1st Edition

Acting Comedy

ISBN 9781138891418
Published September 20, 2015 by Routledge
170 Pages

USD $45.95

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Book Description

Despite being roundly cited as much harder to perform than its dramatic counterpart, comic acting is traditionally seen as a performance genre that can’t be taught. At best it is often described as a skill that can only be learned "on the job" through years of practice, or given to a performer through natural talent.

Acting Comedy is an effort to examine this idea more rigorously by looking at different aspects of the comic actor’s craft. Each chapter is written by an expert in a particular form—from actors and directors to teachers and standup comedians. Topics covered include:

  • how performers work with audiences
  • how comic texts can be enhanced through word and musical rhythm analysis
  • how physical movements can generate comic moments and build character.

This book is an invaluable resource for any performer focusing on the minute details of comic acting, even down to exactly how one delivers a joke on stage. Christopher Olsen’s unique collection of comic voices will prove essential reading for students and professionals alike.

Table of Contents

Introduction – Acting Comedy  1. ‘Through Wall’s Chink’. Or, Audience Interplay in Comic Acting - Ian Wilkie  2. Straight Line/Wavy Line - Steve Kaplan  3. Using Punctuation to Facilitate Comedy in the plays of George Bernard Shaw and Beyond - Candice Brown  4. Comedy Through Commedia - Judith Chaffee  5. Physicalizing Farce - Davis Rider Robinson  6. Comic Gesture Using "Viewpoints" - Christopher Olsen  7. Playing with language: wit and wordplay - Merry Conway  8. Comedy Structure and Acting Choices - Greg Dean  9. ‘The Secret of Great Comedy - Scott Meltzer  10. Unexpected: 5 ½ Rules to Better Improvisation - Shad Willingham

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Christopher Olsen began as an actor in the Off-Off Broadway theatre scene in New York City in the 1970s and 1980s and later received his PhD in Theatre History and Criticism from the University of Maryland. He continues to work as a Drama professor at the University of Puerto Rico.


"Highly recommended - a healthy smorgasbord of essays on ways to approach the challenges of comedic acting. The contributors are thoroughly seasoned practitioners and instructors, with comic experiences ranging from stand-up comedy, writing, juggling and street performance to traditional acting. This interesting collection will be valuable for the classroom and for individual actors."

- E. C. Skiles, Choice