With two successful comedies back to back, The Servant of Two Masters and Boeing Boeing, Hedgerow Theatre has spent the majority of the last four months contemplating comedy. With Producing Artistic Director Jared Reed playing the masked Truffaldino in Servant, and Director Damon Bonetti conducting his third Hedgerow farce with Boeing, we wanted to share some sage advice from these two master farceurs:
- Pain is funny.
- People like to see other people suffer. Comedy is tragedy seen through the prism of time. Who cleans up the bodies at the end of Hamlet? We enjoy seeing people squirm.
- We laugh at what we recognize.
- Knowledge is finite, but human stupidity is endless. When we see someone make an idiot of themselves, or dig themselves into a deeper and deeper hole we laugh at the fact we’ve done that to ourselves before, but we also enjoy the fact that it is not us stuck in that situation.
- Comedy is scientific.
- It’s all about timing. You must direct the audiences attention, and it must be precise. How do you direct an audience to look at a certain place at a certain time to get where the joke is, the setup, the delivery, the punchline, the acceptance of the joke. With comedy, the audience must be kept in mind at all times.
- Truth is funny.
- Tragedy is truth done in the way we expect it; however, when we see truth in new and fresh ways we laugh at the unexpected. When we point out the folly of something, we peel back the layers and reveal the ridiculousness of it.
- The unexpected is what makes us laugh.
- The rule of three works for a reason: there is the original action, the repetition, and then the turn, or the surprise. With the turn, people get to experience the repetition for a third time, because the mind fills in the pattern, but also the audience gets to feel a sense of surprise when the pattern is broken.
- Casting is crucial.
- You have to have the right people in the right places so that the comedy can be recognized and honored, but also so that the structure of the comedy is delivered effectively. It is important to discover who the characters are and to honor their humanity, and not just play for jokes. The actors in a piece are the vehicle for the comedy, and if the team is out of alignment, then the game is lost before it is played.
- You have to enjoy yourself.
- From the first read through to the final performance, you must enjoy being in the room. Audiences recognize when the performers love what they do, and in comedy if the people on stage are not having a good time, it shows. Sharing a laugh with an audience, sharing a laugh with a cast mate, and making people smile is at the heart of what we do. If we miss the mark on that, we miss the mark on the whole shabang.
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