top of page

TV Writing 101: Multi-Cam Comedy vs. Single-Cam Comedy

There are two different types of comedies on TV. They each have different sensibilities, styles, and work environments. Here, I'm going to explain the differences between...

Multi-Cam Comedies and Single-Cam Comedies

But first, a primer. Multi-cam comedies are the traditional sitcom. They're anything filmed in what clearly looks like a set, has an audience who's laughing, and looks generally really polished and clean.

I say this is the traditional sitcom because everything on TV was a multi-cam for the first 30 years or so of TV.

The early ones include:

  • I Love Lucy

  • The Honeymooners

In the not-too-distant past, they included:

  • Friends

  • Seinfeld

And today, there's a lot of reboots like:

  • Frasier

  • Night Court

If you're hearing laughter in the background, it's a multi-cam. For everything else, it's single-cam. You'll notice these days almost everything falls into the "everything else" category.

Multi-cams have not aged particularly well and one of the main places you still see multi-cams are in kids' TV.

But there's a lot more to it than just the style of TV.

Production Differences between multi- and single-cam TV

Multi-cam sitcoms are cost efficient, which is one of the main reasons they've lasted for as long as they have.

There is a standing set, they film once a week with an audience, and there are rarely exterior shots, so everything can be re-used week to week.

And to be able to shoot everything in one sitting, they employ four cameras to capture everything and then edit it all together. Hence, the term, multi-cam.

The Friends set

Single-cams, on the other hand, don't necessarily only shoot with one camera, contrary to the name. But they do shoot more like a feature film.

Shoots for single-cam comedies take a week. They're shooting almost every day and they focus on one set-up at a time.

TV writing differences

The scripts are really different between these two types of shows. Think about the difference between something like Barry and something like The Big Bang Theory.

Wildly different TV writing, right?

Multi-cams have hard jokes. Meaning, set-up, punch line jokes.

Some single-cams like Brooklyn 99, operate in this way as well. But even so, single-cams have to operate as if there's not going to be a huge laughter/applause break after a one-liner.

The traditional edict for multi-cams is to have three jokes per page.

Single-cams can let their jokes come a bit more feely, whenever the scene calls for it. The humor can be subtle.

Multi-cams do not have subtle humor. These are big, loud jokes.

As a TV writer, your day will also look a lot different depending on where you're working.

In multi-cams, you'll go down to set every day to watch rehearsal and every night in the week will lead up to show night, which is like a big party down on set with an audience and music and food while you shoot the show.

In single-cams, this doesn't happen. The writer of that week's episode may be down on set, but everybody else stays in the writers' room.

In this way, a multi-cam can actually be a much more fun work environment because your environment is constantly changing.

If you're writing a TV comedy sample...

Don't write a multi-cam. They are such an old form of TV that very few producers, execs and showrunners will look at them these days.

You're much better off sticking to single-cam unless you've made some progress in the industry already and are looking to get staffed on a multi-cam.



Sign up to receive a free guide:

7 Proven Ways to Land Your First TV Job

Thanks for submitting!


I'm Anton, a TV writer and author of Breaking Into TV Writing, a book about the business of TV writing and how to get your foot in the door.


You can pre-order Breaking Into TV Writing here:

bottom of page