“The test of a real comedian is whether you laugh at him before he opens his mouth.”
George Jean Nathan
If you’re like me, you have no idea who George Jean Nathan is. But what he asserts above fits right in line with the assertions made by Joel Jeske and Mark Lonergan, the two skillful fools currently running Parallel Exit’s Comedy Academy. Divided into eight total workshops of three hours each, these men have broken down physical comedy into bite-size morsels, digestible for even the beginner idiot (as opposed to a more seasoned one). Regardless of where you may fall on the idiot scale, it is never too late or too soon for a touch up of the comedy variety.
|Photo Credit: Jim Moore|
The evening I attended the Comedy Academy, our particular area of focus was status. Other areas include emotional state as a source of character or making strong physical choices. Status is extremely useful as a tool. All comedy duos and trios contain individuals who are either smarter or more stupid than their compatriots. Think about the Marx Brothers or the Three Stooges. One is clearly in charge, one is clearly not in charge, and one could go either way...
In the exercises we were given, we explored how status can be fluid and change within a scene and when status might be fixed. How does this sense of being smarter or stupider inform our choices in posture, movement, facial expression, reactivity, and relationship to the audience? Jeske and Lonergan work with each student to point out moments of comic clarity.
Most often, the biggest laughs were given for moments of physical nuance, expression or surprise. This is not a workshop for the very clever who would like to become more clever. This is a workshop for those who like to listen, to observe, and who are interested in creating worlds around them with their own physical imagination. When done with integrity and with Parallel Exit’s influence, these worlds are most likely going to be pretty funny.
The evening concludes with a concise summary of the workshop’s talking points, which are also emailed to participants the following day. This lets the students really focus on what is unfolding before them rather than worrying about taking notes or remembering everything later. A nice touch.
|Photo Credit: Peter Dressel|
If you are still wondering, George Jean Nathan was a literary critic in the first half of the 1900s. Another of his more memorable quotes is “I drink to make other people interesting.”
Lucky for me, the folks teaching and taking the Comedy Academy workshop I attended were plenty interesting without a necessary cocktail. If getting your comedy on is something you have always secretly wanted to try, or if you simply seek to refine an aspect of your technique underneath some kind, watchful eyes, it is a good bet you will get your money’s worth with the fine folks of Parallel Exit.
Remaining sessions, April 8-11, 7-10 pm
520 Eighth Avenue
$75 per class / $250 for 4 classesParallel Exit
Contributed by Guest Blogger Catherine Mueller.
Catherine Mueller is a Co-Artistic Director/performer with The Glass Contraption, a not-for-profit physical theater company whose original works have been developed and/or presented in partnership with The Orchard Project, Ars Nova, The Field, The Kitchen, The Public Theater, Jalopy Theater and The Grahamstown National Arts Festival (South Africa). Facedancing, TGC’s short film, was an official selection of the 2011 Maryland International Film Festival. She has written, developed and performed in multiple solo works, which have been presented at
Dixon Place, IRT, and many others. Past roles include Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (dir. Gregory Wolfe); Emilia in Othello (dir. Alex Correia); Platypus in 13 Ways of Looking as a Blackbird (dir. Dan Rigazzi). Her work can also be seen in numerous national network commercials, voiceovers, and short films directed by Juan Reinoso. She has studied physical comedy, clown and its related forms since 1999 with many, many teachers, most notably Christopher Bayes, currently Head of Physical Acting at Yale School of Drama, with whom she apprenticed.
She currently leads residencies in physical theater/clown at universities, actor training programs, and community-based arts organizations throughout the land. She has been associated with the 52nd Street Project since 1999 as a performer, director, and mentor, as well as clown teacher for the past four Teen Ensembles preparing to perform Shakespeare. She was a participant in the 2011 Director’s Lab Chicago and is adjunct faculty in the Theater Department at Drew University in Madison, NJ. Education: BA in Theater, Hofstra University; MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts candidate, Goddard College.