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Lights! Camera! Laughter!

By Lois Corcoran
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #95, 2010.

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Lois Corcoran


It still amazes me how a birthday gift could turn my son’s social life around. Before I expand on that, let me share a bit of history.

HOW TO WRITE A SKIT
There are only two rules: (1) Keep it short, meaning 1 or 2 pages. (2) Make it funny! But . . . how do we do that?

  • Have your characters say or do something unexpected. For instance, make your medieval knight use a cell phone.
  • Take a situation to extremes. In “Soup Opera,” everyone, including the U.S. President, is called in to solve the restaurant customer’s problem.
  • Use words that have more than one meaning. In a skit last year, the Fairy Godmother turned the pumpkin into a coach. A soccer coach, that is!

What’s the easiest way to write a skit?

Start with a story you know from a fairy tale, book, movie, etc. Then . .

  • Use only the most important characters. Give them similar sounding but funny names. One member wrote a Star Wars skit calling for “Dork” Vader. Make sure the names are spoken by other characters so we know who’s who.
  • Follow the story line but change certain details to make it funny. Maybe the prince picks up Cinderella’s slipper and keels over from the smell.
  • Twist the ending to surprise your audience, i.e., when Jack chops down the beanstalk, it demolishes his house.

Scripts require a special format. Please use the following as a guide.

SAMPLE SKIT

by Kelly and Lois Corcoran

CAST: Knight, Maiden, Female Dragon, Narrator

PROPS: Knight’s tunic, sword, “dragon” head, hand mirror

Narrator: Once upon a time, in the days of yore—or possibly my, or is it their . . . ? (Big sigh) Anyway, there lived a handsome knight—

Knight: (Interrupting) That’s me. (Holds hand mirror and admires himself)

Narrator: (clears throat) As I was saying, there lived a handsome knight who was minding his own business, when suddenly he heard a cry for help.

Maiden: CRY FOR HELP!!

Knight: Hark! I hear a damsel in distress. (Puts down mirror and grabs sword) I must save her. (Strolls up to maiden)

Maiden: What took you so long?

Knight: I didn’t wanna mess my hair. So, ah, why did you call?

(Dragon steps out of the shadows and breathes fire)

Dragon: ROAR! (Addresses audience with hand cupped to mouth) This guy’s a real genius.

Knight: Fear not, Maiden. I shall save you from this fierce beast.

Dragon: ROAR! (Addresses audience with hand cupped to mouth) That’s what HE thinks.

Knight: (to maiden) Stand behind me while I handle this little matter.

(Maiden stands behind Knight, who holds toy sword in both hands and swings it backward, pretending to slice Maiden’s neck. Maiden drops to the floor.)

Maiden: Look what you did—you’ve stabbed me! (Maiden hams it up in loud death scene)

Knight: (Emits deep sigh) I hate it when that happens.

Narrator: (Clears throat loudly) Normally, knights slay the dragon and marry the maiden, but our fair beauty is gone now, so . . .

Dragon: (interrupting) ROAR! (addresses audience with hand cupped to mouth) What am I? Chopped liver?

Narrator: (to dragon) What do you mean?

Dragon: (Puts hands on hip defiantly) I MEAN she’s not the only damsel in this skit.

Narrator: Are you saying…?

Dragon: I certainly am.

Narrator: (Big sigh) Very well. By the power vested in me, as Narrator of this skit, I pronounce you Knight and Large Lizard.

(Wedding song is played as knight and dragon stroll off arm in arm. Knight holds up hand mirror and admires his image on the way out.)

Maiden: (raises head) Fickle. (Drops head again. Screen fades to black.)

Parents with an only child must work harder at socialization, and my situation was no exception. When we first joined our homeschool group, friendships were already established and the kids were reluctant to form new ones.

Life beyond our homeschool group proved lonely, too. Neighbors and cousins claimed my son was too young to hang out with, and he held no affinity for music or sports. As much as I hated to admit it, the socialization issue hung over us like the Sword of Damocles.

After five years of worry, I was “this close” to throwing in the towel.

Then a miracle occurred.

To celebrate Kelly’s 13th birthday, we gave him a video camera. His eyes lit up when he unwrapped it, and he dove into the instruction book. Later, he and an acquaintance resurrected some matchbox cars he’d outgrown, rigged up a track, and recorded a race. But the real fun started when they edited the video to add sound effects—like squealing tires and car crashes. They also videotaped each other’s antics, adding sounds that are better left to the imagination.

The laughs I heard emanating from the computer room gave me an idea. “What if we tried it on a larger scale?” I thought. “Why not invite half a dozen kids to perform skits with a real plot?”

We announced the idea to our homeschool group and a handful of kids showed up for the first official Comedy Club meeting. The idea gradually caught on and four years later, membership has swelled to 45.

At first, we borrowed liberally from the Internet. I found hundreds of free skits to choose from at www.macscouter.com. These we edited to our liking, but gradually the kids started writing their own. (See sidebar for tips on skit writing.) There is plenty of incentive for those who do. For one thing, they become the unofficial “director,” having the last word in who plays which character and how their skits are performed. I also reward skit writers with a jumbo chocolate chip cookie. As a result, students who formerly loathed composition are eager to provide new material. Our newest member wrote 16 skits in as many weeks!

Members e-mail me their efforts, which I edit and forward to the appropriate team. In a perfect world, they practice them for performance at the next meeting. Some kids know their lines so well, their parents can recite them in their sleep. Skits that show potential are also rehearsed for Talent Night, which takes place twice a year.

The kids enjoy performing improv as well. That is, they’re assigned a situation, i.e., a caveman trying to insure his wheel, and make up the dialogue as they go. Occasionally, they make “commercials” by choosing a random, weird object from our box of random, weird objects and pretend to sell it in a TV ad.

We videotape the performances, after which Kelly adds music, sounds, and special effects—such as thunder and lightning—as needed. Then he burns the final videos onto a DVD.

To add authenticity to the productions, I’ve haunted garage sales and thrift stores over the years for uniforms and costumes, not to mention headgear and props. These days our costume room is packed with disguises that inspire plenty of imagination. Upon entering it for the first time, one member exclaimed, “This is a kid’s dream come true!”

Meetings begin with watching the DVD, followed by script read-throughs and rehearsals. Then I turn the kids loose in the costume room to dress for the final shoot. Trust me when I say there’s never a dull moment.

One of the unexpected benefits of Comedy Club has been the metamorphosis of shy children into confident performers. The first time I met 7-year-old Hailey, for instance, she clung to her mother at a science fair. In the end, her mom presented the report! But after joining Comedy Club, Hailey emerged as an enthusiastic actress. And a boy who at first was too shy to speak became a stage ham of major proportions.

Comedy Club has also inspired the youngest in our group. After seeing their older siblings perform, preschoolers beg to participate, and their moms use this to advantage. I’ve overheard more than one say, “You can join as soon as you learn to read.”

Comedy Club has been a serious blessing to my family and many others in my homeschool group. If you’d like to start one yourself, I’d be happy to help. Please contact me with your questions at tootsie_roll@charter.net. Then you, too, can discover Lights! Camera! And plenty of laughs.


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