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I, Fatty Question #4: Funny isn't easy...

by Jerry Stahl

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DeppInTheHeartOfTexas
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I, Fatty Question #4: Funny isn't easy...

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Fri Jul 08, 2005 10:00 am

From an interview with the real Roscoe Arbuckle in Literary Digest on July 14, 1917 -

"I know one thing. I'd a heap rather make people laugh than make 'em cry. It's a darned sight harder to do. Sometimes I think I've picked out the worst job in sight. If you don't believe me, try to be funny for thirty solid minutes yourself. After that you'll want to be a villain or a vampire just by way of a little relaxation."

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Film awards rarely recognize comedic performances and actors often say comedy is much more difficult than drama. Do you think that is true? Why or why not?
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Unread postby Theresa » Fri Jul 08, 2005 2:47 pm

Just a few thoughts here – my brain’s not firing on all cylinders today. :eyebrow:

I do agree that comedy is harder than drama. I think comedy requires more skill on the actor’s part – they have to get the audience to empathize with them, to be involved with the character they are portraying, or else the comedy becomes slapstick and cruel, and the character they are portraying can become a predictable caricature. A good actor will make the audience root for them, make them want to succeed, in their predicament or folly – and still laugh – with them, not necessarily at them. They can walk the tightrope between comedy and tragedy without falling.

More later…I think.

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Unread postby linda in QC » Fri Jul 08, 2005 3:15 pm

theresa wrote:Just a few thoughts here – my brain’s not firing on all cylinders today. :eyebrow:

I do agree that comedy is harder than drama. I think comedy requires more skill on the actor’s part – they have to get the audience to empathize with them, to be involved with the character they are portraying, or else the comedy becomes slapstick and cruel, and the character they are portraying can become a predictable caricature. A good actor will make the audience root for them, make them want to succeed, in their predicament or folly – and still laugh – with them, not necessarily at them. They can walk the tightrope between comedy and tragedy without falling.

Wow pretty good Theresa, for someone whose brain is not firing on all cylinders ;-)

More later…I think.

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Unread postby Liz » Fri Jul 08, 2005 3:38 pm

theresa wrote:Just a few thoughts here – my brain’s not firing on all cylinders today. :eyebrow:

I do agree that comedy is harder than drama. I think comedy requires more skill on the actor’s part – they have to get the audience to empathize with them, to be involved with the character they are portraying, or else the comedy becomes slapstick and cruel, and the character they are portraying can become a predictable caricature. A good actor will make the audience root for them, make them want to succeed, in their predicament or folly – and still laugh – with them, not necessarily at them. They can walk the tightrope between comedy and tragedy without falling.

More later…I think.


Your brain appears to me to be in good working order. You've made some good points that I hadn't considered.

I think that comedy is much more difficult because, not only must the actor be convincing as a character, but he/she is also required to get a laugh. Thus, it angers me that the Academy shys away from recognizing comedic performances. :banghead: I think that is beginning to change, though. :hope:
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Unread postby Liz » Fri Jul 08, 2005 3:40 pm

Welcome, Linda in QC. :wave:
You can't judge a book by its cover.

The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.

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Unread postby Veronica » Fri Jul 08, 2005 5:16 pm

I really couldnt say if its harder or not because I am not an actor but I'd have to say if its harder for you than you simply just arent funny. lolol I think either you can do comedy or you cant. I remember when Brad Pitt went on Friends. He is a terrific actor but he was not sitcom material.

Ya either got it or ya dont. IMHO :grin:
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Unread postby Theresa » Fri Jul 08, 2005 6:03 pm

Veronica wrote:I really couldnt say if its harder or not because I am not an actor but I'd have to say if its harder for you than you simply just arent funny. lolol I think either you can do comedy or you cant. I remember when Brad Pitt went on Friends. He is a terrific actor but he was not sitcom material.

Ya either got it or ya dont. IMHO :grin:

You're right, V.

Did you ever notice that it seems that a comedian can cross over to a dramatic role much easier than a dramatic actor can cross over to do comedy? Tom Hanks and Jim Carry come to mind.

And the film community is always surprised when a comedian can do drama. It's like they don't understand the strength of comedy lies in the ability of the actor to connect with his audience, not just in the jokes.

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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Fri Jul 08, 2005 6:10 pm

theresa wrote:
Veronica wrote:I really couldnt say if its harder or not because I am not an actor but I'd have to say if its harder for you than you simply just arent funny. lolol I think either you can do comedy or you cant. I remember when Brad Pitt went on Friends. He is a terrific actor but he was not sitcom material.

Ya either got it or ya dont. IMHO :grin:

You're right, V.

Did you ever notice that it seems that a comedian can cross over to a dramatic role much easier than a dramatic actor can cross over to do comedy? Tom Hanks and Jim Carry come to mind.

And the film community is always surprised when a comedian can do drama. It's like they don't understand the strength of comedy lies in the ability of the actor to connect with his audience, not just in the jokes.


Good point about the crossover, theresa. Of course Johnny is another one that does both in an outstanding way. :cloud9: Even though it's not all about the awards I hope, and not just for Johnny's sake, that the Academy will one day recognize that fact. Fellow actors certainly seem to.
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Unread postby Bix » Fri Jul 08, 2005 6:16 pm

I've been thinking about this one all day and, like Veronica, I have to admit that I just don't know.

theresa wrote: I do agree that comedy is harder than drama. I think comedy requires more skill on the actor’s part – they have to get the audience to empathize with them, to be involved with the character they are portraying, or else the comedy becomes slapstick and cruel, and the character they are portraying can become a predictable caricature. A good actor will make the audience root for them, make them want to succeed, in their predicament or folly – and still laugh – with them, not necessarily at them. They can walk the tightrope between comedy and tragedy without falling.


What you say here makes very good sense though, Theresa. I also think the things that make us cry or be afraid or anxious are more common to all of us than are the things that make us laugh. Does that make sense? I guess I mean that it would be easier to reach the emotions of the entire audience through dramatic acting than it would be to make the entire audience laugh with comedy.

In the end, I have to agree with Veronica - Ya either got it or you don't! Roscoe had it. Buster had it. Mabel had it. Charlie had it. Johnny has it.
Live! Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death! ~Auntie Mame

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Unread postby suec » Fri Jul 08, 2005 6:29 pm

I think that the success criteria are more varied in a way for drama than for comedy, and that the success or not of a comedy is more obvious. Either it works, or it doesn't, because if a moment is designed to get a laugh, and it doesn't, then it is immediately obvious. I think it is quite a specialised thing, hitting audiences's funny bones. Viewers will be amused by different types of comedy too, such as slapstick, or farce, or irony. I think you are either amused by those things, or you are not, so with a comedy, there is so much that is dependent on the audience. In a theatre, a live performance will vary from night to night and for comedies, sometimes a line will be funny in one performance, and not in another. It is very obvious to the actors and it has to be built into the performance, such as pausing to allow for the laughs. Is the variation something to do with the performance, such as an actor's timing, or is it something the audience brings with them? Probably both.
I think good comedy often depends on truth. A kind of truth, anyway. The audience need to recognise and relate to it. To pick up on Theresa's point, we do have to connect to the actor and empathise with him. Quite often something is amusing because we recognise that the character is in a situation that we wouldn't want to be in ourselves, or we remember that we already have been, and know all too well what it feels like to be there. The laughter is sympathetic rather than cruel. But you do have to care about the character who is in that situation.
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Question #4

Unread postby Betty Sue » Fri Jul 08, 2005 6:34 pm

Good point about comedians successfully crossing over to dramatic roles, Theresa. It almost seems like you can always count on a comedian to be quite effective and moving. I was just thinking that if anyone ever put a gun to my head and made me play a role (poor audience!), I would most definitely choose a dramatic part over a comedic one. There's such a fine line to walk between actually being amusing or just being boring or silly or embarrassingly NOT funny! AND it can be very subjective. Johnny really deserves KUDOS for the unusual acclaim he got for POTC, but even that fantastic performance was lucky to make it to the screen from what he says. Apparently it was savaged this way and that by the studio heads. What a guy :cloud9: to stick with what he believed in and have it universally proclaimed as hilarious when the movie came out!! Seems to me that pulling off a comedy part is more difficult, but isn't it great that Johnny excels at both!!
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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Fri Jul 08, 2005 6:36 pm

Bix, you and suec are on to something here. Comedy is more of a personal taste. Most everyone can agree on when something is sad or dramatic but not everyone has the same funny bone. That makes it more of a feat when a comedic character can connect with an entire audience. :cool:
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Unread postby JD101 » Fri Jul 08, 2005 7:06 pm

DeppInTheHeartOfTexas wrote:Bix, you and suec are on to something here. Comedy is more of a personal taste. Most everyone can agree on when something is sad or dramatic but not everyone has the same funny bone. That makes it more of a feat when a comedic character can connect with an entire audience. :cool:


I think you hit it right on the head.

Which is usually funny.

Ask any Wile E. Coyote.
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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Fri Jul 08, 2005 7:28 pm

JD101 wrote:
DeppInTheHeartOfTexas wrote:Bix, you and suec are on to something here. Comedy is more of a personal taste. Most everyone can agree on when something is sad or dramatic but not everyone has the same funny bone. That makes it more of a feat when a comedic character can connect with an entire audience. :cool:


I think you hit it right on the head.

Which is usually funny.

Ask any Wile E. Coyote.


:rotflmao: :rotflmao: :rotflmao: Good one JD101!
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -

Wow! What a ride!

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Unread postby Theresa » Fri Jul 08, 2005 7:34 pm

DeppInTheHeartOfTexas wrote:
JD101 wrote:
DeppInTheHeartOfTexas wrote:Bix, you and suec are on to something here. Comedy is more of a personal taste. Most everyone can agree on when something is sad or dramatic but not everyone has the same funny bone. That makes it more of a feat when a comedic character can connect with an entire audience. :cool:


I think you hit it right on the head.

Which is usually funny.

Ask any Wile E. Coyote.


:rotflmao: :rotflmao: :rotflmao: Good one JD101!


You mean like this?
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