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Humour and comedy are the keys to success for a master of ceremonies... but... how to write a good script?

[29/10/14]

Humourist, master of ceremonies, actor, presenter, comic, radio or television commentator, scriptwriter, conference speaker... Humour and comedy triumph not just in theatres, radio and television but also at galas and events of all types. Eva Hache presented the Liga de Futbol Profesional prizes, Dani Romero will present the Goya 2015 awards, and Neil Patrick Harris, better known as Barney Stinson in How I Met Your Mother, will host the famous Oscar gala this year.  

   

The job of a master of ceremonies at a gala, corporate meeting or prize giving is no easy task. It calls for talent, timing, control, acting ability, and, overall, a good script. “Of all the tasks of a scriptwriter or audio-visual creative, writing the script for a prize-giving ceremony is probably the one that scares us the most,” confessed Enric Pardo, scriptwriter and fiction creative at El Terrat and co-director of the Postgraduate course in Television Script Writing for Entertainment and Comedy Programs taught at UPF-IDEC. We spoke to him about how to write a funny, amusing gala script.

What are the requirements for a master of ceremonies script?

By definition, galas are long and boring. There is another problem, too: there are too many agents and clients involved. In the case of a film awards ceremony like the Goyas or the Oscars, you have to please and/or entertain the members of the Academy, the industry professionals, the TV channel and the audience. Each of these want something completely different, which may even be opposed. The fact that comedians have been the choice for presenting these galas in recent years demonstrates comedy’s across the board appeal. As the maxim says; “long and funny is better than long and boring”.

What are the keys and mechanisms of humour these days?

Humour has various keys and mechanisms. Techniques that have worked forever are still being updated as time passes, being perfected and refined based on talent and practice. The most advanced societies are those that can laugh at their own misfortunes. We are currently surrounded by misfortune. Anger and indignation are the predominant emotions at present, and humour takes these feelings and spreads them in a viral manner.

Are there comic actors or just actors with a good script?

If there is no story there is no comedy and therefore no actor. If there are no jokes there is no humour. A bad actor can throw away a good joke. At the same time, a good actor can get laughs from an average joke. The ideal is to achieve excellence with great jokes and with the best actors to deliver them.

It’s not easy to keep the audience’s attention at a long and repetitive gala. How do you deal with this?

Miracles. And I recommend avoiding Twitter or you may end up suicidal. In fact, galas are often more fun on Twitter than on the TV screen. The most recent gala that stands out in my memory is the Golden Globes presented by Ricky Gervais. It was different, transgressive. Its originality and hard-hitting humour annoyed some people but made the rest of us laugh. Every time he came out on stage you had the feeling that he could say anything. This capacity for breaking rules and expectations shows extraordinary talent and the path to take with these events: create the feeling that anything could happen and play with the spectator’s expectations.

Do you think that humour is an art or can it be learned?

Humour is an art that, like all arts, needs to be worked on. In English they use the term “play” to mean act [interpretar]. I like to think that humour is an art that you need to play with.

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