Netflix + Stage 32 Present: How to Write Comedy Scripts for Streaming Television

Hosted by Vijal Patel


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Vijal Patel

Webinar hosted by: Vijal Patel

Emmy-nominated and Peabody Award-Winning Writer, BLACK-ISH

Vijal Patel is an Emmy-nominated and Peabody Award-winning writer and executive producer who has written for many award-winning comedy series including ABC’s BLACK-ISH and THE MIDDLE. Vijal currently serves as writer and co-executive producer of the ABC comedy series SCHOOLED, starring Tim Meadows and AJ Michalka. He also writes and develops feature film projects for the powerhouse studio DreamWorks. Vijal has built his career on writing comedy and using it to explore race, family, religion, politics, and class struggle. Full Bio »

Webinar Summary




Netflix and Stage 32 have partnered on an exclusive global education series in an effort to democratize the worldwide entertainment industry. Together, over the course of 5 webcasts Stage 32's world class educators will bring their knowledge of what it takes to write, develop and produce today's television for the Stage 32 and Netflix creator community. These global webcasts have been seen by hundreds of thousands of creatives worldwide with a 100% satisfaction rate!

In our third webinar in this exclusive "Creating Television Content for a Global Marketplace" series, we are going to talk about how you can effectively write comedy screenplays for streaming television.

We're in an exciting time as we watch more and more comedies cross borders.The ability to bring humor to your storytelling is key to help you bond with a global audience. And, with streamers like Netflix looking for new, exciting, original funny stories from all over the world to produce, you have to put yourself in the best position to make sure your comedy stands out.

Shows like The Office have brought us together realizing that we all go through the same mundane work issues. Shows like Everybody Loves Raymond have helped us see that we all experience the same family dynamics and can laugh at them. Do you find humor in everyday things? Or, do you have a creative mind that invents humorous situations? If so, then comedy television writing is for you and Stage 32 and Netflix are going to teach you the ins and outs of writing great comedy screenplays.

To help you learn how to write great comedy television is Vijal Patel, an Emmy-nominated and Peabody Award-winning writer and producer who has written for many award-winning comedy series including Black-Ish, The Middle, The Kids Are Alright, The Mayor and more. Vijal has built his career on writing comedy and using it to explore race, family, religion, politics, and class struggle. He is currently working on a show for Netflix.

Vijal will go into more detail on nuances of comedy, how your pilot will set you up for your season and how to make sure that you are breaking your story correctly to fall in your story lines. 

The case studies he's going to go over in the webinar are:

  • Black-ish
  • The Middle
  • Seinfeld
  • Schitt’s Creek
  • Gilligan’s Island
  • Silicon Valley
  • Everybody Loves Raymond
  • The Office
  • Insecure

Vijal will provide you 5 handouts:

  • Chart of basic TV Comedy Genres with their respective traits
  • Handy Dialog Tips
  • Creating Characters Checklist
  • 3 Act Pilot Structure and what each act does
  • 3 Act Breakdown of "Black-ish" Pilot (simple)


Note: You will receive the Zoom link to login by the morning of the webinar.


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What You'll Learn



Let’s first discuss the big picture of TV comedies. This may seem basic, but it helps frame the important of your pilot in creating a whole series.

  • Play to universal themes
  • Can cross borders
    • sometimes on their own
    • sometimes with a little adjustments for regions.
    • The Office UK and US
      • The first 6 episodes were adapted with very little change
    • INDIA – The Middle was adapted into “Tedi Medi Family”
      • universal theme of working class family
    • RUSSIA – Everybody Loves Raymond adapted as “The Voronins”
      • universal themes of marriage and caught between wife vs. parents
      • Documentary about the process



  • The “Workplace Comedy”
    • Examples
  • “Family (or Friends/Hangout) Comedy”
    • Examples
  • SUB GENRE – “Dating Comedy”
    • Examples



    • Examples
    • Main Characteristics
    • Examples
    • Main Characteristics
  • Tonal writing difference between MULTI vs. SINGLE
    • Examples of comedy rhythms
    • Workplace could be either multi or single
    • Family could be multi or single
    • Examples



  • Introduce world and/or premise
  • Establish clear characters & character dynamics
  • Create a blueprint (almost formula) for subsequent episodes



  • Premise Pilot
    • New condition to lives of characters
    • Examples
  • “Slice of Life” Pilot
    • A group of people with compelling dynamics
    • Relatable
    • Examples
  • Premise Pilots are a little tricker



  • Establish a strong sense of PLACE
    • Physical location can almost be a character
    • Helps make the world feel real and a sense of authenticity
    • Examples


6) MOST OF ALL you want to establish GREAT CHARACTERS

  • Characters are bread and butter of comedy
    • Audience should want to spend many seasons with your characters.
    • Establish clear traits and personalities
    • Want to know what’s funny about them
    • Examples
    • Can you describe what’s funny about your character in one word
    • Examples
    • Bad/flawed attributes are funny
    • Ask how you characters would react in any mundane situation
    • Can audience predict it too? “I totally know what they’d do”
      • That’s a clearly drawn character
    • Example (Seinfeld characters and iPhones)
  • Comedic Dynamics
    • What’s funny about how your characters interact?
    • Create a WEB of funny
    • Conflict and dynamics generates stories
    • Examples
    • Pair opposites for conflict and comedy
      • Examples



In this part we’ll delve a little more into the nitty-gritty of CRAFTING A COMEDY PILOT…



The basic comedy pilot follows a 3 Act structure.

  • ACT ONE -- Intro the characters, their situation and start main
  • ACT TWO – Watch the characters try to deal with the problem, typically making it WORSE.
  • ACT THREE – Resolution. Either the characters work together to fix the problem or come to an understanding of why it happened.


2) A, B, C Story

  • Purpose of multiple storylines
  • Percentage of real estate (page count) of stories
  • Example from The Middle pilot



  • PUNCHLINE JOKES: Set up and pay off. Almost a “bad dum bump” feeling.
    • Examples
  • ATTITUDE JOKES: Based on a characters attitude towards something or someone
    • Examples
    • How to test if joke is specific to character – swap with another character
  • COMEDIC VOICES (“one word description” test reprise)
  • LAUGH POINT – end on the funniest part of line or scene
  • HAT ON A HAT – Don’t gild the lily, makes it less funny
  • SIMILES AND METAPHORS - make generic jokes more specific
  • REACTIONS can be funnier punchline than dialog
    • Rule of 3
    • “K” sound is funnier



  • Pilot sets up what series will be – the “promise” of what’s to come
  • Black-ish example
  • “A movies is a steak, TV is Big Macs” (in a good way)
  • How to Approach and Plan Your Season Based Off of Your Pilot
      • Examples
      • Not serialized
      • No “memory”
      • Want to hit same themes with different stories
      • Character dynamics are important to generate stories
      • Examples
      • Episodes build off each other in terms of central story
  • SEASON ARC – what is going to happen this season
    • EXTERNAL ARC: events and goals
      • Real Examples
  • INTERNAL ARC: Emotional character arcs
    • Real Examples



    • How to do it organically to what exists
    • Intro characters that “bring stories”
    • Examples
    • Change the situation
    • Add new jeopardy
    • Create new conflicts



  • Don’t change your characters drastically
  • Don’t “grow” or “learn” – seems counterintuitive, but Homer Simpson has loved donuts for 30 years
  • Don’t have them learn from their mistakes
    • Making same mistake over and over is funny
  • Tell similar stories – this maintains theme
  • Catch phrases are more common than you think
    • Doh, How You Doin’, sex puns, That’s what she said, Oh fuck off




As a fun exercise, we’re going to put these principals to work by “creating a show” right here and now! I will give a little logline to set it up and YOU ALL can help decide the style… character traits… possible arcs…

  • Fake Example of “SPACE TWINS” (totally made up show for instruction)
  • Give logline and two characters
  • Ask audience to participate in filling in the rest based on what we’ve learned about crafting a comedy



  • Ask yourself if you didn’t think of the idea but were hired to write in it as staff writer, could you think of new episodes. That’s a well-defined series.
  • Write without fear (cuz you’ll rewrite it anyway)
  • Final wrap up



Want to see the other webcasts in this exclusive Stage 32 + Netflix Creating Television Content for a Global Marketplace series?

Click here: TV Pitch Documents with Chris Mack

Click here: TV Pitch Documents with Chris Mack - Closed Caption

Click here: TV Story Structure with Anna Henry

Click here: Writing Scripts to Budget with Jeanette B. Milio

Click here: Writing Hit Sci-Fi Scripts for Streaming Television with Mickey Fisher

Click here: Writing Hit Comedy Scripts for Streaming Television with Vijal Pital

Click here: Writing Hit Drama for Streaming Television with Leila Cohan




About Your Instructor

Vijal Patel is an Emmy-nominated and Peabody Award-winning writer and executive producer who has written for many award-winning comedy series including ABC’s BLACK-ISH and THE MIDDLE. Vijal currently serves as writer and co-executive producer of the ABC comedy series SCHOOLED, starring Tim Meadows and AJ Michalka. He also writes and develops feature film projects for the powerhouse studio DreamWorks. Vijal has built his career on writing comedy and using it to explore race, family, religion, politics, and class struggle.


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Reviews Average Rating: 5 out of 5

  • Truly a master class!
  • This was amazing! Although I wasn't live, I was making up my own show alongside. It definitely allowed me to use everything that was mentioned as well as see it in action. This was amazing!
  • Wonderful job, breaking things down, providing examples and resources. It may be a marathon as Amanda noted, but it is well worth it.
  • A m a z i n g !
  • excellent material, succinct and great examples provided. instructor was clear, funny and to the point!

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