So, what ultimately makes a script funny? The Script?
WRONG! (Although a lot of writers would like to think that it’s all because of their genius.)
The people performing the script. And how do they do that? By “being funny,” you say?
WRONG, again!
No, what makes a script funny is when the actors make strong character choices. What do I mean by that? Basically, you have to start by knowing your character.
The biggest thing to know is the answer to the question, What does your character want? Now, normally, a good script can help you find clues to this. A good script will make it easy for you to figure out what your character wants. But, the script, by itself, can’t do that work for you. Now, the actor has to figure it out and then make sure that what your character wants is layered throughout the entire sketch. It changes line delivery and makes them sound believable.
One of my favorite exercises to do with actors to help them understand how important it is to make strong character choices, is a little exercise called the “AB Scene.” Basically, this exercise takes a script that is about nothing and let’s the actors make it become about something.
Divide your actors up into two groups. One group is the A group. The other group is the B group. Then, hand out the script that is attached to this blog to everyone. If you haven’t figured it out, the A group memorizes the “A” lines and the B group memorizes the “B” lines. Literally give everyone 10 minutes to do this.
Then, randomly select one member form the A group and one member from the B group to prepare to perform the scene for everyone.
At first, just have them do the scene, but have them do it “normal.” It really shouldn’t be entertaining. The goal here is to set a “control” (yeah, science class terms actually work here). This is how boring the words on the page are when just said from memory.
Now, have the same performers do it again, only this time, take suggestions from the other actors in attendance. Suggest a setting, a character relationship, and what’s happening in the scene. For instance you might say, ”You are in an operating room. A is a doctor performing surgery. B is the patient whose anesthesia accidentally wore off. The doctor is still trying to finish the surgery because he has a tee time he doesn’t want to miss.” Then, have them perform the exact same script with those characters and choices in mind. (Make sure they do not add any lines. This is one time when “verbal” improvisation is not helpful.)
Chances are, that boring scene will come to life. Why? Because when actors make strong character choices and their strong character choices come into conflict with the other actors’ character choices, the words become less important. The desires of the characters drive the story, not the words. Then, keep repeating this with your actors, each time giving new scenarios.
It’s a great exercise that’s a lot of fun and extremely helpful in learning how to make clear choices in regard to a specific character and letting what the character wants drive how the actor plays that character. An actor’s choices are just as important as the words they say.
Here’s an “AB Scene” I found on the Internet. ENJOY!
Scene 1