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:
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