Friday, September 28, 2012


I am doing all comedy scenes this month in class. Hence:

Comedy is different from drama--and yet they are the same. They are the same in that both obey all the major requirements of good acting: reality, conflict, honesty, interdependence and shared placement (in front of an audience); as well as structure and elegance. The rub between them lies in the last three elements of exciting acting: Intensity, Variety and Complexity.  (Please read my book, Acting is Living, for a complete exposition on these ten fundamentals of good acting,)

INTENSITY: Comedy requires a highly heightened intensity, compensating for an increased intensity with a reduced demand for variety and complexity.

While drama is intense, comedy is very, very very (often absurdly) intense...while of course the actors have to remain real and honest and elegant, etc. (the good actor mustn't lose all the other requirements of good acting in the process of comedy. In comedy, you lift the energised and stylistic head of the flower, but must not tear its roots out of the soil of good acting reality.)

VARIETY: Drama hopefully has much variety; whereas comedy is more emotionally monochromatic.

In fact, that's where the idea of comedy 'types' come from: a comic character has such an excess of one personality component that they seem to have little--if none--of any other.)  

COMPLEXITY: comedy has emotional simplicity (non-complexity, as opposed to the more complex demands of drama). That's why comedy has to move fast. If you slow down, the audience soon realizes that nothing profound or complex is going on. Comic characters are simpler in emotion complex, but make up for it by being intense in that emotion.

Comic characters are compulsive about their emotional needs. They refuse to admit to (or logically recognize when arguing any issue) any doubt in their 'rightness' of their logic. They seem beyond denial. Their relatively implausible argument (to us, the audience) --based on their fundamentally excessive human needs and doubt--drives them to certainty. That's why they say and do such irrational and unreasonable (funny) things in their conflictual discussions: THEY HAVE TO BE RIGHT!

This need and manifestation of certainty creates in the actor's/character's persona a quality of innocence if not naivety; and is a large measure of why they seem so delightfully appealing to audiences. They are absurd-ly human in their emotional need and commitment to fulfilling it; genially oblivious to what they are saying and/or doing in pursuit of the need-fulfillment.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

ON ACTING: A reply to J



"I am here in LA and you are in Pittsburg. I have great respect for your love of acting and your willingness to work for it and on it; and congratulations for your success in the 6th grade. But I don't know how I can overcome the distance and help you in any specific way. On my blog ( I have written a lot about acting for many years (although I have been derelict lately. Read some of if it. This week I vow to start up again.)

"I also offer for your look-see a video series I have started on my website called A Series of Conversations about Acting. See the nine segments I did with an actress called Jessica Kokak. I believe there is some wonderful information for young actors on it.

"I have also written a book: Act is Living. See a link to it also on my website. I also offer long range one-on-one lessons via Skype. Call me if you are interested. Get a cheap video camera and make your own films. Be super critical of your own work. Ask yourself, after viewing you efforts: Would you stay at home on Saturday night and watched that.

"Finally, I ask you to be patient. You are 13. Life is beginning. Along with your efforts in acting, do well at school; acting requires all knowledge of all life because that's what we actors so: life; that's what acting is. Always work hard on your acting, study, and work smart. Study and perform with the best. Learn quickly to evaluate their efforts. Don't just listen to salesman bull from acting tearchers. Demand truth. See the teachers acting work, and ask to see their teaching outputs and their student recitals. Ask to audition a class. Do you want to be as good as their actors...or better! Remember: You are the buyer. The teachers are the sellers .Just like shopping at the market: look at their food carts and squeeze the fruit to make sure it is ripe and the tastiness and consistency you want.
Trust your taste. It must pass into your mind and soul.

"Gook luck. And if you love something, never give up. Just make sure that love involves self-respect and hard work.



ON ACTING: I Return Less Certain

I have just finally finished a memoir about the summer of 1957 when I hitchhiked around the country by thumb (causing my absence from this column).

Since then I have asked myself a series of questions:

Where does memory end, and imagination begin?
Where does fact end; and fantasy begin?
Where does the truth end; and lies begin?
Where does science end; and art begin?
Where does reason end; and passion begin?
Where does reality end; and creativity begin?

Perhaps there is no fixed demarcation line in any of this.
Memory is a constant interface with fluid imagination.
Thinking is a twisting symbiotic process subject to
of Einstein's relativity as emotional truth wrestles with the human obsession for certainty.

What is more valuable?: the definitive facts of what was, or the certainty of what one feels about those facts? The artist argues that facts should be allowed to transform under emotions' flood to new facts, better facts, more true facts.

The artist's chore is not to reconcile dichotomies, but to embrace them.
As Whitman said "Do I contradict my self? Oh, I contradict myself; I contain multitudes."