One writing question I'm often asked is how are farces constructed? I’m sure fifty different comedy writers would give you fifty different approaches but this is mine.
First off there must be jeopardy.
Something the characters need very badly and are willing to go to the
greatest lengths to achieve. The situation can be totally absurd to us
but to the characters themselves they’re very real. In fact, the greater
the jeopardy the crazier they can act.
Secondly, a farce is
built on a lie. A character lies and then to keep from getting caught
must lie again. The lies multiply, the character digs himself into a
deeper hole. And generally, there are several characters forced to lie.
Often the lies contradict each other.
Needless to say, this takes
careful planning. The structure of a farce is critical. Things have to
happen with exact precision. The pressure must never let up. Constant
roadblocks must be introduced. Complications on top of more
complications. The vice tightens…and tightens…and tightens.
farces take place in real time. There are no fade outs, no dissolves,
no relief. And as the piece builds the pace quickens. If done right, a
farce should be a snowball rolling down a hill, gaining momentum and
Neil Simon, who wrote the wonderful farce RUMORS, is quoted as saying “At
the final curtain, the audience must be as spent as the actors, who by
now are on oxygen support. If the audience is only wheezing with
laughter, you need rewrites or actors with stronger lungs.”
incredibly tough to pull off but unbelievably satisfying when you do.
And for my money, no show ever did them better than FRASIER.