Course Title: Write television comedy

Part B: Course Detail

Teaching Period: Term1 2015

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: Vin Hedger

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 due
Week 1No class 
Week 2


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.

Week 3 


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

Week 4 


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.

Week 5 
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. 
Week 6 

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.

Assessment task #1

Pitch of comedy character

Week 7 

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.

Week 8 

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.

 Mid-semester break - There are no classes from Friday 3 through to Friday 10 April inclusive. 
Week 9 


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.

Week 10 


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.

Week 11 

The 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.    
Week 12 


The 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.

Week 13 


The 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.

Week 14 


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.

Assessment Task #2:

Individual portfolio of sketches

Week 15 


Development continues on proposals with a first draft of the document expected during this week.

Week 16 


The development groups present their final product and decide how to progress to actual presentation.

 Assessment Task #3: Group Proposal for Comedy Sketch Concept

Semester break : Monday June 8 to Friday July 3 inclusive 

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

Tish-Boom - Character versus gags. Exploration of the traits, flawsand comedy perspective of well known comic characters. Isolating and putting into practice the elements required. 
Week 3
Two guys walk into a bar - How to create an original comic character. Using these tools to your advantage.
Week 4
Archetype versus Stereotype - Deconstruction of narrative comedy models. Choosing the correct model for your narrative comedy. 
Week 5

Bring in the mediator - The importance of conflict in narrative comedy. How conflict is used to create comedy.
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. 
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.
Week 10The 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. Assessment Task #4: Character Description
Week 11AND 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 episodes, which will be delivered as scene breakdowns and scenes by end of Week 14.  
  Mid-semester break - no classes from Monday 21 September to Friday 2 October inclusive. 
Week 12THE 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

Assessment Task #5: Bible and Scripts
Individual Presentations
Week 15

Assessment Task #5:


Week 16
THE GAFFAWS CONTINUE - Script reads continue and are completed. Notes and feedback from students and lecturer.

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

To demonstrate competency in this course you will need to complete all the following pieces of assessment to a satisfactory standard. You will receive feedback on all assessment (refer to Blackboard for assessment criteria).


Assessment #1 Pitch of a comedy character. DUE Week 6
In-class activity.

Assessment #2 Individual portfolio of 2 sketches. DUE Week 14
Submit an individual portfolio of 2 sketches. (Makeup of portfolio to be described in class.)

Assessment #3: Group proposal for Comedy Sketch Concept . DUE Week 16
In groups, develop a pitch for a comedy sketch concept and pilot episode and present them in class. Please note that while this is a group proposal, you will each be assessed individually. 


Assessment Task #4 - Creation of comic characters. Due Week 10.
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. 1000 words.

Assessment Task #5 - Comedy Series Bible. Due Week 14
In groups, you will develop a concept, synopsis and characters for a comedy series. You will be assessed on a scene breakdown for an episode of the series, together with 10 scenes of that episode. You will also 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.


Once you have demonstrated competency, you final assessment in each semester (#3 and #4) will be graded (refer to Blackboard for grading rubric). These assessments will be equally weighted and contribute to your final overall mark.

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

Please refer to the RMIT student page for extensive information about study support, assessment, extensions, appeals and a range of other matters:


The major learning experience involves studio based exercises, demonstration and production. It is strongly advised that students attend all sessions in order to engage in the required learning activities, ensuring the maximum opportunity to gain the competency. Non-attendance may seriously jeopardise the chances of success in a course. Clearly, non-attendance at an assessment will result in failure of that assessment. Where visa conditions apply, attendance is compulsory.

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.

Credit Transfer and Recognition of Prior Learning (web link)

Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) is a process through which people can gain entry to, or credit in, recognised courses based on competencies gained. The competencies may have been gained through experience in the workplace, in voluntary work, in social or domestic activities or through informal or formal training or other life experiences. Recognition of Current Competency (RCC) applies if a student has previously successfully completed the requirements of a unit of competency or module and is now required to be reassessed to ensure that the competency has been maintained.

Assessment and Feedback (web link)

You will receive verbal feedback during scheduled class times, and written feedback from teachers on your work . Where appropriate, this feedback will also include suggestions on how you can proceed to the next stage of developing your projects.

Student Progress (web link)

Monitoring academic progress is an important enabling and proactive strategy to assist you to achieve your learning potential.

Special consideration for Late Submission (web link)

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 will need to apply for special consideration.

Academic Integrity and Plagiarism (web link)

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

Course Overview: Access Course Overview