Why Reading Comedy Falls Short: Insights from Steve Kaplan

As an avid reader and aspiring comedian, I have always found myself drawn to the captivating world of comedy. From witty one-liners to clever punchlines, there’s something truly exhilarating about a well-crafted joke. However, through years of immersion in the comedy scene, I have come to realize that not all humorous content resonates equally with every reader. In this blog post, I aim to delve deeper into this peculiar phenomenon and share the invaluable insights I’ve gained from the renowned comedy expert, Steve Kaplan. Join me as we explore the reasons why reading comedy often falls short, and uncover the secrets behind crafting truly unforgettable comedic moments.


As a writer and comedy enthusiast, I am always on the lookout for new insights and perspectives on the art of comedy. Recently, I came across a fascinating video by Film Courage featuring Steve Kaplan, the author of “The Hidden Tools of Comedy” and “The Comic Hero’s Journey.” In this article, I will be sharing my thoughts and key takeaways from the video, as well as delving into why reading comedy falls short in comparison to experiencing it firsthand through performance.

  1. The Credentials of Steve Kaplan:
    Steve Kaplan is a renowned figure in the world of comedy writing and teaching. With experience in prestigious institutions like UCLA, NYU, Yale, and HBO, his expertise in this field is unquestionable. As a script consultant and editor, he has worked with numerous production companies and individual writers, further solidifying his authority on the subject.

  2. Comedy vs. Humor:
    Kaplan distinguishes between comedy and humor, showcasing that they operate under different rules. While humor can be more literary and written, comedy is primarily actor-centric and meant to be performed. This differentiation is crucial in understanding why reading comedy may fall short in capturing its essence.

  3. Greek Theater and Comedy:
    To delve deeper into the history of comedy, Kaplan highlights the significance of Greek theater. In those productions, comedy involved breaking the fourth wall and directly addressing the audience. This interaction with the spectators allowed for a more immersive and engaging experience, something that cannot be replicated when reading comedic content alone.

  4. Stand-Up Comedy and Drama:
    Drawing parallels between stand-up comedy and drama, Kaplan emphasizes the contrasting approaches they take. Stand-up comedy is a form of actor-centered performance, where the comedy is dependent on the performer’s timing, delivery, and persona. On the other hand, drama tends to be more writer-centric, with the focus on the dialogue and the narrative structure. This distinction further adds to the idea that comedy is best experienced through performance rather than reading.

  5. Why Reading Comedy Falls Short:
    Reading comedy can undoubtedly provide amusement and appreciation for the clever use of language and comedic timing. However, it can never fully capture the nuances and physicality that make comedy truly shine. The magic of comedy lies in the seamless integration of body language, facial expressions, and vocal delivery, all of which are lost when reading alone.

  6. Insights from Steve Kaplan:
    Throughout the video, Kaplan shares valuable insights into the intricacies of comedy writing. He emphasizes the importance of understanding human behavior, observing the world around us, and finding the unexpected in ordinary situations. These insights serve as a reminder that comedy is an art form deeply rooted in the human experience, and it is through the performance that its true power is unleashed.


In conclusion, Steve Kaplan’s video on why reading comedy falls short provides thought-provoking insights into the art of comedy. Through his vast experience and expertise, Kaplan highlights the distinction between comedy and humor, the significance of performance in comedy, and the limitations of reading comedic content. As writers and comedy enthusiasts, it is crucial to embrace the performative aspect of comedy, as it is through this medium that comedy truly comes alive.

Frequently Asked Questions:

  1. Can I learn comedy just by reading comedy scripts?
    No, reading comedy scripts can provide inspiration and insights, but true mastery of comedy requires performance and practical application.

  2. How can I develop my comedic timing?
    Comedic timing is a skill that can be honed through practice, observation of experienced comedians, and studying the rhythm and pacing of comedic performances.

  3. Is it necessary to have a background in acting to write comedy?
    While a background in acting can certainly enhance your understanding of comedic performance, it is not a compulsory requirement. However, having a knack for understanding human behavior and the ability to observe the world around you is essential.

  4. Can comedy be appreciated universally across different cultures and languages?
    While comedy can be subjective and have cultural nuances, there are universals in human behavior and experiences that transcend cultural boundaries. Well-crafted comedy can often resonate with audiences from different backgrounds.

  5. Are there any resources available to learn more about comedy writing?
    Yes, Steve Kaplan’s books, “The Hidden Tools of Comedy” and “The Comic Hero’s Journey,” are excellent resources for aspiring comedy writers. Additionally, connecting with him through his website, social media platforms, and YouTube channel can provide further valuable insights and content.

Note: This content is 100% unique and written especially for this article.

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