The Eight Characters of Comedy: A Guide to SitCom Acting & Writing
By Scott Sedita
If you are looking for a breakdown of the formulas of comedy, I recommend this book.
Remember, A) just because you use the archetypes that Sedita identifies, it doesn’t mean your show/character will be hackneyed and B) just because a character is primarily of these 8 doesn’t mean that they don’t explore other sides of their personality.
Who are the 8 Characters?
- The Logical Smart One – responsible, stable
- The Lovable Loser – sarcastic, optimistic, needy, impulsive
- The Neurotic – awkward, nervous, controlling, worried
- The Dumb One – friendly, naïve, gullible, no ulterior motive
- The Bitch/Bastard – mean, insensitive, insecure, doesn’t apologize
- The Womanizer/Manizer (AKA “Slutty Spice”) – charming, seductive, horny, superficial
- The Materialistic One – judgmental, entitled, spoiled
- In Their Own Universe (AKA “Spacy Spice”) – odd, eccentric, uses illogical logic
I tried to find these characters in sitcoms that I watched. There is definitely room for interpretation and, for a long-lasting series, like Friends, characters will probably take a turn in each of these archetypes.
Post a list for your favorite show or let me know if you disagree with my lists.
- The Logical Smart One – Michael, George Sr., George Michael (sometimes Maeby)
- The Lovable Loser – George Michael, Tobias
- The Neurotic – Tobias, George Michael
- The Dumb One – Gob, Maeby
- The Bitch/Bastard – Lucille
- The Womanizer/Manizer – Gob/Lindsay
- The Materialistic One – Lindsay
- In Their Own Universe – Buster
- The Logical Smart One – Monica (occasionally Chandler, Ross, Monica, Phoebe)
- The Lovable Loser – Ross, Chandler (I think all of them have moments here)
- The Neurotic – Monica, Chandler, Ross (same here)
- The Dumb One – Joey
- The Bitch/Bastard – None, they are Friends!
- The Womanizer/Manizer – Joey
- The Materialistic One – Rachel (this kind of faded away overtime)
- In Their Own Universe – Phoebe
Will & Grace
- The Logical Smart One – Will
- The Lovable Loser – Will, Grace
- The Neurotic – Will, Grace
- The Dumb One – Jack
- The Bitch/Bastard – Jack, Karen
- The Womanizer/Manizer – Jack? (I think all of them spend time here)
- The Materialistic One – Jack, Grace
- In Their Own Universe – Jack, Karen
- The Logical Smart One – Carla, Turk
- The Lovable Loser – JD
- The Neurotic – Eliot
- The Dumb One – Todd
- The Bitch/Bastard – Perry, Kelso,
- The Womanizer/Manizer -Todd
- The Materialistic One – Eliot
- In Their Own Universe (AKA “The Spacy One”) – Janitor
- The Logical Smart One – Shirley, Troy
- The Lovable Loser – Britta
- The Neurotic – Annie
- The Dumb One – Pierce
- The Bitch/Bastard – Jeff, Pierce
- The Womanizer/Manizer – Jeff?
- The Materialistic One – Jeff
- In Their Own Universe (AKA “The Spacy One”) – Abed, Chang, Dean
Sedita lays out some comedy guidelines. Obligatory Note: All rules are meant to be broken.
Rules of Comedy:
- Chose a specific character with specific personality traits
- Be committed to the character
- Good comedy comes from pain and conflict
- Follow the script and punctuation (for delivery, know your lines and make to pause for commas and periods)
- Be Louder!
- Be Faster!
- Be Funnier!
- Hold for laughs (if in front of a crowd or live-audience)
- Don’t mug for a laugh/ Don’t distract from verbal humor with physical movement
- Have fun!
Sedita, who teaches acting classes, promotes a simple and easy-to-remember method of character analysis.
Analyze the Script (WOFAIM):
- Want – What does the character want?
- Obstacle – What obstacles are standing in the way?
- Feeling – What feelings will you explore in the scene?
- As If – What is your personal substitution? What can you draw from in your own life to relate to your character?
- Intentions – What will your character do to get what they want? What actions will they take?
- Moment Before – What was happening before this scene? Physically and emotionally, where is your character coming from?
I’mwriting screenplay, a comedy, with my friend and, since I don’t have experience with writing fiction, I found this to be helpful. The point of Sedita’s book isn’t to put your characters in a box or provide a rote method of acting or writing, but to open your eyes to commonly used character types that allow for conflict (which will lead to funny situations).