If you want to write a comedy church skit, you should create funny characters.
And with an all amateur cast you can create funny characters and humorous drama that is entertaining, but still delivers a powerful message.
Here are some skit writing techniques to create funny characters and humorous church dramas.
To Create Funny Characters Form Skit Characters Around Your Actors
A Hollywood script creates a character and then the director finds an actor to play that part. But that’s Hollywood. And those actors are professionals. They dedicate themselves to learning how to play a variety of characters.
Using amateurs doesn’t mean your actors lack of talent. But they won’t be as versatile as a professional. So instead of making them adapt to a part in your skit, fit the part to them. In other words, create a character that complements their natural personality and talents.
Is your actor naturally gregarious? Make their skit character gregarious. Or in real life, thoughtful and analytical? Do the same with their character. And if they can talk with a French accent or impersonate Elvis, incorporate it into the skit.
By forming the characters of your drama around the actual personalities and talents of your actors, you create a part that is easier for them to naturally play and a character the church audience will enjoy.
Use Stereotypes To Create Funny Characters
A 3-5 minute skit does not allow enough time for much character development. So using common stereotypes makes it easy for your actors to assume a part and your church audience to understand the essence of the character.
The dumb blonde
The computer geek
The insensitive jock
The power hungry executive
These are all familiar characters that are easy for actors to play and easy to form into a humorous skit. When you think about the funny characters of movies and sitcoms you’ve watched, they are often built around a stereotype. I’m sure as you engage in your skit writing, you’ll think of many others.
Use Exaggeration To Create Funny Characters
Don’t just make the blonde in your church skit a little dumb. Make her really dumb. Your insensitive jock, completely oblivious to any life outside of sports. The computer geek unable to hold a conversation with an actual human being. Someone not just afraid of heights, but paralyzed in fear on the second step of a ladder. The more you exaggerate, the funnier it is and the less likely the actor in the skit will resemble an actual person in the church.
Use Contrast To Form Characters
Even a person in your church with minimal acting ability will have your church audience laughing by simply putting them into a skit character that is the opposite of who they are in real life. And you may be surprised by that person’s willingness, not only to accept the part, but to ham it up on stage.
Is there a solemn usher who always wears a suit to church? Put him in a long wig and a rock band outfit. Let your children’s pastor portray a spoiled, bratty kid. Your most talented vocalist play an American Idol contestant that sings way off key.
By using familiar people in your church with known traits and talents and putting them into a role that is the complete opposite of who they are in real life, you create instant humor for any skit.
Use these techniques to create funny characters and comedy skits. Your church audience will laugh while you also present a spiritual message.
A good way to create comedy skit characters is by using backstory. That’s because short comedy skits give you little time for character development. An effective, dramatic element that will help is the use of backstory. Here are some writing techniques to help you.
Create Comedy Skit Characters Using Emotion
Whether you’re writing a short comedy skit or a one-act comedy play, the key to an engaging drama is to infuse it with emotion and conflict. And the best way to accomplish it is through well-rounded, funny characters.
The backstory is essentially the character’s past. Perhaps a major event or experience, important people who have influenced them, childhood goals and dreams. It helps the audience understand the attitudes and psychology of characters. In other words, the reasons they behave the way they do.
One of my church skits, A Standing Offer, opens with a scene where a man who has just lost his job makes phone calls looking for leads on a new one. His back story is a recent crisis. And that crisis adds emotional conflict.
Through phone conversations with prospective employers and dialogue with his wife, you sense the urgency, and the financial pressure to support his family. You also learn that long ago, his father made an offer for him to join the family business. And that becomes an important part of the skit’s spiritual lesson.
Create Comedy Skit Characters Using An Ongoing Element From The Character’s Past
Some writers create an extensive historical background for their characters. Although that is overkill for a skit, it’s still helpful to know something about your character to predict how they might react to different situations.
But think of the backstory like an iceberg. Two-thirds of it is under water and will never surface in the drama. Because if you try to reveal everything in the character’s backstory, you will probably bore your audience to tears. It’s there so you the writer know what is motivating your characters.
When your goal is to create funny characters for a comedy skit or comedy play, put an element in the character’s backstory that contributes to the humor. What if your character who is living in New York was raised on a pig farm in Iowa? And throughout the comedy skit or comedy play he consistently presents pig farming analogies in his dialogue?
Or maybe she was once hypnotized and every time she hears a bell ring she breaks out singing the National Anthem? Since this is a comedy skit or comedy play, you have creative license in exaggerating characters slightly beyond the realm of reality.
The most common way to reveal backstory is through dialogue and action as you progress through the comedy skit or comedy play. It’s important to maintain a well-paced progression. Too much, too soon, will look forced. And you want it to have a natural flow.
Create Comedy Skit Characters By Using Narration And Inner Dialogue
Narration and inner dialogue are also effective techniques to create comedy skit characters.
The narrator is a simple and straight forward approach. At various moments within the comedy skit or comedy play, the narrator steps in to explain the backstory. He can even relate the backstory’s emotional impact on the characters.
Inner dialogue is performed through voice-over as your funny character is posed in contemplative scenes. In my one-act comedy play, Mystery of the Lost Meaning of Christmas, the main, funny character is a Sam Spade type of private detective. Voice-over dialogue throughout the play narrates his inner thoughts along with his backstory.
Christmas with the Klooks, a short one-act comedy play, is built around the backstory of Frank, a grandfather who carries a burden of guilt over the death of his daughter many years ago. The backstory is revealed slowly as the play progresses.
At first, it appears that Frank is just a cranky old man. But as the intensity builds, you realize something more is at work. And finally at the end, it reveals the pain and personal guilt that Frank has been carrying for years.
Using backstory to create depth to the characters of your comedy skits and comedy plays allows you to create conflict, emotion and comedy that grips your audience and delivers your message.
Creating funny characters and funny skits is the best way to write humorous drama. But when writing a three to six-minute comedy skit to perform at church, school or some other organization, you need to move quickly into your plot and the theme of your skit. There’s little time for developing funny characters.
But if your audience doesn’t have some level understanding of your funny characters, your comedy skits will be dull and lifeless one-liners with no depth or the emotion that creates conflict and drives it meaningfully forward.
Therefore, your audience needs some idea of where a funny character is coming from to understand the motivation behind what they say and do. So use these three techniques to create funny characters your audience relates to and comedy skits they’ll enjoy.
Use Stereotypes when Creating Funny Characters And Funny Skits
The most obvious character that everyone already knows and understands in a comedy skit is the stereotype. The vain, female Diva, the dumb jock, the shifty guy who lurks in the shadows, the nerdy geek, the miserly accountant. And now that I’ve started you off with a few for your comedy skit, I’m sure you can create an extensive list.
Stereotypes make funny characters because your audience understands the character right away. They already know something of the character’s motivation and reasons behind what they say and do.
Exaggerate to the Max To Create Funny Characters And Funny Skits
Now to make that stereotype character really funny and increase the laughs, exaggerate them. The female Diva is not just vain. She’s so vain anytime her reflection presents itself, she stops to primp. The dumb jock is so clueless he doesn’t realize the football helmet he misplaced is on his head. And nerdy geek is so socially awkward he talks to computers like they’re people.
People laugh at stereotypes because the funny characters in your comedy skit are so exaggerated, they can’t possibly represent anyone in the audience. Even though everyone can probably think of someone in the audience that is very well represented in that funny character.
In one comedy skit I wrote and directed for a church worship service entitled, Focused on Priority three out of shape suburban ladies sign up for a fitness class thinking it will be a relaxing time of easy exercise. Instead, their personal trainer resembles an in your face, military drill sergeant that pushes them way beyond their expectations and comfort zone.
Add Contrast When Creating Funny Characters and Funny Skits
In comedy skits, opposites don’t attract, they create conflict. And conflict creates humorous energy in your skit. People in real life are never one-dimensional. And your funny characters shouldn’t be either. Even your stereotypical characters can surprise your audience and take your comedy skit to a deeper level.
The easiest way to accomplish this is by thinking opposites.
So your stuck-up Diva volunteers at a homeless shelter. The dumb jock is good at chess. The nerdy geek skateboards while listening to hard rock music. The stingy accountant feeds premium dog food to a stray dog that lives behind his office building.
You can also match-up opposite characters. This is the whole premise behind the odd couple. One guy is exceptionally clean and orderly and the other guy a complete slob.
When you drop your exaggerated, stereotyped characters into a situation together, you create instant conflict and the potential for great comedy skits.
What happens when a liberal atheist and conservative evangelical work together for a common cause? A church moves next door to a strip club? A crusty, negative old man adopts his innocent, faith-filled, eight year old grandchild who just lost both of his parents?
By creating exaggerated, stereotypical characters, adding contrast and combining them with opposite characters into various situations, you will create funny characters with depth and comedy skits your audience appreciates and enjoys.
There’s a dangerous, beautiful and life-giving capacity of laughter. It depends on circumstances. And how laughter is managed.
But I think we all agree that laughter itself is good.
Throughout history some people have attempted to subvert this life-giving capacity. The 1800s offered prescriptive dictionaries, alongside the descriptive dictionaries we have today. Prescriptive dictionaries attempted to tell you exactly what each word meant. Ambiguity was dead and vagueness was eliminated. All was clear; each meaning precise. Thankfully those dictionaries failed. Had they succeeded, art, literature, and humor would each have succumbed. Humans need the creative possibilities within language to foster life-giving laughter.
“Oh boy, where’s he going with this one?”
The Beautiful And Life-Giving Capacity Of Laughter Is Intentional
As leaders of teams and managers of individuals, you are fostering culture within your organization. That culture can be healthy or toxic, motivating or life-sucking, rewarding or exploitative, and so on. There should be a place for humor and laughter within your culture. But recognize that humor itself can be healthy or toxic, motivating or life-sucking, rewarding or exploitative.
Consider the intentionality of humor. Do you explicitly encourage humor and laughter or is it a nervous byproduct of team interactions? Is it considered a desirable part of your culture or something to be avoided?
Consider the subject of humor.
Are you able to laugh at yourself or do you prefer to laugh at others? What topics will you suggest or allow?
Consider the risk vs. benefit of humor. What does your culture gain from laughter? What might it lose?
Increasingly, leaders seek to foster organizations comprised of diverse people. As we diversify, we increase the likelihood that senses of humor will diverge and that what one person finds laughable, another finds cringeworthy.
What are you to do? Encourage laughter focusing on the natural limitations of people (remembering to laugh at yourself). Take advantage of the ambiguity and vagueness of language without elevating the pun to a status to which it should never aspire. Topics should be general ones that most will find amusing (“all” is a bar that is set too high).
Humor Can Be Dangerous And Destructive
Avoid humor focusing on people’s values, physical appearance, intellect, politics, or religion. Of course, if your intellect fails you at some point and you are able to laugh at yourself, then do so.
Recognize that a team member’s level of professional and personal security will impact her ability to laugh at herself and to appreciate being the subject of others’ laughter.
Recognize that sarcasm may be witty, but it is too confusing to be productive in the workplace. Were you speaking seriously or making a joke? We can’t tell.
Recognize that people aren’t always going to let you know when they’ve been hurt or are uncomfortable, so don’t assume that someone laughing along with you means they are comfortable with the joke. If you are in a position of power or authority, remember you can laugh more easily and freely than others who must read the wind to know whether to join in.
The Beautiful And Life-Giving Capacity Of Laughter Is Culturally Fostered
With all of this in mind, however, do not avoid humor. Foster a culture that risks the beautiful danger of laughter. Just because it can be cruel, divisive, and harmful doesn’t mean you shouldn’t embrace its life-giving qualities. You’re not going to quit using a knife to prepare food just because you could cut off your finger. It’s quite likely you will continue to use knives even if you have cut off one finger.
If you risk a culture of humor you will offend. That offense needn’t be intentional and it can provide opportunity for another life-affirming practice – apology and forgiveness. Please don’t neglect the beautiful danger of laughter. It’s an essential part of your humanity. Just tailor it to the setting, making sure it is reflective of the culture you seek to foster.
About Julian Consulting
Dr. Stephen Julian is President of Julian Consulting, a firm specializing in team health, effective communication, and leadership development. He has worked with leaders and their teams for nearly 30 years in a variety of settings – including Africa, South and Central America.
Writing a church comedy drama can be fun and rewarding. They may be amateur productions, but don’t have to be amateurish. You have many talented church members to call on. Maybe not professional comedians, but they can still be funny. Other professionals in your church can also provide needed resources.
In one of our church productions, a church member who was a commercial, graphic designer created a set design that far surpassed what a local professional scene designer accomplished. He also produced all the visual marketing material. And another church member who owned a local manufacturing company made a fake display of elevators that supported the event.
They were so real looking that during the night of the production, guests that didn’t attend the church tried to use them. Now that was funny!
Use these tips to guide your efforts for church productions that make a spiritual impact.
Decide on a Theme for Your Church Comedy Drama
Whether it’s a 4-5 minute skit or a full play, start with the theme. Write it down in one or two sentences. If you start writing your script without nailing down the theme, you may write funny jokes just to get a laugh. It’s a common trap for those who enjoy writing comedy.
Humor is extremely effective when writing church comedy skits and drama. But in a church context, it should always focus on making a spiritual point. So be clear at the start what that spiritual point is and keep that target always before you.
For example, in my one-act, church comedy drama, What’s In a Promise? the theme is… God made a promise to us that He kept, so we should keep the promises we make. The entire church comedy script is written to support that theme and the resolution supports it too.
Create Characters For Your Church Comedy Drama
Professional actors are skilled at changing their persona to match a variety of different funny characters. Their professional career depends on the ability to be versatile. You give them a funny character and that’s who they become.
In church comedy, you’re mostly working with amateur actors. Although, there are many people in your congregation with natural comedy acting abilities too. It’s just not what they do all the time, so they’re not as versatile in portraying humorous characters as a professional actor. They tend to have a few, funny personas where they excel, but as they move away from characters that are natural for them, they become more stilted.
So rather than create funny characters and then ask your actors to portray them, create humor that is tailored to the natural strengths of your actors. In other words, think of the natural abilities and personalities of the people you want to use as actors, and then create comedy characters and humor that feature their strengths.
Does someone have a funny, foreign accent? Can they impersonate someone famous? Do they have a natural tendency you can exaggerate to create humor? The more you capitalize on their natural, humorous abilities, the more natural and funnier they will be.
Use Popular People in Your Congregation For Your Church Comedy Drama
Is there a favorite church usher that everyone adores? And he has a funny habit you can exploit? A church youth pastor with a well-known quirk? Impersonate these people and exaggerate their particular traits and quirks to make your church comedy skit funny. Of course, be sure they possess a sense of humor and don’t mind getting picked on a little. People can be a little funny about laughing when the joke is on them.
Things that might not be that funny generally, will be hilarious to your congregation. And can be used effectively to make a spiritual point in a church comedy skit used to enhance a sermon.
What about the time someone slipped in the church baptistery and splashed water into the choir loft? Something funny that happened on a church retreat or mission trip that everyone knows about? They make great material for church comedy skits and your congregation will laugh harder because they’re all in the joke.
Keep these three tips in mind as you write your scripts and you’ll produce church comedy skits and dramas that are both funny and spiritually effective.
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