Humorous Interpretation: Script built or performance based humor?

Which is funnier: the script or the performer? This old question causes headaches among all HI performers as they search for a script. Do you look for something that is funny as you read it? Should you think about how it would be performed and see if the performance adds any humor? How does timing and characterization affect the funny? All of these questions weigh upon an HI performer. Drama can often be easy to determine whether or not it is a good piece to perform. Did it make you think and arouse the emotions? Yes? Then you have a selection. Humor can be more difficult because everyone’s definition of what is funny, tasteful, or poignant is all different. Thus, most HI performers find themselves looking for a piece that is funny on paper in the hopes that a funny script is the answer to success. Sorry. That philosophy is simply not true.

In the realm of comedy there are numerous ways to get a laugh and ranked well. A script should have built in funny lines, or situations, so as you read you can laugh at the script itself. This is comedy after all. Most often when a script is not amusing on paper it most likely will be less amusing to the audience. There are exceptions, but on the whole if a script has not caused you to even smile it should be tossed.

There are situations where the script itself is “cute” and causes mild laughter but you may be unsure if it is the riot you wish to bring to Forensics. In situations such as this it is good to imagine the performance. What can you do with timing, characterization, voices, popping, etc to bring this to life? Imagine possibilities and think about how the performance factor can turn an okay script into something amazing.

Remember, most scripts were created not to be read but to be performed. The performance factor may be huge. For instance, “Pirates of Penzance” is moderately funny on paper; live, and with capable performers, it can be one of the most delightful comedy, operas you can see.

And if you think that how well you rank is linked directly proportionally to how many chuckles you get you are wrong. There is more to ponder when you begin to perform in HI. Sure, people should laugh at your performance. That’s why you are doing comedy and not drama. However, laughter is not the only factor that is being judged. There are characterization, interpretation, popping, vocals, gestures, how clean your performance is, and more to consider when ranks are involved.

A factor you may not have considered is the substance of the piece. You could be the funniest performer in the round, but if your performance offers little substance you may not win over your judges. You want them to laugh, but you also want to touch their core and move them.

So back to the original question: which is funnier, the script or the performer? It all is a matter of the appropriate balance of both along with the detailing of external variables that affect an HI (interpretation, clean pops, vocals, etc). Every piece will be different based on the material and performer combination. Where one performer may excel another may fall. Know your abilities and style of humor and look for a piece that accentuates them. User discretion is advised.