In talking to some students last week, I brought up the concept of expectations. What we expect from someone, an actor, a scene, a gag, a joke or an emotional moment. It’s always refreshing to see moments when that’s pushed and we get an action or a payoff that we don’t expect. See this clip of Chevy Chase in the first (I believe) season of SNL.

In this scene, aside from having a nice pace (slow walk…then contrasted with funny, fast paced gag moments in between), Chevy Chase is also playing with what we are expecting…in each action. He is able to push a little bit more and add a twist afterwards. This is something an animator could easily do as it’s body performance that doesn’t rely on dialogue. It’s pantomime and we have full potential as animators to take a pantomime scene to the next level. Take what’s expected, and push it somewhere else.

For example, to study one particular action in this clip (and you can get used to start doing that in whatever films, scenes get a reaction from you personally), let’s take the tennis racket moment. Here is a breakdown I created for myself on what happened:

  • He throws the racket in the air.
  • We are expecting him for example to grab the racket after it’s been in the air.
  • He misses. That becomes an enterntaining moment in itself. And for most, that’s when our expectations ended.
  • Yet, he still is pretending to be waiting for it. This time now an “invisible” racket. That reversal in the gag makes it for an enterntaining & funny moment.
  • He holds that waiting moment even longer and then pretends he actually grabbed this invisible tennis racket.
  • To add on top of this complex action, after all this he makes a small gesture of victory with his fist almost congratulating himself from grabbing an invisible racket that was on the air (when the real racket felt on the ground).

Similar things are going on with the flag bit (salute afterwards) or the trash can (running after it) as different twists in our expectations. Anyways, sometimes these things are subject to interpretation…and it’s up to us to study what’s funny to us…and most important. WHY did we get a reaction from it. It’s a good exercise I encourage everyone. This clip personally cracks me up in all the things that are going on and the possibilities to study it.