I had the honor of interviewing author, teacher, and theater director/producer
Steve Kaplan, check out his book “The hidden tools of comedy”-
Me: So my first question is, for those that aren’t familiar with you, tell us some about you, your writing, and your comedy
SK: I was born in Queens, NY, and grew up in a suburban area of Queens called Fresh Meadows, which was most notable for a distinct absence of meadows of any kind, but the good people of Fresh Meadows, Queens, must have been an optimistic bunch, the street I lived on was very near to Utopia Parkway, a street, I might add, that failed to live up to its name.
I started in the theater. With a couple of friends, we opened up a theatre in New York called Manhattan Punch Line. It was a theatre completely dedicated to comedy, where we presented comedy on stage in all its forms: plays, stand-up, improv, and sketch.
A lot of great people came out of the theatre: David Crane, Michael Patrick King, Lewis Black, Oliver Platt(etc). When we started, I thought I knew a lot about comedy, but once we were going for a bit, I discovered that there were some things I didn’t know about comedy, like everything.
I began to wonder why something that was incredibly funny on Thursday night would get no laughs on Sunday. Why sometimes the funniest performance of a play was at it’s very first table read? What was going on here? That’s when I started seriously exploring the art and the science of comedy.
At the time, I was teaching an improv class. Without telling the actors, I started experimenting with them, devising improv games to get at the core of comedy: how it works, why it works, what’s going on when it stops working, and what the hell can you do about it?
These experiments led to the discovery of a series of techniques, which in turn led to a forty week Master Class in comedy. The work can be boiled down to this: comedy tells the truth. More specifically, comedy tells the truth about people.
When I moved to L.A., I started teaching the same philosophies and techniques, but adapting it to writers as well. The workshops proved very popular and soon I was invited to bring the workshops to London, Sydney, Singapore, among others, which led to my book, The Hidden Tools of Comedy (now translated into Russian, Chinese and French!)
Me: Very awesome!, were the theater and classes how you also got involved with film courage?
SK: No, I had been doing writing workshops for some time, and my good friend Derek Christopher (who runs the very successful Story Expo) thought we’d be a good match and suggested we touch base with one another, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Me: Very awesome!, and in addition to all that, you’re an author, which you mentioned, your books are based on your workshop/intensive?
SK: Yes, my first book, The Hidden Tools Of Comedy is based in part on my workshops, and my workshops represent my decades of work in producing, directing, consulting and teaching comedy.
I’m currently working on a new book, tentatively titled “The Comic Hero’s Journey” which explores story structure in comic film.
Me: So hidden tools covered several aspects?, as journey is focused on just writing?
SK: The Hidden Tools talks about why comedy works, how it works, what’s going on when it stops working, and what can you do to fix it. The Hidden Tools are tools to fix comedy when it doesn’t work.
The Comic Hero’s Journey uses Joseph Campbell’s metaphor for story telling to explore the story structure of comic films, and how that structure and development differs from the Hero’s Journey in Chris Vogler’s book (who is a friend, by the way.)
Me: Very awesome!, so is there going to be a 3rd book?
SK: Please, let me finish my second book, first! In fact, let me finish the first chapter of my second book, first!
Me: So we’ll see!, lol, so what made you choose to write these types of books?
SK: I’ve been teaching, in one form or another, since 1977. The books are just another form of that.
Me: So you just started writing your second book, when can we expect?, and is there going to be workshops or anything to go with it?
SK: If my publisher gives me the go ahead, I’d expect the new book to be finished anywhere from 6 months to a year and a half. Publication usually happens about 6 to 9 months after you turn in the final draft.
Our next webinar on Dramedy is on November 4th, and our live 2-day workshop is scheduled for January 30-31, 2016 in Los Angeles. Information on both is available on our web site, http://www.KaplanComedy.com.
Much of the material for the second book will be incorporated into my ongoing two-day workshops.
Me: Oh I see, that’s awesome!, so you teach ALOT on writing and comedy, are you ever going to make your own movie?, or is teaching your calling?
SK: My whole career has been finding and developing new talent and teaching, mostly comedy. I come to it not from writing, but as a director. I started out as a director and producer in the theatre.
I still occasionally direct for the theater, but right now, teaching, writing my book and consulting with other writers is my calling.
Me: So what all can we except from you in the future?
SK: Well, more lectures, more workshops, more webinars, starting online courses, and, of course, at least one more book.
Me: Online courses?
SK: We’re in the planning stages for a roll-out of ongoing online classes, but I think the actual launch will happen sometime in the spring of 2016.
Me: Teaching the same stuff as the seminars?, definitely worth looking forward to!
SK: Yes, some of the same material, but some new content, as well!-
Comic Hero’s Journey –Comedy Feature Story Structure
Comic Premise –Creating and developing your comic idea.
as well as others.
Me: Alot to look forward to!, anything else you’d want your fans to know?
SK: Our next Comic Intensive workshop is scheduled for January 30-31, 2016 in Burbank-hope to see you there!
Me: You definitely have alot to offer!, so one final question, being someone influential in the screenwriting community, what would be your advice to someone interested in being a writer?
SK: Read as much as you can, hang out with other writers, and when you’re not reading or hanging out, you should be writing. And then write some more.
Me: Great advice!, thank you so much for this interview!
SK: You’re welcome!
Steve Kaplan’s Comedy Intensive
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Twitter at Twitter.com/skcomedy