Physical Comedy Filter
July 17, 2010 8:17 AM   Subscribe

How can I be funnier the next few weekends? (Brainstorming!)

I'm appearing in a community theatre production this weekend and the next few. The rehearsal period was very short but the show is kicking major ass and nobody has any regrets. However, the director had an idea for an unscripted bit of business and put me in it:

Show is "The Secret Garden." The scene: night in the garden. Kindly gardener Ben Weatherstaff (me) sneaks into the garden and begins working, thinking he won't be interrupted. Suddenly, the children sneak into the garden. Ben panics and sneaks out of the garden behind them.

That's it!

I'm providing comic relief behind their scene but haven't really come up with much.

The only sure thing is that I have to panic and blow out my lantern. (Ssst! Ouch!)

I've brainstormed a few bits but time being short, haven't come up with anything really side splitting. I tried a sort of "going back for the hat" bit a la Indiana Jones; I tried scrambling around on the ground like a cornered animal; striking silly "I am now invisible" poses against the back wall (the stage is bare except for the actors); nothing that really seems to register, at least with me.

The show runs until August 8 so I have plenty of performances to use anything that I can come up with.

Any clown college graduates in the crowd?
posted by bovious to Media & Arts (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Is there an opportunity for the kids to say something like, "shh, did you hear something?" Because that's when you hide behind something and make an animal noise to blend in. I suggest you moo, like a friendly nighttime garden cow.
posted by phunniemee at 8:30 AM on July 17, 2010

Hide behind something that can't possibly provide any cover, like a rake.

Fall flat on your stomach like a commando.

Run away, but stub your toe on something. Try not to scream as you're writhing in pain and limping away.

Run away, but smack your head and knock yourself out cold for the duration of the scene.

Hide in plain sight. Pretend to be a statue. A war memorial of a soldier, with your rake being a rifle held in a soldierly position.

Throw something or do something that makes a noise on the opposite side of the stage. While the actors investigate (did you hear that?), make your escape behind their turned backs.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:36 AM on July 17, 2010

I don't know what kind of a garden it is, are there plants or anything already? Grabbing some ears of corn or a couple of flowers and pretending to be a corn plant or rose bush (or beanstalk, or etc...) might work.

But if there's nothing like that, and clearly you are doing garden work of some kind, something that might be funny is --wherever you hide-- to vainly (or not so vainly) attempt to continue your work (what? hoeing, raking? pruning?) from your place of concealment. Seeing a lone arm with a hoe emerge from behind a tree and continue hoeing, or someone try to plant something from several feet away would make me laugh. Also, if you could contrive to actually --I don't know-- plant a rose bush with them all unawares, they could trip on it on the way out.

Also, anything with topiary is a laugh, if an option.
posted by umberto at 8:48 AM on July 17, 2010

does the lantern have actual fire in it? if not, instead of blowing out your lantern, you could stuff it inside your shirt, or wrap your body around it. and you try to sneak out like that.
posted by cheemee at 9:16 AM on July 17, 2010

also, you mention the stage is bare, so i'm guessing no trees/bushes/whatever to hide behind?
you mention you have a hat and a lantern.... any other props? what are you wearing?
what about the kids, do they have props?
posted by cheemee at 9:19 AM on July 17, 2010

you mention you have a hat and a lantern.... any other props?

Yeah if you have a decent number of props, you can come up with some business around gathering them up in a hurry and trying to carry all of them offstage awkwardly.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:35 AM on July 17, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks guys, great stuff. I like the smashing the toe idea.

No kidding, the stage is utterly bare.

It also occurred to me -- Ben is sort of a gentle kindly figure throughout the show -- suppose this becomes his opportunity to reveal his inner ninja. Instead of panicking and blundering his way out, suppose he goes into an expert military crouch as he calmly assesses the situation.

(The exit is required because he makes an entrance later on in the same scene, after "Come Spirit Come Charm.")
posted by bovious at 12:08 PM on July 17, 2010

(The exit is required because he makes an entrance later on in the same scene, after "Come Spirit Come Charm.")

Perfect opportunity for a callback joke ... he stubs his toe on exit, and on re-entrance, he very obviously, gingerly and comically steps around the thing he stubbed on toe on. Unh-huh, not going to make the same mistake twice, no sir.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:27 PM on July 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: LOVE the idea of a callback joke. I will look for an opportunity to use that concept soon!

Meanwhile, the show came off ok. I got good results by keeping in mind that humor comes from character. So Ben sees those kids in the garden and he knows that if they know he's there, he has to turn them in. By having a real reason to hide, I got a lot more mileage out of the bit. All he really had to do was look real sneaky and at one point took his hat off and hid his face behind that, as if that was hiding his whole body.

I also am blessed with a certain amount of grace for a big fella (plus I did extra stretches before the show), so got to do some funny tiptoeing gags.

Thanks to all who contributed!
posted by bovious at 5:22 PM on July 18, 2010

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