Using Improv to Fuel Your Comics: Creating Funny Webcomics | Ryan Hudson | Skillshare

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Using Improv to Fuel Your Comics: Creating Funny Webcomics

teacher avatar Ryan Hudson, Cartoonist at

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Your Speed Exercise


    • 3.

      How Panel Comics Work


    • 4.

      Words: Writing the Jokes


    • 5.

      Art: Finalizing the Comic


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About This Class

Get more spontaneity into your comics! Join Ryan Hudson — creator of Channelate and writer/animator for The Cyanide and Happiness Show — to learn his panel-by-panel process for making a comic funny and making a punchline hit. This 15-minute class is perfect for everyone interested in webcomics, humor, and how cartoons come to life. Artists, illustrators, writers, and comedians of all skill levels welcome! By the end, you'll create your own 10 warm-up comics to help you craft a perfect joke.

Interested in webcomics? Check out all the webcomics classes live on Skillshare here, and stay tuned for more to come!

Meet Your Teacher

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Ryan Hudson

Cartoonist at


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1. Introduction: Hi, I'm Brian Hudson. I'm a cartoonist. An animator from Salt Lake City, Utah. I write and draw Web comic called Channel eight, which can be found at channel eight dot com. I also write in storyboard for the animated Web series The Cyanide. In having a show that can be found an explosive dot net slash show in this class, I'm going to share with you the method that I used to write comics in the past. I used to stare at the wall and think of funny things and hope the inspiration would strike and that an idea would come out of that. It works sometimes, which is why I did it for so long. I once heard advice that if you want to become a better writer, you have to write every day. And I thought, How could I write every day if I don't have any ideas to write about? But that wasn't exactly the point. The point was that you have to actually go through the motion of writing, right? For the sake of writing, don't worry about anyone reading it. Just get the work done. I translated that idea into comics by drying these really crude, rough drawn comics that I call warmups. I feel pages full of squares, and I play this one person improvisation game where I draw the first things that come to my mind, all stick figures. I don't worry about anyone reading them, and a lot of happy accidents happen, and that's what we're going to do in this class. 2. Your Speed Exercise: the project for this class is gonna be to do a writing session of 10 warm of comics. I picked that number because I would say for every 10 warmups I do. I usually get one usable idea and one or two runners up, I'm gonna go over my panel by panel thought process to help you get the most spontaneity out of your warmups. And after we finished, the writing session will pick our favorite warmups and refined those ideas into jokes that would make for solid comic updates. 3. How Panel Comics Work: So what makes a comic funny? Obviously, this comes down to every reader's individual taste. Not everybody is gonna find the same jokes funny. But whether a comic is using observational humor, misdirection, wordplay or one of the various other styles of jokes with one common thing I have observed is that readers love to be surprised. A clever punchline can really feel to the reader as though you just performed a magic trick of comedy. So let's take a look at the set up of a typical comic in a three panel strip. Your first panel serves to establish the scene. It's good to introduce anything important to the joke. The characters, their relationship, the location, the conflict, etcetera. It's not always necessary to starting every idea into the first panel. But the more interesting and developed your scene feels, the more the reader will feel invested in this short, hopefully entertaining ride. You want to take them on. The second panel in the strip works best when it escalates the situation from the first panel. You want to build momentum in this short story so that when your punchline is revealed, it really smacks the reader in the face. If your second panel doesn't build momentum, even a joke with good potential can fall flattened. Third panel. The third panel is where you deliver your punchline. This is the final act in your three panel story. So typically, in addition to surprise and laughter, the punch line should give the reader of feeling of resolution. They aren't wondering what was supposed to happen next. Now, these aren't set rules. As long as your comic is funny, it doesn't matter how you go about it. But this basic structure might be a good thing to keep in mind while you do your writing session. 4. Words: Writing the Jokes: Okay, It's time for our writing session. Philip Page full of squares three across or use the template I provided. You can print it out or use it in your favorite drawing program. The assignment is to do 10 warmups. But if you're in the groove, don't stop. The more you do, the better. If you feel like you work better from word prompts rather than just coming up with scenarios off the cuff, I recommend doing a search for a random word generator. For the purposes of this assignment, I'm gonna be using one myself. Also, I'm gonna go slowly as I do my warm up comics so that I can explain every step. But when it's time for you to do your writing session, I encourage you to burn through those comics as fast as you can. The more bad writing you force out of your system, the sooner you will stumble into your great ideas. Trust me on that. The real trick is to silence that inner judge that tells you that what you're doing is wrong. It's OK that these air bad. Nobody has to see them unless you want them to. I encourage you to use stick figure versions of your characters. The less time you spend on each strip, the more you will let yourself be free to experiment with ideas. All right, let's get started. So the first word on my list is drill, and the first thing that popped into my head is the saying, you know the drill. So I'm gonna run with that in this first panel. The next thing that popped into my head was a dad saying this phrase to his kids. I also think I'm gonna have them look confused. This establishes a relationship and some light conflicts, and that the kids appear to not know what Dad is talking about. So moving on immediately to the second panel, I'm no longer concerned with the prompt word. Instead, the first panel is the new prompt for the second panel. The first thing comes to my mind is to zoom in on the kids while they figure out what Dad means. Um, and if I'm a little stuck, I like to just throw in a weird twist from left field. So in this case, these kids are going to be imposter alien clones of his Children, cause why not if I'm being honest here. I'm already not feeling this joke, but the point is to just get them done. So let's just do something weird for the punch line and move on. I'm gonna have the Children. Just take a guess at what the real truth Children would have done. And there we have it. One bad joke down. Not when I'll use, but I'll save it forever because I never know when I'll re read an old idea and have it spark a new one. It's happened plenty of times before. All right, on to the next word on my list, which is cut for this one, I think I'm gonna go with the obvious and have someone cut their hand. It's a simple but good conflict because it could go any number of places. And the first thing that comes to my mind for the second panel is to have someone calling 911 for this guy and actually, ah, so this builds momentum off that first panel, but I also kind of have a punchline in mind, so I think I'm just gonna run with it. It's always great when that happens. So for this last panel. I'm going to make a twist on this scenario, playing off the fact that you can call 911 for any type of emergency. Ah, he's gonna be calling because this guy's a burglar. Not because of the cut. Actually, I could probably do without. He's injured himself. Um, I like that it makes a double joke coming back to the original reason for him calling, but it probably convoluted the punch line a little bit. Um, but other than that, I can tell this is I can already tell this is usable. OK, moving on. The next word is cross. And then the first thing comes to my mind. Is someone being mad? So I think I'll start the ah, start mid conversation a bit and have a friend addressing the mad guys. Anger. Apparently it a dog. For some reason, that does not look like a shoe, but that's what it's supposed to be. So, in the second panel, I think I'll escalate the conflict by implying that the dog ah has done something to the shoe, and maybe his friend doesn't see anything wrong with it. And then in the last panel, I'd like to force a twist here. I don't have any great ideas, but I'll just make a we'll have it that the problem is, the dog told him he looks stupid in his favorite shoe. Not the best joke, but forcing these twists in my warm up comics always gets my brain thinking this way better . Okay, so those are three of my 10 warmups. I'm including a pdf with my full 10 comic writing session for you to use as a reference. Hopefully, you'll be able to see the creative work out these congee give. Most of them are below the bar of comedy I set for the comics I post on my site. But doing these sessions really does get the juices flowing, and I can almost always rely on them to get an idea. Remember, if you get stuck while writing these, just throwing some twists and turns that can get you going in places you might not have gone before. And when you start getting in the groove with the help of these warmups, you'll start to see punchlines in your ideas, even before you get to your third panels. In the next video, I'm going to take my favorite comic idea from this session, tighten the dialogue and rearrange the visuals to make the joke land just the way I want and you'll see in a time lapse video how I finish a comic to post on my site. 5. Art: Finalizing the Comic: So this was my favorite comic from the writing session. By the time you see this video, the comic is actually up on my site. As I mentioned in the last video, I'm going to remove the line at the end that says he's injured himself. My initial thinking was that it was one last twist on the joke. Guy cuts his hand. Someone calls 911 because of it. Then you find out he's actually calling the cops about him being a burglar, not about the injury than one last twist that his main concern actually is the injury. But it really does land better without it. I start all of my final comics with a blue pencil layer in whatever drawing program I use that day. This particular one is being drawn in Adobe Photo Shop. A lot of times when I'm translating a warm up comic to a final one, I have an idea in my head as to how things will look in this case. I knew I'd be adding some sort of hallway in the background since the joke happens in a house. I also figured I would keep the guy on the phone peeking around the corner rather than jumping into the scene like in the warm up, since I don't always have the punchline in mind when I'm writing. Sometimes character positions need to change in the previous panels to fit better in the structured final version. And as you can already see, my next step is to create a layer and ink my blue lines quite often. Even at this late stage, when I'm lettering, I will come up with ideas that need to be worked in. In this case, I decided to have the phone guy react in the first panel from down the hall. It helps establish the conflict that has escalated in the second panel instead of his appearance being out of the blue. The words of concern are also vague enough that they could be interpreted as being worried for a friend or being shocked by an intruder. Finally, I color my ink layer. The method I use is pretty basic. Other artists would probably call it sloppy, but I'm not concerned about it. My art is pretty simple, and I can do it pretty fast. And on another note when I was coloring this, I actually thought about making it happen in the dark, but I was worried that would give the joke away. And then, after a quick instant message from my wife, that just says Bacon, My comic is done. So now it's your turn for your assignment. Do the writing session of 10 comics, and if you feel comfortable showing off your warm up comics, do so. If not, at least show your favorite one or two. If you decide to take your strip to the final stage, show that off is well, thank you for taking my class. I hope this method of writing helps you as much as it helps me.