The best comedies have two crucial elements. First, the story behind the comedy could actually be a drama. Second, the comedy focuses on a single target to consistently and relentlessly poke fun at.
“Blades of Glory” is about two men’s figure skating champions who hate each other, but have to cooperate as a men’s pair. The underlying story is about both men redeeming themselves for their past mistakes. the comedy focuses on poking fun at the figure skating world in general.
One of the heroes has been bred from birth to be a figure skating champion, which mocks the way kids are groomed to become perfect athletes at a young age. The villains are a pair of skating champions who prefer to cheat rather than compete fairly. Their ice skating routine mocks the performances of figure skating champions when they dress as John F. Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe and pretend to hump each other on the rink while commentators talk about their beauty and grace of their routine.
To compete, the heroes have to perfect a deadly ice skating maneuver called The Iron Lotus where if you do it wrong, you accidentally behead your skating partner. Through “Blades of Glory,” the comedy is always focused on making fun of the figure skating world.
A similar movie is “Zoolander,” which pokes fun at the fashion world where people dress and behave in outrageous costumes. The underlying story is about a male model learning to do something good rather than simply be an vapid but handsome shell. The movie constantly pokes fun at male models and the fashion industry such as when a group of male models playfully spray water on each other at a gas station and then escape towards spraying each other with gasoline instead while they laugh. That pokes fun at the general idea that male models are stupid.
To continue the idea that male models are less than intelligent, the hero throws a tantrum when shown a model of a building he wants to make to help children. The hero explains that he’s upset because the model is too small to let any children inside and that it needs to be at least three times bigger, which highlights the general stupidity of male models.
“Miss Congeniality” is another comedy where the underlying story could be serious. In this case, the hero is a tomboy who needs to learn how to become a woman. The comedy target is the beauty pageant world filled with vapid comments such as when the every contestant claims she only wants world peace. When the hero says she wants shorter parole time for repeat criminals, the entire crowd gasps. Then she adds, “And also world peace,” and then everyone smiles, relaxes, and applauds. This just points out the banality of beauty pageants in general.
If you’re writing a comedy, first start by defining a potential serious story. In “Blades of Glory” it’s about redemption. In “Zoolander,” it’s about doing something important for others. In “Miss Congeniality,” it’s about embracing who you are.
What happens if you fail to create an underlying story for a comedy? Then you wind up with a series of random gags and jokes that have no purpose. Just watch any satire with the term “Movie” in the title such as “Disaster Movie” to see how gags and jokes serve little purpose when they lack an underlying serious story.
Also make sure your comedy focuses on a single target and relentlessly pokes fun at that target. Even though such comedies may poke fun at a target, it’s not mean-spirited but simply satirical. The targets of the comedy often don’t even recognize the absurdity of the situation but we as the audience do. Even the targets of a comedy aren’t necessarily malicious people but simply good-natured people blindly following stereotypes in an exaggerated manner. The targets of comedy are often good and likable people who we can laugh at but ultimately also respect.
So remember that comedies have a potentially serious story underneath with a targeted focus on a specific world whether it’s figure skating (“Blades of Glory”), beauty pageants (“Miss Congeniality”), or the fashion industry (“Zoolander”).