Senior Editor
03.08.10 66 Comments

Unless you’ve been living in the moron cave on Retard Mountain, you’ve probably noticed that romantic comedies are big business.  Movies like The Proposal, The Ugly Truth, that one with Matthew McConaughey and the treasure; they’re out there earning two and three hundred million dollars.  And if you think that’s because they’re good, I’ve got news for you, retard, you’re retarded.  The truth is, they make that kind of scratch because they tap into a familiar formula that boring people find comforting and recognize as one of their own, rather than attacking with pitchforks like they would an intellectual challenge, or the town ogre.  And now, because I’m such a righteous dude, I’m here to explain that formula to you, the cretinous layperson.  Because as they say, don’t hate the player.  Learn to make cheap knockoffs of his product, drive him out of business, and make his dog like you better than him, because f-ck that guy, who does he think he is.


Two people are going to fall in love, two people will be on the poster, and two people are the first step towards selling your movie.

The rule of thumb here is to know your audience: primarily women, and the pussy-whipped dorks they dragged with them.  Therefore, you don’t want a “hot” leading lady.  At least not the kind of actress guys think is hot, that’ll just give the girls an eating disorder.  That means no busty sexpots or Victoria’s Secret models, no matter how meaty and turgid they make your boner.  No, what you want is cute, an actress fashionable enough that women will look up to, but not so sexually irresistible as to be intimidating.  Rom-coms with Jessica Alba or Jessica Simpson, they don’t do as well.  Think Amy Adams, Sandra Bullock, Kate Hudson, Sarah Jessica Parker — if she’s thin and attractive, it helps to be a little flat chested.  If she does have breasts, she should be uptight and shrewish, like Katherine Heigl or Jennifer Aniston.

As for your leading man, he should be someone that looks really good with his shirt off, like Matthew McConaughey or Ryan Reynolds or Channing Tatum.  But in a pinch you can go with pretty much anyone halfway attractive, even James Marsden (as long as he’s a newspaper columnist, bitches love that).  The same way women’s magazines have pictures of women on the cover, in romantic comedies, it’s really the woman that’s important.  Is that because all women are closet lesbians?  Probably not, but that doesn’t stop me from imagining hot lesbians 69ing in my closet.


The last thing you want in a rom-com is confusion or surprises, so your number one goal in a title should be an already-familiar phrase (preferably a song title) which communicates the entire premise. I.e., The Proposal, What Happens in Vegas, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Runaway Bride, 27 Dresses, Ghost of Girlfriends Past, The Break Up, My Best Friend’s Girl, etc.  Failing that, your second option is an awful pun like Made of Honor or Maid in Manhattan.   But wait!  Did you notice that the second one is both?  Congratulations, you are almost ready to write a Hollywood rom-com.


The basic rom-com formula requires boiling all men and women down into fairly narrow archetypes — the career woman who’s not ready for love, the chauvinist who’s not ready to commit, etc.  Since the audience might find this sort of insulting, you must have supporting characters, the kooky friends whose extreme examples of male and female stereotypes (women be shoppin! men be watchin the game!) will give your leads the illusion of depth.  Often, this will be a talented but underutilized comedian or character actor slumming in your crappy rom-com because they need the paycheck.  See: Philip Seymour Hoffman in Along Came Polly, Judy Greer in 27 Dresses (and Elizabethtown and 13 Going on 30…), Rob Corddry in Heartbreak Kid (and What Happens in Vegas and Failure to Launch…), Jason Sudeikis in The Bounty Hunter, and Jon Favreau in The Breakup. Which brings me to my next sub-point, bonus points if the kooky friend and the lead are actually friends in real life (like Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn). Reference your audience’s knowledge of Us Weekly whenever possible, it makes them feel smart.


Again, you’re not painting the Sistine Chapel here.  You’re basically rubbing a dog’s tummy.  You know what the dumb animals like, just give it them (no offense to actual, cuddly puppies). And what the dumb animals like is songs they know, delivered in ways they understand.  Therefore, when the couple has sex the first time, you need “Feels Like the First Time” by Foreigner (actual example from Valentine’s Day, btw); when she learns to stand up for herself, “Respect” by Aretha Franklin (Bridget Jones DiaryNotice that the link is in Italian and yet you can still tell exactly what’s going on?  Perfect); when he sets off alone on a journey, “Here I Go Again” by Whitesnake.  You might be thinking, wait, if he’s taking a journey, why not a Journey song?  No.  You’re being creative again, stop that.  Besides, it’s not literal enough.  The lyrics in the song have to perfectly match what the people onscreen are doing. That way even the stupidest moron in the audience can say, “Oh, I totally get why they’re playing that song!”  If you want to use Journey, you’ll need “When the Lights Go Down in the City” while lights are actually going down in the city.  Go ahead, you can even have that one.


(“Yer BlackBerry fried da whole town!”)

Here’s what happens in every rom-com: two people meet. Then they screw.  Unfortunately, you’re going to have to fill another 90 minutes.  Therefore, your leads have to start the movie hating each other.  Maybe he calculates risk for an insurance company, and she’s a free spirit who loves Ethiopian food.  Maybe she’s an uptight career woman and he’s Matthew McConaughey. She’s a feminist, he’s a chauvinist.  Point is, opposites attract and you find love where you least expect it — Hallmark clichés are your guiding principles here.   Bottom line, your job is to provide an explanation for why these two attractive caucasians weren’t already bumping uglies 10 minutes after meeting each other. The more reductive the better.  He’s an Israeli and she’s a Palestinian!  Wakka wakka wakka!


(“I’m going to hit you with this microphone, and when you wake up, you’ll no longer be a respected comedian.”)

Okay, so you’ve got your attractive people, and you’ve established that they don’t like each other.  Now you need some outside factors that will put them together whether they like it or not so they can fall in love.  It’ll be like when you were a kid and you put some bees in a jar and shook it up, except, instead of stinging each other to death, they’re gonna f-ck, like your G.I. Joes.  So now, you need a reason for your characters have to take a road trip to Ireland together, or pretend to be married so she doesn’t get deported, or team up to find a buried treasure.  Maybe he’s been saying no to life, but one day he goes to a seminar and decides to say yes.  Or a hypnotist flips a switch inside him that makes him relaxed all the time.   Or maybe she takes coins from a magical Roman fountain and… Yeah, you get the picture.


Pretty self-explanatory, this one.  Riding horseback on the beach may also work, but only in case of Richard Gere.


(“But wait, he doesn’t even know how to bongo drum!”)

You have to fill 90 minutes, remember?  And once the couple has fallen in love and kissed in the rain, you can’t just end there.  Your audience needs a reason to cry.  Rich women’s lives are so otherwise boring that they love things that make them cry the way your sister loves firemen. Therefore, your couple who’ve just fallen in love need to split up again.  And this is going to be temporary, so it has to be for some stupid reason. The easiest way to accomplish this is to just make it the inverse of Step Six.  “Are you with me because you love me, or is it only because you _____!”  The blank can be: Made a bet with your boss that you could attract anyone in ten days, promised to say yes to everything, found my coin in a magic fountain, needed me to help lead you to a treasure, etc.  “But, baby, that was before I fell in love!”  She knows, the audience knows, but she has to get super pissed and run away, otherwise there can’t be a big reunion at the end.  Oops, did I forget to say “spoiler alert”?  No, because this is a how-to guide, these don’t have spoilers.  Jackass.


The most famous of these is of course John Cusack in Say Anything standing outside his special lady’s window playing “In Your Eyes” on his boombox like a homo (I would’ve gone with “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go”).  If you can’t think of anything that creative, just have him run through the airport screaming her name as she’s leaving town, or show up at the altar while she’s about to marry the wrong guy.  That sh-t always works.


If you’ve done steps one through nine correctly, your attractive white couple is living happily ever after and you’re making it rain in the strip club.  Now that you’re a big shot like me, let me let you in on another little secret, playa to playa.  The whores like it when you hit them.  They’ll act like they don’t, but they do.  Oh boy do they.

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