Arts & Entertainment


Judd Apatow

Lesson time 12:54 min

A joke always works better when it is true to character. Learn how to use your characters’ desires, insecurities, and personalities to craft realistic, funny dialogue.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: Determine What Your Character Wants • Think of Dialogue as the Character’s Mask • Base Jokes on Your Character's Personality • Staying True to Character: Funny People • Test Drive Dialogue As Much As Possible


In every scene, the characters want something, and sometimes they want different things. And that's really what you're tuning into to write the dialogue. So if Seth Rogen is sitting with Katherine Heigl, she might want one thing. She wants to know more about him before she tells him she's pregnant. So she's feeling him out, and she knows she has this thing that she has to tell him that she's really scared to tell him. And she's trying to determine, is this someone I can go through this with? He doesn't know that. He thinks he's on a date, and so he's trying to win her over. He probably wants to sleep with her again. He can't believe this beautiful woman will even sit down with him again. And that's the clash. That they are coming from completely different places until the information comes out. Then suddenly they might want completely different things, from that moment on. And that's what you're trying to figure out with every scene. What do these people want? If Steve Carell is confronted by Catherine Keener, and she says I don't want to wait for 20 dates, I want to have sex right now, what he wants is not to have sex right now because he's afraid. And he's afraid if it goes badly he's going to lose her. And she's horny. She wants to have sex right now, and she's also offended that he doesn't, and she doesn't understand why he doesn't. And it hurts her feelings. And she's insulted. So they both have very strong attitudes that are clashing. And there are secret feelings that they're not sharing with each other. She might be yelling at him when really what she's thinking is, you've just hurt my feelings. And he might be making up all these lies and excuses, but really what he's thinking is, I love you so much, I feel like if we have sex right now I might lose you forever. And that's what makes it interesting. Gary used to always say, people very rarely tell you what they're actually feeling. People don't tell the truth. They wear masks, they're trying to present themselves in a certain way to the world, and most of the time, it's not the truth. So someone might be acting cocky to cover for the fact that they're terrified or they're needy. And that when they do tell the truth, it's usually a really big deal. If someone opens up to you and says, I'm scared to death that this project is terrible and I'm bad at my job, it's a big deal. But usually they're pretending they're great at their job. In the poker scene in the 40-Year-Old Virgin, all he wants is for them to think he's cool. All he wants is for them to think he's had sex before. So he's lying, but really he's lying because he's ashamed, and he's insecure. And then as soon as he says he's a virgin, and they're excited to help him-- well maybe they're excited to help him because it makes them feel superior to him. Maybe it makes them feel like, oh I must be a better person than I thought I was, because at least I'm not a virgin like this guy. And maybe if I help him lose his ...

About the Instructor

No joke: at age 15, Judd Apatow took a dishwashing job at a comedy club to watch the acts. Today, he’s the comedic genius behind hits including The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Bridesmaids, and Freaks and Geeks. In his first-ever online comedy class, the Emmy Award winner teaches you how to create hilarious storylines, write great stand-up, and direct movies that leave audiences laughing.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Judd Apatow

Judd Apatow teaches you how to write, direct, produce, and perform comedy for film and television.

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