DZ-83: A Very Thematic Stand-up Special!

What can screenwriters learn from the storytelling techniques used by stand-up comedians?

Standup comedians can keep audiences gripped to their every word for over an hour, and often bring them to emotional climaxes by the end. So how do they do it and what tools can apply to scripted narratives? 

For this deep dive into standup, Stu and Chas are joined by the super-talented comic and podcaster Alice Fraser. Which is rather fortuitous. Because not only are we schooled on comedy techniques, but because Alice also has a Masters in Narrative Rhetoric. 

So as we dive in to NANETTE by Hannah Gadsby, BABY COBRA by Ali Wong and IT’S THE FIREWORKS TALKING by Daniel Kitson (with more than a passing reference to Alice’s own show SAVAGE and INSIDE by Bo Burnham), we analyse narrative structure, transitions, set-ups and pay-offs used by stand-ups…

But we end up focusing on exploring thematic tools – particularly the Aristotelean concepts of the rhetorical triangle: logos (how the story is told), ethos (who the storyteller is), and pathos (how the audience emotionally engages). With these powers combined, storytellers of all kinds can produce work of thematic power and resonance. Or just funny. 

And in backmatter, we discuss adapting Savage for the recorded stage with Alice!


Spoilers abound. Audio excerpts used for educational purposes.


  • 00:00:00 – Introduction
  • 00:03:25 – Alice Fraser on comedy
  • 00:22:33 – Comedy tools to be explored
  • 00:26:21 – Nanette by Hannah Gadsby
  • 00:48:47 – Transitions in and out of theme
  • 01:08:32 – Baby Cobra by Ali Wong
  • 01:37:57 – It’s the Fireworks Talking by Daniel Kitson
  • 02:04:45 – Key Learnings 
  • 02:14:39 – Backmatter – Adapting SAVAGE from stage to screen and screen again


Alice Fraser –  

Hannah Gadsby – Nanette:

Alice Wong – Baby Cobra:

Daniel Kitson – It’s The Fireworks Talking:

Bo Burnham – Inside:

This episode brought to you by ScriptUp – – use promo code DZ10 to get 10% off.

Thanks to all our patrons, especially Thomas, Garrett, Bjorn, Randy, Jesse, Theis, Sandra, and Khrob.

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