Let's get physical

I'm pretty bad at being phsyical onstage. Most of the time I just stand there. Some hand motions occasionally. Maybe I'll add in some more physicality to a bit after doing it for a while. But that's about it. While I don't think I'll ever be a Jim Carrey type (or really want to be), I do think it's an area where I've got plenty of room to improve. You get more mileage when you engage people's visual sense too.

It doesn't need to be an over the top, hump-the-stool thing either. Take a look at this Ted Alexandro clip.

I think of Ted as being very laid back/zen onstage and not a physical comedian at all. Yet here you can see all kinds of subtle movements that accentuate his jokes — fixing his hair and looking at his nails in the woman president joke, acting out crunches during the Buddha/Jesus joke, looking like a pigeon during the gym bit, etc. Subtle stuff yet really adds to the mix. It's a good example of how a comic can add physicality to an act without it seeming forced.


Abbi Crutchfield said...

Physicality occurs in the writing AND the editing of my jokes.

When I plan to do it ahead of time, I have to write it in, which always looks lame on paper. (Bite fingers sheepishly). The problem with planning is it always feels like I'm doing a big movement in my mind, but upon seeing it, it's really a small gesture. It also can look forced which I unknowingly let affect my delivery. Adding big motions when you're an arms-at-your-side guy always feels robotic at first. But the more you do the motion, the more naturally it comes, just like re-telling a bit.

Once I review a set, I can see "this would be funnier if I used the whole stage to convey XYZ", and I try that. Or I see that the invisible bottle I'm holding at the beginning of the joke is gone by the next sentence, so I have to make a note to significantly end that moment of holding it like you learn in an improv class.

Good physical comics to catch on the scene: Wil Sylvince, Marlon Randolph, Kareem Green.

If you're not super physical you can also garner more laughs for a joke with a facial gesture if you give yourself time to react to the words you're saying. See: Bill Cosby.

Joel Buxton said...

Great post Matt, I have been thinking about this exact topic lately as well - I have found it useful to try to build in at least one act out per bit, so I have an external motivator to work on movement.

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