Time Heals But It Also Teaches

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Have you ever been given a piece of advice that you think makes sense at the time, when it actually makes sense for you to apply it down the road when you gain some clarity from it?  That’s the situation that happened to me with my recent meeting with my comedy coach from Los Angeles.  You remember him?  He’s the one with a proven track record from over 30 years in comedy who helped make me funny because he told me the “why” of being funny as it applied to my act.

At the end of our chat he gave me some homework.  He told me to find a comic who closely resembles what I’m trying to do on stage, in other words the guy who is self-deprecating, who struggles and doesn’t seem to quite get it right.  He mentioned something I heard and thought I understood, but really didn’t until a few days later when I was able to gain some clarity on the situation.

He suggested that I watch some old stand-up of Woody Allen when he first got into the comedy business.  I had the thoughts come to my mind that your probably have.  For about a couple weeks I resisted checking out his footage, in part because my coach told me that my writing would start to take on his style and unlock much more material after really watching his performances and studying them over and over and over.

I will admit that I didn’t have a great opinion of Woody Allen based on the negative press he’s received over the last several years, but that changed when I started to watch his stuff.  I saw interviews of him in the 70s and he was very personable and easy going, yet on stage the material he performed really seemed to play to his demeanor as being uncomfortable and socially awkward.

Then I started to understand what my coach meant when he talked about how my writing would take on the style he presents.  In my opinion his style had material that I would talk about, the only problem being I didn’t know how to present it.  But after listening, watching and really studying his performance, I can start thinking about material that the audience would relate to, in addition to a way of putting it that works.  Plus, and here’s the biggie, Woody Allen is likable on stage.  As an audience you like him because even though he comes across as stumbling, struggling and not getting it right, the audience has sympathy towards that type of character if it’s played properly.  Watch the clip below and you’ll see what I mean.  (when he talks about Allan Funt, that’s the creator of candid camera)

The bit about the pharmacist is classic misdirection.  One thing I’ve learned is the bigger the misdirection or the bigger the incongruity (taking a person and putting them in an unlikely situation), the bigger the laugh.

Woody Allen in that bit from the mid-1960s is very likable and we have sympathy towards him and his struggles. I never knew Woody Allen would teach me anything useful about comedy, then again, like lots of lessons a person learns in life, you have to be in the right place within yourself to allow yourself to receive the information and interpret it correctly.


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