In this installment Mississippi’s Finest Actor, Kary Rogers, takes you through essential techniques for acting on film.
See previous MSFA video here
Last night I went to the State Theatre Indie Film Showcase. It was really cool to see films made by Mississippi filmmakers. Three Good Commitment shorts were shown. One of them was Disborderlies. This is one we made by tremendous effort in a single weekend for a sketch competition. The other two were parodies.
Someone asked me afterward if we were influenced by Stella. I had never thought about it before, but there is a Stella feel to Disborderlies if you look for it. I’ve seen a bit of Stella’s work and I’m not sure if James and Gabe (co-writers on Disborderlies) have been exposed to Stella at all. The sketch was about the exploits of three oblivious, self-entitled Americans. I think the absurd, Stella tone of the sketch grew organically as we pieced it together. Overall, we are very proud of what we were able to do in two and a half days, though a few weak places show through from the lack of dedicated director/script supervisor.
Having someone ask me about being influenced by another comedy source got me thinking about what makes me laugh and what kind of comedy I tend to make. Confident, idiot characters that lead to awkward, tension-filled situations make me laugh. People who do this well are Steven Colbert, Danny McBride, and Zach Galifianakis. Of course, dick jokes and kicks to the groin also have been known to make me laugh too. But the classic set up (build tension) and punchline (relieve tension) are not usually what I come up with when I have an idea.
I generally don’t analyze too much when an idea hits me and it makes me laugh. But I got to thinking about why I find something funny when a lot of times people aren’t sure if it’s supposed to be funny or not. For example, this last video, My Today Song doesn’t really have a punchline. It builds tension and never relieves it in a satisfactory way. Who does this sound like?
Honestly, I’m not familiar with Martin’s ground-breaking comedy routines of the 70’s except for the arrow-through-the-head and happy feet. It was all a bit before my time, but I read his memoirs when they came out and he talks about building tension and not relieving it to let the audience figure out on their own where to laugh. I imagine countless comedians were influenced by Martin and I have been indirectly influenced by him.
So that was an interesting realization to make. I’m influenced by lots of comedians. Certain styles and sensibilities rub off on me when I find them funny. I try not to ape other people’s material or routines but take it all in and sometimes it’s interesting to see what comes out.
A little song about some things that have been going on recently in my life.
A number of them are jewish but if my theory is correct, comedy + curls = success, then who could be next? I don’t know, but I’m going to go ahead and order that fancy lightsabre replica I always wanted.
I think it matters who you are when it comes to comedy. What I mean by this is that if someone knows you or is familiar with your past work, they will be significantly more open to being positive about your new work.
Say, for example, a well known comedian puts out a video. Say that the comedy content is mediocre. The fans of that comedian are going to love it even though it may only be mediocre comedy. There’s an established connection and reference. That person has a brand that affects your acceptance of this new work.
It works the same way when someone you respect recommends something. You watch that recommendation with a certain bias that it is supposed to be funny. The person you respect gets it and finds it funny so you want to get it too. I find this affects me quite a bit. I follow a lot of comedy in the online world and when someone I respect says something is funny, I generally will accept it as funny more quickly than I would if I had found it on my own.
I’ve noticed this occurrence a few times. A well known actor or comedian will put out a video and the comedy blogs and news sites will post it. If you really watch it, it’s ok but not something that would get link love from a lesser known comedian. I reckon this might be known as having payed your dues.
What really brought this home to me was a thread on AST recently. Charlyne Yi posted a video of what she considered her SNL audition. You may know Charlyne from Knocked Up. I’ll be honest, the joke was lost on me. I thought I got that it was ironic but I thought I was missing something too. I’m not familiar with her style of comedy but lots of others loved loved loved it. As I looked closer at the humor, I realized it’s similar style comedy to something I might do for a joke. So a style of joke that I might do myself was lost on me because I didn’t know the creator. It wasn’t until I took a second and third look at it that I began to get it and find it funny. Most people don’t give comedy that kind of chance.
It goes to show that In Comedy It Matters Who You Are.
Look, I’m a messy eater. It doesn’t matter if I’m eating a carrot stick or baby back ribs, I go through several napkins throughout the course of a given meal. After a meal is over I have been baffled to find food in places that food doesn’t have any business being. Head, shoulders, knees, and toes, I’ve generally got it all covered.
To be honest I didn’t realize how bad it was until I noticed my dog’s behavior during meal time. For most people when a dog begs during meals, she sits there next to you looking up with those big, pitiful, puppy eyes hoping that you’ll find it within your heart to drop the tiniest morsel on the ground that she might gratefully enjoy. But when I’m eating, the dog stands there NOT looking at me. She stands there at full alert monitoring the ground around my feet LIKE A HAWK.
Because she’s learned that when I eat, the food rains down all around her like manna from heaven. An all-you-can-eat smorgasbord of dinner time doggie delight.
On the positive side, at least I’m eating less.
JUNO was a big hit, right? Oscar for best screenplay, right? Everybody loved it, right? Well. There were several aspects that I enjoyed about it. e.g. I thought it was the best performance I’ve seen from Jennifer Garner. But Juno’s dialogue. It just tried waaay too hard to sound like a hip teenager to me. That’s why I loved this re-write. A sample.
They take the chair, then ELLEN sets up an entire living room
set in front of MICHAEL CERA’S HOME.
Ellen, hey. I like the couch on my front sidewalk, it’s incredibly quirky of you.
Yeah, well I’m pretty quirky.
So what are you doing here? Do you need someth-
Wait, hold on. Your track team is about to come running by and I need to do a voiceover narration for no particularly reason, even though I only do it like three more times in the entire movie.
ELLEN PAGE (V.O.)
Whenever I see the track team, I can’t help but picture their penises, because doing so allows me to explain that fact in a voiceover narration that I can end with the very hip term “pork swords.”
Alright, sorry about that. What were we talking about? Oh right, I’m pregnant and it’s yours.
Rather than freak the hell out like a typical high school student, I’m going to sputter around for words awkwardly and barely finish complete sentences. It’s kind of my thing.
There are several more funny bits in there.
A word from Mississippi’s Finest Actor to other aspiring actors in the magnolia state.