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Feb 24

The Sketch Comedy Writer’s Portfolio

Saturday Night Live Writer’s Packet info

This is a follow-up to my previous post.

So here’s a further breakdown of the comedy writing portfolios agents expect you to have. Bear in mind, I don’t have direct experience doing this myself… yet. This is just research that I’ve conducted and figured I’d share. Typically the sketch show packet is modeled after “Saturday Night Live” (SNL).

Here’s the breakdown for you.

SNL packet:

cold open
Host monologue
Weekend update material
Two commercial parody sketches
Digital short
TV show parody sketch
Movie parody sketch
Cast scene with six or more characters

How Do I Learn to Write This Stuff?

There are classes you can take if you live in the U.S. Both iO and Second City teach this stuff.

The iO course, whose website I compiled this list from, takes you through different writing as mentioned in my previous post. Second City, however, only teaches you how to write sketch comedy with a view to creating a revue show. To be clear, I haven’t taken any of the classes.

Saturday Night Live? Really?

Look, if you hate SNL it might be wise to skip this packet. I’m not a fan per se, I certainly watched the show when I was younger. These days my taste is more towards “The Daily Show”. However, they have been running for more than 40 years so they must be doing something right.

I do have experience writing and performing sketch comedy back in the UK and I’ve seen a lot of it both there and here in the US. Right now, I’m not sure if I’m a fan of the medium. I think I’m not a fan because, with something like SNL, the sketches go on too long. 5-7 minutes for a sketch is waaaaaaay too long. And with all the budding comedy writer-performers coming out of Chicago training centres, as well as NYC, L.A. and Toronto there just seems to be too many sketch shows that are the same.

When it gets to nearly ten minutes I think, just write a scene. Or it’s a very under-developed short play. I know it’s not a popular point of view.

I get that perhaps it’s easier to 12 five-minute sketches or 6 ten-minute sketches it fills out the hour timeslot easier than 2-3 minute sketches and once you’ve built a set, on a TV show, you want to get as much use out of it as possible. I get that.

Also, as a performer I prefer performing my own material, rather than have someone else perform it. Unless it’s a stage play or a screenplay.

So, for me, it would be a challenge to be able to just create this packet.