So here I sit, languishing in the nascent 27th year of my existence.
On the way home tonight, I could think of only one thing: Comedy.
Ok, I lied. I was thinking about something else too. But that’s another story for another time.
Anyway, with the Sketch Comedy show only a week a way, I can’t help but think about the comedy of sketch and the very nature of comedy in general. Now, I don’t claim to understand why things are funny. I can’t break it down into juxtaposition vs. conflict vs. color vs. satire vs. slapstick. I lack the patience and mental capacity to do so. I believe, though, that I am starting to understand what works.
Prepare thyselves for a music analogy.
I think live sketch is like a symphony orchestra performance. Just like musicians, actors have their “sheet music.” The words of a line are like the notes in a measure or phrase. I suppose the stage directions/actions would equate to expression marks. (whispered)=pianissimo or (as lights go down)=ritardando or whatever. Just like the musicians in an orchestra, the individual actors play a part of a larger whole. If one small part of that larger whole makes a mistake, it detracts from the whole. Actors, however, have the disadvantage of not having timing/rhythm notated on their scripts. It’s pretty much arbitrary. Thus, actors have the responsibility of having to feel the cadence/flow of the scene and must adjust their delivery accordingly. Alternatively, they can rely on the director sidecoach. However, during a performance, said director won’t be there with a baton telling you the scene’s in 4/4, come in on 3. Nevertheless, the actor has to know when to deliver their line with the correct tone and diction to make a scene work. I want to emphasize that an actor has to know WHEN simply because timing is everything.
Timing is everything.
In comedy, it seems to matter the most. Moreso than in other areas of theatre. If you miss a beat in a dramatic piece, it’s still salvageable. Perhaps you could attribute it to moment of pensive thought or play it off as a character’s internal monlogue. It’ll still come through believable. However, when you miss the timing on a joke or laugh line. It’s gone. Totally. Inexplicably. Forever. Now, I don’t know why this is. Maybe it’s due to the nature of human short term memory. Who knows?
Going back to the orchestra analogy; timing is important. Can you imagine if the brass section came in half a beat early during the Imperial March? Disaster. It’s the same in a comedy piece. The comedy impact is lost.
Comedy needs polish.
Also, improvisers are special because we can do it on the fly. Haha.
Ok screw it, I’m going to sleep. I’ll finish this never.