TOP TIPS FOR BECOMING A SUCCESSFUL COMEDIC ACTOR: By Scott Sedita
1.) Find your funny.
In what way are you funny? What’s funny about you? Being aware of what makes up your personal “funny”—finding the comedy in yourself and your everyday life—is the first step to becoming a successful comedy actor. Your sense of humor is your ability to be funny, or what I call your funny gene. It has a number of influences, especially your upbringing. So, who made you laugh growing up? A relative, a teacher, a best friend? Or did you learn how to be funny by watching great comedic actors? Also remember that comedy comes from drama, and drama comes from pain. Thus, comedy comes from pain. Are you able to draw humor from your pain? Once you’ve found your funny, you need to identify where your comedic strengths lie.
2. Identify your comedy character.
Is your sense of humor dry and sarcastic? Silly and lighthearted? Dark and quirky? Knowing your comedic qualities will help you identify your comedy character. There are eight specific comedic character archetypes that have been used since the advent of television. In my book “The Eight Characters of Comedy,” I break down each one and its unique personality traits. Are you patient and brutally honest like the Logical Smart One? Are you the desperate but hopeful Lovable Loser? Are you one of those unpredictable eccentrics living In Their Own Universe? Each character has its own comedic attributes, and inevitably you’ll find one with which you’ll experience a natural, organic merge. Focusing on your comedy character will help you find your all-important comedic niche.
3.) Explore your comedy
If you want to be a successful comedy actor, you have to study the art and the best way to do that is in class. In class, not only will you have the chance to learn how to properly execute comedic technique; you’ll also get an opportunity to focus on this new, powerful career tool: your comedy character. You will get to work that character in various scenes, exploring it’s history, motivations and actions. You’ll get to interact with other characters and possibly explore new secondary characters for yourself. One of the most important things about comedy class, is that it will help you to see where you’re getting laughs, which will help you build your comedic repertoire.
4.) Stick to the script
Comedy is all about the rhythm, timing and pace. It’s your job as a comedic actor to identify those things in each and every piece of scripted comedy that you perform. Comedy, when done right, is like a perfect song. Just as a musician plays the melody exactly as composed, a comedic actor must stick to the script. Which means following the words as they are written. Don’t try to switch or add words, or attach handles to the start of a sentence such as “Look” or “well”. And make sure to not change the punctuation. Always remember that a period is not just the end of a sentence; it’s the end of a thought. Forgetting about it or changing it into a question mark will not only change the actual intention of the line but also the “music” in the dialogue.
5.) Learn to break down comedy scripts
Comedy is made up of two main things: desperation and the unpredictable. These themes are found in story lines, jokes and characters. And keep in mind that comedy consists of positive and negative forces that will work against each other to create the humour in the script, most importantly in the dialogue. By breaking down comedy scripts, it will help you to identify classic jokes like “the turnaround”, which is when a character says something with 100% conviction, then turns it around with equal conviction. For example, try saying it yourself: “You’re going to Disneyland! (beat) Not.” There are also “triplets”: The character sets up with two simple and similar lines of dialogue, then on the third line hits the joke with something different and unpredictable.
6.) Perfect your funny
As you develop your character and learn about your comedic technique, you’ll also start to examine more subtle but important tools for your comedy, most importantly in the scripts itself. You need to identify the operative word (a word used over and over in a scene), callback jokes (jokes repeated over the course of a script), the hard consonants (k, t, and p) used by the writer to maximize the effect of comedic dialogue, and the funny words (Vitameatavegamin) used to enhance the punch line. Some writers will let you know about important words by underlining, italicizing, or bolding them, but usually that discovery is left up to you.
7.) Stay committed
What makes comedy so hard? Commitment. As a comedy actor, you need to be completely committed to the dialogue, physical actions, jokes, technique and especially the characters. It takes just as much commitment to do comedy as it does to do drama, perhaps even more. Think of all the comedy greats and how willing they were to “go there” for their comedy. There is no shame, no embarrassment and definitely no faking it when it comes to comedy. It’s very important important that you and your character need to believe in everything you’re doing and commit to it wholeheartedly.
8.) Have fun
When performing comedy, it’s important that you actually enjoy what you’re doing. You need to do your homework, find your character, perfect your technique, commit to the text, then go into class, an audition, or a job and have fun. Take some risks. Be confident and bring out your funny side whenever you can! If you’re enjoying what you’re doing, you’ll feel a rush of energy inside that will bring out your best, most positive, most energised performance. If you’re having the fun, the casting director, the writer, the producer and of course the audience will have fun with you, and that will help you to become a successful comedy actor.