Skit Principles to Live (and Die) By

So it's that time of year and your church wants to do a little drama, huh? Relish the opportunity. It's a great time of year, but unlike the calendar, you don't just fall into greatness on stage. That takes attention to detail like making a Gingerbread House or understanding episode of L O S T. In accordance with that, here are some of the details I try to live by in writing/performing skits.


1. Don't be a Hero.
If you are charged with writing a script or performing, don't be a hero. Only two people work well alone: Rambo and the King from Burger King. Since you're probably neither, embrace others. Solicit some feedback. Get outside opinions.

You may think you have the greatest idea in the history of ever, but every idea can be improved upon and who better to help you than your skitmates? Nobody is as invested in creating a good skit as they are. You can always ignore suggestions, but it’s much more difficult to generate them on your own.

Writing a skit is like visiting a breakfast buffet. While you could just eat eggs, why miss out on the rich flavors of things like bacon, biscuits, bacon, hashbrowns and bacon?

2. Death by Ambition.
If a joke feels over the top, then it is probably out of the atmosphere and hovering somewhere around the planet formerly known as Pluto. Ideas have a way of coming alive in theory or on paper, but when faced with the stone cold reaper that is a live audience, they wilt.

So, yeah, maybe a skit where Satan and Jesus symbolically duel in a laser tag fight while also in claymation SOUNDS really awesome, the odds of pulling it off are somewhere between ‘not happening’ and ‘never ever.’

Instead, stick to a familiar setting. You want to resonate with people, not alienate them. Good content always trumps a good context. Even 5 out of 5 dentists agree with that.

3. It’s the Little Things.
Do you use gigantic hand gestures in normal conversation? Are you constantly repeating a person's name throughout the course of a conversation? Do you always refrain from contractions or never stop to take a breath when speaking?

If you do then, send me a tape of yourself because I really enjoyed Napoleon Dynamite and you sound similarly awkward in a social sense. If not though, why do it on stage? The subtle things are often what really makes a good skit.

The easiest way to communicate well with an audience is to act or speak like you normally do. Let's face it- most skits don't involve method acting or themes of anthropomorphism. Generally speaking, we're playing similar characters to ourselves just with behavioral variations. So act accordingly. Pause between thoughts. Use familiar, but not exclusive slang.

Look at written dialogue like the yellow brick road in Oz: You are to stay the course and follow it, but get there however you like. And avoid profanity on the journey. Tends to upset the audience.