What makes stuff funny. I’m still trying to figure out with every new thing I watch, that captures my attention. This post is not about animation or film, really…it’s about comedy. Something that I’m not capable of explaining what it is, or how to get it. What feels funny to some people may not be funny to me, and viceversa.
Now what I’ve been observing are certain things that tend to keep us interested from a comedy point of view…and that’s great stuff for me as an animator. Can’t get enough of it, and continue trying to apply it to my work in whichever way I can.
One of those things is status. Great masters of comedy such as Charlie Chaplin, knew this all along. And they knew how to apply to his gags. Highly recommend studying Charlie Chaplin for this reason, and another million reasons as well. I’m a big Seinfeld fan, and have been learning so much from the show. Some episodes hold up today as much as they did fifteen years ago. So I wanted to use another example from it, this time from actor Larry Miller, who I consider to have great subtleties and a pretty unique and advanced sense of humor. In this clip Larry Miller plays a Doorman, and it opens this Seinfeld episode with the same name:
First, what really catched my eye here was the use of status and subtext. Status is used heavily borderline confrontational. Larry’s body language and delivery is played with a much higher status than Seinfeld himself, especially in a role of a doorman. Being used to seeing how in a job like that a doorman treats the client with the most respect, to see Larry Miller cross that line of respect so blatantly and over the top, made the introduction of this character instantly funny. Some areas to pay attention for example is the finger action…he’s not even looking at him to begin with. And that body language is more used when someone has a much closer relationship to another person. Which again brings it back to status for me. Also, he takes a while in making eye contact with Seinfeld. Another thing he does status wise, is to scan Seinfeld up and down, walking towards him slowly with a big smirk in his face. Again, somehow seeing someone in a position like that, behaving that way, became very funny to me. Goes back to doing unexpected things from certain personalities or characters….and it is that contrast that brings reactions out of us. Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin both did that.
Second, the subtext throughout the whole scene is something else. What the doorman character is implying by his facial expressions, by his timing…brings comedy to the scene as well. For example, the dialogue goes:
- “Can I help you? Benes. No one here by that name.”
The simple fact that he’s smiling throughout his delivery, to me adds another layer to his character, and his status in this scene.
Third, Larry’s delivery and timing in each sentence is really great. Pay attention to the timing when he says the word “Quickie”. He includes a pause in there which makes the overall sentence even funnier. If you cut that pause, guarantee the delivery of that sentence is not as funny. Breaking up the timing in our actions, pauses and dialogue, always adds a whole new dimension to comedy in my opinion.
Anyways, see how it feels to you.
Hopefully someone finds this useful.