Usually, this blog focuses on physical comedy. Occasionally, I will dip into verbal comedy when I think animators might find it interesting. For example, in another post, I discuss various forms of gibberish. In this post, I’ll introduce you to a style of verbal comedy known as double talk or double speak.
Double speak is where normal language is blended with confusing elements, possibly with nonsense words. The idea is to trick the listener into trying to follow the words, even though they are intentionally baffling. This is a verbal comedy that relies more on the skill of the performer than it does on the writer, so it fits into my emphasis on comedy acting. In all of these examples, the actor puts a lot of work into body and vocal expressions to support the words. I will start with a recent one from Saturday Night Live. In this case, it’s not quite nonsense, but mixed up talk that maintains the expression and pace. It’s her impression of a weather-caster that is funny.
This sort of comedy has been around for a while. This next one feature double speak specialist Cliff Nazarro. This one definitely uses nonsense words. It’s very important for the actor to speak with absolute confidence. It helps to not give the listener time to ask questions and keep it moving quickly.
The great Sid Ceasar was also known for his double speak. He had a skill for creating characters who appeared to be speaking in a foreign language, but it was a mix of commonly known foreign words, fake words, and recognizable English. This next example is from his television show.
Back to a recent example, Reggie Watts gives a performance at a TED Talk that features him apparently speaking in the languages of various countries and even sub-cultures. His mastery of accents is impressive. When he speaks English, it makes no sense. It’s a great bit of comedic acting.