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Archive for October, 2015

Posted by admin, October 28, 2015 5:01 pm

There’s definitely an art to sketch comedy and it’s a great one to master as an actor because it gives you the flexibility to do so many other things.  Remember to use what you learned in Part 1, then add these:

-Don’t Telegraph.

As with physical comedy, don’t give the gag away.  Don’t flinch before you fall, don’t look at where the pie is going to come from.  Stay in the moment and you will simply react naturally.

-Less is more.

Don’t mug or be intentionally goofy (unless that’s what the script calls for.)  Avoid the temptation of extraneous movement (fidgeting, shifting nervously, etc.)  Work in front of a mirror so that you become conscious of what your body’s doing when your busy acting.

-Have fun!!

Remember why you’re here!  Comedy can be challenging, but it’s also a blast!  And expected the unexpected; when you’re present, listening, and reacting, you create a space for the funny to happen …and that’s where the magic is.  There’s no place where you’ll work harder, learn more or laugh as much as when you do comedy!

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Posted by admin, 4:32 pm

Four decades after it premiered, Saturday Night Live is still a huge hit watched by millions.  Why?  Because they’ve mastered sketch comedy.  When it works, it rocks your audience, has them repeating lines around the office (sometimes for years!), and gets them to come back for more.  Welcome to the fine art of sketch comedy!  Here’s how to make it work for you:

-Always Play the Truth.

Play it straight.  The minute you start trying to be funny, you’re not.  The funniest moments come when you stay present so that you can react genuinely.   And The 9 Rules of Intentional Acting still apply!

-Learn How to Extend a Moment.

This is a choice; you don’t want to extend *every* moment.  But this can pay off nicely if you chose a good spot for it.  Is your character looking for her keys?  Don’t just pull them out of the first pocket you find.  Search around, pat yourself down, let that “oh-man-I’ve-just-locked-myself-out” look cross your face.  Fun little bits of business like this can pay off big!

-Be willing to use your body (pratfalls, etc.)…including your face!

Fill up the space with your body.  Remember that the frame of the shot is wider for comedy specifically so that you can react with your body and fill it. Is there a gesture or physical way of expressing your intention?  Also, the larger frame allows for bigger facial reactions, so use that to raise the stakes.  It’s not just     “What?”   It’s “W-H-A-T???”   Don’t be afraid to use facial expressions!

Again – watch the greats do physical comedy:   Melissa McCarthy, Will Farrell, and Jim Carrey.

Next Up:  Sketching Out Your Funny

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Posted by admin, October 22, 2015 1:49 pm

Now that you understand the basic set up for physical comedy, here are a few ways to start sharpening your skills:

-The Element of Surprise:  The reason the house falling on Buster Keaton works so well is that he has absolutely NO IDEA what’s coming.  In fact, he thinks he’s totally in the clear.  Remember:  if you flinch or show any sign that you know what’s about to happen, the jig is up and you’ll telegraph your funny.  Stay in the moment and let the funny come to you.

-Don’t Mug: You just can’t force funny.  Just as in regular acting, physical comedy should always look like it’s happening in the moment.  Make sure the added elements of physical humor support and add to the content of the scene but don’t overpower it.  Know your 9 Questions and you’ll know your character…and how they’ll react!

-Watch the Greats: Just like the study of timing, you’ll need to watch the masters.  This is a critical step because it’s important to see how the physical weaves in with timing and storytelling.  A nearly perfect example of what happens when all of those things come together is The Dick Van Dyke Show’s “100 Terrible Hours”.  The awesome writing by Carl Reiner, Bill Persky, and Sam Denoff, incredible physical work by Dick Van Dyke, and fluid directing by Theodore J. Flicker create a brilliant triumvirate.  Grab yourself a beverage, make sure you won’t be interrupted, and enjoy:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wGBbqt0H5H0

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Posted by admin, October 20, 2015 2:21 pm

Physical comedy is simply storytelling through actions. All the same rules apply:  you still have to set up your storyline, develop it, and sell the punch line…but now you must do it almost entirely through body movement.  Here’s how to get started:

-What Story Are You Trying to Tell? A great example is in Mrs. Doubtfire, starring the late great Robin Williams.  His character, Daniel Hillard, is trying to prepare the first meal for his family in his new role as Euphegenia Doubtfire.  While attempting to make a several gourmet dishes, s/he leans over the stove and sets his/her chest (and foam falsies) on fire, then has to put them out with pot lids.  The fiasco makes it very clear what s/he must do:  s/he’s got to get her/himself out of her/his current situation quickly (s/he ends up having food delivered) and then prepare for next time so he doesn’t risk getting caught and losing the ability to see his kids every day.  The entire scene is done with almost no dialog, but you know exactly what he’s thinking and feeling.

-Develop Your Story: This is a PERFECT place to use The 9 Questions of Intentional Acting!! Who’s the most important person in the scene?  How do you make it personal?  What’s at stake?  When you keep these in mind, you’ll create your intention…and your body will follow suit!

-Sell the Punch Line: This is your payoff.  The foot caught in the bucket, the slip on the banana peel, the trip over the ottoman.  It can be as subtle as eating something awful and trying not to let the hostess see your reaction or as big as a cream pie in the face.  Whatever it is, be in the moment 100%!

Next Up:  Build your physical funny!  #intentionalacting.com

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Posted by admin, October 15, 2015 3:38 pm

Now that you understand the concept of No Dead Air, here are a few ways to help you get there:

-Read the Funny. This goes hand-in-hand with Watching the Funny.  Get a hold of the scripts from your favorite comedies; many are now available on line.  Comedy writers are true geniuses (Amy Shumer, Tina Fey, Jill Soloway) because they not only have to know what’ll make most people laugh, they have to figure out how to make it sound authentically funny coming out of someone else’s mouth! So, read the script, then watch the show again and compare.  What did the actor do differently?  Look for the nuances in the actor’s performance (including body language, speech patterns, and, of course, timing!)

-Don’t Be Try to Be Funny. The funniest lines are usually delivered in complete earnest.  Deliver a straight line in an incongruous circumstance and you have an opposite. Opposites are funny!

-R-E-L-A-X. You cannot be authentic, you cannot tell the truth, you cannot make your partner the most important person in the scene and you cannot act with intention if you are bound up in your own stuff.  Let go.  Know you’ll make mistakes and that it’s ok.  Mistakes mean you’re building the foundation on which to build your funny.  You’ll soon find that when you get into the groove, you’ll find the rhythm and it will just flow.

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Posted by admin, October 12, 2015 1:07 pm

Many students have come to me over the years and asked me how to improve their comedic timing.  Many think this is an ethereal and tricky question to answer but it’s really quite simple:  No Dead Air.

No Dead Air means that there are no spaces.  To understand this better, think of comedic dialogue like music.  There’s something on every beat; either a rest or a note: 1,2,3,4.  The scene is going to keep ticking forward so there has to be something on every beat –a word, a syllable, a sound, a gesture, a facial expression, or a physical movement-  whatever creates the moment to let the joke land.

Comic timing is really comic rhythm.  The beat keeps going, something happens on every one and it can only happen on that beat.  In drama – a sigh or the walk across the room might take many extended beats. There is no specific rhythm to drama – that’s what makes it drama.  But in comedy, you have to move with the rhythm of the scene and keep it going – so there can be No Dead Air.

Okay – my ideas on how to do this may seem ethereal, but they’re really not. Here’s an exercise:

-Watch the Funny. Pick a sitcom – Friends is a great one. Turn on the closed captioning on your TV  (I call them subtitles) so that you see the words of the script at the bottom of the screen. Now watch the actors deliver the script. You will feel the beats as you watch the words click by and you’ll see there is No Dead Air.

In all honesty – the best way to master comic timing is to be in class and practice.  They say comedy is harder than drama, (and I agree) but that doesn’t mean it’s not fun!

Next Up:  Time to find your funny!

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Posted by admin, October 8, 2015 1:06 pm

Hey Everyone!  Check out my awesome client, Kacey Fifield, in her own music video!  Click on the link below!

Watch Kacey\’s video here!

You are currently browsing the Loren E. Chadima's Intentional Acting blog archives for October, 2015.

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