Comedy pioneer Anne Beatts would like to teach you how to be funnier.
On September 30, the two-time Emmy Award winner begins teaching The Half-Hour Comedy Spec Script, a professional studies course at Emerson College Los Angeles for individuals of all skill levels that will be conducted like a real-world writers’ room. Students will serve as the writers and Beatts will fill the role of show runner.
“Can you teach people to be funny?” Beatts asks. “Perhaps you can’t teach them to be funny, but you can teach them the tricks of the trade—certain rules and techniques that will help them to be funnier.”
Anne Beatts, an original writer for Saturday Night Live, will teach “The Half-Hour Comedy Spec Script” professional studies course at Emerson Los Angeles beginning September 30. (Courtesy Photo)
Beatts said that participants will learn the writing style, structure, humor, and character development techniques that fit into a half-hour comedy TV show format.
Beatts brings to the classroom decades of experience. She was editor of National Lampoon magazine, one of the original writers of Saturday Night Live (SNL), created the comedy series Square Pegs, and produced A Different World.
As one of three female writers on the original staff of SNL, Beatts said there was a measure of equality because there was equal pay for equal work, but it was still difficult being a woman in comedy.
“There was definite resistance or opposition from male cast members,” said Beatts. “John Belushi refused to do sketches written by myself or other women.”
Anne Beatts (far right) with her SNL colleagues in the 1970s. (Courtesy Photo)
Beatts says that while progress has been made and more women are working in comedy today, it’s still an unequal playing field.
“There’s a lot of exceptionalism, but I don’t think there’s equality,” said Beatts. “We have Amy Schumer. Does that make comedy a non-sexist enterprise?”
Though SNL remains a major highlight of Beatts’s career, she initially turned down the job offer from creator Lorne Michaels. At the time, Beatts was working on her book, Titters: The First Collection of Humor by Women, and was worried she wouldn’t have time to do both.
“Lorne sort of lied to me and said, ‘Oh, yes, you can; it won’t be that hard,’’” said Beatts. “That was a killer year.”
When asked what advice she would have for someone hoping to follow in her footsteps, Beatts said that you should only go into show business if you have an inner drive compelling you to do it.
“The picture is very different today,” said Beatts. “There are so many ways you can work now where you can just make your own videos or Vines or blogs however you want to. You don’t have to just wait around hoping to get a job at SNL.”
The Half-Hour Comedy Spec Script is a six-week course, which meets Wednesdays, 7:00–10:00 pm, at Emerson College Los Angeles beginning September 30. Visit the course description online for more information.