In his article, Laughing Out Loud: Writing the Comedy-Centered Screenplay, Andrew Horton touches upon the three different areas of comedy, Comedian Driven, Story/Situation Oriented, and Character-Centered. Horton notes that these divisions are not set in stone, and usually a work falls into more than one of the areas. One of the best example of overlap of the three areas that I can think of is Seinfeld. While Jerry Seinfeld’s unique brand of stand-up sets the tone for each episode, we are also invested in the lives of the characters and how the story moves them forward in a show about nothing.
Horton warns that combining the areas may not always lead to the best results. When aiming for a story driven piece, Horton recommends “avoid including a known comedian” a line I wish the writers of The Office, or at least the NBC big wigs, had read before casting Will Ferrell as Deangelo Vickers.
If you do not remember Will Ferrell’s stint on The Office, I envy you. Ferrell was brought in to “bridge the gap” between Steve Carell’s final episodes and the future of the series. I remember being so excited that my favorite show had scored such a well known comedian, boy was I wrong. Instead of bringing a new, interesting character to the show, Ferrell’s Vickers came across as a sexist, more incompetent, more annoying version of Michael Scott. The character’s presence only drew attention away from Carell and the rest of the cast during Carell’s final episodes. While, Vicker’s arc on the show only lasted four episodes, they were four episodes too many.