Humorous Interpretation: Shock Humor vs Risk Taking

Can I say THAT?!?!  Maybe it is less of can but rather should...


Everyone has that moment in daily conversation where they want to say whatever thought has entered their mind but first must ask if it is appropriate.  Even free spirits become entangled in these social constraints.  Luckily for Forensicators, i.e. Humorous Interpretation performers, these boundaries are somewhat muddied and can be tip-toed, or rushed, across.  In the quest for laughs pushing limits is acceptable and encouraged if done smartly.  Yet, as with anything, there is a line within Humorous Interpretation.  Stray too far and you become a shock performer.

  • DO take risks.  Having a Humorous Interpretation that plays it safe might be good enough to get you into finals, but you may not have a memorable piece.  Why?  It's conservative, a piece they have heard before.  Sure, your interpretation and delivery may be immaculate, but the piece itself lacks the pizazz to really cause you to out shine other performers.  However, using a script with a topic that is rarely handled, or with characters hardly seen, will cause you to be unique.  Even if you choose a pretty standard, funny piece you can be risky with your interpretation of characters.  Challenge your boundaries with characterization (vocals, physicality, facials, etc.) and see them differently as most.  For example, Gene Wilder's Willy Wonka is strikingly opposite from Johnny Depp's risky take, but both are valid interpretations of the material.
  • DON'T be vulgar and crude.  What turns risk into SHOCK is when a Humorous Interpretation is nothing more than cheap, "OHHHHHH!  Did THAT just happen?!?!" humor.  A string of flatulence jokes is not funny.  Nor is an endless barrage of dead celebrity jokes.  And does the audience really need to see you grab yourself, curse uncontrollably, or be a massive stereotype?  No.  No they do not.  CHOSE YOUR MATERIAL AND INTERPRETATIONS CAREFULLY!  If actions transpire simply for shock, rather than for some sort of character development, then the piece is trashy. 
  • Exception to the shock rule...  If a Humorous Interpretation possesses one or two absolutely shocking gags, solely done for the sake or causing a gasp and uncomfortable laughter, it can be okay.  Judgment is required to ask if the joke is too risque, but if a majority agrees it is comical then keep the line.  One or two blindsides to the funny bone is a risk worth taking WHILE sticking to a HI that relies on clean and smart humor.

Comedy and Drama allows for performers to take risks and question what is acceptable and what is not.  In the pursuit of laughter and truth, Humorous Interpretation performers often are allowed to utter phrases and mime actions that in regular society would cause them to be ostracized.  Audiences allow for some extremes due to the "unreal" context of the piece.  However, push to forcefully and audiences quickly regain themselves and are reminded that certain behaviors are unacceptable.  There is a line.  A line where you can either be a Humorous Interpretation Risk-Taker Extraordinaire or the National Enquirer of HI.