Thursday, February 18, 2010

When The Unusual Becomes The Cliche

One of the difficult aspects of being a screenwriter is writing something we haven't seen before. Something that is not "used" and definitely not used so much that it has become a cliche.

Recently (Feb 14th) Joe Rogan jumped up on stage in the middle of Carlos Mencia's act and accused him of stealing jokes. In the old days of stand up, before TV, a comic might steal another comic's jokes without anyone noticing because comics were on the road, all of the country, playing in little clubs with small audiences. If a comic in San Francisco told a joke to an audience of 50 people and another comic told the same joke in Boston to 50 people, there was no problem. Even if that SF comic ended up in Boston later on and told that same joke, enough time would have passed (and the people in the audience would have changed) that it would not matter.

But TV changed all of that. Mass media not only made stealing jokes obvious, it made being a stand up comic more difficult because you *always* needed fresh material. In those pre-TV days you could travel across the country with the same rountine and never have to change it, because you might play Boston once a year, and the audience in Boston would forget the jokes you tell... and it would be a differnt audience every year. After TV, you tell a joke on the Tonight Show and the whole nation has heard it. Next time you're on the tonight show you need all new jokes! Mass media eats jokes alive, so a comic always needs to be coming up with brand new jokes... things we haven't heard.

And that is the same with screenwriters. When a movie comes out, everyone in the world sees it... and that concept and story and characters and dialogue and everything else is "used". We need to come up with something different. Something that has not been used - and it's difficult. What's more, when only a couple of movies do the same thing, it becomes an instant cliche! Something that's not just used, but used to the point of being a joke. In film, a cliche might be born within a couple of months when the same thing is used in different films that the entire world has seen. We have to stay on top of that stuff and come up with unique stories and characters and scenes... or we will be in cliche territory and that scene we thought was serious may end up funny.

In the continuing saga of Hitler having problems with stuff and losing his temper, this time he has some issues with all of those other Hitler having problems with stuff YouTube videos and that ruins his day.

- Bill

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: The haunting theme to PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN - and theme.
Dinner: cheese & crackers at the laptop.
Bicycle: Rode a little, not much.
Pages: 5 pages and I'm still working. Dust bunny attacks are fun!


aggiebrett said...


Nathan Shumate said...

I'm almost embarrassed to say that that made my day.

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