Home Writing How to Write a Skit: A 5-Step Guide for New Writers

How to Write a Skit: A 5-Step Guide for New Writers

by Natasha Ferguson

So, you think you’re funny?

Do you want to take that humor out into the world through skits (also known as sketches)? The catch is, you’ve never written one before. Well, it’s a good thing we’ve devised an easy step-by-step guide for you to do exactly that.

What is a Skit?

A skit is a short parody where performers mock different aspects of life, whether that be a person, situation or an existing piece of literature, film, or television. They are usually satirical in their writing and presentation.

Coming up with the ideas for your skit will be the easy part but shaping those ideas into jokes and comical references that will make people laugh is the tricky part. Be prepared to do lots of writing and rewriting. But always remind yourself that comedy is subjective; you’ll never make everyone laugh.

Saturday Night Live has some of the most famous skits, so we recommend delving into some examples of these to spark any inspiration! Other shows specializing in sketch comedy include Key and Peele, Monty Python’s Flying Circus and Robot Chicken, not to mention many more.

So, look at a variety of examples of short skit examples from shows like these and work out what sort of skits you’d like to write. Do you want to focus on current affairs, everyday life, or a particular group of people? Or a mixture?

Recommended Celtx Blog: How to Write a Script for a Short Film | Step by Step

It is also important to say that comedy writing is ever-changing. With the giant video platforms that are social media, you do have a lot more freedom to create and do things your way and have as much fun as possible.

The steps below are by no means the only way to write a comedy skit, but as a new writer, you may well welcome the structure and the steps we’re about to dive into.

How to Write a Skit – 5 Step Guide

How to Write a Skit
Step 1 – Develop Your Idea
Step 2 – Assign Your Characters
Step 3 – Expand the Premise of Your Idea
Step 4 – Structure the Skit
Step 5 – Write Your Skit

Step 1 – Develop Your Idea

Ideas for skits can come from anywhere. We recommend having a notebook to hand so you can jot down inspiration when you’re out and about. Alternatively, you could use the Notes app on your phone.

Where Can You Draw Ideas From?

Could you take a moral or a message from a pre-existing tale and flip it on its head? Or put a comical twist on one of your favorite stories and the message it gives to its audience?

Fairy tales can work well for this, as the characters are already dynamic and exaggerated. Of course, this doesn’t just apply to books, but to television and film too.

Or perhaps a news story has sparked your interest that you’d like to put a comedic spin on? Think of a situation in real life you’ve experienced or have been told about, even if it seems mundane. It doesn’t need to necessarily be funny at this point, so don’t go out of your way to think of a funny idea straight away.

Whatever it is, make sure it’s an idea you can build on. If a situation sticks out to you that you’d like to write a skit about, consider what was it about that situation that has made you recall it.

Again, it doesn’t need to be funny at this stage, instead sparking annoyance or anger, even.

Step 2 – Assign Your Characters

Within your skit, you’ll need at least two opposing points of view, so you can align humor to both sides.

The protagonist will usually have the absurd view, who will most likely provide the initial laughs of the skit. They will stop the flow of the situation, providing obstacles along the way.

It is useful to remember why the protagonist is trying to disrupt things. It isn’t always essential but can give you an added edge.

You’ll also need a ‘foil’ who has an opposing point of view. Their role in the skit is to support the protagonist, setting them up for a laugh and heightening their absurdity.

For example, in the Saturday Night Live sketch, Italian Restaurant, our protagonists are the couple who are outraged to find out that the food they’ve been served came from Pizza Hut, and not from the restaurant itself.

The foil in this situation is the waiter, who feeds the couple’s anger as it rises throughout the skit. He’s supported by the two other couples in the restaurant, who laugh at the fact they’ve been successfully fooled.

Of course, you can have more than two characters, but there must always be two opposing points of view.

Step 3 – Expand the Premise of Your Idea

What if?

“What if” is a great term to set you off on expanding your idea.

For example, in this Saturday Night Live sketch, they ask the question “What if all the Disney Princesses were housewives?” based on the “Real Housewives…” franchise. Throughout the sketch, they unpack the potential problems facing each princess and how they inform how the princesses interact.

Key and Peele also took a famous franchise, Harry Potter, and asked “What if Hogwarts were an inner-city school?” This smart skit links popular culture, with government cutbacks, very much grounded in reality.

The more absurd you can make the ‘what if’ question, the better.

Mix Up the Circumstances

Skits can last anywhere from two to five minutes, so depending on the length you’re looking to achieve, it’s important to have enough material to keep an audience engaged…and laughing!

To expand your idea even further, you can change up the elements that make up your skit.

  1. Who? If your skit is based in a doctor’s waiting room, could all the people waiting, be children? Or if it’s based in a theater, could all the performers and audience be animals?
  2. Where? Take the situation or the characters of your skit into a different location.
  3. When? Transport the situation into the future or the past.
  4. How? For either the protagonist, the foil, or even both, give them a different mannerism, characteristic or way of speaking.
  5. Why? Change the reason why a character is acting a certain way.

Step 4 – Structure the Skit

So, how do you make a skit funny? There is a traditional structure to writing skits that is great to follow if you’re just starting out as well as for seasoned skit writers.

Set-Up

Begin your sketch by establishing WHERE you are, WHO your characters are, WHAT is happening and WHY.

Remember, skits are supposed to be short, so don’t get bogged down with providing too much detail here. Tell the audience what they need to know and move on. You don’t necessarily have to get laughs at this early stage.

Reveal

The big moment within your skit. Within your skit, you’re setting out a metaphorical ‘game’ for your characters to play, so make sure you set it off with a bang.

This will also divulge the central comic idea for your skit.

Escalation

This is the main body of your skit, where the characters play the ‘game’ and try to solve the problem in front of them.

Again, this is where the characters’ opposing views will really come to the fore.

Pay-Off

It’s time to play your final card. Shock the audience with a twist or conclusion they were not expecting.

Cracking the Ending

Funnily enough, the ending of skits is what writers will find most difficult. Just how do you create an unexpected ending that will hopefully get the biggest laugh of the whole couple of minutes the skit is playing out?

To help you out, we have a few ending ideas to help you on your way.

An Unexpected Fact

The whole sketch is suddenly turned on its head and given a new perspective. A great example of this is in Fry and Laurie’s “Psycho Psychiatrists” skit, where two men try to convince the other that he is the psychiatrist.

In this scene, the protagonist and the foil seem to swap places, as each man in turn asks psychological questions of the other. As an audience, we are distracted trying to work out who is telling the truth. It isn’t until the end of the sketch, where the genuine psychiatrist arrives, that we realize that both men were in fact patients.

Come Full Circle

Your skit could just end where it started with the characters harbouring the same attitudes and wants the entire way through.

In this Saturday Night Live sketch, “Cockpit”, Tom Hanks’ protagonist tries to sabotage Alec Baldwin’s foil right until the very end. Alec has made no progress in persuading Tom otherwise; he’ll never change, and that is where the humor lies.

Step 5 – Write Your Skit

Once you have outlined your entire skit using this structure, it’s time to start writing. We recommend writing the action out first, before moving on to the dialogue. Get a sense of where your characters are in the scene, and work on the potential physical comedy first.

Then end with dialogue.

Finally, rewrite and hone your script until it’s the best it can be. Try it out on your friends and family to see their responses.

Good luck comedy writers!

Author

  • Natasha Ferguson

    Natasha is a UK-based freelance screenwriter and script editor with a love for sci-fi. In 2022 she recently placed in the Screenwriters' Network Short Film Screenplay Competition and the Golden Short Film Festivals. When not at her desk, you'll find her at the theater, or walking around the English countryside (even in the notorious British weather)

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