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The Mayfield Crier

The Student News Site of Mayfield Senior School

The Mayfield Crier

The Student News Site of Mayfield Senior School

The Mayfield Crier

How to Land a Joke in Animation


“You can’t tell the audience what we think is funny,” says Bernard Derriman, the co-Producer of the hit comedy sitcom, Bob’s Burgers. The Australian animator entered the animation industry through Walt Disney Studios. Throughout his 23 year-long career, Derriman has won seven Regional Emmys as Animation Director on the children’s show Big Green Rabbit, occupied the role of Supervising Director on Bob’s Burgers, co-directed The Bob’s Burgers Movie, and won two Emmys for his work on the television show Bob’s Burgers. Derriman’s key tip is that when you want to land a joke in any type of animated short, skit, or film, subtlety and intentionality are key.


Most Americans are no strangers to sitting in front of a T.V. and laughing uncontrollably at the brightly colored animated characters and settings within the screen. Whether with family, friends, or by yourself, watching animated movies and series is a staple in most people’s childhoods and lives, yet few stop to consider why the program is so hilarious. While it may seem straightforward – write a funny joke and the audience will laugh – there is so much more to executing a joke than simply having a witty script.  


Facial acting is the most important component in animation comedy. In fact, it’s the thing directors and producers tweak the most. Never put a smile on characters; Derriman firmly believes that it is always funnier when a character is deadpan during a joke but you can hear the humor in the actor’s voice. Raise the eyebrows when a character’s voice goes up while delivering the line. As tempting as it may be, never draw a character cross eyed during their joke – that would be forced humor. Always remember: eyes, eyebrows, and no smiles.  


When figuring out the perfect composition for a shot, “you have to stage it the right way,” says Derriman. Use the frame to add to the joke, not to emphasize it to the audience. Rather than cutting to a frame of only the character who is giving the joke, wide shots are best for quips. In specific scenarios, Derriman even suggests placing the character who is delivering the line off-screen to enhance the comedic effect.  


As a general rule of thumb, Derriman advises to “do things that are unexpected” instead of what feels like the most obvious choice of what will be funny. The irony of comedy in animation is that the less obvious decisions often create the greatest belly laughs. 

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About the Contributor
Carolyn Freese
Carolyn Freese, Cubs Student News Producer
Carolyn Freese is a senior at Mayfield Senior School and in addition to being part of the Crier staff since junior year, she is the producer of Cub Student News. Carolyn has many passions and enjoys being part of all aspects of the community. Along with writing, Carolyn loves being involved in the arts community as a photographer and photography representative for the Arts Council. Moreover, as a catechism teacher's assistant, Rosebuds tutoring volunteer, RAD Camp volunteer, retreat leader, and sacristan Campus Ministry ministry leader, Carolyn loves sharing her passion for learning and academic, spiritual, and personal growth for everyone. Some of her favorite hobbies are photography, reading, cooking, and listening to music! She is so excited to continue sharing news with others this year!

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    PatriciaMar 9, 2024 at 4:29 pm

    Wow! That’s amazing! One of the best articles I’ve ever read! She has a bright future!