The Three Pillars of Comedy (Part 3 of 3)

November 15, 2017

THE UNPREDICTABLE

Storyline The element of surprise is at the heart of any successful sitcom. In terms of storyline, the unpredictable is what keeps us laughing out loud and tuning in week after week. We know the character will want something desperately and will pursue it with comedic gusto. What we don’t know is how they’re going to go about getting their Want, what will stand in their way, or what will happen if and when they do get their Want. If boy wants girl, we know boy will pursue girl. What we can’t predict is how he’ll go about it, what obstacles he’ll face and how he’ll totally screw it up.

Characters – In sitcoms, there is an inherent, unpredictable nature 
to all comedic characters. What makes a good sitcom character is a funny writer with a fresh, humorous perspective on human nature, and a funny actor who brings their own life experience, essence and unique spin to the role. As you will see, each of e Eight Characters of Comedy has room for interpretation, a distinctive “take,” which will naturally make them unpredictable.

That being said, there is one character who is a walking, talking personification of the unpredictable and that is the In Their Own Universe character. However, it’s important to note that each character will come with its own surprises. For example, if a Logical Smart One
 is given an A or B storyline, they could take on the characteristics of another character, like The Neurotic (anxious, over-thinking, fussy) in the desperate pursuit of their Want.

It’s important to note, there is also some humor to be derived from “The Predictable,” especially regarding characters that we are familiar with and have grown to love. We know them and their personalities so well, and we look forward to their funny reactions or their particular style in delivering jokes. They are so well-defined in our minds that
 we know what they say or do is going to be hilarious. But where the element of the unpredictable comes into play is that we don’t know exactly what it is they are going to say or do to make us laugh.

Jokes Jokes are built upon the element of the unpredictable. One particular joke that encompasses this unpredictability, which goes back to the advent of sitcoms, is what I named a Triplet. Triplets are based on the theory that a joke starts by establishing a familiar pattern in the dialogue or action which lulls us into a sense of comfort, as we think we know what’s going to happen next based on that pattern. Then, we are suddenly thrust out of that comfort zone when that pattern is broken or disrupted by something “unfamiliar” (the joke) at the end.

We might know that a joke is coming, but we can’t predict when, what it’s going to be, or, even more important, how clever. We also can’t predict the speed, volume, intensity or intention of how the actor will deliver this joke.

As you can see, there is a lot that goes into building this sitcom house. You need to have The Three Pillars of Comedy working together to support the continued success of a good sitcom. You cannot remove any one of them from the equation. Conflict, Desperation and The Unpredictable will serve as the basis for most, if not all, of the humor in any sitcom. They all need to be present in the storylines, characters and jokes. Again, you can’t neglect any of those elements either. You can’t have a brilliant storyline with weak characters and jokes. The Three Pillars of Comedy will hold up your sitcom house and reinforce it episode-to-episode and season-to-season.


Scott SeditaAbout Scott Sedita – 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.

Comedy is a Serious Craft! (PART TWO)

September 10, 2015

Frontier_Insider_Header September

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.

What?!

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