I’m writing a pitch for web series and it’s comedy and I’m frightened as hell. I think the idea is great. It came to me early this year and I let it settle for a bit before I started to write it down. I kept it to myself for a bit. Never thought I’d ever get the chance to really do it; the usual fear of rejection or the fear of success. I don’t know. It was just so daunting to have to put something out of my own. All the usual fears that have plagued me my whole life.
All that has changed now. The fear has been replaced by need and impetus. Ever since I got back from Manila, I’ve been writing pitches and putting projects together and trying to get things done.
I told my friend, Carlo, about this idea and he loved it so much that he told me that I should pitch it. It is an idea that would really work and he thought it would sell and he even offered to direct me while I acted as show runner and writer. The idea then took a life of its own.
I went back to my idea and fleshed it out completely. I plotted out the whole season and fleshed out the characters completely and worked out the themes and the conflict. Even I got excited over the series to the point that I am so sure that it would work.
And now, Carlo said, for the pitch to really work I would need to write a draft first episode script. That’s when the fear struck me again. I now have to write the pilot episode and writing comedy scares the living shit out of me.
I think I’m a funny. I usually say things that make people laugh. But being funny when you’re with people in real life is so different from sitting down, alone, in front of your computer and writing something funny. Sometimes the whole thing can just fail. It’s funny in your head but it might not be funny on paper. Worse? It might be funny on paper but when it is actually performed, it doesn’t come out funny at all.
It’s a harrowing experience.
I’ve actually written a comedy before. About three years ago, I was consigned to write a funny movie. I was working with my dad and we worked it out in our heads and we sat down and we worked it out and I’d like to say that I’m proud that 60%, probably, of that film was written by me. The story and the structure of the plot was all me and I had written some really good punchlines.
The movie never got produced. The producers who commissioned the work paid for the script but decided to go a different way with it and they still kept it but decided to use only parts of it and re-wrote other things around it. They changed so many things that I decided not to have my name on the script because I wasn’t sure how the story was going to turn out and what the humour would be like after the rewrite. I was scared for my reputation and my name. I got paid and that was okay. More importantly, I was able to write a comedy. That was the most important part of the whole process. I told myself, “Writing comedy doesn’t scare me anymore.”
Just to give a sense of closure, their film came out and it flopped and no one saw it, I think.
So here I am now about to write a pilot for a web series that I put together all on my own and I’m freaking out and I don’t know why since I’ve done it already before. The idea is solid. It’s funny. It can work. I’m just freaking out.
Yesterday, I sat down and listened to my CDs of Sandra Bernhard’s live shows. I was listening to how she set up her jokes and how she shifted the perspectives to make sad things funny. My dad and I were in the room and we were laughing but I was also studying. I was trying to figure out what made her point-of-view funny. When we were done with Sandra Bernhard, I went and took out my dad’s DVD of Robin Williams’ Broadway show produced by HBO. His comedy is so different and the show was recorded in 2002 so some of the humour was dated but the rest were still so funny. I really studied the attack and the approach. It wasn’t as subtle as Sandra Bernhard. It was a totally different method.
We then had dinner and then we went back to my dad’s room with my mom and my brother and listened to the Broadway revival CD of Little Me by Neil Simon, Cy Coleman, and Carolyn Leigh. It was hilarious and it had Neil Simon’s trademark barbs.
It was a night of laughter and I was learning a lot. I wasn’t looking for jokes. I was looking for what made me laugh, what I found funny, and tried to figure out why I found it funny. It was the hardest thing to do: understanding the nature of what makes people laugh.
I don’t know if I found the answer but I’m now in a place where I want to make people laugh. I’m inspired now to write the script. I’ve worked myself up to a frenzy and I feel ready to tackle this script.
When it’s done, I’m sending it to Carlo and my friend, Apa, who I asked to come in as my co-writer, and we will be pretty much done and ready to do our pitches to producers.
I am completely unafraid to write a drama or a horror or even science fiction. Those things don’t frighten me at all. Someone asks me to write any one of those, or if I can up with an idea on my own, and I’ll say, “bring it on.”
A comedy? A totally different beast altogether. But now, I’m ready.