Josh Selig has created many comedies over the years including The Wonder Pets (Nick Jr.), Small Potatoes (CBeebies), and P. King Duckling (Disney Junior). Selig is now developing his very first 6 – 11 comedy entitled Mega-Demon Warrior & Cuteness, which will be presented to the market in early 2021. Here, he shares his thoughts on creating successful comedies.
MIP Blog: Why is there always a big demand for comedy?
Josh Selig: One simple reason: the supply is always so limited. A good animated comedy is very hard to make. Each well-written joke is a fragile thing, like a baby chick. The baby chick must survive casting, voice over, design, storyboard, and animation. Given that these departments are usually spread across the globe, by the time a show airs, the baby chick is usually spent. The best way to protect your jokes is to empower a truly funny showrunner to oversee every single step of the process. Only then might your baby chicks survive the animation gauntlet.
> What types of shows are selling best?
Josh Selig: I once attended a panel in Australia where an exec from Canal+ was asked, “What sort of shows is France looking to co-produce with Australia?” The exec paused for a long moment and then replied, “Good shows.” Despite the many changes in technology and the advent of the streamers, the kinds of shows that sell has not changed much at all. They are still the good shows.
> What types of comedies are selling best?
Josh Selig: Slapstick is more popular in Asia than in Europe. And it’s more popular in Europe than in America. In New York and Los Angeles, character-driven comedy is king. Many people believe that the best comedy writers in the world live in New York and Los Angeles, thanks mostly to the easy access to burritos, bongs, and psychotherapists.
> What are the different approaches to comedy for the different age groups?
Josh Selig: Each demographic sees the world entirely differently. For example, if you are a tween, then farts are gross. If you are a kid, then farts are funny. And if you are a preschooler, farts are a source of pride.
> Are family comedies popular at the moment?
Josh Selig: If so, the moment has been going on for a very long time. Many of us grew up watching family comedies with really great writing like The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family. Comedy and family have always gone hand in hand. Unless a family has some deeper issues, it’s unlikely they will watch Black Mirror together.
> You have made a lot of shows that work globally. Do you think about how well a show might travel when you create it? And what’s your take on live-action comedies?
Josh Selig: Live-action comedies don’t travel well as they are usually too culturally specific. There have been some exceptions like Mr Bean, as it’s non-verbal and being stupid has a certain universal appeal. Animated comedies travel better as they rely on designed characters and can be easily dubbed. Companies should stay away from making comedies unless they are great at making comedies. It’s just too risky, like trying to split atoms in your bathtub.
> Can an educational show also be a funny show?
Josh Selig: Many of the earnest and well-educated folks who provide curriculum notes on scripts have earned the moniker “joke killers.” Why? They cross out all of the best jokes because they either don’t like them or they don’t get them. This makes life particularly hard for comedy writers (see my earlier comments about burritos, bongs, psychotherapists). Of course, there are exceptions. We like to work with Beth Richman, Ed.M., who is brilliant, very funny, and who has saved the life of many a joke.
> What comedies are you working on at the moment?
Josh Selig: Little Airplane, Studio 100, and Fantawild (China) are currently developing a new comedy called Doctor Space (top image), about the universe’s first floating emergency room. It’s probably the funniest show we’ve ever created at Little Airplane. We also just launched a new comedy called The Dog & Pony Show on Treehouse TV in Canada. That one was produced with our amazing partners Discovery Kids and redknot. And, finally, there’s Mega-Demon Warrior & Cuteness, which is my first comedy for 6-11. This show was co-written with the brilliant Billy Lopez (Welcome to the Wayne, South Park) and we’re excited to start pitching!
> Any advice for a new comedy writer?
Josh Selig: Get a dog.