Michelle Jackett-Webster led our first Festival workshop: Comedy Scene Study. Here are a few of the highlights of the workshop.
- What makes us laugh? Unexpected/surprise, incongruity, physical humour, set-up situation, word play, reversals, expressions, pain, anticipation, timing/pacing, repetition, truth/relatability
- Comic timing—the intentional rhythm and tempo that the actor manipulates in order to emphasize comedy. Is it instinctive or can it be learned?
- Contrasts—extremely and use of opposites creates potential for comedy: identifying the contrasts finds the opportunity.
- Physical/visual comedy—manipulating the body for humorous effects.
- Comedy is found in truth. Create characters with real motives and struggles; sad truths can be expressed through comedy. Quoting Michael Shurtleff, “In comedy, the needs in the relationship must be even greater than they are in drama, the competition is keener and more immediate, the game playing is for life and death stakes in every move of the way, and one-upmanship is a primary goal of every character.”
- Always trust the playwright: the clues are there in the text where the playwright has created the comedy.
- Trying to be funny isn’t funny. Playing the audience isn’t funny (they will feel underestimated.) Shtick and mugging has its place and can be effective, but needs to be appropriate. Funny is subjective.
- Comedy is fearlessness, risk-taking, and keen observation skills.
The participants used two Neil Simon scripts (Plaza Suite and The Odd Couple, Female Version) to practice some of the concepts discussed in the workshop.