What Comedy can Teach Us About Time

February 18, 2011

W. C. Fields

Image via Wikipedia

W.C. Fields once said, “Comedy is a serious business. A serious business with only one purpose— to make people laugh.”

For those who appreciate a good comedy, you will know it is meant to look easy, fresh and spontaneous. And if you’ve ever been on a TV set, as I was yesterday, you will know the scenes are repeated over and over and over until it sits just right. It takes talent to make it appear as if you’re reacting for the first time. But when the crew still laugh after the fourth time you’ve said your lines, you know you’re on to something.

Comedic timing is an innate thing. It can be practiced, but some people have it more readily available in their arsenal than others. Yesterday while filming several scenes for a Bavarian comedy show (I had no lines, but got to do some minor improv), the veteran director guided the actors to their very best by showing them which physical accents counted for which camera angle. Comedy is all about timing and as the day progressed,  I could feel the rhythm of the scenes flow through me. It was as if the tick-tock of the clock aligned with the pulse in my veins. It was magic.

You also know when a comedy has gone awry if the scenes don’t fit together (bad editing) or the humor is reaching for a quick laugh versus an over-arching tummy tickler. Mr. Fields was right. Comedy is a serious business, and it can teach us a lot about how time plays a part in it all.

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