All actors need a demo reel. In this video, Retta Putignano of Create Your Reel talks about the demo reel and its evolution.
Here it is in a nutshell: almost every time you make someone laugh- you are surprising them. You are causing their mind to make a different association than it normally would. And the reward for playing this trick on their brain, for momentarily confusing their mind, is laughter.
In this article, I’m going to show you some easy ways of making people laugh, while teaching some basic comedy theory.
Remember, when you’re trying to make someone laugh, you’re trying surprise them. Typically, you are looking for the most unlikely thing to do or say.
Let’s imagine that you are hanging out with a few co-workers. One of them is talking about how difficult potty-training her son has been. When someone in the group asks how old the woman’s son is, you say: “Forty eight.”
You will get laughs. Let’s explore why: The minute the woman started talking about potty-training her son, an image was created in everyone’s mind. That image included the assumption that her son is a child. As comedians, we shatter the assumption. In this case, by changing the age of the child, in their minds, at the last minute. When the mind gets tricked this way, the feeling of disorientation results in a laugh. So a good joke usually does two things: It sets up assumptions and it shatters them. This is often referred to as the “set up” and “punchline.” In standup, it is often called the “premise” and the “act out.” [See my other videos to learn how to do this in a standup environment.]
Let’s look at another useful tool for getting someone to laugh. It is called the “list of three.”
Recently, I was describing my lifestyle to someone and I said to her “you know, I’m a pretty healthy guy- I do yoga.. meditation.. methamphetamine.”
She laughed because the pattern that I was setting up for her (yoga… meditation…) lulled her mind into knowing what I was going to say next. Even if she wasn’t consciously filling in the next word in the series, bio-chemically, her brain “knew” the feeling of the next kind of word I was going to say. Her body and mind were ready to “feel” words like “vegan cooking,” “macrobiotic dining,” or “playing the sitar.” But when I said “methamphetamine” the shock to her nervous system resulted in a laugh.
We set up an assumption and shattered it. And the way we did it could not have been easier. In fact, the minute you watch this video or read this article, you will be able to do it. To make a list of three joke, you will set up a pattern by choosing two similar things/people/books/etc. and one that is different from the first two.
“I like to read the classic philosophers: Aristophenes, Moliere, Charlie Sheen..”
“In order for me to be interested in a girl, she has to have intelligence.. depth of soul.. a really hot profile picture.”
So to get started, think of two people at work or at school that you love and one that you hate. Go up to someone who knows you well and say: I think that my favorite teachers would have to be Mr. A, Mr. B, and Mr C. ( (love, love, hate). Think of two activities that you love and one that you hate. Two celebrities that you find talented and one that you despise. As you experiment with your “list-of-threes” you will notice how important the “set up” is as well as the contrast in your “punchlines.” Charlie Sheen and methamphetamine will “shatter” the patterns of “philosopher” and “healthy lifestyle” much more effectively than “Richard Simmons” and “Red Wine.” Learning how to set up patterns and choose explosive “shattering” images for your punchlines is all part of your comedy journey and the experimentation is a lot of fun.
Now that you know the basic secret of comedy (their are a few more hidden in the video at http://MasterTalentTeachers.com and at my site http://standupcomedyclass.com), enjoy the process of panning for comedy gold. Every time you make someone laugh, write it down (cellphones and notebooks are good for this). Begin to notice the unique way that you make people laugh, as well as the patterns that begin to emerge as you notice your own specific methods for shattering people’s mental expectations.
The world will always be in need of good comedy. As you’ll find in my other videos and articles- if you combine the truth of your life with the technique of “shattering the pattern,” you will be on your way to making a difference by educating people, and having a successful career that will entertain millions. All it takes is a little experimentation, some thinking, and the guts to make ’em laugh. Good luck. -Gerry Katzman
Blue8 is an action-adventure training facility and production company comprised of top stunt performers and athletes in multiple fields including: Parkour, Martial Arts, Yoga, Dance and Military Special-Operations. We encompass these dynamic arts into one practice that prepares our students for anything the entertainment industry can throw at them. Our faculty and company member credits include shows and films with HBO, NBC, ABC, Syfy, Discovery Channel, TNT, & CBS.
Master Talent Teacher Joe Tremaine has a conversation with the recent LA transplant, Tiffany Maher, about her already blossoming dance career and the move to LA. Part 4
This is the final installment of my 3 part “In the Moment” interview with Award Winning Disney casting Director, Miss Carol Goldwasser. The wonderful thing about Carol’s insights in this interview that separate her from others, is her realistic approach to working with and getting the most from child actors. Not that her comments aren’t relevant to actors of all ages. It’s nice to know that she sees the extra special care needed when drawing out the best performances from kids and teens. Especially when the child actors and teen actors are often the most free. Enjoy the interview. I know I did.
Diane: Welcome Carol, it is so good to have you here for the second of our 3 part interview today.
Diane: How is casting Kids and Teens different from casting adults?
Carol: You really have to give them more leeway and more coaching. A question that I get asked a lot when I teach is “would you give that same redirection in an audition room?” And my answer is usually, “it depends on how many people I have in the waiting room and how interested I am.” You really have to give kids the benefit of the doubt. You have to guide them along. Adults, hopefully, have come through a conservatory program or an acting program and will come in having made certain choices; you’re physically right or wrong, or you’re funny, or not the right quality or you are the right quality. I have to be more flexible with kids and lead them by the nose. When you direct them they will understand and take your direction but they don’t necessarily come in with the choices so I have to give them a lot more room to find it. Casting is a compromise as is, it’s not going to be exactly what the producers and writers envision. As a casting director you have to let them know that. Maybe an actor doesn’t have all of the elements of what you envisioned the character to have, but he’s 14! Can we make some adjustments to what he brings in the room? Can we put him with a coach and coach him through the testing process? On one of my pilots we had to do just that. There was an actor that we felt had 80% of the qualities for the role but he definitely needed work on his acting skills because it was a role that required not only acting skills, but singing skills and dancing skills and instrumental skills. We had him work with a coach through the audition process. We really had to take it home. This has happened on more than one project. You really have to work with them to get them there, especially for a series where you are banking on this person’s ability to perform and have the appeal to get the audience. It’s not just one episode. You are trying to build the skill or get them to a place where you see that this is someone who is going to bring viewers in for 3 seasons. It sounds like a very daunting process but it is actually fun! The whole process of playing comedy and learning comedy is a lot of fun. If it’s something that you’re interested in you should take advantage of all the training that’s out there, both online and in person. And you know, jump in and see what you can get from it!
D: I agree! Training, training, training and some more training.
C: Yes! Training is so important. Auditions are pressurized situations and if you are in your class on a weekly basis, when you go in for an audition you think “this is what I do. I say words. I enact a character.” It doesn’t feel as if you’re so invested or freaked out in that one situation because this is what you do on a weekly basis. You’re open to taking direction because it’s what you do in your classes every week.
D: And collaborating and making choices and all of the things that Actors of all ages need to do.
D: I want to thank Carol Goldwasser on behalf of all of us because I’m sure that there’s so much that we’ve all learned here today. She’s a wonderful resource for really knowing how to audition for Children’s television. So tune in next time and thank you so much for joining us! We’ll see you at Diane Christiansen Coaching. Give us a call! www.DianeChristiansen.com
After 22 years of teaching and an equal number of years working in the Entertainment Industry, I thought I knew quite a bit about casting. Additionally, we have guest CD’s in for our monthly casting director workshop, Actors Platform, at our studios and we learn a tremendous amount about what goes on in the audition room. But Carol really has some great new information in this interview. Actors of all ages ~ LISTEN UP ~ this one you do not want to miss, because Carol has some very valuable information to share in regards to the casting process that even I didn’t know!!
Diane: Welcome Carol, it is so good to have you here for the second of our 3 part interview today.
Carol: Thank you for having me.
Diane: When a young actor comes in to audition for you, does their talent, their resume or their look matter the most?
Carol: Most of the time, when a young actor, say 5 to 8 years old comes in, because I do have to cast actors that young, their credits don’t matter. They could have only done some print or a commercial, then if I see a talented 5 or 8 year old, as long as they have a look, or a funny personality or a quality that works, then we’ll cast them. When I’m casting teens, 12 to 14, L.A. is a competitive market, and I will look at their resumes to see if they have done any other comedy TV shows in town. I’ll see “Oh, well so and so cast her on this or that, and I will notice” Because there are other Casting Directors in town whose work I respect, and I will take note. But if it’s one line, say a cheerleader, if she has the right look and can execute the line as it was written, then it will be equally about the look and the delivery.
D: What is a NO NO in the casting office?
C: Don’t touch the casting director! I mean, I work with kids and teens of all ages and now and then, a young child will want to give me a hug at the end, I don’t worry about that, that’s harmless. But if sometimes, experienced adult actors come in and get down and start acting out a part of a love scene with me, I’ll be like, “No no, you don’t go kissing the casting director on the ear”. That’s a NO NO! You know, I get asked about my pet peeves a lot. One of mine is when an actor comes in and says, “I just got this”. Which, to me, sounds like me and my office didn’t get it to them in time to adequately prepare. If an actor just got this, then everyone else in the waiting room just got this because WE just got it because the writers did a rewrite overnight. So, everyone’s in the same boat and if an actor comes into a Producers session and says “I just got this”, I have to do an internal eye roll, because the feeling is like a DIS to the casting director. Unfortunately, auditioning is part of the job and preparing on short notice is part of the job and when you get on set, you’ll get revisions every day, so you have to be fast on your feet, that’s what you get paid for. It’s not like theatre, where you get 8 to 10 weeks of rehearsal, you get line when you get to set, and you have to be quick. So, that’s a NO NO.
D: Would you encourage or discourage props at an audition?
C: Most of the time I don’t like them because I feel like it takes away from the actor. If the audition becomes about the coffee cup and not the actor. One exception I would say would be in a phone scene, it’s more distracting to see an actor mime a phone than to use one. Because phone scenes are so common now, that when an actor says “Can I use my phone?’ I say yes because it looks weirder to not use it than not to use it. But don’t bring in any bananas, or Frisbees, or fire hoses!!
D: How do you feel about miming in an audition?
C: As long as I don’t feel like I’m watching Marcel Marceau, I’m fine with it. If people are doing a little bit of business in a scene, to support the scene, then I’m fine with it, as long as they’re finding the balance between the action and the dialogue. It can be distracting when it becomes more about the miming and not the communication. There are certain scenes that seem to require it, I mean, I haven’t worked on anything like this for awhile, but when I was casting Medical dramas and things like that, when there’s a lot of business going on in a scene, it seems like you need to add some movement to make that scene live, whether or not it is a little bit of action or exact movements. If it’s single camera, people become so used to staying in frame, they are very still. We will actually encourage people to enter and exit in and out of frame because when we shoot on set, it’s in front of an audience and we are going to see that actor move and at the audition, if they are framed very tightly, then they get on set and we see them walk, and if that actor walks funny, we’re like “OMG we don’t want to see that”, so I do think it’s important to add some movement in the audition.
Watch this video for tips to improve your headshots, and a few things you may be doing wrong…