"Oh for God's sake, get on with it!", the half-elf's scream boomed through the fort. The uneasines was palpable, you could probably even slice out a big chunk and eat it. [Name] glanced back at the commander

While her slender form stood out from the rest of her legionaries when he looked at her, the stern face, furrowed eyebrows and those hazel eyes emenated a demonic presence, no mortal could hope to explain. It tied noose around everyone (except for that crazed half-elf) which tightened with each second.

"Uhm, maybe we sho-", he couldn't bring himself to mutter a word more. Every bit of his body protested. But this was absurd, this would be the sixth time he would try to behead that guy, it's not like he missed, the axe hardly could do more than a papercut.

And that guy, One, as he called himself, behaved more like the executioner, and [Name] like the one about to be beheaded.

So, yes, I based this on the intro sequence of Skyrim and it's also my first attempt at writing something funny in that's more Rejtő Jenő and less memes. Basically, I'm trying to use more classical tools.

The thing is I'm very accustomed to humor that relies on the advantages, video has over written text. In other words, I don't know what to keep in mind when writing written comedy.

So, what's the most important difference between written and audiovisual comedy that I have to keep in mind when writing?

Due to the nature of the main character (One), there are a handful of larger parts of constant comedy (levity, to be precise) that later transition into a more serious tone.

  • When it comes to comedy writing, then one author I can recommend to study is Douglas Adams. The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy series uses a lot of jokes which simply would not work in a visual medium. That's why it was never successfully turned into a movie.
    – Philipp
    Jan 24, 2020 at 16:09
  • Could you clearly set how many characters are in this scene and maybe some background. It's hard to tell how many people are in the scene, which makes it difficult for me to get the joke.
    – hszmv
    Jan 24, 2020 at 16:16

2 Answers 2


I used to be a visual thinker like you. Then I took an adjective to the knee.

The big difference - which applies to other genres as well as comedy - is that you're using the reader's imagination instead of a screen. With a screen, there's little room for ambiguity. With the reader's imagination, what they've seen may not be exactly what the writer has seen. There are opportunities for surprise and comedy in this.

Some writers slap the reader in the face with perspective. I always scowl at the scrolling titles in "Star Wars" - the Empire are inherently "evil" and "sinister", while the rebels want to "restore freedom" by [winning] "victory". There's no room for nuance, which translates better into a visual medium than written text.

It also works well for a reading audience that want to be led, so for some genres a direct description will be the way to go. Others may want to exercise their imaginations more, in which case metaphor and simile will be stronger than a direct description (which is a variation on the classic "show, don't tell" - and you've shown us some examples of doing that in the excerpt). If you can figure out how to accommodate both groups of readers you'll have found the Holy Grail of writing, and an ability to switch between the two approaches is possibly the Holy Grail of comedy.

And watch out for those adjectives. They're sharp and pointy.

  • So, what can I improve on my excerpt? Dec 25, 2019 at 20:14
  • @Mephistopheles - depends where you're going with the commander. You're setting her up as Evil, so the jokes would be extremes : pantomime evil, or revealing she was kind to kittens. If [Name] is consistently the narrator (a Watson to (One)'s Holmes), I'm interested to see what happens the next time they all meet. But that's partly because it's written : if it was audio-visual I'd be more inclined to take the characters at face value. Dec 27, 2019 at 10:10

There is no short answer to your question(s). You first have establish the very definition of comedy and what makes it so?

The first thing to establish in written comedy is that YOU the AUTHOR as a 3rd person narrator should not attempt to be funny. You may create funny situations, amusing characters with hilarious dialogue but you the author should stay out of it.

Comedy is very three dimensional often relying on the information held by a) the reader, b) the characters. i.e. An variation of the basic pantomime plot "Behind you!" - The audience is aware of a situation one or more characters are not. "Tootsie" is an example of this.

Ambiguity and innuendo are also popular elements of comedy as are misunderstandings.

In my opinion, your example fails because you're trying to work descriptions into a scene / sketch. This serves to mess up the timing of the humour. Everything needs to be set-up beforehand.

As for the visual component - it's tough without referencing an existing piece of "video".

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.