For the acting community

Finding comedy in a scene
Total posts: 38
Joined: 11 year(s) ago
Posted 9:34 PM Jul. 7, 2013

My new political comedy, CapSouth, is launching this week on YouTube. Whew, high tension! I don't think of myself as a comic actress and, as I've said before, feel somewhat like I'm playing the Margaret Dumont role in a brilliant cast of Marx Brothers.

But there are tips even second bananas can draw upon to find comedy in a scene. Backstage magazine recently had a nice piece by actor and audition coach Michael Kostroff that outlined some of the frequently recurring elements to consider when approaching a comedy script. They are:

"Disproportion: an extreme reaction to a small problem; a small reaction to a huge problem; lots of effort for an easy task; little effort for a great task.

"Lack of self-awareness: an unattractive character who thinks he’s irresistibly good-looking; a drunk who thinks he’s behaving normally.

"Awkwardness created by obligations, such as manners, customs, etiquette, social norms, restrictions, or assignments: trying to stay awake while a talkative dinner guest overstays his welcome; hiding an embarrassing stain at an important job interview; Lucy and Ethel at the chocolate factory…look it up!

"Skewed status: a bossy secretary; a wimpy king; a snobby beggar.

"Wrong person for the job: an insecure psychotherapist; a squeamish surgeon; a tone-deaf backup singer.

"Recognizable human foibles: nervousness about asking someone out; dissolving at the sight of a baby; pining for food while on a diet; not making sense first thing in the morning."

There are many more elements than these six of course. For a more in-depth look at playing comedy, check out Scott Sedita's excellent book The Eight Characters of Comedy: A Guide to Sitcom Acting and Writing, which is available in both hardcover and Kindle editions.

Now, on to the launch! By the way, my CapSouth character, Congresswoman Gracie Todd Englewright, has her own fan page on Facebook, where she responds to questions and comments from her "constituents." This is going to be a fun run.