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The secret to comedy editing? Basically, you open on an extreme wide, punch in for the two shot, single, single and then back out wide for the gag/awkward pause.

“It can’t be that easy!” I hear you cry, before I shout back: “It is! It’s a piece of piss!” 

But wait, for the sake of the 500 word limit for this piece, I’ll try and break it down. Then I can pick up my six-figure pay check. 

To be reductive, there are no tips and tricks. It all boils down to two things - timing and taste - and by taste, I mean a funny bone. You’ve got to have a well-developed sense of humour in order to have an opinion. 

Weedol – I'm Weeding Right Now

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There are many different kinds of comedy ads, from the slapstick, belly-laugh-inducing sort, to talking animals and the more observational type that wring a wry smile.

Woven through all of these are varying degrees of surreality. But to make any of these funny, you have to have some timing and taste. Where and when you cut for a laugh depends on the performance; and that, in turn, depends on what you thought was a great select. 

Sometimes work is made better by another point of view, but as a rule, very few things are made funnier by pulling an all-nighter with a committee.

A spot like Orange’s Roy Scheider had such great performances that it was a matter of not trying to squeeze everything in, whereas Weedol’s I’m Weeding Right Now had a much sparser construct, which gave us the space to use the body builder asking: “Are we still killing weeds?” - something that was a spur of the moment idea from the director.

Orange – Orange: Roy Scheider

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Snickers' Speed Walker, for me, was about having some time before Mr T obliterates the house and yet still having time to enjoy all the subsequent performance, while Jack Whitehall’s Samsung spots are all about leaving time after the gag to register Jack’s awkwardness.

It’s hard to reduce the best job in the world down to a few hundred words, and there are so many other things to talk about. A well-timed sound effect. A naff music track. Or my favourite, the clock wipe (very few people go for that one). 

Snickers – Speed Walker

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But if there’s one other thing that’s really important in comedy editing, it’s a certain amount of stoicism. On the one hand, people are paying for your opinion, but on the other, it’s often negated.

You develop an attachment to comedy that you just don’t with many other forms of commercial, and when someone doesn’t get it or gets scared, it’s really hard to let go. Sometimes work is made better by another point of view, but as a rule, very few things are made funnier by pulling an all-nighter with a committee. 

Samsung – School of Rio – Cycling with Bradley Wiggins & Becky James

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Which in turn reminds me of the only editing gag I can recall: 

Question: How many editors does it take to change a lightbulb? 

Answer: Do you really want to change that? 

Well, that’s all folks, and remember: ‘If you can’t solve it, dissolve it’. 

Or use a clock wipe.

 

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