How to Write (& Read) Skit-Prose
Lesson 1.1 - Structure of Poetry & Skits
Ogay Okgrugans, it's beeg 48 hourgs and youg stillg haven't popularigzed the newg medium enhanshur we grave you, so now yourg grunna get a gresson whether you grike it or not on howg to write more advarged args than ur primigive human linear mush braigs'. I'll even waste our anti-transhalter fuel by turning it on for youg so you don't go nguts typing the wronkg gkeys and virussing yourg heeard drivgkes.
Is this thing on? Alright, this won't be perfect, but I think the anti-lisp translanter is worging enough to give a few pointergs on how to use SkipSifter. Let's start with a simple skit that youg might edit with notepard or some tegxt editor like thagt.
Here's a shurt starter skit. Since you pea-brained morons seem to think everything we do is funny, we just sent a bot around to record some stuff we did the first day we vishited your pea-brained planet, just in case you were unevolved enough not to comprehend nonlinear art and needed a few example skiggs to showg orff hug gru ggmgphl--is that damg transhlater on!?... What doug you meang you can't geg it back on, I havg to teach the igiot humans some skig skigs in the next ten minutes or weerg all gonnda be blown to bits from the anti-skit bolongulator--..fhsmghk...
Good, alright, don't use the grumple dryer again until I'm done, Glumf, you know it uses up all the anti-lisp translater fuel. I--whag the smarmf do you wunt, Peger? Yesgs, I thig we're doing a perfect jog explaiging the skig prugs to--did that granshlater mishfire again!? I tolg you not to use the grumple dryer! I--Okay, anyway... No, Peger, you can't take oger the lesson... RiG! Earf-Urgg ambassador my arssh! Yourg nothig but an brainless alien abductee. Yourg lucky we haven't angally probed you yet! I--orgers? What orgers--ohhh, I bet you forged that! Oh welg I won't take any chances. Here's the migrofone. But I'll be washing. One word revealing that the location of the Urgg prime main warp gate is 13 Martgin Luther Kingr Dr. Springfield Arizona and I swear I'll--oh, fing! Here!
Okay, Peter here. Before we begin, there are a lot of things to note about the above skit's structure that makes it ready to go for the addition of more depths. (For temporary purposes, we'll assume the xangle that somebody wrote this skit, rather than it being recorded). Let's go through some major ones.
Firstly, the skit is self-sustaining (as are some subsections of it). It doesn't require anything else for it to make sense if you get all the jokes and understand the references. But, those jokes and references are purposely made a little obscure and confusing, so that there's more to go back and read after having read it once (or more to do in order to understand it, such as googling Rent if you didn't know it was a musical, or reading Frangles or Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy if you don't understand those references, or studying Urgg-English pronunciation to understand the phonetics more). Because skits are so short, they require a very careful attention to detail of every single line, and even every word. This itself is nothing new; any good poem, tagline, or short humorous skit has that kind of thick, rich structure and construction. The work and time put into writing (and reading) the prose of standard fiction and nonfiction, is substituted in short poems and skits for the work put into packing them with dense, compressed meanings that are revealed as you look over the same skit more and more. This paragraph I'm typing now only needs to be read once to understand it, but you could take a full 40 minute poetry class or longer to analyze a poem of the same length.
Consider the four lined poem by Margaret Atwood:
This is a famous poem, yet it's only sixteen words. You can read it again and again, because it presents a very clever, interesting mental image in a very short time. Our impulse in reading the first two lines is that the poem is talking about a metal hook and eye. For a person to fit into someone else like this is a nice little metaphor, and is in fact a self-sustenant metaphor to boot, just like our above skit (and even subparts of it) is self-sustenant without needing to add extra depth. The first two lines have are sort if worth reading in and of themselves, and could comprise a short poem, but perhaps nothing worthy of special attention. If we read them while knowing this poem is classic, we might wonder what could possibly happen in the next six words to push it into that category. But the last six words shift--and in fact deepen--the initial metaphor's meaning quite a bit after the first ten. Instead of something that "fits", we're exposed to a gruesome feeling of a hook going straight through the eye of a fish rather than a . Note that the latter two lines could also comprise a simple self-sustenant poem (the line "a fish hook" creates a bland image, and the line "an open eye" deepens the image and the interesting thought that a fish has its eyes open the moment of its death).
Then, putting together that self-sustaining image transition with the first, create a more complex and multi-dimensioned set of physical and mental metaphors and images; now we have the grusome fish-gory metaphor thrust onto a human in a disfunctional or hurtful relationship in a way that helps relate to the speaker, who got a complex human emotion across through a mere sixteen words. Of course, the poem could be longer! It could be an eight-lined or fifty-lined poem, if we wanted to build on this metaphor. But of course, such a poem would have to be as carefully and thoughtfully constructed in order to be worthy of reading it again and again.
Similarly, comedy skits, sketches, taglines, witty slogans, and stand-up routines, all have a similar careful structure that packs massive humor into a few lines or even a single punchline, that can all be expanded on, whether or not the punchline was written first or was specifically constructed to be integral to the rest of the skit (or stand-up routine, or sketch, etc). Since humor is closer to what skit-prose tries to do in its attempt to create a whole new medium (at least on Blorkk.com; the medium could obviously be extended to a serious nature or other uses, but skits seem more in the realm of humor), let's analyze one, keeping in mind the relation of skits to the above example skit as we go on. We'll go through some of the opening skit from Monty Python and the Holy Grail (one of the most inspiring frwoas of Blorkk's general style). To translate the Holy Grail to prose, it's usually presented in some type of film script format where each line is prefixed by a cue of who's talking. In skit-prose, though, you quite intentionally never have a damn clue who's talking (done in order to confuse the reader as much as possible and pretend the technique has a clever methodical nonlinear purpose that we mot go into later), so we'll translate some of the skit right into Blorkk-style prose as to be more confusing.
Now look how good an idea we already have of our initial setting and characters, without any description or narration, or even being told who's talking. Just like characters speaking for a whole page-long conversation in prose (where the speakers are simply implied by context or because the dialogue alternates every other line), we can figure out who's talking on our own without being told, and even more importantly, we have a great initial idea of not only where the scene is taking place (approaching a castle, or something similar), but the initial setting of the entire movie (Medieval times, with horses and knights and servents). We even get an initial sense of character and theme. We have a potentailly egotistical and comical version of King Arthur, a summary of past events, and anticipation of the future events of the movie.
While most initial chapters of novels or opening scenes of films accomplish this, they rarely do so in the first four lines of dialogue! Hence the key in skit-prose is to achieve the same effect as prose or film in an extremely condensed manner. Implying through context what's happening--rather than narrating or being visually shown--is the heart of the medium called skit-prose (called "skip" for short, which is derived from taking the first sound of each word, and also creates an important pun that skit-prose "skips" around to what's happening in some places/times while leaving out others, like reading one depth as a stone which skips over the body of water of all the other many depths to that story).
Let's go on with a skit a little further.
It's almost sureal how well this scene fits into a medium entirely lacking any description or narration or visuals. So far we wouldn't even have to do a bit of work to alter this skit for the skit-prose medium; it works perfectly. The guard directly states for us--hence indirectly narrates for us--some of the action that's happening. Of course, in the movie, the line is rhetorical. (The guard points out the obvious because it's so ridiculous to be banging empty halves of coconuts together to immitate a horse, that actually saying so points out the irony that even characters inside the movie think it's ridiculous). In skit-prose, we actually find out for the first time that this is happening when it's actually spoken by a character. We have (in a microcosm example) a feeling of having been in the dark about what had been going on, until someone has now told us: Arthur and Patsy have been banging coconuts together in a ridiculous manner.
Now we see the potential for the particular ADHD-esque joke style, and could even make a prediction about the general direction of the skit. As far as it doesn't get redundant, the joke about Arthur and Patsy trying to get on with things while the guards obsess about their coconuts, could continue indefinitely; for an hour, or even for a full movie if the writer is clever enough to keep up new and interesting enough takes on the joke to keep our attention that long.
If we look back, this entire joke style was even achieved in an even smaller microcosm from the line "Where'd you get the coconut?". It tells us extraordinary things about the characters and the joke style that a guard would be more interested on where the great King Arthur got a coconut than obeying his orders. We might even say this joke does in fact carry on the entire movie, as Arthur and his knights are continuously not taken very seriously. Our first excerpt--in four lines--gives us a good idea of what's going on, what has gone on, who our initial characters are, and what the style of humors is; our second excerpt has added more information and depth; our third more, and so on. In this manner, the skit (and movie) continue to "unzip" more humor from the compressed potential humor relayed in the verst handful of lines, small microcosms of the "whole whole whole damn thing".
(Note that while our fragmented excerpts here seem like unfinished skits, we could easily re-write them to be standalone fragments, making them more useful as individual entities as well as modules of a longer artwork. Sometimes even with a single line. For instance, we could append our second Holy Grail excerpt--which ends in "Where'd you get the coconut?"--with the few lines, "I don't quite remember" / "No? Oh, just checking. They whip me if I don't at least ask, you know. Alright, go on in, then, he's in the back taking a !@#$.")
Returning to our original skit, it's written to have many aspects that can be expanded on, just like the Atwood poem and Python skit contain self-sustaining fragments within them, and can themselves be part of a larger work. But instead of progressing linearly onward with the skit if we wish to expand it (as we might write a longer poem, or a film sequel), we add material nonlinearly by expanding on things we didn't know before, or add more events within or around the scene that we didn't know were going on. Or we could do something else to expand the point of view of what the events mean and who the characters are why they're doing what they're doing, etc!
A skit when approached this way is an example of what we call a keystone frwoa fragment module, or FFM. (A fractal is a mathematical concept on which much of Xangles, Frangles, & Blorkk, are based, and "frwoa" is a very established and fleshed out Xangles term short for "fractal work of art", described in the glossary and expanded on by much of the Xangles / Frangles / Blorkk material). A frwoa fragment module (FFM) is a short skip skit or skip fragment that can work to one extent or another as a full short frwoa in and of itself, but can also be used as a building block which other material can build on (or build around), which altogether forms a very structured, in-depth, and self-integrated frwoa as a whole (whatever sum of the material we consider to be a full, official, publishable frwoa).
We've seen how a poem and a skit can be fragmented, but only linearly. Let's take our own skit and examine the smaller parts of it that are self-sustaining modules themselves, and the ways its careful structure can be expanded into multiple depth skits, as we'll do in 1.2 (We've presented this FFM as the root depth or root module on which others will be based, or from another xangle, on which they were based, depending on our ideas regarding which order the fragments in question were written in; for instance, a good xiter / griter will often make it impossible to tell whether they wrote something before or after something else).
Firstly, even if we've had zero exposure to Blorkk and the Urgg and know absolutely nothing about what an Urgg is or what one might look like (which might be you if you stumbled onto this page in and of itself), we begin to get lots of initial ideas on who the Urgg are and what Blorkk is about, based on the first few lines. The names "Glum" and "Grug" and "Furglegrug" in combination with the strange lisping of the speakers present the possibility that our speakers are slow, unintelligent, green slimy aliens. Obviously there are many other possibilities (maybe we're facing slow, unintelligent, brown slimy aliens, or just a pair of sentient lawn flamingos having a nightmare about slow, unintelligent, green slimy aliens), but at the least, some sort of slow-unintelligent-green-slimy-alien implication is at work to some extent or another. In turn, if we have the background of reading about the Urgg (or have been unlucky enough to be abducted by one), we have less of a mystery to unravel, but we also get a clearer image in our heads of what's going on from our experience in other skits. (If the characters Glum and Grug already exist, and always talk on an Urgg Prime wave-xv37 AIM channel, then we know what planet we're on and that they're talking via a distance rather than in person).
To here--like Arthur's foreshadowing of adventure--we already have what could be an enormous plot set up: the potential destruction of planet Earth! Consider that in the Frangles inspiration Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy ((spoiler alert: if you read the following you will be informed that Earth is destroyed in the third chapter)), the Earth is destroyed the third chapter, to make way for, well... the Hitchhiker's trilogy! This sets up the whole Hitchhiker's universe for incredible, vast adventure across the galaxy. (Inversely, anyone who knows anything about the Urgg might guess that this excerpt really doesn't set up a damn thing, since the Urgg are always trying to destroy the Earth and never succeed (we might call the Urgg incompetent Vogons), but at the least, the fragment can serve the purpose of thrusting a newbie "Blorkie" into the adventure of that incompetency!)).
Moving on, we have:
The joke here is this: We're told Grug (the first Urgg speaking) is announcing Earth's destruction (assuming "Earf" is Urg mumble for "Earth"), and the first thing he decides to say is "Anything but that", except with a question mark because he's not sure if it's a good line to say. (The urggs slur most of their "ng" sounds to "g"s, which is deducable in these two lines alone, because there's little else "anythig" could mean, especially if we take a look at the rest of the FFM at the similar slurred english). This excerpt is a reference to the musical "Rent", in which Mark and Joanne test a microphone. Joanne tells Mark to try it out and say anything, and he says "Test 1 2 3," and she replies "Anything but that." Our joke here is the irony of someone testing a microphone with the Rent joke, which unlike "Test 1 2 3" is the complete inverse of something cliche to say to test a mic. (How many people test their microphones by quoting a musical which makes jokes about other people testing their microphones with a cliche phrase?). Hence the first line of this excerpt ("Anythig but that?")--like so much we've seen--is as self-sustaining a punchline as any good one-liner, just like the three-line Rent joke ["Say anything" / "Test 1 2 3" / "Anything but that"] is a standalone joke part of a larger frwoa.
Then, since the joke of taking an original punchline--obscure to most people but classic to a cult nich--about a cliche tagline, and substituting it for the original cliche tagline itself--is itself an original joke, this all creates indefinitely more possibilities of how we treat that joke, and not just here, but wherever else this strange recursive technique might take us (like the Abbott and Costello technique ["Who's on first?" / "No, Who's on second"], which is packed full of endless extended applications). Hence with our example, the second line ("Anythig but Rent!") takes the joke a step further--hey, it's only three words old so far!--and deepens the irony by supposing that our humor technique in our first line (taking an original punchline about a cliche tagline and substituting it for the original cliche tagline), has not just been used or heard before, but overused itself to the point of even that being cliche itself! (Of course, we might say that Glum is implying "anything but a Rent joke," rather than "anything but that particular joke," but the connotation still exists to some extent or another in implication).d
The joke's pecuiliarities (which would lead many to not get it) exist partially because of the obscure reference, but also the other factors like the Urgg's prounciation and spelling, and the odd lack of standard English grammar. (Normally we'd have two sets of quotes in standard English when a character that's speaking is quoting something else, hence in a novel this would be [" 'Anything but that'? "], put in brackets for you because the only proper way to quote something here that has two sets of quotations would be to add a third, i.e. [" ' "Anything but that" ' "]? This type of parsing mess is used a s a humor technique elsewhere).
But, all this is done very intentionally. Firstly, this creates a very rich, punchline-packed joke to anyone who understands all the factors that would entirely confuse someone else. It's a cumulative joke requiring the experience of being a Rent fan as well as a Blorkk fan to truly appreciate, and to someone who's in both groups (which the xiter probably was), this might be a very funny joke. I.e. consider the Episode II Star Wars line (paraphrased) "You'll be the death of me, Anakin" that Obi-wan (Anakin Skywalker's mentor, who becomes Darth Vader) speaks to Anakin after the fans know that Anakin does, in fact, end up killing Obi-wan. The humor is much more rich because of the background required to understand it.
Secondly, if one doesn't get it at first, it simply acts in the same way any other initially confusing line of a complex (or classic, etc) poem works. We have to A) read it over and over until we figure it out based on the joke itself or something about the context around it (Hemmingway will occasionally have a character speak twice in a row on a new in an entirely new set of quotes just below their last line, a violation of grammar that must be deduced from context in order to figure out why the story doesn't make sense given no more information about Hemminway), and B) investigate any references that we don't understand elsewhere. (Many, many classic poems and plays contain references that to many readers are obscure, especially readers of another generation).
So, if we don't get these two lines at a very first glance, just reading up and down a bit might tell us something more; if we see that other "ng" sounds are pronounced like "g"s, we might conclude "oh! 'Anythig' means 'anything' ". And if we do what we can to deduce the strange gramatical nature of skit-prose if it's new to us, we might conclude that "Anything but that" alludes to something, and the "Rent"--since it's capitalized--is probably what we'd google to find out. By that point, we've done something else productive with our time in the pursuit of studying the value of our skip skit: research!
Of course, everything that makes these lines pecuiliar (inside jokes, complicated grammar, etc) would be cruel and heartless to throw ad nausem at any reader who doesn't feel like reading everything fifty times or researching every reference they don't get. But the whole point here is that a small FFM can serve as a self-sustaining work of art in and of itself, but is only dense and time-consuming to understand because its taken out of the context (Blorkk.com) that makes it easier to understand. Just like a whole seven-book saga has to be read to get to the end and fully appreciate the depth of the story, the only way to fully understand the full frwoa of Blorkk, is to "finish" reading it.
But, in nonlinear fractal art, "finishing" something doesn't mean getting to a designated last chapter or line. It means just having read all the material (which can be read in many, many different ways, wherein the reader may have gone through many, many different plot arcs and endings and so on). And if one only reads half the material, one gets something more than they would have if they'd read half of a linear seven-book saga: half an ending! (Just as many first novels in fantasy series end with a giant fight with the big bad guy at the end who has to be ressurected later in order to do the same damn thing again and again until the reader starts to feel sympathetic and stops reading).
So, if something doesn't make any sense, know that its explanations are populated throughout Blorkk (and to some extent Frangles, which intermingles somewhat with Blorkk). If some remote allusion to Shakespeare is thrown in somewhere in Blorkk, or something potentially gramatically or logically confusing, these things are elaborated on elsewhere; sometimes ad nauseum, sometimes just once or twice. (With our Rent example, there are a couple other Rent jokes in Blorkk, to the point where someone starts to get an idea of what Rent is if it's poked fun at more than once). Sometimes a character will just go on a random tangent and discuss another skit, or a skit's plot might be bent (or contrived) to explain something somewhere that might not make any sense until that very skip fragment is read. (Just one more pun on the name of the medium; "skip", as in, to skip explaining what the hell is going on!).
Continuing with our analysis of the above skit...
All this of course just continues with everything we've established so far. The first line is a reference to Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and while it can stand on its own here if we understand the reference, it contains deeper jokes that will be even more appreciated with a background in Blorkk and Frangles reading. (For instance instance, Frangles often makes fun of the fact that it references Hitchhiker's in any way, commenting humorously about fair use policies, and this is why Grug gets angry).
The second line contains a couple words we might have no idea about. Again again, they can stand on their own with their own intrinsic explanation ("ha, isn't that random?"), but can be deepened elsewhere (a look in the glossary will tell you that a "grumple" is a vaguely defined body part of the Urgg). The third line evolves (or maybe de-evolves) the logical twisted maze of quotatings within quottaings, Grug having decided that since [taking an original punchline about a cliche tagline and substituting it for the original cliche tagline] is apparently cliche and hence unusable itself, why not quote the original cliche tagline to begin within! (Another layer of humor on this is that the Urgg are horifically uncreative, so it can feel ironic that they're fumbling through Earther references--the very species they're trying to destroy and calling inferior--because they can't think of any of their own).
This third line also gives us another hint at what the previous Rent quote might have meant if we didn't understand it; that is, if we're a Rent fan and didn't recognize the previous Rent joke due to the Urggs' slurred speech or because the line wasn't in context enough to realize what it was, we now have a better chance at recognizing the reference, because at least now the collective short "Rent Mic" frwoa ("Say Anything" / "Test 1 2 3" / "Anything but that") is at least contained somewhere within the skit. We might even say the entire skit, from someone's xangle, is an extended take off of the three-lined Rent frwoa! But of course, from some other xangle, it's a take off of something else instead, etc. (We might venture that originality is how well you mush together all the different stuff you're ripping off! I.e., half of the music ever written by modern man could be said to be ripping off Jaws or the NBC jingle, which copyright just a few notes of music as small musical FFMs).
Now we have two Frangles quotes. The first is an FFM frequently altered to start the first line of many chapters for a repetitive effect. The second references the Xangles / Frangles tagline "The end of time is worth the wait", which (as with any good slogan or tagline), is a cleverish FFM condensed enough to be repeated again and again (such as the slogans "melts in your mouth, not in your hand", and "I'm not only the president, I'm also a client", etc). And not simply repeated, but capable of being elaborated on, to the point where the concept that's ingrained in the tagline is ingrained into the saga itself. (Though perhaps that's the entire point. Am I repeating myself? What time is it? What planet am I on? I don't get paid enough as a xiter to deal with the confusion of not knowing if I'm making any sense or not. Who's supposed to releive me? Wait is that damned recorder still on? Orbo! How many $#@!ing times have you broken that thing! Do you know how many rants there are in Xangles of people yelling at their krforbs just like this because you all--is that thing still on!?).
Lastly, here we have the vastly awaited skip FFM conclusion, postponed by pages of ranting babble inflating it to a sophistication level this lesson never should have attempted to bullshit it up to.
The first line of these four is a pretty standard joke, nothing especially creative. The next line ("Think we passed our planetary destruction simulation, Grug?") turns around the whole skit in a surprise-ending way classic to many Blorkk skits. Because we can never be entirely sure what's happening in a skip skit, and only get an idea based on probable inductions of information rather than absolute deductions, there are always many chances to jolt the reader out of their interpretation and tell them something drastic about what's been going on the entire time. (This is done well at the end of Memento, the Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Wild Things, and 11:14). In this example, we find out the entire skit has been about a simulation threatening the destruction of Earth rather than the threat of its actual destruction. It's one of the easiest, most cop-out, and most cliche ways to achieve a turnaround in any fictional medium; the "that was just a dream" principle. (The phylical pondering throughout human philosophy and art that "Hey, I wonder if it was all just a dis just a dream" has been thoroughly covered and perhaps even become cliche). Hence this example was used to show the generalized nature of a skit-prose turnaround line. (Note that it's also has extractable potential for infinitely more turnarounds; if the skit was a simulantion, maybe someone dreamed the simulation, etc etc).
The third line--the second to last of the skit--prepares the skit to become a circular module rather than just a standard FFM. This is an FFM that can wrap around to the beginning to some extent or another. If Grug and Glum are going to "take the simulation test a few more times," then the very first line ("I can't thig of angything to sayg, Glum") could be tagged onto the end, and then we'd read through the skit not just to understand it again, but with a feeling of continuity that it's never actually ended. The "<beep>" is of course an ambiguous line that could mean a million different things. It was inserted in this particular FFM to make the circular factor easier (being the noise that Glum and Grug have restarted the simulation), while still allowing the skit to end (depending on your xangle). This effect that would be lost if we had to wrap the skit up with "Grug, reset the simulation. Here we go again!").
Of course the "<beep>" could also be interpretted other ways. It could be someone paging Grug or Glum and that's why the skit fragment ends, or it might be the simulation turning off and not letting them take the test a second time, or maybe Urgg Prime exploded, or a bot orb misfired a micron, etc, etc! It's pretty much a cop out where the xiter has gotten tired of tired of bothering, and/or decided that the best writing is to write nothing at all and hence spark the reader's infinite imagination!
To here we've covered many key points about the structure of a good starting skit-prose skit. We'll continue by taking our short skip skit (and small skit fragments) and showing how to expand them by adding more depth FFMs on top of them.