Something for everyone:
A comedy tonight!
|Skit Comedy: Paddy Madden & Greg Bepper '|
So, how can this be? Comedy is one of the largest theatrical genres. It is made up of many. many different sub-genres. For it is much easier to make an audience cry than roll them in the aisles laughing. Also due to the fact, that we all have a different sense of humour. We all find different situations, characters, language, hilariously funny to slightly amusing.
Now before I go into all the different sub-genres of comedy that have tickled your funny bones. Let's take a brief look at what an actor needs to have you guffawing. As I have spent the majority of my acting career playing comical characters, some of these I have learnt the hard way, cue the crickets.
The actor must have an hilarious personality:
It helps but not necessarily true. I have worked with some of the funniest actors on stage and screen that are if fact very shy, introverted and conservative. It all comes down to a great understanding of this genre, technique and even though you may be playing the most outrageous character... still playing it for real.
|Robin Williams: a master of comedy timing|
Tick, tick, tick... timing:
Timing is the essence of comedy, whether it be verbal or physical. Some actors are born with it and hone this skill throughout the years. Others work incredibly hard to perfect it. In live theatre you know instantly if you have 'got the laugh' In television you could wait up to six months and in film, it can be years. Timing is a matter of the correct delivery of the line, inflection and facial expression all within a spilt second, then pause. Hopefully, this will be followed by laughter from the audience. The timing of the next line coming out of the laughter is also important, so you don't 'step on the laugh'. Believe me, you want the laughter to go on as long as possible and for the audience not to miss the next line.
Understanding the genre:
If an actor doesn't fully understand or 'get' the genre of comedy they are working in, then this will certainly be reflected in their performance. Each actor on the stage or film/TV set needs know and understand what is expected from this form of comedy. Unlike drama, over analysing comedy situations can sometimes be their death knell.
So what types of comedy have you been watching all these years. Here's a few of the most popular.
|Situation Comedy (Sitcom): The Big Bang Theory|
This is the most familiar and I'm sure you watch at least one a week. Also known as 'Sitcom'. It's a television genre with comic situations, storylines and ongoing comical characters. This comedy genre has it's roots deeply entrenched in shows from the radio days.
This type of comedy was developed back in the days of music hall and vaudeville. These days it can be found in theatre revue shows and television. Rarely is it presented as a film, although it has been tried to varying levels of success. It's a series of short, autonomous comedy scenes, anything from one and ten minutes long. Performed by one as a monologue or a group of actors.
A plot that is twists and turns for absurd and mostly improbable reasons. Over exaggerated characters with no rhyme or reason to anything they do. Farce is usually performed on stage, occasionally on film and rarely on television. Although there have been a few highly successful farcical TV comedies.
|Black Comedy: M*A*S*H|
No, it's not what you think. A black comedy centres around the morbid. Making light or poking fun at situations such as death, killing and war. There is a very fine line to a successful comedy in this genre. The writers and actors have to be very mindful that one degree over the mark and the production will be slammed as disgusting or tasteless.
This comedy is popular in television live-type, late night talk shows, variety shows and theatre revue shows. As this type of comedy relies on current events, news, celebrities, politicians and so on, it dates very quickly. So it's not great for a feature film. Often you will see it combined with sketch comedy.
Spoof Comedy: Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Mainly found in films and television shows. Here the subject matter is usually well known. A book, film, period of history, major event. Actors play well known characters but the whole truth is twisted to 'send-up' and make fun of the real story.
A rarity to have full slapstick comedies these days. They are from the bygone days of silent movies and music hall. It involves a lot of physical comedy such as pie/food fights, theatrical violence, falling over and running into objects. It all takes a great deal of timing from the actors. These days you will see slapstick occasionally in films, television shows and on the stage but only as a section of these production.
|Musical Comedy: Funny thing happened on the way to the Forum|
Funny stuff with songs! But seriously, this form of comedy tells a story with humour combining dialogue with songs and dance. It is one of the most demanding theatrical genres for an actor, for they must be proficient in the three disciplines of acting, singing and dancing as well as the art of comedic timing.
What is my favourite comedy genre as an actor? Farce. I love the madness, the nonsence and the physical comedy associated with it. Many decades ago I had the joy of playing the lead in the farcical classic: A Wild Goose Chase. I had never experienced an audience laugh so loud for so long. And this continued for the entire season.
So there it is. You will never look at a comedy as just a comedy ever again. And this list is only the major sub-genres!
Author: Greg Bepper © 2013
Greg Bepper's Thunderbolt Theatre & Film Productions