Pitch Meetings & Sketch Ideas

If you are going to write sketch comedy with a team then one skill you need to develop is your ability to pitch an idea. Some people think they have to come into the writer’s room with a full fledged written sketch, but I assure you that’s not the case. Simply an idea is plenty of ammo to come into a pitch meeting with. Today, I’d like to help by offering some advice for the pitch meeting process, as well as offer some tips for how to pitch sketches better and then provide you a worksheet to help you generate more ideas than you know what to do with.

What is a pitch?

Pitching a sketch or an idea in any sort of meeting can be very scary if you aren’t used to being in that setting or if you don’t know the people around you. I think this is why most comedy teams stay small and don’t have much turnover or hesitate to let knew people in. You have to be able to trust the people in the room with you and you have to know that if you pitch an idea, even a bad one, that idea (and you) won’t get pooped on.

A pitch is simply expressing an idea out loud that you have for a sketch.

A pitch can be as simple as, “there’s a weird guy at work and he asks everyone what they’re having for lunch everyday.” (credit: Tony Remiger).

Or it can be as detailed as, “there’s a lady, her name is Debbie Downer. Every conversation she’s in eventually devolves to the point where she’s saying terrible things that have happened in her life and it brings the conversation and energy to a screeching halt.” (credit: Saturday Night Live).

How do you pitch an idea?

You simply say it.

The goal should be to have your idea narrowed down to just two or three sentences.

Here is an example of a poorly pitched idea:

There’s this guy, you see and he works at my job. I’m in marketing so it’s a big office with a lot of people. Anyway, he’s super weird. Everyday he comes to work and it’s only like 9 am and he’s already asking people “hey, what’d you bring for lunch today?” Like, “I don’t know Bob! It’s 9 am I haven’t even had my coffee yet, do you really think I’m worried about lunch right now?” So, I think it’d be funny if we did a sketch about this guy. Like, let’s say he walks into the lunch room and people immediately leave, because they don’t like him and then other people walk in and one guy’s like “hey let’s just have some fun with Bob.” So, he says “hey, whatcha got there Bob?” and Bob’s like…….  on and on.

So, what’s wrong with the pitch above?

  1. It’s too long and there’s way too much information that doesn’t matter for the sketch.
  2. “I think it’d be funny if…” isn’t necessary to say. We are in a comedy writer’s room. We know you think it’s funny.
  3. In this pitch the writer has already started writing the sketch. Which doesn’t do the members of the team any good, because a big part of pitching sketches is to get open feedback and ideas of where the sketch could go. If you have it already flushed out, there’s little room for an open discussion and you would’ve been better off writing a first draft instead.

How do you pitch an idea better?

First, you take out all the fluff. We don’t need to know that you’re in marketing or that it’s a big office. We don’t need dialogue that you’ve already thought of. We certainly don’t need to hear that you think it’s funny or how you think the sketch should unfold.

We need 2 to 3 sentences at most. If you can’t pitch a sketch idea in 2 to 3 sentences then it’s probably too complicated.

Here are a couple of examples. See if you can figure out the movie/sketch that this pitch would go with:

These two losers need to pass a history exam to graduate. They discover a secret portal in a phone booth that lets them travel through time and bring back a bunch of historical figures that help them pass their exam.

There’s this guy who is hired to come give a talk to these troublemaker kids in white suburbia. He’s a motivational speaker, but he actually lives in a van down by the river. By the end they straighten up because they don’t want to end up a loser like he is.

Aloof knights are looking for the holy grail. We can’t afford horses so they are using coconuts to make hoof sounds. They get into all kinds of weird situations as we explore the Middle Ages.

Simple. To the point. Room for a lot of input and ideas to go into the meat of them. Most sketches, TV shows, movies and books start with a simple idea that is then expounded upon throughout the process. Pitching the idea is just the first part of that process.

What are some quick tips that will help me pitch better?

  1. Be confident in what you’re pitching. It has the potential to be hilarious and you know it. Believe it yourself and others will believe it as well.
  2. Add your personality. Be energetic and really sell your idea through your own personality. Mumbling an idea is never going to get everyone on board. Force it if you have to, you’ll only be presenting for a few seconds. Get up out of your seat if you need to and physically show your sketch.
  3. Figure it out yourself before you pitch. Don’t overthink it. Instead, talk out loud to yourself about the idea. Then condense it into just a few sentences. Those sentences should just contain the information that is needed and nothing else.
  4. Be open to other people’s ideas and they will be open to yours. Reciprocation is a huge part of trust. Show enthusiasm for the other ideas in the room. Give respect to get respect.
  5. Do it more often. The more you do something like pitch ideas, the better you will get. You will learn how to refine your ideas more and you will learn when to shut up and listen. When I’m not sure about an idea, I may record myself on my phone and listen to it back. It can help out a lot in identifying the point I’m trying to get across.

What if the well has runneth dry and I have no more ideas?

First off, impossible! Life is so weird and people are even stranger. There will always be a plethora of ideas to make sketches out of. But, if you need some help in generating ideas, we gotchyu covered. Here is a .pdf that we call the Sketch Idea Generator. It’s six pages of advice for generating new ideas and techniques you can use to continue generating those ideas any time you need them.

Sketch Idea Generator Worksheet

It’s available here ^^^ for free. You can save it to your computer or print it off and throw it in your sketch comedy notebook.

If you like that, you may also be interested in our Sketch Comedy Cheat Sheet that helps you write out the beats of your soon-to-be brilliant sketch. You can access that and download it for free by visiting >>>Sketch Writing Cheat Sheet<<<.

I hope this article helps you pitch better sketch ideas and helps you develop more ideas worth pitching.

If it did help you  – let me know about it! Email me anytime at Jason@sketchpadcomedy.com

Keep creating. Keep writing.

-Jason, Sketchpad Comedy

photo courtesy of Unsplash.com, Ashes Sitoula

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