Years of writing and performing comedy skits has taken it's toll on me. Sad.

On this blog page, you'll find an ever-increasing collection of my random musings, thoughts (and occasional rant) on skits, comedy, drama, performance, anything that pertains to the general topic of using these tools to communicate Biblical truths to the viewer. I'll add them as they occur to me, in whatever order they come, and perhaps as you visit occasionally to catch up on the latest, you'll find something useful to you. The most recent blog will be posted first, followed by the previous entries in the order they were posted.

Spoof Skits!

One common type of skit you won't find here are the "spoof" skits, that are takeoffs of popular game shows, TV shows, movies, etc. Why? Simply because that are so common. The "spoof" skit is the simplest type to come up with and write, the easiest and most obvious, and everybody does them for that reason. Anyone can come up with an idea for one and write a decent one, so why should I do it? Besides, these can become outdated very quickly, and the scripts I post here are intended to be used for many years. Some of the most popular ones on this site are those I wrote over a dozen years ago and people are still finding and doing them. But skits based on short-lived TV shows or movies are quickly relegated to the "too cheezy and old" category, like the 5 dollar DVD bin at Wally-Mart.

(The only script on this site you might point to as inspired by a TV show is "Jerusalem's Most Wanted." But the script isn't dependant on familiarity with "America's Most Wanted" to get the message, and having seen the show or not makes no impact on the story. It was inspired more by the format of the show than simply capitalizing on a currently-popular series to get a quick laugh. So I really don't consider it a "spoof skit.")

"Spoof skits" are the generally the "tabloid papers" of sketch writing; sensationalistic, easy to come by, disposable and low-brow. Good perhaps for today's youth-group, but not for a different group a few years down the road. They have a short shelf life. Their worth is generally demonstrated by how often someone suggests one for me to write. "Hey," they say, proud of their idea, "why not do a skit on "American Idol," except that instead of people competing, they are things like 'money," 'popularity,' and stuff like that? Isn't that a great idea?" Yeah, and only you and about a million other people have had it. My goal is to present unique ideas, not dependant on fads in the culture as a shortcut to "relevance" and "teen appeal." If "spoof skits" are what you are looking for, there are plenty of other sites that offer them. Your basic youth group could come up with dozens of their own and throw them together quickly.

Which is precisely why I don't have them here to any noticable degree; because if I did one, it's more than likely some youth group leader or other writer would email me and say "Hey, I wrote a skit exactly like that, based on "(name the show)" and you stole my idea!" Understand, I am not putting down this type of skit or those that write them; they can be funny and fun to see and do. But, although a cake might be enjoyable when fresh, would you want to eat or serve the same cake a month from now? I don't think so. And I've got better things to do and offer here than content that can becomes stale and dated in a short time.

Subtle or Self-evident?

In one of my rare visits to other drama sites, I came across a set of guidelines for contributing writers. As I read what they felt made for a good skit, I thought to myself, "this is exactly what I want to avoid." Here are a few of their points, paraphrased to avoid being too specific to their site, because they do have a lot of good resources.

THEM: Avoid presenting a solution to the problem the skit dramatises. Subtly highlight the situation and leave it to the pastor to resolve in their message. Avoid religious answers, only raise human-issue questions.

My skits are designed to stand alone, without the need for a followup message, which are usually desirable, but not always possible. I think that if the skit only raises a question, and gives no answers, it has failed. It's only half-written. Lukewarmness is a trait that made even the Lord disgusted, and you won't find many of the "tread lightly" type for the "seeker-sensitive" here. My skits just put it out there, and they have a resolution.

Of course, good taste and consideration are never wrong. A skit can be exciting, funny, direct, even confrontational, without being insensitive or offensive. It just takes careful writing. And the reason the skits present real problems in such an unusual way, is to get people to hear the message without rejecting them as judgemental or unloving. The skits are parables, that show real truths in sometimes hyperbolic ways.

Now, I've seen some direct and straightforward skits before that came across as crass and unfeeling. So I strive to make mine full of meaning, but presented in such as way as to be entertaining and thought-provoking. There is a balance that can be achieved without sacrificing truth and effectiveness.

THEM: Write about everyday situations instead of extreme situations. Life brings enough drama. Write about things that people see around them every day.

Bor-ing! The "stand-around-and-talk" type of skit, seen so often everywhere, is not my style. Unless there is a strong, unique and interesting core idea, the script doesn't get written. Although the theme is about things we encounter or deal with often, the presentation needs to be imaginative and fun! Say it in a different way! Catch their attention and make them sit up and take notice! The scripts here do not try to "walk on eggshells," but kicks them out of the way!

You can tell from the scripts here that they are not for the faint of heart to perform. These scripts are intended for the serious drama team, looking for a challenge, with strong, fully-developed ministry-oriented skits that will make an IMPACT!

Which leads to the next article...

Do It Up BIG!

If you've read much on this site beyond the scripts, you've probably picked up on a prevelant theme... that of how skits are represented by the drama team. Presentation and attitude are extremely important in elevating the audience's perception of your work. You have to raise their expectations, because, based on what they've often seen when it comes to skits, they may be pretty low.

If you feel the scripts found here are of a superior breed, then they deserve to be performed to the best of your ability. And if they are, then your performance deserves to be presented in a manner that befits it. Sure, doing "a short skit before the sermon" is fine, but don't let that be the extent of it. Good material, and good performances of it, need to be spotlighted and showcased in a way that builds anticipation of a special event.

Here is another way of looking at it: Imagine a brilliant clothing designer is ready to reveal a new line of his outfits. Would he use anyone he could grab to put them on, then just have them walk out before some other type of program, as a quick time-filler, with no special promotion? Then would he send them walking out on stage with no special lighting, no musical fanfare, or build-up? Of course not! No-one would be interested in his new clothes, and the line would flop. No, after all of the work of creating them, he gets the best models, orchestrates the best lighting and music, plans a special event, and impresses everyone with his designs, because of the way they were presented.

Presentation is extremely important in making sure the performance has all the impact it can. A careless presentation can cripple a great performance. That's why the soundtrack is important to the skit, if one is available for it. Special lighting is important in making the event on stage seem more special. Regular overhead lighting makes drama seem flat. But bring down the house lights, bring up the floodlights or spotlights, and suddenly the scene becomes magical.

Proper promotion, and building anticipation of the event, is also important. Have a special night or service devoted to drama. Have enough material ready to fill at least an hour. Mixing the skits with special singers works beautifully. Let people know something special is happening, and when they arrive, they'll bring with them a sense of excitement which will spark to your actors and bring out their best. You see, for a drama presentation to really work (and this is true for both comedy and serious drama), there needs to be a connection between the performers and the audience. Once that connection is made, it's sheer magic! They feed each other. The actors see the reaction to their efforts, and they come alive, and do even better.

Try it... pick about three of the scripts on this site... get the soundtracks if the script calls for it... rehearse until you're good at it... create sets to work with... plan a special service with your pastor, and then promote it everywhere, especially among other churches. It could be the start of a regular series of events that people look forward to with excitement!

Another Pet Peeve Of Mine

When it comes to performing skits, or seeing others perform them that is, I have a couple of pet peeves. The first is procrastination, a subject I have covered in other places on this site. It's so common, and a killer of quality skit scripts. But just as deadly to the quality skit is a rushed performance.

I get quite a few emails informing me of skit use, and I'm usually happy to see them. It means that people are seeing them performed and getting blessed by them. EXCEPT for those emails that go like this: "We're using your skit "Assignment: Witness" (or some other one). I just found it today (Thursday) and we're doing it this weekend!"

This is when the skit requires a good deal of memorization and rehearsal, not one of the sixty second "Skit Bits" on the site. Those are for quick performance. You might even be able to pull off a decent performance of one of the shorter 5-6 minute scripts. Maybe, if you really work at it.

But a 10+ page script?

(Sound of gnashing teeth. Mine.)

Come on, folks. Someone has found a script that runs 8-10 minutes and they're doing it two days from now? With maybe one quick run-through? Impossible. Impossible to do right, anyway. It more than likely means that they'll just stumble around stage with one eye on each other and the other eye on the script, as they read it aloud. That's not a skit performance, that's a first-time rehearsal. It's not acting, it's pretending to act. That's not an engaging presentation, it's a pathetic demonstration of carelessness.

I'd be ashamed to do this, ashamed to watch others do it, and ashamed to be recognized as the writer of the skit they are trashing. Excuses that "we don't have the time to memorise and rehearse skits to do them right," are flashing signs that say "It's better not to be done, than done badly." If it's done for Christ's sake, it should be the best it can be.

That's part of the reason skits have a bad name. I sometimes feel like the rabbit in the Trix cereal commercial. Except that I'm trying to get people to see skits as a grown-up art form, and I get the response, "Silly rabbit! Skits are for kids!"

The Best Skit Ideas Come While At The Flea Market!

Down in Savannah, Georgia, about an hour from where I live, there is a large place called "Keller's Flea Market." Me and my wife go there sometimes, and once we find a parking space (a daunting task in itself), we split up and go our separate ways, (temporarily) to meet back at the entrance at a specified time.


Home of the Big Cow

I usually haunt the old book, comic and record bins, but I also keep my eyes open for interesting junk that can be used as props in skits. Flea markets, or just plain old yard sales, are great places for this.

But I seldom, if ever, go out looking for a specific item needed for a pre-written skit. It works kind of opposite. I see interesting or odd items, and they generate skit ideas that utilize them! For example, I might find a hat with a large pair of lips on them. "That looks funny," I think. Then an idea for a skit where a character wears such a hat suggests itself. If it seems promising, I'll buy the hat, then go home and write down the skit idea that came to mind. When I have the time, I'll sit down later and think it through, developing it into a full-blown script.

Now, few of those type of ideas end up on this script site, since you may never find a prop or costume item just like that. I try to post scripts that use easy-to-find props. However, it demonstrates a technique that you can use to develop your own skit ideas. Seldom do skits come by sitting down and saying, "I shall now write a skit." They come by capturing the odd ideas that float through your head, mostly prompted by something you see or hear. An interesting prop, anecdote, sermon, song, etc., that gives you a kernal of an idea that you jot down and develop later.

That's how most of the ideas for the scripts on this site come about; by harnessing the ideas that flit through my mind all during the day, and saving them for future work. Don't depend on your memory, you'll forget it. Jot it down quickly and save it. I have a text file on my PC just for saving ideas. Regularly I'll open it up, go over the large collection of thought and ideas, and pick the one that is the most promising for what I need. Most of them do get developed over time. Others just float there, in limbo, waiting for the day when they too, might be picked for development.

So, watch for junk as you browse your local garage sales or flea market. You might be surprised at the treasures you will find that will spark an idea for a great skit! And you never need tell your audience where you came up with it. It's our secret!

A Big "But"

I get several emails a day telling me that my skits are being used, often with complimentary words about them. I appreciate that very much. However, something I have noticed over the past few years since the site has been up is the use of the word "but" in their comments. Here's how it's most used: "I love your skits! They are funny, but they have a good message."

I know most people don't mean anything by it, it's just the way they express themselves. But it seems to me to illustrate a common perception that many have about skits. It's this: that "funny" and "having a good message" are usually mutually exclusive. The use of the word "but" implies that they don't expect to find a skit that is both funny and spiritually effective. Or that they are excusing the use of humor by adding the qualifying statement that it is also spiritual. The use of the word "but" carries the implication that there is something doubtful, or wrong, with humor.

Let me use it differently to make it clearer. Let's say that, in a conversation, I indicate a particular person and say about him, "He's a Baptist. And he's a good man!" That's simple and straightforward. However, what if I were to say, "He's a Baptist. But he's a good man!" Now, that puts a whole new spin on it, doesn't it? Wouldn't a hearer, being a Baptist, take exception to it as a slight? Of course they would. Adding "but" has the effect of suggesting that the speaker feels that there is something wrong with being a Baptist, and they add a qualifier to say that, in spite of that, they are good.

So, saying "Your skits are funny, but have a good message" is almost a backhanded compliment. Like saying, "You're smart, for a white guy." Not very complimentary after all. It suggests, that in spite of being funny, it is redeemed by having a good message.

I don't see such a dichotomy. When I write a skit, I strive to make it funny and meaningful, not funny but meaningful. See the difference?

The difference is in your approach to skits overall. If you see them primarily as entertainment, then they can be funny but meaningful. Maybe so, maybe not, but possibly, depending on if you can reconcile the humor with some kind of message. However, if you see them as a tool to impart a spiritual truth, then they will always be both funny and meaningful. It won't be an option.

Now, to some, that may not make much difference. But if you are interested in skits for the power they can have to impart a scriptural truth, like a parable, then the way you write or perform them will be different. If enough people see that type of commitment to ministry in skits, perhaps they will begin to understand that laughs and spiritual life go together naturally, not only when forced.

So, go forth, and leave the "but" behind you!

Rehearsal; who needs that?

Something I have noticed concerning the performance of skits is the little consideration given by some about preparation time. As the webmaster of this site, I can attest to this by direct observation. I carefully track the hits on the site, and the phrases and keywords used to find it in the search engines. Most telling, however, is the closeness to the date of the performance that the scripts are looked for. Often, people go online or come to the site only days before the event or holiday that they need a skit for.

Part of this is the mindset, or perception, of skits as something to be done "quick and dirty." I think if you went to visit a friend and they carelessly fixed a "quick and dirty" meal for you, you would not enjoy it nearly as much as if they prepared it with love and care, with cleanliness. A skit, though short in length, can have an impact that lasts a lifetime, in terms of changed lives and hearts. Shouldn't they be prepared for with the same care by the performer, as the singer who practices a song with which to bless the congregation? This is especially true when using one of our soundtracks. Rehearsal with the sound and music elements is necessary to properly use them.

So, please, whether you are using scripts from this site or somewhere else, give yourself, and your team, plenty of time to get familiar with the material, use of the soundtrack, and each other's acting in the skit. This may help: as you prepare, imagine that the Lord Himself will be attending the performance. (He will be.) Wouldn't you be ashamed to present something that is intended to glorify Him in a sloppy, thrown-together manner? Of course you would. So determine to do your best, every time, no matter how short the skit. You'll make Him proud.

"FREEZE, TURKEY!"

I think you know what I mean. We've probably all seen it done. You may have even done it. "The Big Freeze." A skit has just been finished, and, as the script indicated, "The actors all FREEZE." I get chills just thinking about it.

The "freeze" is another pet peeve of mine. Excuse me... "freeze?" Why freeze? Was the skit being done in a refrigerator? Did the director push a "pause" button? Who came up with this silliness and why is it done? It's because, without a soundtrack that supplies an unmistakable musical end, the audience had no other way to know the skit was over! Or, the skit was written by someone too unimaginative to come up with a way to have the characters exit logically. Hence: "the characters all freeze." Lame, lame, lame. Please, thaw out your poor frozen performers and simply have them exit the stage in a logically-written manner or to a musical closing theme. The Ice Age is over, folks... and the "freeze" method of ending a skit needs to go the way of the woolly mammoth... rapid extinction.


Drama Team Tips Jon Lawhon, my former partner in Prime Example, contributed these helpful hints below, concerning your church or ministry drama team. Enjoy!

1. ASSEMBLE A GOOD TEAM

A drama ministry will not fly without a talented and dedicated group.

Determine individual talents by holding a group audition. Give lines to read by using sample pages from a script. Perform drama exercises that help with stage awareness and interaction. Observe how well each person does and determine who will be your best actors. Stress that not everyone will have starring roles, but that each person is important. What would a scene in a football stadium during a game be without extras in the stands? A drama ministry is no place for big egos.

Dedication and commitment are just as important. Your team must be aware of this. There's nothing more frustrating to a director than to have people constantly absent from rehearsals. A half-hearted approach will bring sub-standard results. Perhaps having your team sign contracts would have an added impact.

2. REHEARSE, REHEARSE, REHEARSE!

The axiom "practice makes perfect" has never lost it's truth. Get together as much as possible to rehearse your program. The more you practice in front of empty seats, the better your performance will be when those seats are occupied. This is especially inportant if you are using syncronized sound effects and music, such as the soundtrack CDs Fred offers on this site.

3. BLOW 'EM AWAY WITH SETS AND PROPS

Find people who are adept at art and set design, if possible. (Not everyone in the team needs to be a great actor; search for additional talents that can be used, such as music ability, set design and construction, lighting, sound, etc. These abilities can make a person as much a part of your team as the actors. -Fred) However, an expert knowledge is not necessary. Compelling sets can be built with relatively inexpensive materials and a little imagination.

Styrofoam, cardboard and simple wood frames can work wonders. Effort put into the design of a set can catch the attention of the audience and greatly enhance the performance. "If you build it, they will come!"

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Like Jon just mentioned, set decoration adds a great deal to your production of these skit scripts. Even a canvas streched over a simple wooden frame, and painted with an image to represent a set background, can bring much to the stage. Here is a site I found that demonstrates this technique of set decoration, with many pictures, examples, ideas and techniques. You'll find it helpful! It's at: www.set-painting.com,and the link opens into a new window.

Additional Blog Archives

"My Philosophy of Sketch Art." What is a skit? Why is a skit? How are they written and how are they to be performed? These questions and more are addressed by Fred, the Christian Skit Scripts webmaster. After visiting this page, you may never look at a "simple skit" the same way again!

"Can Comedy Be A Ministry?" (new!) Can Christian comedy be used of God, and is it a legitimate ministry? Written from my experience as a Christian comedian performer and writer, this article explores the reasons why it is sometimes viewed with distrust. It also explores the relationship between sketch art (skits) and the arts in general, as used within the church.

"Skit or Sketch?" Which term do you use to describe what you find on this site? And does it really matter? Seems trivial, but this webmaster was taken to task by a visitor who took exception to the term "skit."

"Recipe For a Skit Disaster!" Discover the finer points to cooking up a crummy skit performance.

A Sheep Laughs Records publication. All contents 2001-2005 by Frederick A. Passmore. All rights reserved.