Rising through the Ranks: Comedy screenwriter Bri Morris
June 8, 2022
Screenwriter Bri Morris got her start in comedy doing improv in Chicago at the famous Second City and The iO Theater. Even before that, she was the kid who wanted to write jokes for her elementary school broadcast program.
“I was the anchor and I said, ‘This is kind of boring. Can we put in jokes?’ So, I got to write jokes – and they were terrible jokes. I spent the entire time laughing, so then I was like, ‘let’s add bloopers!’, that was what started my whole interest in and love of comedy as far as writing. I went to Columbia, and that’s where I really honed in on comedy.”
The catharsis of comedy
“I had a crazy childhood and moments where I could sort of escape, I'd do that with comedy. The Simpsons, Everybody Loves Raymond, Martin — shows [where] for 30 minutes, the world was perfect. I am not the [type of] person that openly expresses my feelings to others, but comedy is the place I can do that. I love taking some of the darker personal experiences and setting them in the light. I think it also speaks to what I normally write, whether that's in the live-action space or animation, my common themes usually touch on escapism, family dysfunction, and the underdog's desire to prevail.”
While Bri's comedy writing career took a detour during her university days (she earned a master's in education), she never stopped hustling to Chicago every weekend to attend Second City. Sooner than later, she was refocused on comedy and took her talents to the page, which ultimately resulted in scripts that sparked interest from Netflix and The BBC who invited Morris to pitch meetings.
Research, refine, pitch, repeat
“[It was] nerve-wracking. I really felt like I had to refine my process more because I just had to repeat it over and over again.” And because every pitch demands different criteria, it became about “finding the sweet spot.” Knowing her genre and her brand as a comedy writer has also helped Morris in the pitching process.
“It makes me more comfortable in my pitches. One script, when I wrote it, it was more drama-based. And then when I added that comedy, I [was] like, ‘yes, okay, now I feel good about this.’ I've always been that weird kind of out-of-the-box person. If I'm able to bring me into what I do, it all just fits.”
Morris recently signed with Lit Entertainment Group, of which she says, “I’m still kinda in shock.” With her new management, she’s focused on a workplace comedy script, “about a con man, which is taken from personal experience. I’m also a huge Harry Potter person,” she adds. "I'm working on a comedy fantasy to incorporate everything I like.”
Finding inspiration in the real world
"I’m in Indiana, so it’s half racist and half liberal and everybody’s cool with each other so you get... [the] best and worst of both worlds. I feel like that informs… at least the dysfunctional side of my writing.”
As does her background in education and current work in the coding world. “I wanted to do something that combined immersive entertainment with animation and my philanthropic side."
Morris adds, "I'm really passionate about education and children. When I worked with children, it was always about their well-being. And I hated how people piled up on the so-called ‘bad kids’. So those [kids] became my favorite and you know, I always wanted to come up with something that includes them instead of them being excluded [from] everything."
The result: Mildred, M.ED, a web series that Morris wrote, animated, and voiced!
Advice for aspiring screenwriters
“Have fun with it and tell your stories. I've noticed that when I'm mentally trying to stick to the paper or if I'm thinking about what someone else may want to hear, it doesn't really work for me. I have to make sure that I'm present or it's not going to work,” Morris admits.
And if you mess up during your big pitch? “I think my improv background has a lot to do with the looseness that I take in,” she continues. “I feel like once you have your script down and you know those scenes — even if you forget a scene or whatever that you felt was extremely critical, just go to another scene. No one knows what your story is until you tell them.”
Most importantly, she adds, “Be patient with yourself, right? I started at Second City in 2017. And I knew then that I wanted to be a showrunner. Just trust the process because the thing that you want, it'll come to you at the right time.”
Written by: Karin MaxeyAfter seeing her first big screen movie 007: License to Kill at age six, Karin naturally became obsessed with writing action-infused stories. The next time she’d see Benicio del Toro was in person, at the 68th Cannes Film Festival—he was there for the Sicario red carpet, she was there for her first produced short film in the basement of the Palais…same-same. In between, Karin earned a Creative Writing Degree and landed management at Echo Lake Entertainment. Her scripts have been a Big Break Top 3 finalist, HollyShorts Film Fest Official Selection, and a multi-Screencraft competitions semi-finalist. Karin is also a screenplay editor who delights in the process of polishing writers' work for submission. You can find her at www.writergirlkarin.com.