Course Title: Write television comedy

Part B: Course Detail

Teaching Period: Term1 2014

Course Code: COMM7323

Course Title: Write television comedy

School: 345T Media and Communication

Campus: City Campus

Program: C6125 - Advanced Diploma of Professional Screenwriting

Course Contact : Professional Screenwriting Administration

Course Contact Phone: +61 3 9925 4815

Course Contact

Name and Contact Details of All Other Relevant Staff

Teacher: Tania Lacy (Semester 1)

Teacher: Vin Hedger (Semester 2)

Nominal Hours: 140

Regardless of the mode of delivery, represent a guide to the relative teaching time and student effort required to successfully achieve a particular competency/module. This may include not only scheduled classes or workplace visits but also the amount of effort required to undertake, evaluate and complete all assessment requirements, including any non-classroom activities.

Pre-requisites and Co-requisites

Required Prior Study

Enrolment in this elective course at RMIT requires you to have completed all first year courses.

Course Description

This course aims to develop the skills and knowledge needed to create narrative and sketch comedy for television.

National Codes, Titles, Elements and Performance Criteria

National Element Code & Title:

ASWCOM610A Write television comedy


1. Develop a concept for a narrative based comedy series

Performance Criteria:

1.1 A sustainable comic premise is established
 1.2 Dynamic, active characters with potential for ongoing conflict are devised
 1.3 Market(s) for series is identified
 1.4 Genre and format are clarified
 1.5 Major story arcs appropriate to the genre and format are developed
 1.6 Principles of narrative humour and comic structure are applied


2. Write a bible for a comedy series

Performance Criteria:

2.1 A synopsis for the bible is developed that introduces concept, premise, genre, format and major storylines in an engaging style
 2.2 More detailed characters and character arcs are developed
 2.3 Treatments that effectively summarise the story are written for several episodes


3. Write a pilot for a narrative based comedy series

Performance Criteria:

3.1 A dynamic story for the pilot episode is structured, with reference to the approved series synopsis
 3.2 Characters are introduced and character arcs are woven into the action
3.3 Conflict between characters is explored in a comedic and dramatically satisfying way
 3.4 Scenes are developed in order to advance the story and reflect themes
 3.5 Dialogue is written that reflects and demonstrates character
 3.6 Comedic techniques are applied to resolve storylines


4. Develop a sketch comedy concept

Performance Criteria:

4.1 Market(s) and major decision makers for a sketch comedy concept are identified
 4.2 A strong comic premise is created
 4.3 Characters with strong comic potential are developed
 4.4 The series concept is pitched clearly in an appropriate format


5. Write an episode of a sketch comedy

Performance Criteria:

5.1 The requirements of the comedy show are established
 5.2 A sketch opening is written that establishes character and location
 5.3 Script for the sketch, that shows the development of the established comic premise, is written
 5.4 Work is undertaken to agreed brief and deadlines, and punctually incorporates any agreed change

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this course, you will be able to write narrative and sketch comedy for television..

Details of Learning Activities

In this course, you learn through:

1. In-class activities:

  • lectures
  • industry speakers
  • teacher directed group activities/projects
  • peer teaching and class presentations
  • group discussion
  • class exercises to review discussions/lectures
  • workshopping of students’ own projects
  • analysis/critique of writings

2. Out-of-class activities:

  • independent project based work
  • online and other research

Teaching Schedule

 Please note that class content per week may be subject to minor change.

 Semester 1
Class contentAssessment dueElements
Week 1

Diving into the deep end - Introduction to course, explanation of course, goals, content and assessment. Now let’s write a bad sitcom. 1, 2, 3
Week 2 

Tish-Boom - Character versus gags. Exploration of the traits, flaws and comedy perspective of well known comic characters. Isolating and putting into practice the elements required.    1
Week 3

Two guys walk into a bar - How to create an original comic character. Using these tools to your advantage. 1
Week 4
Archetype versus Stereotype - Deconstruction of narrative comedy models. Choosing the correct model for your narrative comedy.Semester 1
Formative Assessment #1
Week 5
Bring in the mediator - The importance of conflict in narrative comedy. How conflict is used to create comedy.  1,2
Week 6
Straw, sticks and bricks - How to ensure the foundations of your narrative comedy will hold the house for the entire series. 
Week 7 

Fade in. fade out. - The stages to script. Story-line + Beat Sheet +  Scene Breakdown = Script. Putting these elements into practice to save you pain.
The poison chalice - Understanding the first episode of a narrative comedy. How to ensure your opening scene will have everyone drinking from the cup and wanting more.

Week 8 

INT. CLASSROOM - NIGHT - The read of opening scenes of each student’s script. Review, discuss, re-write.Semester 1
Formative Assessment #2
Week 9 

DEADLINE - Completing and reviewing the assets required in readiness for each student’s pitch. These are: 1 page synopsis of series overview, half page character breakdowns, 1 story idea, polished version of Scene 1, 1 page synopsis of episode 1.   1,2,3
Week 10 

The Pitch - Each student pitches their idea to a panel of 3 professionals. Six scripts are chosen for further development. Students divided into groups of 5 and allocated their positions.

Mid Semester Break: There are no classes on Wednesday 23 April
Semester 1 Formative Assessment #31,2,3
Week 11 

AND NOW THE REAL WORK - Each group works on the chosen narrative comedies. A beat sheet is created for first episode. Creator commences work on scene breakdown. Creator briefs script editor who works with the 2 other group members to generate stories for 2 more episodes, which will be delivered as scene breakdowns by end of week 14.   1,2,3
Week 12 

THE PRESSURE EXCITEMENT BUILDS - Students continue project work.
Week 13 


TAA-DAA! - Creator produces first draft of Episode 1. Ep 1 draft 1 is read aloud among each group. Script editor gives notes and re-writes. Other episode breakdowns are read, script editor ensuring writers are abreast with changes. The work continues.

Week 14 

BLEARY EYED STUDENTS - Final week of project work as students ready themselves for delivery. Semester 1
Summative Assessment
Week 15 

IT’S GONNA BE A LAUGH A MINUTE - Each group delivers 1st episode of their narrative comedy, scene breakdowns of 2 further episodes. Episode 1 script reads begin. Notes and feedback from class and lecturer. 3
Week 16 

THE GAFFAWS CONTINUE - Script reads continue and are completed. Notes and feedback from students and lecturer. 3

Semester break : June 10 to July 4

Semester 2 Class content Assessment due Elements
Week 1
 Introduction to Non-narrative comedy writing. Outlining the objectives of the semester, including the objective of creating a ‘writers’ room’ atmosphere in class to introduce students to real working conditions in Australian Television. Assessing the levels of ability of all class members through discussion.  4
Week 2

The basics. Using a didactic study of the history of non-narrative TV comedy you are intrduced to the world of comedy that existed from the beginning until the present day. The ‘writers’ room’ will then take a simple story from the media and turn it into a one line joke.   4
Week 3
Slight expansion. Historical analysis progressing through the years. Then an introduction to the ‘Blackout’. ‘Writers’ Room’ will proceed to tackle creating a blackout from scratch.   4
Week 4
Characters part 1. Historical analysis progressing through the years. ‘Writers room’ will be asked to create characters for non-narrative comedy. This is the life blood of all comedy shows and the one with the most room for prospective compensation.   4, 5
Week 5

Technical Analysis. Historical analysis of non-narrative TV comedy continued. Technical aspects of working in the Australian TV industry. How to format, look for work, manage yourself, how to not get fired, how to get fired and maintain dignity.   4,5
Week 6

The TV show. Historical analysis of non-narrative TV comedy continued. The ‘Writers’ room’: breakdown of the successful and not-so-successful elements of non-narrative TV comedy. Beginning final project for the semester.   4,5
Week 7
The non-sketch based elements of TV comedy. Historical analysis of non-narrative TV comedy continued. The ‘Writers Room’: re-creation of the first day of work on a show that needs to be on air in a week.Semester 2 Formative Assessment #1  4, 5
Week 8

The tricks of creating sketch. Historical analysis of non-narrative TV comedy continued. Techniques for creating fresh sketches on a daily basis. Using knowledge of other non-television equipment and applications to create television.   4, 5
Week 9

The structure. Historical analysis of non-narrative TV comedy continued. The ‘Writers’ Room’: examing overall structures, and potential re-structuring, of a non-narrative comedy program.   4, 5
Week 10The Industry. Historical analysis of non-narrative TV comedy continued. Examining the television and allied industries, and hierarchical structures. Who’s who, what’s currently being bought, what’s on the nose … and, most importantly, what the future will be.   4, 5
Week 11The Big Idea. Historical analysis of non-narrative TV comedy concluded. The class then begins life as small production company and its development department. Brainstorm ideas for a TV program that will be an on-air success now.   4, 5
 Mid Semester Break September 22 - October 3  
Week 12The development begins. The class decides on which idea or ideas to pursue and create a proposal for. This proposal is meant as a genuine document to be presented to production companies and networks for serious consideration and purchase. Development groups separate from each other and structure themselves as head writers, script editors, producers and writers in order to complete the task. Semester 2 Formative
Assessment #2
Week 13

Development group to continue to turn ideas into a proposal as a real production company would. This includes deciding on which demographic to target, which production company to target and which network to present to.   4,5
Week 14
 Development continues on proposals with a first draft of the document expected during this week.   4,5
Week 15
 The development is refined and presented. The groups are then expected to put finishing touches on proposal.   4,5
Week 16
The development groups present their final product and decide how to progress to actual presentation.Semester 2 Summative Assessment  4,5

Learning Resources

Prescribed Texts

Extracts, readings and additional references are provided throughout the course. In addition to hard copy handouts, some readings are made available on the class website, Blackboard, and others can be accessed via the web. Recommended books will be discussed in class.


You are advised to look at the course Blackboard site for ongoing updated information.

Other Resources

You require access to a computer and to the internet for this course

Overview of Assessment

Assessment for this course is ongoing throughout the semester. Your knowledge and understanding of course content is assessed through participation in class exercises and through the application of learned skills and insights to your writing tasks.

Assessment Tasks

Assessment tasks in this course are either formative or summative. Formative tasks provide the basis for ongoing feedback and can be considered as essential building blocks for the more substantial summative assessment tasks. Summative assessment tasks in this unit are graded. To demonstrate competency, you will need to complete the following pieces of assessment to a satisfactory standard. You will receive feedback on all assessment.



There are three formative assessments throughout the semester. They are designed as progressive building blocks towards your final summative assessment.  

Assessment Task #1  Creation of comic characters
This task will enable you to put into practice the skills learned to create original characters which will sustain an entire series. Develop a document listing the flaws, traits, comic perspective and blanket statement for one comic character.
DUE: Week 4

Assessment #2   Story outline
This task will test your understanding of narrative comedy models and the importance of conflict. Create a one-page story outline for first episode of student’s narrative comedy.
DUE: Week 8

Assessment #3   Pitch assests
Prepare a series of documents ready for your pitch to industry professionals: a narrative comedy synopsis, character breakdowns, 1 story idea, 1-page synopsis of episode 1 and a polished version of opening scene. Pitch to industry professionals.
DUE: Week 10

Assessment - Comedy Series Bible

Out of all of the projects developed during Semester 1, six will be chosen for further development. Six small groups will be formed to each develop the selected projects. Assessment will combine self assessment and a group assessment of your project.

Self assessment: individually, you will do a small presentation on how you participated in the project. You will be assessed on your capacity to identify your strengths, challenges and strategies for improvement.

Group assessment: you will be assessed as a group on your comedy bible. Your comedy bible will need to be formatted to professional standards and should include the following:

  • synopsis
  • character breakdowns
  • completed first episode
  • scene breakdowns for two further episodes
  • a script editor’s report on episode, breakdowns and development process.

During this project, you will learn to

  • collaborate on narrative development
  • defend creative ideas
  • take directions
  • create and write a narrative comedy series from concept through to first episode, including bible, character breakdown and story ideas.

Due: Week 14


Formative assessment for the second semester of this course comprises three in-class exercises. In order to successfully complete this unit, you will need to have done all of these exercises to a satisfactory standard.

Assessment #1Individual portfolio of 2 sketches
Submit an individual portfolio of 2 sketches. (Makeup of portfolio to be described in class.)

DUE: Week 7

Assessment #2 Partnership portfolio with a minimum of 3 sketches
Submit a partnership portfolio with a minimum of 3 sketches. (Makeup of portfolio to be described in class.)

DUE: Week 12

Assessment #3 Class workshopping and Writers’ Room input.
DUE: As scheduled by teacher

The following assessment will be graded and will contribute to your final results for this unit.

Assessment:Group proposal for Comedy Sketch Concept 
In groups, develop a pitch for a comedy sketch concept and pilot episode and present them in class. You will receive a handout from your teacher further detailing your brief and how you will be assessed.
DUE: Week 16

Grades used in this unit are as follows:

  • HDI Competent with High Distinction
  • CDI Competent with Distinction
  • CC Competent with Credit
  • CAG Competency Achieved - Graded
  • NYC Not Yet Competent
  • DNS Did Not Submit for Assessment

For further information on the assessment and grading criteria, please refer to the course blackboard site.

Assessment Matrix

The assessment matrix demonstrates alignment of assessment tasks with the relevant Unit of Competency. These are available through the course contact in Program administration

Other Information

The major learning experience involves studio based exercises, demonstration and production. It is strongly advised that you attend all sessions in order to engage in the required learning activities, ensuring the maximum opportunity to gain the competency

Cover Sheet for Submissions
You must complete a submission cover sheet for every piece of submitted work. This signed sheet acknowledges that you are aware of the plagiarism implications.

You will receive spoken and written feedback from teachers on your work. Where appropriate, this feedback will also includes suggestions on how you can proceed to the next stage of developing your projects.

Student Progress
Monitoring academic progress is an important enabling and proactive strategy to assist you to achieve your learning potential. For more on the student progress policy, see RMIT website.

Special consideration Policy (Late Submission)
All assessment tasks are required to be completed to a satisfactory level. If you are unable to complete any piece of assessment by the due date, you will need to apply for an extension. You can apply in writing for up to a week’s extension from your course teacher. If you need a longer extension, you wil need to apply for special consideration. Special consideration, appeals and discipline

Academic Integrity and Plagiarism
RMIT University has a strict policy on plagiarism and academic integrity. Please refer to the website for more information on this policy.

Work Placement
It is a requirement of this program that all students participate in authentic work related tasks. These may be either simulated or in a real work environment. On occasion, we are approached by industry and given opportunities for students to apply for short term placements. When these placement opportunities arise, students are required to negotiate the specific details with the relevant program coordinator or teacher. All industry placements require students, RMIT staff and host organisations to sign a written agreement prior to the commencement of the placement.

Course Overview: Access Course Overview