Thursday, September 10, 2009

ON ACTING: Elements of Comic Characterization

Comedy characters have inordinately great emotional needs. Emotion (and its need to be fulfilled) is the engine that drives them. Reason (reasonable thought) is never a consideration in their drive. That is why they say and do funny (illogical) things. The measure of their logic is emotion, not reasonable, careful consideration.

Comedy characters are always decisive, They seem never to consider they are wrong: the other character always is.

Comedy character are impulsive. They leap before they look. (Because their emotional needs are so great, they are in a hurry to win and need to be fulfilled immediately.)

They have no time to carefully consider their opponents point of view. In fact, most comedy characters are not really listening to their opponent's point of view very carefully. Rather, they measure what is said to them exclusively from their emotional point of view; totally subjective. Sometimes they seem to be just waiting for their opponent to shut up so they can explain how absolutely wrong the opponent is and how absolutely right they are.

Comic characters act as if they are always right because they truly believe they are.

Rigorous logical consistency is not the comic characters' strong suit. In fact, illogical change (from an outsiders point of view) is one of a comic characters essential traits. Comic characters' logic can go from from A to Z, even within a single sentence. The academics call this comic incongruity.

Comic characters often say (and we laugh at) two absolutely contradictory statements--back to back--without apology or pause; without perhaps even realizing they are doing it.

That logical inconsistency (albeit emotional-need consistency) is the source of a comic character's comic innocence; and, ironically, that innocence and logical obliviousness creates their lovingly audience appeal.


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