Monday, August 9, 2010

Comic Touch

I'm a little sad today to close this show. It was a really wonderful cast, the kind you love to work with. I am really dedicated to this art form and it is a joy to see others who are as well. This cast was fantastic- everyone knew their lines, everyone knew everyone else's lines, so well in fact, that if one of us faltered for just a second- there was no hesitation- we stepped right in to cover.
I knew my part backwards and forwards and that is a really good feeling-
Everyone listened and took part in the show with a complete dedication. I had a wonderful director who kept me feeling secure and confident, made me feel a part of the collaboration- listened to my ideas and thoughts, and gave me the freedom to explore this part.
There were the usual flubs and flusters and a couple technical issues but for the most part, this was an extremely smooth run. I loved this part- not just because I was the lead but because I was active and challenged and FUNNY.
I'm not used to really being funny. Or I should say believing that I am funny. My funny confidence is not huge. Still the shy girl, still somewhere in my head if people are laughing, it must be because I did something embarrassing. Oh what a difference that makes.
I remember studying comedy, oh, not in a class or anything but when I wanted to write it and people were assuring me that I was funny, really, I was. One person said I was funny because I always got the joke- I never understood why the hell that made me funny.
In my teens and twenties, I was surrounded by people who were hilarious on a regular basis and just the thought of keeping up with the quick wit flying around the room seemed impossible to me. When I was put on the spot, I just froze. I needed to think about it. I used to think of all kinds of funny things on the way home that I wish I had said, but I always appreciated comedy. You know, how we all repeat Monty Python lines- now, it's like that with Family Guy.
Later I was convinced I could only write heavy drama, the serious writer- I wanted people to take me seriously. At one point, a friend of mine convinced me to write a comedy and it was quite successful, it was a play that was produced twice. It was a real revelation for me. Not only was I capable of writing funny things, of having comic timing, I really understood it.
It turns out I had been studying comedy for years. Not on purpose, like I said, not in any sort of formal setting but I realized I knew all the rules- I realized I knew exactly when the punchline needed to happen- there was the set up- here was how many times the repetition would be needed and HERE was the biggest bang for the joke.
Some time later, I was asked to do a class presentation to a group of high school students on how to write a play. After we read one of my plays, I had to give them a short talk. I wrote about The Simpsons. Yes, they are the great equalizer, the bridge between grown ups and teens- everyone loves The Simpsons- and they have been around so long that people grew up watching them.
I explained to them why funny worked- how you take an average, regular situation, heighten in and take it to the absurd and that is what makes it funny. I wrote down for them the rules and gave a nice little talk. I was losing them until I mentioned The Simpsons. I realized this is universal with all sitcoms and comedy formats.
So, I understood it, intellectualized it, thought deeply about it, but could I do it? My husband thinks I am hilarious, but he finds humor in everything. He's an easy audience- also he gave me a false sense of funny. I realized one day not everyone might think I am as funny as he does. I have been the straight man in a funny play but this play was going to ask me to be funny myself. The director seemed to believe in me, and I was committed. So I tried to be funny without trying to be funny... yeah I know. That's kind of a contradiction but it seemed to work out okay. And I had really very great and funny words to say- Luckily, the audiences rewarded our very hard work with laughter.

1 comment:

Contra Yogini said...

I wanted to see that play. I sure am a deadbeat friend. This makes me sad (missing the play - and, well, being a deadbeat, too). I'm glad it was a success. Not surprised, though. I agree w/ your husband - you are indeed a funny lady! :)