The Big Lebowski may have landed with a thud when it was first released in 1998 but has grown into one of the most beloved comedies of the past 20 years. Let’s take a look at one of the most quotable scenes from the film and see what we can pick up for our own writing.
For starters, you might notice that the Coen Brothers don’t use standard sluglines. Since they are producing and directing, it’s not a big deal and they do it in such a way that it’s a pleasurable read. In fact, I am guessing some of you didn’t notice. However, as a new writer or a spec writer I would advise against adopting this quirk. Include a slugline while also making your script flow in a way that keeps the reader engaged enough to not get hung up on a details that will stop them from reading.
Also, you will notice some slight, very slight differences in some of the dialogue. The pace in the scene you watch is pitch perfect with three seasoned performers who play off one another expertly. The slight variations that were implemented actually help the comedic timing and pace, in my opinion.
Lastly, despite the slight changes in dialogue, the scene is hilarious on the page. Now sure we are influenced by having already seen the movie and knowing that John Goodman is over the top hysterical as Walter and we know the surfer-stoner way in which Jeff Bridges is going to deliver these lines but it still is funny on the page.
If you are writing comedy IT MUST BE FUNNY ON THE PAGE. Don’t count on Will Ferrell or John Goodman or whomever you are writing your character for, to bring it when they film because if it isn’t funny on the page it is never going to be a movie.
Dane Reade is an admitted knucklehead, writer, actor, storyteller and managing editor of The Tiny Protagonist. You can connect with him on twitter @TheUrbanHobo or via @TinyProtagonist