Tom Papa, Bill Burr, and Jerry Seinfeld on Perseverance

September 25, 2017

“Perseverance is failing 19 times and succeeding the 20th.” –Julie Andrews

Acting is a tough game; it’s extremely competitive and tremendously subjective. What one person thinks is a performance for the ages, another considers it to be a 7-percent on the Rotten Tomatoes scale. It’s maddening. But there’s another game that just might be tougher than acting, and that’s comedy. Consciously trying to make someone laugh is an activity fraught with anguish and danger, and some would say that it’s merely a fool’s errand. However, when a comedian makes you laugh until Bud Light shoots out your nostrils, it’s like no other pleasure in the world. And masters of the comedy routine often make it look easy. However, it appears from the attached YouTube clips, the art of comedy is anything but easy. It takes hard work, determination, and above all, perseverance.

Consider Bill Burr–a comedy legend by anyone’s standards. In an interview with Howard Stern, Bill talks about plying his trade for twelve years and having nothing to show for it! No agent, no manager, no money, no prospects. And the anxiety of having to look for a normal job after being on the comedy circuit for over a decade filled him with such anxiety, he says he had a panic attack. So how did Bill make it through this dark time in his life? Well, it seems he just kept at it; he kept going.”I kept doing it, I kept doing it, I kept doing it,” he says.

Tom Papa is a stand-up comedian, actor, writer, producer, and radio personality. In an interview with Sam Jones on the Off Camera Show, Tom talks about the importance of hard work and due diligence as it concerns success in the highly-competitive field of comedy. The legendary Jerry Seinfeld took Papa under his wing when Tom was struggling, and encouraged him to keep moving forward with his career. Along the way, Tom realized that the great Jerry Seinfeld actually worked very hard at burnishing his material and adjusting his stage performance. This style of work and attention to detail made sense to the up-and-coming comedian, and Tom got down to the task at hand. “I didn’t have to get all liquored up, I didn’t have to smoke and be cool. I could just go to work and keep writing, and keep writing, and there would be something good that came out of writing.”

Jerry Seinfeld himself is an absolutely singular figure in the world of comedy. He created, along with Larry David, the sitcom Seinfeld, which turned out to be one of the most successful television programs in history. But before all of that success, Jerry was a hardworking stand-up comic. In the attached New York Times interview, Jerry lays out the anatomy of writing a Pop Tarts joke, which took him two years! That seems like a long time to write a fairly simple joke, but you get the feeling Jerry would burn five years on a gag if that’s what it took! When hearing of his process, it’s clear that Jerry is a very determined and perspicacious craftsman who’s instinct is to embrace the work rather than avoid or gripe about it.

Vince Lombardi once said, “The man on top of the mountain didn’t fall there.” So, it behooves you to keep climbing! Keep climbing! Or else you won’t get the view!


Jimmy Fallon’s Advice: “It’s Good to Be Scared”

August 18, 2016

For aspiring comedians, the thought of bombing in front of an audience can be enough to stop them from pursuing their dreams altogether. In this web exclusive of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy gives advice to comedians beginning their journey in stand-up comedy, and specifically addressing how to move forward after a failed joke or performance.

When an anonymous fan writes to ask him what he was afraid of before or during his first stand-up show and early career, Fallon responds:

“When you first start out bombing, you’re afraid of bombing onstage, and not being funny onstage. But if you look back on it, and that’s the whole fun of it, it’s just getting the nerve out there to just go up there and do your act. And the more you do it, the more you will bomb, the more comfortable you get at doing stand-up. And then, sometimes I’m not kidding, you look forward to bombing because it’s just something different, and it’s like, ‘How do I dig myself out of this hole?'”

Fallon shares one example of when he found himself unable to move beyond a failed joke. “I did one once in the Catskills at some resort,” he recalls. “Some dude got up to go the bathroom or something. And I made fun of him, I don’t know what the joke was, I was trying to work the crowd. And I was like, ‘All nerds: Report to the bathroom’ or something bad like that.” The unamused and intimidatingly large audience member stood confrontationally before Fallon and asked him, “What?” People were booing before Jimmy was reminded to continue telling jokes. Reliving that painfully awkward moment and rubbing his face, Jimmy admits, “I just couldn’t get out of it.”

Keep in mind, comedy was everything to the aspiring comic. He was obsessed with becoming a cast member of Saturday Night Live since he began watching the late night comedy show during his teen years. He once described the singularity of his career ambitions this way:

“This was my ultimate goal. If I ever cut into a birthday cake and made a wish, I would wish to be on SNL. If I threw a coin into a fountain, I would wish to be on SNL. If I saw a shooting star, I would wish to be on SNL….I had no other plan. I didn’t have friends, I didn’t have a girlfriend, I didn’t have anything going on. I had my career, that was it.”

Fortunately, all the times he performed comedy in various shows and contests during his teen and college years gave him plenty of experience with success and failure onstage. Eventually, he dropped out of college and moved to Los Angeles. Once there, he performed stand-up at The Improv, and joined classes with The Groundlings.

As luck would have it, in his early twenties, he was given the opportunity to audition for the Holy Grail: Saturday Night Live. However, much to his heartbreak, they passed on the young talent. But alas, he was given a second chance to audition for the show. This time he passed with flying colors. In fact, he even managed to make the notoriously straight-faced creator of the show, Lorne Michaels, laugh aloud. In 1998, Fallon fulfilled that SNL dream, and remained a cast member till 2004. Of course, he continues to have a prolific career as a comedian, television host, actor, singer, writer, and producer to this day.

Addressing the fear of bombing onstage, Fallon says, “I bombed so many times.” But he concludes, “Don’t be afraid to be afraid. Eventually you look back and you’re like, ‘Oh, I remember when I used to be scared of those things.’ And it’ll help you get strong.”


Comedy is a Serious Craft! (PART TWO)

September 10, 2015

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Being aware of what makes up your personal “funny,” finding the comedy in yourself and your everyday life, is vital to becoming a successful comedy actor. As I mentioned in PART ONE, in order to be funny you must tap into your Funny Gene. And where does your Funny Gene come from? Your sense of humor has a number of influences, which include your family and your environment.

Let’s begin with your family. You inherited your sense of humor either from your mother’s side of the family, your father’s side, or both.

If you can’t look back into your biological family history, look to your environment (your upbringing) as it also plays a major role. Whether your sense of humor was inherited or comes from your environment, or both, it all starts with family.

So look to the family that raised you. Is your mother funny? Is your mother’s mother funny? Is your father funny? Are your grandparents funny? Do you have an aunt with a wicked sense of humor, a cousin who plays practical jokes, a flamboyantly bitchy uncle or a shameless sibling who “marches to the beat of their own drum?” Or do you have all of the above?

Who made you laugh? It’s important to know. Because funny starts with your family and it goes back generations. But what is the primary source of their humor? Where does it all ultimately start? Well, comedy starts with pain. That’s right, comedy comes from conflict, desperation, oppression, repression and persecution. It comes from unadulterated, horrific deep-seeded pain.


Stay with me. It is a fact that many of yesterday’s and today’s top comedians and comedy writers come from generations of disenfranchised and persecuted people, be it for their cultural differences, beliefs, customs, or philosophies. The history of the world is made up of groups of people who have faced oppression at some point in time (some more than others). One way to deal with that pain is with a strong sense of humor. The idea is either “you die, or you laugh about it.” They could have chosen to be miserable and depressed about their situation or their individual and ancestral experiences (some have and continue to do so). Others chose to find the humor in their hardship. This can be said for any group of people that has faced generational repression and persecution. Every race and culture has something painful in their ancestry that can be tapped for comedy.

Our sense of humor doesn’t just come from our ancestral pain.

It also comes from the pain we experienced growing up and the pain we feel on a daily basis. Our individual sense of humor comes from our environment, our upbringing and our personal experiences. All of these play a major factor in how we perceive life, death, family, society, ourselves…all of those wonderful comedic topics.

I had two parents who were funny. I had a mother who was smart and sarcastic, and a father who was a well-intentioned, overgrown child. Before they were divorced (the second time, that is), I remember them constantly arguing. It wasn’t funny to me as a child, but looking back now as an adult, it’s hysterical.

If I were to pitch my family to a network as a sitcom, I would say my childhood was kind of a cross between “Maude,” “The Middle” and “Everybody Loves Raymond.” It was at times tumultuous, but there was always humor, sometimes intentional, sometimes not. At no time was this more evident than during the holidays. Oh yes, those wonderful holidays!

In my family, Thanksgiving and football did not go hand in hand. One Thanksgiving, my Dad, once again going against my Mom’s very strong wishes, not only insisted upon watching the game but actually rolled the TV set into the dining room! Upon seeing the TV, my mother got so upset that she picked up the whole cooked turkey and hurled it across the dining room…breaking it into pieces. My father’s response? “Well, at least now I don’t have to carve it.”

Funny, huh? But it came out of pain…my mom’s pain, my dad’s pain and my pain (the hungry participant, observer and future storyteller). My parents were funny characters and they helped me form my own sense of humor. Humor became my weapon, my way of dealing with my pain, and it derived from my parents and from my upbringing. Think of your own life. What’s funny about it? What about your childhood was funny? What’s funny about your life now? Who in your family is funny? Who among your friends is funny? Combine all of that with a Funny Gene, some ancestral and personal pain, and you have your sense of humor!


Whether you’re auditioning for a co-star or a series regular on a half hour comedy, sitcom guru and acting coach Scott Sedita will teach you The Sedita Method of sitcom acting, which comes with it’s own terminology, coined phrases and unique glossary.

Scott’s internationally best-selling book, “The Eight Characters of Comedy. A Guide to Sitcom Acting & Writing, 2nd Edition” has sold over 100,000 copies and has become a “bible” to Hollywood comedy writers, directors, producers, and actors; and is used as a textbook in over 100 colleges and universities. Find Scott and his staff of professional actors, teachers and coaches at ScottSeditaActing.com.


© Ron Rinaldi Photography www.ronrinaldi.com Scot_Sedita_logo

Comedy is A Serious Craft! (Part One)

July 31, 2015

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Are you funny? Can you be funny? Can you be cast on a sitcom?

Do you have acting training, comedic instincts and what it takes to create a character, follow the sitcom formula and make casting directors, producers, directors and audiences laugh and love you? Not everybody can. Why? Because this thing called comedy is a lot harder than it looks.

Sitcom acting—being funny—is, well, a serious craft. The world of sitcoms comes with its own set of rules, its own rhythm, its own pace. Guess whose job it is to grasp this very specific format. That’s right. Yours!

This comedic formula has been passed down from generation to generation, and it’s up to the actor, to not only be able to recognize this formula, but also to embrace it and follow it…to the LETTER. Then, you have to make it funny! Sitcom acting requires you to follow a very specific technique. It requires you to be energetic, articulate and to commit to the character, the dialogue, the jokes and the interaction with other characters.

Are you scared yet? Don’t worry. If you are disciplined and if you practice, practice, practice, you can work in this incredibly rewarding industry.

The first step to becoming a successful sitcom actor is having an innate ability to act and the training to develop that talent. As an acting coach, I cannot teach someone to act if they are not born with the talent to act. No acting coach can. I call this innate ability the Acting Gene. And, yes, I know it’s not “technically” a gene (but I’m sure they’ll discover it soon). Rather, it’s your inborn, intuitive ability to act or to pretend. A good acting coach can help you tap into this gene, discover (and uncover) your gift and teach you techniques that will help you access your emotions and your imagination.

The second step to becoming a successful sitcom actor is having an innate ability to be funny. Do you have a sense of humor about yourself? Do you have a sense of humor about others? Can you find the funny in the trials and tribulations of your everyday life?

To the left of the Acting Gene is the Funny Gene (yeah, another made-up word).  If you have the Funny Gene, no matter how developed it is, I can teach you to be a sitcom actor. It’s like any other skill. You need to have a physical gift to play basketball, a good ear to play the violin, a keen mind to be a mathematician, or a green thumb to be a gardener. Like any craft, it won’t be easy. But once you learn rules of comedy, and get a character that suits you best, you’ll have fun and get many well-deserved laughs in reruns!


Whether you’re auditioning for a co-star or a series regular on a half hour comedy, sitcom guru and acting coach Scott Sedita will teach you The Sedita Method of sitcom acting, which comes with it’s own terminology, coined phrases and unique glossary.

Scott’s internationally best-selling book, “The Eight Characters of Comedy. A Guide to Sitcom Acting & Writing, 2nd Edition” has sold over 100,000 copies and has become a “bible” to Hollywood comedy writers, directors, producers, and actors; and is used as a textbook in over 100 colleges and universities. Find Scott and his staff of professional actors, teachers and coaches at ScottSeditaActing.com.

Scot_Sedita_logo© Ron Rinaldi Photography www.ronrinaldi.com