Conducting Comedy

With his black tie and tails, serious expression, leading classical music, the conductor of an orchestra is the epitome of high culture. That makes him the perfect target for parody. The musicians synchronizing to every motion is why the clown can work so well with the challenge. I have found several entries that show how different comedians take different approaches. One situation, many possibilities.

Here is a classic example form Denis Lacombe.

What prompted this post was my viewing of “One Good Turn” starring Norman Wisdom. He happens to be wearing a tuxedo, and gets mistaken for the maestro who is late for the show. He takes a clever turn by having the baton stuck to his hand and not noticing the orchestra is following him. Once he’s thrown off, he continues to milk the situation for comedy.

And here is Weird Al Yankovic with a surprisingly physical turn.

Rowan Atkinson has his version:

Jerry Lewis starts to seem mild in comparison to some of these.

Mickey Mouse in the famous Disney short, “The Band Concert”.

Do opera singers have conductors? Bugs Bunny will make it happen.

And thanks to Matt Moses, I am adding this from the great Victor Borge:

Roberto Benigni

Roberto Benigni is one of my favorite film makers.  Like many great comedians he is at his best directing and acting in his own films.  In 1999 his tragicomic film, Life is Beautiful earned him an Oscar for best actor, and a nomination as best director.  I will never forget his reaction to winning, when he was the first and only winner to literally jump to the top of the seats as shown in this clip.

On IMDB, he is credited with this quote about Charlie Chaplin:

Charlie Chaplin used his ass better than any other actor. In all his films his ass is practically the protagonist. For a comic, the ass has incredible importance.

I love his verbal delivery and energy. If you were to read them as text, think how much would be lost from listening to him. Here are two interviews with him for you to learn from.

How To Make Your Writing Funnier.

I stumbled across this nice animated Ted-Ed video about writing comedy by Cheri Steinkeller.  She briefly mentions Commedia Dell’arte, and the archetypes of comedy.  I have an entire chapter on comedic archetypes in my book, and they are all explained with live and animated examples.  If you like this video, you’ll get a lot out of Comedy for Animators.

How to make a slapstick movie: From an Aardman animator

Bram Ttwheam is an animator and visual effects supervisor for Aardman Animation, and he produces idents for The Bristol Silents Slapstick Festival which is held annually in Bristol, England. It is a festival I would love to attend. The festival has a blog where I found this fun short film he created to show his process.

Here is last years ident:

Funny short: This Way Up

I can’t believe I haven’t seen this before now.  It’s exactly what I like. It’s a non verbal comedy packed with great gags.   This Way Up was released in 2008, and was nominated for an Academy Award.  It was created by the directing team of Smith & Foulkes at Nexus in London.  The story features a pair of undertakers retrieving a body for burial.  It’s a grave situation (pardon the pun) and that allows for humor that is both dark and slapstick. Like my Floyd the Android character, these two don’t give up until they complete the job.

Except for the poster image below, the two almost never smile.  Undertakers by nature are quite serious and respectful. The straight faces give the impression of them being a pair of Buster Keatons.  (Buster Keaton as an undertaker may have been a missed opportunity.)  The film is 9 minutes long, but moves along so efficiently it feels shorter.  The bizarre ending features a truly death defying stunt that is very Keatonesque.

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