the existing scene and put the stones to it?
Writer Four: Yeah, yeah! But with a Robert Fulton.
Show Runner: You might be on to something. Labia Majora?
Writer Five: As long as we don’t poo in the piddle and don’t lose sight of the switcheroo.
Show Runner: Of course, of course.
Writer Six: Can we start with a reach around?
Writer Seven: Yeah, start with a reach around and end with a penile twist!
Show Runner: (laughing) Brilliant!

The rest of the writers join in on the laughter. There’s a knock at the door. They stop laughing. An ordinary man delivering lunch enters. The writers dart their eyes back and forth in a sinister way. One writer sneers at the man, who’s beginning to feel very unwelcome. One writer snickers. The man puts down the food and leaves. The writers burst into laughter.

Actual conversation from a real writer’s room. Can you imagine if these comedy writing secrets got out to the general public? Yes… this elite, secret sect, known as the WGA would have to hire from the outside, decimating its highly paid and exclusory group of fat cat writers. Why am I doing this? Well, I don’t want to pop a queen here but this punani mon amore patronage system has to stop.

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About Leo Benvenuti

Despite rapidly approaching middle age, Leo Benvenuti still stands at a muscular Five-Eleven. Leo is a Chicago native and former Stand-Up Comic. He was one half of the Chicago Comedy Team “Steve and Leo” and often times referred to as ‘the funny one.’ After leaving Chicago in the mid-nineties for Los Angeles, Leo wrote “The Santa Clause,” “Space Jam” and “Kicking and Screaming.” Please feel free to visit his website at www.playhouse331.tv/. Having recently moved back to his beloved hometown, Leo has branched out and is now a renowned artist and is exhibiting his artwork all across America. Leo’s artwork can also be seen at his website at www.leobenvenuti.com.

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