We're back with another top-tips-for-acting blog post! This time, we're going to have a glimpse at our old friend, comedy.
For many people, comedic acting can be a daunting task. It's often shied away from, sometimes with good reason, for comedy is a sly devil, don't underestimate it! However, while it can be difficult, as with everything, practice makes perfect.
So, maybe you're auditioning for Toby Belch or playing Beatrice in a production, but you're terrified you won't get the audience splitting their sides. Don't worry! Here are three handy tips to help you crack that comedy and make the audience bust a gut laughing.
An Actor And A Script Walked Into A Bar... (Tackle That Text)
The first and most important point is simple: understand the text. Now, this applies to all acting, but it is doubly important when it comes to comedy. You need to get a feel for the script and be comfortable with it. Go through the scenes and single out all the little pieces of comedy gold. Understand the characters, their interactions, and all the subtle nuances. Go back to basics with script work! Once you've got to grips with the text, you can start to bring it to life.
Highlight exactly where the comedic elements are; maybe note down where you can place any visual gags. Then you can start tickling those funny bones. If you, as an actor, don't understand the jokes, how do you expect the audience to either?
I Like My Comedy Like I Like My Trains... On-Time! (Timing, Energy And Pace)
Comedy is all about timing. Hence, your pace is vital and can be the making (or breaking) of a good gag. Come in too soon, and you'll leave the audience confused. Come in too late, and the joke will fall flat. Additionally, you need to keep your energy and enthusiasm up as high as possible; there's no chance you'll get the audience laughing if it feels like the piece is dragging. Trust me; they'll know if you're not feeling the scene!
The simplest way to approach this is by knowing and recognising your cues. Understanding and learning the script will really help here. Having a good grip on the scene and knowing exactly when you need to come in with your next line will help keep the energy alive. Think of it as a set of dominoes; when one drops, it hits another, and they all fall in tandem. However, if there's a break or space between the dominoes, the chain stops. If you miss your cue, that disrupts the scene. Then you have to work doubly hard to rebuild the energy and recapture the audience's attention.
Keep the audience on their toes, drive home those cues, and before you know it, they'll be rolling on the floor.
Knock Knock! Who's There? Exactly What We Rehearsed. (Don't Play For Laughs)
'But wait, we're trying to get them to laugh'. Yes, this one may seem paradoxical but let me explain. Now, while there are some instances where this isn't the case, as a general rule, it's often much better when the audience can't see that the actor is in on the comedy.
Nothing is worse than when an actor is trying to indicate that they are funny; doing this will likely break the audience from the action. Don't actively play for laughs. If the script is good and you've done the groundwork and preparation beforehand, the comedy should come naturally. Therefore, play it naturally! Although the script's situations will seem wild and outlandish to the audience, it is the reality for the characters. So, try to not think about the audience's reactions and keep yourself immersed in the scene. The laughs should come rolling in!
Put simply; comedic acting is a lot like any other form of acting, so don't approach it too differently! You shouldn't be scared by the fact that it's comedy. If you put in the work, it's no scarier than, say, naturalism. Tackle comedic roles the way you would any other; just remember to keep pace and energy high, know your script, and be in the moment. Now get out there and make 'em laugh!