Breaking the Sitcom Story

Yes, sitcoms have stories. At least, they’re supposed to.

This is the second part of Ken Levine’s class in Comedy 101. You probably should read the first part before venturing further.

How we break a story – by Ken Levine

Comedy 101 continues.  Here’s an inside look at the thought process that goes on behind-the-scenes when plotting a half hour sitcom. But first – did you do your homework? You can watch the episode I’m discussing here. Do that first. Then come back and look behind the curtain.

Quick disclaimer: The way we plotted shows back then might be a little different than today. The importance we placed on certain aspects like character motivation are less of a priority on most of today’s sitcoms. Not all but a lot. But the more you’re exposed to dramatic structure the better storytellers you’re going to become. And even if you have no desire to write, you’ll still gain a greater appreciation about what goes into telling a good story.

Here’s how this episode came about. At the start of the season we put together a list of possible story areas. We compiled as many as we could and during the season we just kept adding to the list. Probably 70% of the ideas never get used. But we had some for each character, many for the Kim-Mike relationship (that was our money), some for the office, some for home.

Read it all

Ready to write that sitcom spec now? Yeah, us neither. But Mr. Levine makes it sound so damn easy…