Thursday, July 11, 2019

"A 'Pomerantzian" Sampling Of Devised Physical Comedy"

I am driving to Paramount Studios, working on a (short-lived) sitcom called Kristin (starring Broadway musical star Kristin Chenoweth – Wicked, etc.), when, pondering the current episode we were engaged in, my roiling “Nether Mind” sends a song, rising to my consciousness.

SETUP:  Prior to an important job interview, “Kristin” stands in front of an office “Ladies’ Room” mirror.  Suddenly, with crescendoing gusto, she bursts into a musical “pep talk” (conceived in the car), which went:

“Put your best foot forward
Flash that sunny smile
Have a hearty handshake
That’s a winner’s style.

Show the world you’re…”

Kristin is abruptly stopped by an annoyed woman, also standing in front of the mirror.  The vignette received a good laugh and freshly captured the “moment.”
How did I think of expressing it in song?

DNA, personal history, and available opportunity.

As with musical interludes capturing the moment, so with physical comedy.

(You see what I did there?  Making a “connection” when none was easily apparent?  Classy.  Not classy to mention, perhaps, but, come on, I’m excited!) 

The things you come up with must first be available options in your head.  Ergo, for me, “musical” comedy, and non-verbal shenanigans.

Like these. 

Physical comedy “bits” I created for my own shows (when no one could stop me), presented in chronological order, but backwards, which is admittedly different, but so am I. 

Now, moving from the late 1980’s to the early 1980’s…

Major Dad

Gerald McRaney, though a talented actor, is not a likely candidate for physical comedy.  Making it even funnier when he does some. 

SETUP:  After landing heavily during a session “hand-to-hand combat” session with a considerably younger-ranked underling, the Major refuses to reveal he has seriously “thrown out his back.”

The next morning, unwilling to acknowledge physical incapacitation, the Major returns to work, issuing orders, sitting behind his desk.  Later, alone in his office, we see him take thirty seconds, struggling mightily to get out of his chair.

The audience loved it.  (The actor did not, believing either this clownish tomfoolery demeaned the Marine Corps, or, inexplicably, himself.  We never did it again.)

Family Man

SETUP:  Fade in on the next day’s breakfast after a previous late-night quarrel, where still fuming wife “Andrea” is not speaking to confused husband “Shelley”, the following scene, scored with a “tango”, executed entirely without words.

Shelley enters the kitchen, where Andrea eats smolderingly at the table.  Shelley “tests the waters” with a genial “Good morning.”  The waters are definitely still icy.

Performed with choreographed precision, as Shelley arrives at the table, Andrea takes the box of cereal, gets up from the table, and returns the cereal box to the pantry.

As Andrea heads back, to the table, Shelley gets up from the table, heads over to the pantry, retrieves the cereal box, and heads back to the table.

As Shelley reaches the table, Andrea picks up the carton of milk, and returns it to the refrigerator.

Setting the cereal box of on the table, Shelly goes to the refrigerator, retrieving the carton on milk. 

After pouring cereal and milk into a bowl, Shelley then reaches for the nearby newspaper.

Andrea scoops up the newspaper, gets up from the table, depositing the newspaper into the trash bin.  She then triumphantly exits the kitchen.

Shelley gets up from the table, heading over to the trash bin.  (Note:  This was before “recycling.”)  Peering into the trash bin, his face reflects a discarded newspaper, steeped in untouchable “yuckiness.” 

Shelley returns to the table, eating punishingly alone, and with nothing to read.

Though this scene was shot without an audience, I suspect they would have enjoyed this novel, non-verbal marital tussle. 

Best of the West

SETUP:  Hapless henchman “Frog” offers to fete the rowdy saloon crowd with an incredible magic trick, specifically – and we have all seen this – “The Milk Trick.”

Delivered as a three-part “runner.”

Part One: 

“FROG” (FORMALLY INTRODUCING HIS PERFORMANCE):  “Ladies and gentlemen – ‘The Milk Trick’.”

“Frog” rolls a large sheet of newspaper into a “cone.”  He then pours a pitcher of milk into the “cone.”

The milk immediately streams out the bottom of the “cone.”

Part Two: 

“FROG”:  “Ladies and gentlemen – ‘The Milk Trick’.”

“Frog” again rolls a large sheet of newspaper into a “cone.”  He then pours a pitcher of milk into the “cone.”  So far, so good.  (So good, in fact, “Frog” momentarily breaks silence with a cocky, “Oh ye, of little faith.”) 

“Frog” majestically flings open the “cone.”

The milk douses his boss, standing drippingly nearby.

Part Three:  “Frog”, dressed in “Top Hat” and cape (“Artistic License”), tentatively tries it again:

“FROG”: “Ladies and gentlemen – ‘The Milk Trick’.”

“Frog” rolls a large sheet of newspaper into a “cone.”  He then pours a pitcher of milk into the “cone.”  “Frog” majestically flings open the “cone.”

The milk has miraculously disappeared.

The studio audience bursts into spontaneous applause.

“Frog” politely tips his “Top Hat.”

The milk cascades onto “Frog’s” head.


Writing these last two posts, I fear feats of physical comedy cannot be adequately described.

Go watch some quality examples on YouTube.

I promise, the lifting cleansing exuberance you will feel will be, literally,

Beyond words
A heartfelt "Happy Birthday" to Rachel.  I am honored and thrilled to be, and to have been for numerous decades, what you once referred to as your "Stepladder."  Best wishes  Today.  And forever.  You're the best!

1 comment:

JED said...

Well, I laughed and my office mates are now wondering what is so funny about remotely setting up water level readings for our customers.