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8 Elements of Comedy with Pat Fraley

By Stephanie Ciccarelli

June 3, 2010

Comments (9)

Brad Garrett and Pat Fraley

Can anyone learn how to be funny?

Comedy has a formula, and in today's VOX Daily, I'm going to share some of what master voice over instructor Pat Fraley had to share in his VOICE 2010 presentation that had people laughing into the aisles and falling off their chairs.

What Does it Take To Be Funny?

Pat Fraley is one of our industry's most hilarious and insightful people. When you're watching Pat, you never know what is going to happen next and today was no exception. The crowd at VOICE 2010 was treated to not just one but two comedic geniuses when Brad Garrett turned up and joined Pat on stage for the entire duration of the show.

8 Elements of Comedy

๏ Pain
๏ Pride
๏ Deception
๏ Misunderstanding
๏ Contrast
๏ Exaggeration
๏ Parody
๏ Inappropriate

Pat revealed that once you can recognize comedic elements in a script, you can then realize those elements in your performance.

Comedy is often more about the writing than the characters whereas the focus in animation is on the character voice. Sometimes it's more about the words and the voice merely enhances the script.

The Rule of Comedy

Pat shared that the rule of comedy is faster, because if it's bad, it's over with quickly. The other serious reason is this. Part of the delight in comedy is the hidden transition. You have emotion A and emotion C. The transition happens in emotion B and the audience delights because there is a mystery to solve.

Something you'll want to remember is that the tempo is the speed and rhythm is the drum beat for what is going on. Keep a handle on your speed so that you don't get off track. Timing is everything in comedy.

Comedy Can Be Learned

During the presentation there was certainly a lot of laughter. As the program progressed, Pat stopped to acknowledge that there's an infused joy in comedy and encouraged people to break rules all the time.

Pat expressed that working on being funny is such an unnatural thing to do and you'll need all of the joy infusion that you can get. You might also want to refer to this infusion of joy as "juice" as in getting the creative juices flowing and letting loose.

Enjoy Being Green

Get this: Comedy is drama in fast forward. Drama is comedy in slow motion.

When reading through a comedic script for the first time, you have the liberty to stop and smell the roses. Pat indicated that when you work with people and you're being auditioning by them, let that person know that you are going to read the script as if you're a first grader so that you can realize the rhythm that's in the read and then once you have, you can speed it up.

Flaunt your greenery in your first read of the script as though you don't know where it's going. Read it through cautiously and enjoy the experience of not anticipating where the copy is headed... you only get to be green once.

Insights and Tales From Brad Garrett

When asked how his adjustment was from on-camera work to voice over work, Brad Garrett shared that in some instances, you need to give a little bit more than what is expected of you on-camera, likening the experience to going from stand up to on-camera.

Brad emphasized the importance of pacing, stating that it's really a game of catch.

He also said that in voice over you have to really play your environment. When all the audience can take in of your performance is what you feed them through your voice acting, you need to establish where you are and invite them into that world through your voice and any accompanying sound effects.

Comedy is all about stakes. The bigger the stakes the funnier the return.

Ideas To Try Out

I thought you might find these ideas useful when exercising your talent for comedic reads.

๏ Watch comedic sketches online or on television and try to spot the comedic elements
๏ Practice with a partner
๏ Try to figure out if you play the straight man (more serious) or the funny man better

Any Comments?

I'd love to hear what you thought of this article! Let me know by commenting on this posting.

If you'd like to hear more from Pat Fraley, check out his profile on Voice Over Experts:

http://podcasts.voices.com/voiceoverexperts/pat_fraley/

Best wishes,

Stephanie

Related Topics: acting, animation, Brad Garrett, comedians, comedy, how to, industry, Pat Fraley, voice over


Comments


    Thanks for this article. I love to read about the science of comedy. Many people don't think about what makes something funny. This is a helpful mini guide for how to work the funny in a script.

    Posted by:
    • Jill Tarnoff
    • June 4, 2010 9:09 AM

      Thanks Pat (and Stephanie).

      There are some real golden nuggets here.
      Love the "8 Elements"... definitely getting posted on my wall!

      Timing is definitely crucial. Although Faster is funny in many cases, comedy can occur at all tempos. Sometimes the funniest bits happen because of slow pacing or extended pauses. Cerebral humor, or deadpan delivery. Think of Steven Wright or Emo Phillips.

      Improv in front of a live audience is a great teacher for comedic timing. It can give you a feel for the audience, but you've gotta tune in and listen while you're performing. Once you learn timing, it's easier to be funny without the audience... but I still wish I had one when auditioning!

      Thanks again - Happy Friday All,
      Joe

      Posted by:

        Very much appreciate the update as was not able to attend myself. Always enjoy hearing from Pat Fraley, he's truly amazing. Thanks for taking to time to share some of these wonderful info points.

        Posted by:

          Great synopsis of the session, Stephanie! And it was good to see you there!

          Posted by:

            Thanks Stephanie for taking the time to post this with the busy schedule you must be having there at the conference. One of the classes I teach at Weist Barron in NYC is Sitcom.

            These comments and suggestions are right on the money and will be helpful in my future sessions.

            Have a great time and thanks again!

            Maggie Reed

            Posted by:

              Thanks Stephanie for posting your wonderful notes! So sorry to have to miss VOICE 2010 this year, so I'm absorbing all the info and the joy my compadres have to share! Thanks again!
              Have fun
              m
              *

              Posted by:

                Thank you, Stephanie. What a wonderful, succinct overview of Brad and my time. So grateful for this and your sharing voices.com's audition offerings for narration jobs for audiobooks. The link is to a few of the many photos of Brad with participants after our turn on stage.

                Posted by:

                  I got not a single laugh out of this and frankly, i want my money back. '-)
                  Oh! Wait...this was free.....HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHA!
                  Seriously, As always, Thank you Pat and Brad for the insights.
                  The 8 elements are a terrific list! Ahh but where to put them! There's the rub and the reason we need to be in a Pat Fraley event! Wink, wink. '-)

                  Breaking down the "Science" of what's funny is really an interesting concept to me to begin with. Picture the stodgy Professor saying "Alright, today class we are going to discover the essence of what's funny....or comedic if you will...you in the back with the weird hair; you must know a thing or 2 about this... "

                  But I still like the old adage,
                  "If I slip on a banana peel, that's tragedy, If you slip on one, that's comedy"

                  And Brad, stop standing on a box. We already know you're tall OK?

                  Steph, awesome as usual.

                  Posted by:

                    this is the kind of stuff that people pay to sit in on in some siminar but i got it through voices.com thanks it's very helpful when i do open mike standup in manhatten.

                    Posted by:
                    • Kevin Johnson
                    • May 28, 2011 11:11 PM

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