Tips for Comedy Actors – How to Break Down a Comedy Script

by on December 11th, 2014
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As with any actor, comedy actors must know how to accurately break down a script. Throughout my years of professional training, one of the most commonly taught lesson is how to accurately breakdown a script. The steps involved in doing so can dramatically vary according to the instructor and the type of script you’re performing; however, when you’re performing a comedy script there are several tips you should continually engage in to ensure the script is broken down in a proper manner.

All comedy scripts are comprised of two primary formulas: the unpredictable and character desperation. If you carefully review the script of any comedy play, film or TV show you will find these themes within characters, story lines and jokes. Along with these themes, comedic scripts also utilize negative and positive forces to create the comedic arch within a storyline.

As a comedic actor, you must break down lines of dialogue in a different manner than a dramatic script as these lines contain jokes. There are many different types of jokes, and even more ways of delivering these lines; however, the most classically used methods include the turnaround, which is when a character delivers a line with true conviction and truth only to make a complete 180 with the exact same level of conviction. For example, “Your hair, your hair looks so beautiful. (Beat) If only you were a poodle.” This form of dialogue turnaround creates a false sense of support or love to only pull a 180 and deliver a phrase that is completely opposite of the first part of the sentence.

The importance of breaking down a comedy script is to ensure you deliver these lines, or jokes, with the proper type of conviction in order to make the jokes a success. When breaking down a script, take each piece of dialogue line-by-line and write down the purpose of saying each line.

For example, why would a character say “Your hair, your hair is so beautiful!” Perhaps the character is jealous. Maybe the character is speaking with an enemy or someone who has wronged him, or maybe, the character is just caddy and rude. Next, why would the character end the sentence by saying “If only you were a poodle.” Again, the character could be experiencing moments of jealousy, or perhaps he doesn’t care much for the person he is talking to.

By breaking down each line of dialogue, you are able to add the necessary amount of conviction into your voice that makes the scene enjoyable and humorous to watch.


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