3 Storytelling Lessons from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
I had a co-worker a few years ago who never heard of the show, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
And it was very surprising.
But now that I think about it, there are probably a lot of people who never heard of that show.
Especially people who grew up watching only 2000s entertainment.
This was the show that made Will Smith known.
The show that eventually led to his smooth transition into Hollywood movies.
What made this show so successful?
And why was it so magnetizing to watch?
You can learn a lot about storytelling from the Fresh Prince.
I could write a book about it.
I’m going to list 3 big storytelling lessons from the Fresh Prince.
Universal principles that can be applied to any story.
1. Relatable Characters
The whole cast of Fresh Prince was entertaining because they were so different.
You had a wealthy Judge in Uncle Phil.
A goofy cousin in Carlton Banks.
Will Smith was this Philly boy from the hood.
Geoffrey the butler was this lowkey funny British dude.
And so much more.
The whole cast of Fresh Prince just seemed relatable.
And when a person seems relatable, they seem familiar.
When they seem familiar, they HACK rapport.
A lot of people stay in toxic relationships for ages, just because the person is familiar.
Bad example, I know lol.
But you see why familiarity is potent.
In this context, the precursor to familiarity is the relatability of the cast.
That’s point 1.
2. Show was Funny
People love to laugh.
It’s a human experience.
What was dope about Fresh Prince was that they had a laugh track.
A laugh track just gets you in a happy mood.
It feels a little weird when you are watching a show by yourself and you’re the only one laughing.
We do it…but there can be resistance.
The laugh track MELTS away that resistance.
But the Fresh Prince wasn’t only funny because of the laugh track.
It was even funnier due to point one.
- The differences in characters.
Differences lead to polarity.
And when you combine polarized characters, there is a sudden sensation in the body.
A flux produces that laughter.
Like seeing a dude from the hood (Will) dealing with a corny, goofy guy like Carlton.
They don’t even need to say much.
The polarity alone makes you think:
‘Hm…something about this seems unpredictable.’
We mainly laugh when things are unpredictable.
When someone did something that we weren’t expecting.
When something is TOO predictable, humor plummets.
And Fresh Prince was able to capitalize on that unpredictability.
3. The Show was an Emotional Roller Coaster
Most people remember Will Smith’s session with his dad.
When his dad (who abandoned him) finally tried re-entering his life.
Will was down to spark up the relationship again.
They were supposed to do a road trip.
But last minute… Will’s dad cancels.
Prompting one of the most emotional scenes i’ve ever seen on television.
The link is here.
This scene was just one of the few scenes that made the Fresh Prince so brilliant.
Not only was it a humorous show.
It was a human show.
There were different moments where you felt like you knew the character on a DEEP level.
When a storyteller can engage at least 2 emotions in the audience, it makes the audience love them.
Not only like them.
Point 2 was humor.
Point 3 was sadness.
Combine both elements and the Fresh Prince became immortal.
In reality, I can keep going and going…
But these 3 points were what stuck out.
If you’ve never watched the show, I recommend you check out at least one episode when you can.
I’m sure you can find some on the internet if you search enough.
It doesn’t even have to be Fresh Prince.
If you are watching any show…just get in the habit of analyzing some storytelling angles.
What’s making you attracted or repulsed by it?
When you think like a storyteller, hopefully, it plants the seed to one day become one…
For more practical insights into storytelling skills, be sure to check out my book: