For years, Steve Kaplan has been the industry's most respected and sought-after expert on comedy. The artists he's taught, directed or produced have gone on to be nominated for 43 Emmy Awards, 1 Academy Award, 3 Golden Globe Awards, 1 American Comedy Award, 6 Writers' Guild of America Awards and several others. (They've WON 10 Emmys, 1 Oscar, 2 WGA Awards and the American Comedy Award.)
In addition to having taught at UCLA, NYU, Yale and other top universities, Steve Kaplan created the HBO Workspace, the HBO New Writers Program and was co-founder and Artistic Director of Manhattan Punch Line Theatre. He has served as a consultant to such companies as DreamWorks, Disney, Aardman Animation, HBO and others.
In New York, Steve was co-founder and Artistic Director of Manhattan Punch Line Theatre, where he developed writers such as Peter Tolan (Analyze This, Finding Amanda), writer and producer David Crane (Friends, Joey, The Class), writer/producer Tracy Poust (Ugly Betty, Will & Grace), Michael Patrick King (The Comeback, Sex and The City, Will & Grace), David Ives (All In The Timing), Will Scheffer (Big Love), Steve Skrovan (Everybody Loves Raymond) Howard Korder (Lakeview Terrace), and Mark O'Donnell (Hairspray) and introduced such performers as Lewis Black, Nathan Lane, John Leguizamo, Mercedes Ruehl and Oliver Platt.
In Los Angeles, he created the HBO New Writers Project, discovering HBO Pictures screenwriter Will Scheffer and performer/writer Sandra Tsing Loh; and the HBO Workspace, a developmental workshop in Hollywood that introduced and presented performers such as Jack Black and Tenacious D, Kathy Griffin, Bob Odenkirk and David Cross (Mr. Show), Josh Malina and Paul F. Tompkins. At the Workspace, he was Executive Producer for the award-winning HBO Original Programming documentary DROP DEAD GORGEOUS. Steve has directed in regional theaters and Off-Broadway, including Sandra Tsing Loh's ALIENS IN AMERICA at Second Stage.
In addition to private coaching and one-on-one consultations, Steve has taught his Comedy Intensive workshops to thousands of students around the world, including Los Angeles, New York, London, Paris, Kiev, Canada, Ireland, Israel, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore.
A personal statement about the work: There are a number of people who teach screenwriting, but there are few who teach comedy. And most are teaching stand-up or improv. My course is one of the only places to learn about the art and science, the physics and philosophy of comedy: what it is, how it works, WHY it works, what's going on when it DOESN'T work, and what you can do to fix it.
Dorothy Parker once described the ability to write comedy as being able to have "a sharp eye, and a wild mind." I'd add the perception to see the absurdities of the world we live in, the courage to include yourself as part of that absurd world, and the ability to share that truth with others. And the occasional bathroom humor.
Unlike some, I teach principles, not rigid formulas. My equation for comedy—An ordinary guy (or gal) struggling against insurmountable odds, without many of the required skills and tools with which to win, yet never giving up hope—expresses not so much a formula but rather a metaphor that describes our existence in this world. We’re all just ordinary people, struggling to live our lives as best we can without super powers or unlimited resources. The main difference between comedy and drama is how we face that struggle. In comedy, no matter what, there is hope.
As metaphor, this perspective invites creativity rather than stifles it, and it allows artists as divergent as Woody Allen and Oscar Wilde to still tell tales about human beings struggling to make sense of an absurd world. The best comedies avoid conventional structures—they create their own. This year, the best comedies were The Grand Budapest Hotel and Birdman, two visions that eschewed formula, but still holds true to the basic principle of comedy: telling the truth about human beings.