Help Your Audience Laugh!

shouting           iPodGirl

One of my favourite jokes in my double act show is when my character suddenly can’t hear.

I’m sure everyone is familiar with the basic idea: the clown character puts something over their ears – eg ear muffs, a hat with ear flaps, ipod headphones. The boss character talks to him. But the clown can’t hear and doesn’t even notice that the boss is trying to communicate with them.

It’s so silly, but it is a great joke for all ages.

But the other day I came across a little trick to make it work to even better.

AUDIENCE DOUBT

Within the joke, there is an important moment where the audience realises that the clown cannot hear. But this moment can be vague. Individuals in audiences don’t want to laugh at something alone – that would make them feel weird. The individual will let him or herself laugh at the exact moment that they know for sure that it is meant to be funny.

A good comparison is that moment in group singing when everyone has to start singing the first note. We feel comfortable starting to sing if a conductor tells us when. But if there is no conductor and the pianist gives a vague, meandering introduction, no one will want to be the one to risk singing first – and I’ve been in lots of situations where no one starts singing and the group collapses into embarrassed giggles!

In the “can’t hear” joke, the audience will be thinking that the character probably can’t hear, but they are not absolutely sure. So they need a little indication to confirm their guess. They need clear confirmation that the character can’t hear. And the sharper the moment of confirmation, the better the laugh.

So, how to give confirmation quick and subtley?

I had often played “not hearing” absolutely straight, doing nothing – and the anticipation built until an audience was sure enough of the fact to allow themselves to laugh. But recently I have started using very delicate breathing to give a clearer indication that the character “can’t hear”. I do this with a distinct release of breath – either audibly or physically. It is enough confirmation to the audience that their guess is correct.

This tiny indicator releases a big laugh from the audience.

Try it! It’s easy… and great fun to perform!

Have a look at some of my own slapstick attempts here! 

http://www.thesillyseasons.com

Creating Simple Double Act Material

This blog should help you create some funny material quickly and easily.

This Martin and Lewis routine is a really good example of one of the ways you can generate some great content.

I want to concentrate only on the section from 2.23 to 3.03

Here are the 9 steps:

1. To make things easy: one character should lead the action. The other gets things wrong. In this case, Dean Martin leads, and Jerry Lewis gets it wrong.

2. The routine will be about both characters trying to achieve something specific. The clearer the point at which “success” happens, the easier it is to create good material leading up to it. In this example video, the first “point of success” is Lewis getting over to his dance partner.

3. The leading character must take responsbility for stopping and starting the attempts at achieving success. The foolish character must allow lots of space for the leading character to do this. Watch how much time Jerry Lewis spends just listening to Dean Martin telling him off and giving him more instructions.

4. The lead character must clearly state the success point for the audience. In this case, “Walk over to her and ask her to dance.”

5. For really great gags, the foolish character must do as asked, but “in the wrong way”. In this case, Lewis first walks over trying to look proper, but ends up doing a ridiculous version of a “posh” walk.

6. The leading character then stops the fool before he reaches the “point of success”.

7. THE MOST IMPORTANT PART! The lead character then suggests “how” the foolish character should have done it. Preferably suggesting something that has an emotional content. In this case, Martin says, “Relax, relax!”

8. The foolish character does what he is told, but again, “in the wrong way”. In this case, Lewis does an overly-relaxed walk.

9. Repeat parts 6, 7 and 8 as much as you feel appropriate. Always pay attention to stopping and starting the action cleanly.

That’s it!

This is a simple structure that provides a really strong foundation for double act interaction and is great fun to do.

Think of examples for the following situations:

1. PLACE: A quiet library. AIM: Go and get me that book of the shelf.

2. PLACE: Climbers on a steep dangerous mountain side. AIM: Get something out of my back pack for me.

3. PLACE: The middle seats in the row in a crowded, rowdy sports stadium. AIM: Go and get me some food.

Have fun!

 

We want New Slapstick is a resource for everyone involved in visual comedy of any kind.

We’re putting our money where our mouths are and creating films of our own. To have a look at the attempts so far, click here:

http://www.thesillyseasons.com