It’s all too easy to mistake current headlines for genuine farce. Conservatives hoping to nab the Republican party’s presidential nomination can’t stop making fools of themselves. But, in all honesty, they’re giving clown cars a bad name.
Farce is hard work that requires good writing, a solid situational setup, outrageous characters, an acute perspective, superb timing and an actor’s total commitment to crossing the line into dangerous territory. The creative team must unanimously want to “go there” for the material to work. Watch these clips from MADtv, Little Britain, and Come Fly With Me and you’ll see brilliant comedians demonstrating solid comedic craft.
Filming farce has a peculiar advantage over live performances. When shooting for television or movies, it’s easy to do multiple takes which can then be edited down to a final clip and later accompanied by music or a laugh track. When performing farce live onstage in plays like Noises Off, The 39 Steps, or Lend Me A Tenor, the risks become much greater.
Timing is everything.
Actors must be able to gauge the audience reactions in order to land each joke with perfect aim.
Essentially, there is no safety net.
Sometimes, breaking the theater’s fourth wall can add to the farcical frenzy when an actor addresses the audience directly. One of the best uses of this trick comes at the end of the first act of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum when the braggart soldier, Miles Gloriosus, threatens to kill the conniving slave, Pseudolus. Begging for a chance to say one word — just one word — Pseudolus promises the angry warrior that it will be a good word. And it’s a doozy:
But what happens when there is no fourth wall to break? No one to yell “Cut”? Nowhere to hide?
Scheduling conflicts prevented me from attending last year’s world premiere of SexRev: The Jos Sarria Experience.
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