Screenwriting : My TED Talk About Comedy by Tim Ferguson

Tim Ferguson

My TED Talk About Comedy

Paul Hill

As Steve Allen liked to say, "all seriousness aside..."

Paul Hill

Tim, I'm glad you appreciated the late Steve Allen's play on words. He was my inspiration when I watched his Late Show in high school. To this day, I don't get humorless people. Here's a quote from the dust jacket of one of Steve's books I read way back when: The Funny Men Simon & Schuster -- 1956 "It has somewhere been pointed out that the number of people in the United States who have a sense of humor is roughly the same as the number who play the piano."

Tim Ferguson

Funny, Paul! Have you seen the Seinfeld episode where Jerry dates the girl who never laughs? He does some gags, she says 'That's funny,' but doesn't laugh. Not laughing is a symptom of sociopathy. Writers who never joke drive me nuts. What do they think life is about? Stern lectures?

Behzad Farahat

nice to find you here dear Tim

Paul Hill

Tim, I remember that Seinfeld episode. I laughed! Two more observations from network tv; both late night talk shows here in the US: the David Letterman Show...curiously, the live audience is told to applaud at Dave's lousy jokes during his opening monologue as opposed to spontaneous laughter, which would imply they were actually funny. Next, the Jay Leno Show. His standup opening is played to a live audience of 20-somethings with their caps on backwards. But his jokes are written for what only someone middle aged or older would get. Often he would look at the audience like "why don't they get it?" So we have two things going on here--the effect of a live audience on funny business, and demographic effect on any joke. Humor is generational; what's funny to 20 somethings just ain't to 50's.

Tim Ferguson


Linda Summer

Hi Tim - thanks for sharing so openly and honestly! Very refreshing and motivating.

Donna M. Carbone

Tim... I was so happy to come across your video. I have written a script entitled "Rejection" for the entertainment portion of the upcoming TEDxJupiter conference being held in Florida on November 15th. The actor performing the piece is a powerhouse and I'm hoping for favorable reviews. The piece deals with how fear has replaced sex and violence as a marketing tool. Until I saw your presentation, I was unfamiliar with TED as a venue, but your obvious comfort on stage instilled me with confidence, so... here goes!

Michael Shandrick

Tim, I discovered comedy one night at cold reading of a script that my drama was drawing unintended belly laughs. Not once, but several times this occurred with other scripts until I understood that my attempt at drama was often rife with sentimentality dripping off every word and was also delivering genuine laughter. Your point is well taken.

Kathi Carey

Tim, nice, insightful comments. As a screenwriter and director who is self-taught I have always tried to inject humor into my 'dramas' and drama into my comedies believing that it is necessary for the rhythm and flow and to give the audience a 'break' or a cleansing of the emotional palette. Otherwise, what happens (and what I see happen with bad movies) is inappropriate laughter at the WRONG places. I suppose I just picked up how to do this from watching really good classic movies as part of my education.

Graham Giddy

I long for a belly laugh. When I penned The Golden Malaita Eagle, I wanted comedy, drama and a fast moving story line.The trouble is, people can be embarrassed when they read something written to laugh at. But in my heart, I know it will be a winner when it flickers on the silver screen anyway, enjoyed listening to you.

Andree Boe

Thank you so much Tim! What a wonderful, inspiring, motivating and important talk! I love it! You're right! All this what you've called 'misery porn' whichs seems to have a very high value in western culture to me is simply wallowing in pain without humor and therefore not constructive. So we have to do the job to bring the side of 'laughter' adequately back into the work. Especially for serious reasons / issues. - All the very best wishes!

David Arandle

"Tragedy is a fart joke that doesn't get a laugh." I may be quoting someone but that's what popped into my head at the conclusion of your talk. I might of thought of something more high brow if you hadn't of mentioned 'fart jokes' at the end. I'm just amazed that people actually go to universities to learn how to write screenplays that have to be talked down from the ledge of a tall building.

Linda Kennedy

Hi Ted I literally just left a my sisters at she just happened to be watching this on computer Great Job I love Ted Talks

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