Today we’re taking a look at a zombie comedy, which deals mostly in physical comedy. One of the question I asked myself is how “funny” does a comedy have to be as you read it?
It’s a Long Way to Tipperary by Glenn J. Devlin
When a wealthy Jewish man is buried in a Catholic cemetery – he comes back from the dead and forces a grave digger to carry him from Ireland to USA before he completely decomposes.
1.) Can we visualize the description?
If you remember from our Alien Diaries script review, Glenn writes well.
Same holds true here.
Thunk of darts. Cigarette smoke. Clink of glasses. Chatter.
Paddy pulls up a chair and joins Father Patrick at a table.
The priest nurses a beer as he thumbs through a Forbes
Paddy waves to BRENDAN, the bartender, 50’s, at the counter.
This is the kind of style I like. Glenn sets a pretty picture at the beginning, then keeps things to a minimum after. That’s good, and I even understand all the words.
There were minimal to no problems for me throughout the script, so I won’t spend a lot of time here.
10 out of 10 points.
2.) Does the author use an acceptable format?
BUT, there was a large amount of typos, and not misspelled words, but using the wrong word. (Probably about 10 of them.) It wasn’t horrible, but these are easy fixes that deserve a good proofread.
9 out of 10 points.
3.) Is the dialogue free of exposition and rich in subtext? Does each character have a unique voice?
Alright, starting with the exposition part. It was handled well. Paddy is the main character, and Arthur is the zombie, who has a death hold (no pun intended) on Paddy’s neck. He won’t let go until Paddy takes him to a Jewish cemetery in Tipperary, Iowa.
As Paddy explains this to his chums at a local pub, they all try to help Paddy by beating on Arthur, only Arthur keeps ducking and Paddy takes a brunt of the blows.
PLUS, Glenn keeps the expo to a minimum, which is good, since it’s a pretty basic premise summed up in the logline.
That part’s all good, and the characters are drawn well, with two exceptions.
Arthur’s Lame Jokes
Page 24, as Paddy and Arthur sleep on a bench in the rain:
Do you have the weather section?
Why do you want the weather section
for God’s sake?
The sports section is wet.
Page 31 with Sean yelling at Father Patrick for driving too fast:
You’re going to get us killed.
I don’t count.
Page 57 as Arthur continues to decompose:
Paddy fumbles for Arthur’s nose. He picks it up and pushes
it back into Arthur’s face.
Stop picking my nose.
There’s a few more, but these are the ones I took down initially.
Could they be funny? Yes. But A LOT of that will depend on the actor playing Arthur.
The problem for me was, each corny line like these that I read halted the comedy that was building in the situation, or worse took the place of something funny that could have HAPPENED.
That’s not good.
Sean, the shy…funny guy?
There’s a bit on page 35 where our group arrives at the police station.
They’re singing Who Are You but I didn’t get the joke.
It’s also at this point that Sean gets an added bonus that he’s funny. Before that he was timid, and the comic relief that would run and hide when anything confrontational happened.
Suddenly after this scene he’s cracking wise which doesn’t seem to fit his character.
I’d watch that, as the rest of the script, where Sean was concerned, became a bit muddled.
It’d almost be better to give him all the lame jokes that he’d make because he’s uncomfortable. All one line zingers need to go to someone else.
One last thing…
I’m not sure if it were the characters’ accents or something else, but bits of the dialogue came across as awkward, so I wasn’t sure what a character was trying to say.
For instance, page 82:
Which we fully well know is not
going to happen.
A good suggestion might be to just go through and read the dialogue, seeing if everything makes sense. This was just one of a few examples that I couldn’t tell if they were typos or not.
Overall though, the main focus should be on cleaning up Sean, and seeing if his one liners don’t better fit another character, and making Arthur less cheesy.
5 out of 10 points.
4.) Does the writer understand the challenges and rewards posed by the medium chosen in which to tell his/her story? Shorthand version of this is: Is it a movie and not a play?
It’s a movie, and a funny story.
A group of three guys are literally walking around populated areas carrying an undead guy piggyback.
As I mentioned early on, there’s a lot of physical comedy that can only be created on the big screen.
10 out of 10 points.
5.) Is there anything unique in what the writer presents? Are the writer’s ideas, based on this sample, likely to continue to be original?
With two different ends of the spectrum between this script and Alien Diaries, I’d venture a yes.
Is this work perfect? No, but it is original, read well, and had me chuckle a few times.
10 out of 10 points.
6.) Does the script have a hook?
We’re burying a dead guy in a cemetery.
His wife is young and glamorous, but in a hurry to be done with it, suggesting we probably know whodunnit.
As Paddy, our main character, is shoveling dirt on the coffin, he thinks he hears a knocking from inside.
All good, and no real down time. Everything moves along at a nice pace.
15 out of 15 points.
7.) Is that hook effective?
We’re introduced to Paddy’s wife, who serves him divorce papers.
We also meet his pub mates who will help him later in the story AND find out that the body that’s buried in their Catholic cemetery is a wealthy, Jewish businessman. Father Patrick suggests that’s bad karma, but is too lazy to do anything.
What I didn’t like was Sean and the purse snatcher. An entire scene dedicated to Sean being a bad cop is…well, bad. He’s not our main character, and this fact is easily argued when his boss shows up on the crime scene and refuses to talk to him.
Page 12 has an undead Arthur follow Paddy home. Good, as Paddy’s life changes drastically, which is what any story needs.
The problem I have, and it might not fit this particular question, is if Paddy touching Arthur bring him to life, or more importantly the coat, how did Arthur get out of the grave in the first place?
Did Paddy touching him only happen after the church? If so, why?
I think a lot hinges on this fact, and because it’s basically what choo-choos (get it, engine) the story along, this needs to be cleared up.
8 out of 15 points.
8.) Is there enough to maintain the hook? Reveals, conflict, etc.?
Alright, I’ve already mentioned this story had all the workings of a decent script.
Even at 92 pages, I wouldn’t suggest beefing it up too much, but there’s one major problem.
Situations are set up, but underutilized.
A PERFECT example is the scene where Cora finds Paddy in bed with Arthur. She gets upset, obviously, but there’s problems between them that we’ve seen earlier, so why not lay on the laughs here at Paddy’s expense?
It was hinted at, but there’s a real chance for her to explode arguing that she always knew Paddy was gay (we know he’s not which is funny because good luck arguing you’re not when you’re in bed with another man), and his being in bed with Arthur proves it for her. Since Arthur’s trying to get what he wants, having him play to it would also work for the story and be pretty funny.
Don’t be in a hurry to rush through these types of scenes.
Another example is when Father Patrick fixes Arthur at Home Depot. It started out funny, but then the Six Million Dollar man talk ruined it. It was also too technical, and the only thing wrong was his hair was backwards.
I think there’s a chance here for a funnier job being done (Chewie screwing C3PO’s head on backwards?), and maybe Sean starts and attaches an entire arm with only duct tape before the good father takes over.
A HUGE Missed Opportunity
Paddy’s walking around with a decomposing body on his back.
In the world created, it feels like it’s a rare occurrence, but not completely out of the ordinary.
Arthur’s decomposing and rotting which makes him smell, and that’s funny, but the outside world is too quick to accept it.
There are countless humorous situations where they should be forced to try and sneak Arthur through places.
Like on the airplane, instead of them evacuating first class, maybe they put Paddy and Arthur in a casket they’re taking back to the States. Then Paddy’s left in a casket in the cargo hold of the plane, making for more comic relief, especially as the cheapskate Father Patrick lives it up in first class.
Now, comedy is subjective, so Glenn can probably come up with better scenarios, but I must stress BETTER. As I said, the regular world is too accepting of the undead which eliminates the chance for comedic situations.
How do you solve a problem like Maria?
Maria was good, and a nice twist.
First off though, it was hard for me to NOT know that the Maria that was showing them around the cemetery was Arthur’s daughter. I know THEY didn’t know (or at least figured out they didn’t after a bit) so it still worked, but using CARETAKER and then revealing her as MARIA later might be a good idea here as it’s crucial to the plot.
It will also make the reveal stronger when they think her “being at the cemetery” translates into dead. It took me a while to figure out that’s what they were thinking also.
This was good, but I felt “Maria being dead” could have been played up a bit more, especially with a mother suffering from dementia.
“Where’s Maria? The same place she’s been for the past ten years. Tipperary Cemetery.” Mother sobs. “She’s been gone so long.”
Had this have been played right, I might have guessed the Maria at the cemetery was Arthur’s daughter, but I’d have POUNDED through those last pages to see if I was right.
The other thing that bothered me about Maria is she’s not offered enough time to process Arthur being her father and accepts it too quick. I don’t know how to fix this, as developing it could easily bog down the entire story.
Glenn’s a smart guy though, so I trust he’ll think of something for her.
Again though, main point is utilizing the situations being set up and also giving us comedy through the outside world’s reactions to Paddy’s situation. (Having him smell is funny, but not enough.)
3 out of 10 points.
9.) Does the story play to a target audience, and have the elements demanded by that audience?
It was funny, don’t get me wrong.
There was a knock knock joke I chuckled at when Arthur’s initially at Paddy’s door.
A “Gehnna” explanation and then subsequent sneeze joke that made me giggle.
Arthur getting knocked around on the highway like a deranged game of Frogger kept my interest with a smile on my face.
(The reactions of the drivers in this part is actually more along the lines of what I was suggesting in the last question.)
Arthur acts like a zombie, so as such I think the audience will be accepting. They’ll also accept the funny situations he puts Paddy and crew in.
One area I want to thank Glenn is for NOT stereotyping Arthur as a Jewish man. I admit I was a bit nervous about reading this beforehand that the “comedy” involved might rely heavily on prejudice. This wasn’t the case, and the reason it factors into the story is to set up that Arthur can’t get into Heaven unless he’s buried in the proper way, which is a clever engine for the story.
The one problem for me, and I think also for an audience, will be Jerome’s involvement in the whole scheme. He doesn’t like Crystal, but he’s okay with Seymour? And why were they all in Arthur’s summer house? Wouldn’t Jerome have some sort of loyalty to his former employer who seems like he was a pretty good guy?
8 out of 10 points.
The supporting characters were drawn well, what with Sean being a sissy, and Father Patrick being a cheap skate clepto, but with the two main characters I’d like Paddy to be more defined than buttermilk, and Arthur to make less corny jokes.
The script sets up great situations anyone would encounter when traveling “across the pond” with a zombie on one’s back. It’d be more rewarding if these were taken full advantage of.
Overall though, it was a quick and entertaining read (imagine 3 Stooges undead comedy) and Mr. Devlin now just needs to focus less on the corny and more on the situational humor.
Total 78 out of 100 points.