One thing about writing comedy with a group is that you are often times overloaded with gags, making the real challenge not one of creating the jokes but one of trying to figure out where to put them all. This is actually much harder than it seems. How do you connect an exploding car, a pack of rancid meat, the line, “The t-shirt means nothing! We give everyone the t-shirt!” and the image of the four us standing in the desert, all naked save the one who’s in a chicken costume together? We discovered in our process that if we wrote the script around the jokes (e.g. we start with this joke, then link to the one we wrote yesterday, and then link, etc.) we ended up with a script that distanced itself from a large population. It was a script full of inside jokes. Sure it was funny if you already knew each of us and how we all interacted together, but then to make something like that is a form of just laughing at our own jokes at the expense of connecting with the audience. You’ve met those assholes at parties; people who “know” they are “funny”, what with their “witty” references to the American The Office and “clever” nicknames for all of their “friends” based on past events.
No one laughs at those people. We only wish to punish them, because between all of their bullshit they are treating people like a) stupid because they don’t understand the reference, or even worse b) irrelevant because they weren’t there. Usually a mixture of the two. As for me, I always make sure to convey my distaste for their attitude . . .
But if you base all the jokes around the script and the story, you get something that makes sense to everyone because although the jokes are still “inside jokes”, through the story you have brought the audience to the inside. Not only that, but new jokes will be created while writing the script that may be even funnier than the original idea. The downside to this is that you may have jokes that you’ll never use because the script never gave you an opening for it. This can be an alarming thing because even with four people working on the script at some point everyone will forget that hilarious joke if it’s never written down in the script.
One way around this is to write everything down. But if you’ve ever woken up and wrote down something you want to buy in the morning only to awake the next day to the note “Buysa Nu Goat Mask” you understand that without context, words on a piece of paper are useless. And if you’re going to sit down and write the context you might as well start writing the script. The other way is to keep writing material until you get to a place where the joke does fit. This is equivalent to having one puzzle piece that fits none of your puzzles, so you say, “Fuck it” and make your own puzzle around that piece that features dragons, fire, lasers, space coyotes, all kinds of sexy naked people and a shit ton of gold.
It’s through that method that we started writing small vignettes in the form of public service announcements. They were for all the jokes we couldn’t find a place for in the normal episodes. They also gave the characters a sense of depth. In between them acting like idiots on the airsoft field and in training missions during the episodes, they also acted like idiots in the real world.
These were important not just to our writing, but in our morale as well. Once we had started shooting the series being involved with AirSWAT was mostly work and planning, and at times we would get bogged down and tired. The PSA’s let us get back to the ever-so-fun writing stage and were often so easy to shoot we could film three or four in one day. If AirSWAT had caught on and had been able to continue, the PSA’s would have added a whole different element to the series.