My improv work is ramping up lately, I’ve already performed on stage twice. Plus, I’ve signed upon for more classes and I’m practicing dialects at night to my computer and then laughing uproariously at myself. I’ve been reading my old posts out loud in the closest approximation to an Acting English Accent as I can get. I laughed so hard I cried when I listened to it. I’ve thought about posting the audio files, but I’d rather not offend my friends across the pond with my horrible accent. So, I probably shouldn’t do that.
Part of my homework for myself includes seeing more improv shows and trying to join an Improv Jam Session. The last one I tried to go to got cancelled because nobody showed up and it was -15 degrees outside. Not that we were going to jam outside, just that was why people weren’t showing up. I’ve also been watching comedy shows with an interest in how sketch comedy works. After reading Bossypants by Tina Fey I developed a huge crush on her and her work and so I started watching 30 Rock, which led to watching Parks and Recreation produced by Amy Poehler. I’m in love with both women.
Also, I’m more in love with Netflex Boyfriend than ever because he brought both women into my house. He had other ideas of what he wanted us to do with them, but we all settled on telling stories and laughing instead.
30 Rock was the brain child of Tina Fey after she left SNL. It’s the story about a head writer on a comedy sketch show, Liz Lemon, who gets a new boss, Jack Donaghy, that turns the show around from being The Girlie Show to TGS with Tracey Jordan, a crazy Actor/Celebrity persona. Jenna Maloney was the main Ac-tor of The Girlie Show at that time and when Tracey Jordan joined the show she found herself competing for sketches and demanded attention from Lemon by doing stupid stunts. But the real comedy gold came from Alec Baldwin and how he played corporate tycoon to Tina Fey’s anxious and stressed out nerdy writer persona. Added to which Kenneth, a page for the show, pops up in delightful places with a completely different set of troubles and you have a dream comedy team.
In 30 Rock, Tina Fey built her own brand of comedy, and she did it well. In real life people struggle, things do not work out, and that is funny. The characters on the show are so earnest in their craziness, as most crazy people are (as most people are), and that is funny. Earnestness is funny. I know this from first hand experience, people laugh at my earnest reactions every time. Even when I don’t want them to. I think both of these things were exemplified in the episode “The Head and the Hair.” That was when I realized Liz was always going to struggle, and probably fail, at being in relationships and dealing with life. Nothing was going to go her way, and that was going to be hilarious. Everyone was funny because they fully believed what they said, even if it was completely ridiculous, as they struggled to get what they wanted from life.
Parks and Recreation is produced by Amy Poehler, who just seems like an awesome person. She plays Leslie Knope, a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed government employee. She just wants to make her town, Pawnee a better place, and more importantly she believes she can do this. The supporting cast of characters are amazing. I love Leslie’s relationship with Ann who she met at a community meeting and befriended when Ann pointed out that people were getting hurt falling into a huge pit next to her house. It then became Leslie’s mission in life to make that pit into a park, and she knew the way to do this was by a subcommittee. Subcommittees are exciting for Leslie because they obviously lead to being President of the United States, Leslie’s life long goal. Ron Swanson, played by Nick Offerman, is Leslie’s boss and her opposite in many ways. He hates the government and wants to see it destroyed. But he also has moments of warmth and gives great advice when forced to do so. Their contrasting personalities make for memorable moments. Plus, I love how the writers mess with his distinctive facial hair as much as possible. (Didn’t know until just now, when I was looking up how to spell his name on imdb that he is married to Megan Mullally. That explains a few things.)
I think I frighten my upstairs neighbor with my barking laughter that comes out of nowhere when I watch this show. I’d apologize but my upstairs neighbor has clomping male company over every weekend and perhaps a female friend too, so I’m not sure what they all are up to. (Edit: I now know what they are up to. It work me up at 2 a.m. this weekend. It sounded like activities were taking place on a rocking chair. It was very non-human squeaky. I turned on NCIS, because if I had to hear them then they had to hear my television. The stopped shortly thereafter.) And my downstairs neighbor plays his keyboard all the time without plugging in headphones. Last weekend he interrupted an audio recording session I was doing for Picture Me Reading. Plus, he sings. Badly. So, no, I will not apologize for laughing loudly.
I thought I would get annoyed with how the cast is always breaking the fourth wall by looking at the camera, but there is never a cheap shot and it makes me laugh every time. They never explain why a camera crew is following this motley cast around, but that aspect of the show is played as an additional character perfectly. Again earnest people are funny. Andy, the building’s shoe shiner, and April, Ron’s assistant have an amusing relationship which is the perfect example of how earnest people are hilarious. Andy is earnestly pleased with everything in life, contrast to April who hates everyone- earnestly. The contrast and the earnestness from them lead to many disasters, which layer on another level of comedy.
Both of these shows are comedy gold. I’ve learned a lot from just watching and analyzing the funny moments in them. My goal is to try and work more excited earnest upbeat characters into my improv. I have a tendency to play annoyed women who scream at their boyfriends/husbands. Last week I gave myself 8 children whom I homeschool because my husband hates me. . . . Yah, I should work on that.
Check out Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls Youtube channel. She has some amazing guests and I like her interviews. If you want to read more about 30 Rock, check out this link to a bunch of other links via HIMTM.