The Science Of Comedy

Well here we are getting Ken Ludwig’s The Game’s Afoot up on its feet. And boy, comedy is hard. And fun. There is a line from Something Intangible, Bruce Graham’s play from earlier this season that says, “People don’t take comedy seriously.” And, really, you have to take it seriously.

It seems simple enough. There is a script with a bunch of great jokes, so just get on stage and be funny. How hard can that be? Just be funny.

Boy howdy, if only it were that easy.

There is a real science to comedy, to making it funny, to making it work. And one should always start by taking it seriously. If the cast doesn’t take the given circumstances of the play seriously, and then make choices that are consistent and in keeping with those given circumstances, the audience won’t buy into the situations on stage. And without that buy-in, the audience won’t care enough about what is happening to be surprised by anything. And comedy lives and dies by surprises.

Now granted, the given circumstances and situations in a farce or screwball comedy can be wildly unrealistic, or zany, or fantastical, but the cast better be taking whatever goofy stuff is going on onstage as seriously as possible.

So that is the place to start. And then you really get into the science. When exactly, like down to the nanosecond, is the best time to enter? Where is the best place to look when saying the punch line? Who should scream louder when the dead body is revealed? How long a pause is best between this line and that line?

Some of these things are instinctual. You get the right cast, script, and director together, and almost immediately you are firing on all cylinders. But even in that situation (which I am pleased to say we have happening right now), we still have to really break things down to their barest essentials and look at the science of comedy. And that stuff is hard, and time consuming, and fun, and tiring. There is a certain section in this play that demands very quick response times from four cast members working in tandem to create a fugue of sorts. And the only way to really get it right is to keep doing it, over and over. Precision and timing and speed are the keys to making it work.

So, yeah, that stuff ain’t easy. But it sure is fun. And of course, we haven’t even added the audience to the mix yet. That is when things really start to come together. That last bit of alchemical magic that transforms lead into gold.

We are having a blast in our rehearsals, and we are so excited to get that audience in the room and take that last step. I love it…here we go…

Something familiar,

Something peculiar,

Something for everyone:

A comedy tonight!


Something appealing,

Something appalling,

Something for everyone:

A comedy tonight!


Nothing with kings, nothing with crowns;

Bring on the lovers, liars and clowns!


Old situations,

New complications,

Nothing portentous or polite;

Tragedy tomorrow,

Comedy tonight!

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