Writing Gags

Careful What you Wish for

This is a lesson in gag writing: That is, putting together one to three drawings which when read in sequence, or if one panel, in its entirety, have the components set up, main text and punchline, creating a fully realized comic strip.

OMG, does that sound dry. Let me put this another way. This is a simple recipe for guaranteed funny. Here is my lesson plan, which being the lazy human being that I am, I whipped up in a half an hour just prior to class.

Careful what you wish for gags, three ways

Since the lesson plan is almost impossible to decipher, let me break it down. These are six models for the kids to take and develop on their own. They are as follows:

  1. Set up: “If I had a car I could actually get somewhere.” Middle action: character gets hit by a car. Punchline: character gets taken somewhere by ambulance.
  2. Set up: “I wish I had some excitement in my life.” Middle action and Punchline: an elephant sits on the character.
  3. Set up: “I wish I were all grown up.” Middle Action and Punchline: character is a very old man wishing he were young. (To this, one of my students cried out: “And then he turns into a helpless baby! Touche, young Annabelle)
  4. Set up: A character wishes for money. Middle action: an alien declares the character is winner of the little green man lottery. Punchline: Alien shouts out: “A million panchogos, baby!” alternate Middle action and punchline: A safe drops off an armored car and crushes the character.
  5. Set up: A character wishes his dead friend Fred were there. Middle action and punchline: turns out Fred is a zombie.
  6. Set up: “I wish I had a pet!” Middle Action and punchline: A dog comes up and pees on the character.

I think you get the point…If you start with a wish, you end up with some silly way of the wish being granted. You wish you were famous…so you become famous…for barfing on the president or losing your pants during a televised interview or being stuck in a toilet…so many ways of being famous for things for which you would rather NOT be remembered!

Anyhow, here are some examples from the kids themselves,

Bernice’s cartoon about a wish for water.

Owen’s cartoon about wishing to play in a band but then suffering from stage fright

I did come across a website about movie scripting “careful what you wish for” that goes into more depth and sub-genres.

There are lots of tricks and prompts that aid in writing. This is one that works quite well for cartoonists.