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[writing|process] Scripting the Hugos - Lakeshore — LiveJournal
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Jay Lake
Date: 2011-06-28 05:10
Subject: [writing|process] Scripting the Hugos
Security: Public
Tags:awards, conventions, process, writing
I won't say much about this on the blog because, hey, really you need to turn up in Reno for the big show, or at least catch us on streaming video (I think we're going to be streamed), but yesterday I had the great pleasure of working on the script for this year's Hugo Awards ceremony. And it's making me think a bit.

This is a weird project. I am at the most one of many co-authors, given that my co-host [info]kenscholes is taking as big or bigger a role than I, and the fine folks on the Renovation committee will be providing much input and material. Yet I'm the one that got to sit down with a blank page and think it out. Structurally, thematically. From a humor perspective. Because, yes, while this will come as a shock to many of you, I hope to be funny up on stage.

That's weird, too. I'm not a comic writer. I can be funny, intensely funny (at least to myself) when I'm really 'on', but my humor is normally extemporaneous. I'm an improv guy, not a scripted guy. Yet I can hardly get up in front of a couple of thousand people who are expecting all the pomp and majesty of the Hugo Awards and riff for twenty or thirty minutes on whatever pops into my head. Or more to the point, I could do exactly that, but it wouldn't be the Hugo Awards ceremony, it would be the Jay Lake comedy hour. Meanwhile, poor Ken would be standing there in his plaid muumuu with his electric ukelele wondering what the heck happened, and the Renovation people would be gathering pitchforks and torches backstage. Not to mention the Hugo nominees...

My point being that I'm writing to a market. A very specific market, with very specific requirements and expectations. Being funny is definitely part of the job. Really, why else would you ask me and Ken to co-host something? But a much bigger part of the job is respecting the traditions of the awards, honoring the nominees, meeting the requirements of the convention, and giving the audience the show they came for.

Doing all that and being funny at the same time, now that's hard. Doing in writing two months in advance...? Speaking as a cancer patient in his fourth year of treatments, dying is easy. Comedy is hard.

See you all there. We'll have a hell of a show.

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Msconduct
User: msconduct
Date: 2011-06-28 12:43 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
As those of us stuck permanently in the comedy writing game say: "Writing comedy is easy. You just stare at the screen until your forehead bleeds." Good luck.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2011-06-28 12:47 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I use a lot of wit and humor in my fiction, but not comedy per se. I can only imagine. What is it that you write?
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Msconduct
User: msconduct
Date: 2011-06-28 13:09 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Previously, comedy for TV and radio, mostly in the UK although I also had an agent who sold my (translated) stuff in Europe. I was reasonably successful in a work-getting, award-winning sense, but really hated the milieu, which is just as fakey, insincere and backstabby as legend would have it. Now my writing partner and I write novels which my agent tries with increasing desperation to flog. I much prefer being an unsuccessful (so far) novelist to being a successful TV writer.

Believe me, I agree that writing comedy for a specific market is hard. Particularly when you have to do it whether circumstances are propitious or not. I don't have cancer, but I did once have to turn in commissioned work in the week after an unexpected and unwelcome marriage breakdown. A contract is a contract, and comedy is serious bizness.
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dionysus1999
User: dionysus1999
Date: 2011-06-28 12:57 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Boob grabbing is not funny. Making fun of men who have chips on their shoulder the size of Montana could be, though.

http://scendan.livejournal.com/586135.html
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e_bourne
User: e_bourne
Date: 2011-06-28 14:08 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Good luck, although I'm sure you'll do fine. I hear all those people REALLY love puns... :D
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2011-06-28 14:13 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Puns. Hmm. I am going to have to think some up. Wonder if I can do that?
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mlerules: bunny butt
User: mlerules
Date: 2011-06-28 14:16 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:bunny butt
Oh, now you're making me think (once again) that mebbe heading out to Reno this August would be a lotta fun...dangyou!
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randy_smith2
User: randy_smith2
Date: 2011-06-28 17:12 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Speaking as a former Hugo Ceremony script writer, I found that it was best to just keep it simple. Your task is slightly different than mine was, as you and one of the hosts. Best of luck with it. I'm sure that you will find enjoyable things to say. BTW, I've seen an opportunity for some schtick--please e-mail me privately if you're interested and I'll let you know what it is. I don't want to reveal too much in a public forum.
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Tyellas
User: tyellas
Date: 2011-06-28 21:03 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
A few months ago, I took an emceeing workshop from a professional comedian, and I learned a lot...want some of the tips?
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2011-06-28 21:18 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
In this area I consider myself an amateur, albeit perhaps a gifted one. So, sure, tip away!
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Tyellas
User: tyellas
Date: 2011-06-28 21:53 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
You are a smooth and experienced public speaker, which is half the battle. Some of this may be helpful...

* What to wear. The only dark outfit you can get away with on stage is a tuxedo, because the white shirt and cuffs re-enhance your face and hands, but tuxedoes aren't funny. Wear something non-black that doesn't break you up too much (bad: Hawiian shirt/belt/shorts/socks; good: Hawiian shirt, long pants in complimentary color). Blue photographs particularly well. Ken's muumuu sounds GREAT, as long as it's not Black Watch tartan.
* Stage makeup - at the very least, shine-reducing powder - is everyone's friend.
* Stance on stage. I saw the Hugos once and the emcees seemed very...stationary. If you guys are moving on stage, don't talk while you walk. Stride somewhere, stand there, then talk. It makes you more authoritative.
* Don't overplan the script, leave *some* wiggle room. Especially because it seems like you and Ken have banter chemistry going. This is harrrrrd for writers, by the way - we love our scripts - but it is useful to be able to change if the audience isn't into it.
* If you aren't 1000% funny all the time, that is, actually, OK. It is far, FAR more important to get all the names of performers/honorees correct. People remember and resent it when you get those wrong. They also get impatient when emcees go on for TOO long. You're familiar with the Hugos show so you can judge that - but when in doubt, go shorter.
* Smile, laugh, bring the happy to the stage. As an emcee you're the gatekeeper to the event, and you are communicating how great and exciting it is to the audience. Experienced emcees can get jaded and seem like they're phoning it in, or cite the fact that the audience has seen it a million times before - but why ruin the high for a first-timer whose best friend is a nominee?
* What can fall flat? Sexism, duh, but also over-intellectual humor, and anything that refers to politics. I had the latter two flop at a show I emceed - luckily it was a context where "Okay! Moving right along!" came naturally.
* Don't make drunk people read signs. How relevant this is to the Hugos, I don't know, but it's wisdom I carry in my heart.
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User: mmegaera
Date: 2011-06-29 00:32 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:travel
Just another reason to be looking forward to Renovation!
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mectech
User: mectech
Date: 2011-06-29 07:27 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I have faith, for you are a writer of mighty powers....
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Gary Emenitove
User: garyomaha
Date: 2011-06-29 11:43 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
>>catch us on streaming video (I think we're going to be streamed)<<

Sadly, M and I can't make it, and we were hoping for streaming, but I have it on High Authority that it may not happen. If you hear otherwise, please be sure to share the news.
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