Peter Desberg and Jeffrey Davis - the writers of "Show Me the Funny!" - have interviewed no less than 22 writers of sitcoms and comedies for the book. They have presented each writer with a treatment to use as a base for the discussion. That was a absolutely brilliant move. By giving every interview the same material to talk about, each writer’s way of thinking and approaching the task became clearer than any other interviews I’ve read.
In short, the story was about newly widowed Molly which moves into her daughter Sarah’s home.
This could be the base for any story, not necessarily something funny. This fact was something I missed in the book. The difference between making the situation funny, and turning into something dark and depressing, was never really discussed. One writer I felt searched into “the dark side” of the story making the mother deliberately ruin life for the daughter, but it was never expressed that she would make a Bergman out of it.
It felt overlooked what makes a situation something we laugh at versus something that makes us cry. I’ve read in another book that the reason Fawlty Towers works although Basil calls her wife names all the time, is because Cybil – the wife – just lets it slide off and not let it affect her. If we had seen her cry, it would no longer have been a comedy. I would have liked a much greater exploration about this in “Show me the funny”.
I think I would have grasped it better, if I had had any experience about the sitcoms, that were mentioned and referred to. I’ve not watched a sitcom in the past ten or fifteen years at least.
I tremendously enjoyed the interviews and all the different aspects of creative writing and ways to look upon a rough idea. It was fascinating to see how different the stories developed in the writers’ hands. Comedy or not didn’t really matter. This was the great gain of reading the book and something I’ll probably go back to and read again.