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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Now that’s funny! » » Has anyone actually studied comedy? (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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gabelson
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Very true, Bursky. (BTW, are you Alan Bursky, the comic?) Ironically, it was the very thing which allowed us to make a living, that doomed our livelihood. Too many clubs. More specifically, too many sh**y clubs. There's another variable, as well. And that's the fact that comedy became too accessible on television. Once you didn't have to pay a 10-dollar cover and 2-drink minimum to watch stand-up (even the gritty, bluer comics on, say, an HBO), why pay to get what you can have for free? Hell, I did all those shows in the 80's with the brick wall: MTV Half Hour Comedy Hour, Caroline's Comedy Hour, Comedy on the Road with John Byner, Evening at the Improv. It was a blast, but ultimately helped contributed to the death of live comedy.
And yes, there is a great book about Compass. It's what I was referring to in my posts about flying-without-a-net improv. Compass was not about sketches. They were about true, spontaneous improv.
Bursky
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Yes Gabe, I am Alan Bursky.
Lee Darrow
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Danny Doyle said "Comedy is mostly memory." For observational comedy, this is true, but for response comedy, this may even more true as response comedy requires an ability to link an connect at high speed - connect what the person has said and form a response TO it, whether that response be wordplay, or whatever.

In response comedy, the repartee is the key. Listen to some of Groucho's responses on "You Bet Your Life" which can still be seen of some of the retro tv channels like ME TV. His comebacks are lightning fast. Another person who was a quick response comic was the late Paul Lynde. His work on Hollywood Squares was, in some instances, amazing, according to several of the people who worked with him on the show.

But it is really also the ability to observe from the slightly skewed angle that the general population eems to miss that allows a comedian to also be funny, especially in observational comedy. One observes and notices the slight absurdities in a situation and then carries them out a step o two further - or simply re-states them in more obvious words.

However, observation and memory are only two of the necessary parts of the construction of a great comedy routine. The other is, believe it or not, structure. And for structure, look no further than Eddy Izzard. If you look at his routine in San Francisco (the one on DVD), and look at hw he structures his jokes, links the sub routines, his callbacks and his inteerrlations of the larger parts of his set, you will see a true master at work.

The ENTIRE act is completely linked together into one, cohesive whole. So much so, that he is able to re-do the entire act, in FRENCH, and th audience gets EVERY joke, even though they don't, for the most part, speak a WORD of the language!

So, as an added suggestion for the study of comedy, take a look at neurolinguistic programming and the structure of communication, especially things like anchoring, pacing, leading and embedding. because, if you can understand these things and make use of them and script your act tightly eough (and rehearse it so that it SOUNDS like you are speaking off the cuff!), you will have a world class routine on your hands - provided that the material is funny, of course!

Lee Darrow, C.H.
http://www.leedarrow.com
<BR>"Because NICE Matters!"
Dannydoyle
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Lee thanks for putting it in terms like that. It is true. Very true.
Danny Doyle
<BR>Semper Occultus
<BR>In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act....George Orwell
gabelson
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Well said, Lee. I must say, as a 17-year veteran of the clubs (ah, the Grand era from 1979-1996), I came up through the ranks (as did Mr. Bursky) with many of today's superstars. And though we all had our "killer" routines, which we polished night after night, week after week, etc., there were nights when even the best of them; guys who I never got tired of watching (and believe me, that's hard when you spend every night of your life in a comedy club), even THOSE guys, some nights, (and I won't mention any names) were on "automatic pilot". Paul Lynde was a great comic, but like others on Hollywood Squares, most of his responses were not ad-libs, but scripted beforehand. However, he truly was one of the few that could go off-script, and actually be FUNNIER. But honestly, do you think John Davidson would really have been that clever without writers? That's one of the most scripted game shows in history. Groucho, was one-of-a-kind. Perhaps the quickest wit there ever was. Wanna talk improv? Groucho would NEVER have to rely on a pre-scripted line, because he was able to think on his feet perhaps better than anyone in the game. The difference between what Robin Williams does and what Groucho did was like night and day. One was an incredible mimic with a great memory and flawless timing... and the other was a legend the likes of whom we'll never see again.

G
Tony Brent
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I've always wondered why Groucho didn't write more material for him and his brothers during their heyday. Most everything I've read about the subject states that the brothers stuck to their Vaudeville routines and material written by others for their movies. Of course, I suppose none of that could be true. I've always been a big fan.

Tony Brent
Orlando, Florida
EggMan
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Hi,

Comedy is tough...period. It is serious business. What makes it tough is that not everyone has a universal opinion of what is funny. A double entendre that could be hilarious to a discerning audience may be lost on the less informed, where as slipping on a banana peel may kill with the kids but seems cheap and immature to adults. I feel that a comedy magician has to fulfil 2 roles. The first is his main title of "magician" which is a given. The second part is the comedy, which should be worked on and given as much dedication as the magic.
LeeDillingham
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I decided several years that comedy magic was the direction that I wanted to go. I spent a year going to open mic nights at the local comedy club with no magic. Once I knew that I could get laughs without magic, adding the magic was easy. Almost all tricks can be performed with a comedy angle. Did you ever see Harry Anderson do the Zombie?
Dannydoyle
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Lee your hitting on EXACTLY what my point is.

Comedy is a skill. A skill which needs to be honed. Magic is a skill sepproate and apart from comedy.

COMEDY MAGIC is a skill again.

The last one can not be attained without a foundation in the first two. You spent a year getting comedy chops. It is a LOT more than buying a trick listed in the "comedy magic" section of your favorite shop catalogue.
Danny Doyle
<BR>Semper Occultus
<BR>In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act....George Orwell
gabelson
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Lee Strasberg, the great acting coach and founder of "Method Acting", who coached Pacino, Hoffman, DeNiro, etc., once said that it took 10 years to even achieve a moderate level of acting chops. Likewise, comedy chops cannot be perfected in one year; and magic skills as well. When the late, great Johnny Carson used to introduce a comic by saying, "Here's a young fella making his first appearance on national television...", you can bet the guy had already spent 7-14 years on the club circuit. And yet the home viewer probably assumed it was one of the performer's first times on stage. It's why that movie "Punchline" made stand-ups crazy. They made it look like Sally Field just "picked up" comedy in a few months, and became this seasoned performer who got her big shot on natl. tv. If you're a beginner to the world of stand-up, I strongly suggest renting the movie "Comedian" with Jerry Seinfeld, where you can see how it REALLY is (unlike "Punchline")- where a 30-year veteran stand-up, a gazillionaire, arguably tops in his field, is STILL nervous when he throws away his old act and tries to start fresh. How he agonizes about which jokes to do before going out on stage. That's reality.

G
magicfun4u
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I, for one, believe that to be a true comedy magician, one should have the ability to do both, independently, with success. For years, I have studied both arts, and now combine them in programs. My comedy is not the joke, joke, joke kind...but rather, it is personal story material that brings out my sense of humor within the telling. The beauty of this type of comedy, personal story,is that it can't be duplicated COMPLETELY...it's too personal.

Thought I would pass this link along: http://www.killerstandup.com.
"Butter Biscuit"
CardiniMan
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Okay, I'm not going to be very popular for saying this. But being funny is almost like genetics.

Either you are funny or you're not.

If your not, there isn't a book, coach, course or magic powder that can make you funny. I speak from professional experience. I was a professional comedian for most of my life. I've headlined almost every major comedy club in the US. I've done corporate gigs, colleges, every major cruise line and HBO, SHOWTIME, MTV and a list of many many more tv appearances. Most of the nationally known comedians I either have worked with, still friends with or they know my name through the biz. I list this not to toot my own horn, but to let you know I trully speak from experience.

I cant begin to tell you how many "comics" I've seen on main show, open mikes, one nighters etc...and most were funny at some level. But there trully are people who are not. On stage or off. Which is fine, there are plently of other jobs that don't require a funny bone. Although a sense of humour is still important (another topic I wont go into here). For example...acountants don't have to be funny, but if they work for me they have to have a sense of humor. If they don't in the beginning, at some point as they review my financial status, they will start laughing.

Also, the funniest people I've met in the world were not comedians or any type of artistic job. Just your regular joe, that had me rolling. Then again, it is an art to make strangers laugh in a setting geared for comedy (comedy club for an example) then strangers you just met at dinner (another subject). And by the way, the only way to tell if your "really funny" is the ability to make strangers laugh. Friends and family are extremely easy to crack up (Once again another subject).

Now trying to do comedy magic isn't so easy even if you do have a pro comedy background. I've had talks along this subject with Mac King and Mike Caveney. They both agreed it becomes a completely different animal. One I am still trying to tame myself.

Bottom line:

You're either funny or you're not.

You can quote me.

If you are funny at any level reading a book, getting a coach, taking a course or sprinkling fairy dust on yourself will help give you the tools/formulas to be funnier...and just for the record, getting louder is not one of them.

Oh...and if anyone actually does find a magic powder to make yourself funny...please contact me. The one I am using keeps drying out my skin.
Dannydoyle
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While there is a certain "genetic" quality to it, I guess when you have that, you should still study is my only real point, 4 pages ago.
Danny Doyle
<BR>Semper Occultus
<BR>In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act....George Orwell
CardiniMan
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GABE!!!!!! How the hell are you??? Glenn Farrington here.

Man long time no see. How are things going? Last time we worked together might have been a Balotsos or Stanely gig...geeez. Although it might have been at Stand up NY. cant remember (but I do remember a certain bad Scarpatti gig)Great to see you here. I'll e-mail you privately. I should have figured Gabelson was a fusion of your names. I remember hearing you were writing in NY, I'm doing the same out here in LA LA land.
Comedy Writer
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Studying comedy is worthwhile, either on your own, with a book or in a class. I'm surprised more magicians don't spend time on it.

Comedy Writer
gabelson
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Glenn, my old friend! Anything Glenn Farrington has to say on comedy, take it as gospel, as he has been performing it for close to 30 years, and has as strong a nightclub act as any comic I've ever seen. If you get a chance to see him work, don't miss it!

PS: Hey Bursky, the Compass book you may be referring to is "Something Wonderful Right Away"
Destiny
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I have been performing, writing and directing comedy for 30 years in Drag shows, club acts, strip clubs, shopping malls, wildlife parks, cultural shows etc. Some people understand the timing and the language options - some words and phrases are funny - some with exactly the same meaning are not - some people just don't get it and no amount of training, writing or direction will teach them - but if you are funny you must study - best advice I ever read: definition of a brilliant ad-libber - someone who sits up all nite studying impromptu jokes.
scaress
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Wow, long post.

heres a question. is there a book out there with different types of joke.
like whats a spoonerism, a shaggy dog story, wordplay, stuff like that.
xxxRoyxxx
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I have/found this:

Comedy Writing Secrets by Helitzer!!!!!!!!!!!!
Lee Darrow
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SOME training is better than NO training! And the more training one gets, the better one will become - usually.

However, some training CAN instill bad habits. As noted, too much reliance on any one set of rules can result in stultification and can retard one's progress, even in comedy. As the possibly apocryphal story about Olivier and Hoffmann points out, there is more than one path to the mountaintop.

My point is that, in comedy, there may well be more than one mountain!

Michael Ammar pointed out that practice does NOT make perfect - practice makes permenant. And, if we rehearse something to where it becomes so automatic that it SEEMS to be spontaneous, but what we rehearsed is WRONG (as in NOT FUNNY) then we will fail to make the audience laugh on a consistent basis.

And that is bad.

So, while I agree with Jay Marshall's advice to me that "it takes a lot of rehearsal to make it seem like you're ad libbing," I also have to believe that we need to rehearse properly AND understand the mechanics of improvisation, being "in the moment," feeding and taking incoming feeds, and all of the fun little technical goodies that we play with in our heads when we riff with the audience when something goes south on us - for it is truly said that the South shall rise again, even if the Devano Deck refuses to do so and you have to riff with the crowd to cover your Asrah!

Lee Darrow, C.H.
http://www.leedarrow.com
<BR>"Because NICE Matters!"
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