The Art of the Twist: How to Do Causation-Based Comedy

What we’re watching: an expectation-subverting comedy short that’s a fantastic lesson in how to advance a scene.
Pink Slip
By  · Published on April 28th, 2020

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There is a principle in storytelling that applies particularly well to sketch comedy. As described by South Park head honchos Matt Stone and Trey Parker in a writing workshop they taught at New York University, if the beats of your story proceed with “and then,” you’re going to wind up with an end product that’s pretty dull. However, if your story is held together with “therefore,” “because” or “but” — you’re cooking with gas.

Pink Slip is a wildly amusing comedy short about a woman who’s been called into her boss’ office to be let go. It’s a fantastic example of the guiding ethos that things can go off the beaten path while still maintaining the logic of a scene. It’s a textbook demonstration of narrative advancing that draws you in and allows the route of the scene to twist, heighten, and surprise without losing its audience. Clocking in at less than a minute and a half, the sketch is absolutely economical in its approach and rooted in causation. And it’s all the funnier for it.

You can watch Pink Slip here:

Who made this?

Emma Debany is a comedy writer and director based in Los Angeles. When I saw “creative director of the WWE 2K20 ad campaign” on her resume I gasped. You can browse Debany’s video content on her Vimeo page and you can find her official website here.

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Meg Shields is the humble farm boy of your dreams and a senior contributor at Film School Rejects. She currently runs three columns at FSR: The Queue, How'd They Do That?, and Horrorscope. She is also a curator for One Perfect Shot and a freelance writer for hire. Meg can be found screaming about John Boorman's 'Excalibur' on Twitter here: @TheWorstNun. (She/Her).