Not Laughing

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Avatar of Jonah Teller
Jonah Teller on May 8, 2012 at 3:11 am

When it comes to acting, I can really suck when it comes to keeping a straight face. For example, I did this mockumentary on hipsters a few months ago, and co-starred in it with a friend. She did a fabulous job, never failing to keep staring straight ahead and really get into the hilariously serious tone of the character. I on the other hand, had the worst trouble trying not to bust a gut while in front of the camera. I practiced my lines just fine the night before, but as soon as other people were around and I sat myself in front of the camera, I kept losing it.
So how does one go about getting into a comedic character without laughing at their lines?

Avatar of Austin Lindgren
Austin Lindgren on May 8, 2012 at 4:36 am

In my experience, I’ve learned this is a psychological issue. Your brain can only focus on a select number of things at a time, and I’ve noticed what you focus your thoughts on can dramatically change your ability to keep a straight face.

If you focus on your facial expressions, maintaining your character, the way you walk, talk and the way you do pretty much anything, and eventually you ultimately pinpoint your focus on becoming the sarcastic or witty character that you are trying to portray in the film, then it becomes much easier to be that character and say those lines as if you really were thinking them in a real-life situation.

If you focus little on that, and rather focus on the people around you, focus on what they’re doing, focus on your environment, you’ll lose that touch. It’s okay to be a little less analytical about everything around you, and it’s okay to be focusing on what you’re doing, at least when what you’re doing is what makes or break the film. Good luck :D

Avatar of Andy Ainsworth
Andy Ainsworth on May 8, 2012 at 5:25 am

@Jonah, if the material is truly funny, it’s gonna be exceedingly hard to nail it without breaking character. Don’t think about it too much, though. If you focus on not laughing, you might actually ruin the comedy of the moment, so be careful. Comedy is best when it’s not forced. If you’ve ever watch SNL; Jimmy Fallon, Tina Fey, and even Will Ferrell break character all the time. Improv is hard because it’s so raw and you never know what’s going to come out of your mouth or your fellow actors, but if it’s something that’s rehearsed or filmed, you might just have to do multiple takes until you get it. Unfortunately, if you’re the type to laugh at everything, I can’t promise that it will ever get easier. Just keep reshooting until you get it . . . or think of puppies dying.

Avatar of Jonah Teller
Jonah Teller on May 9, 2012 at 6:04 am

Thanks! Next time I’ll keep all of this in mind, and focus on my character/keep reshooting until I get it right.
Or the dying puppies.

Avatar of Andy Ainsworth
Andy Ainsworth on May 9, 2012 at 6:15 am

Remember, dying puppies will actually make you cry . . . which wouldn’t be conducive to comedy haha. Be wary of posthumous pooch power.

Avatar of Marshall Maldonado
Marshall Maldonado on May 11, 2012 at 6:46 pm

After about seven takes I still have issues with it, but the best thing I do is think like The character. That usually makes it easier for me and doing the lines slightly different so its not exactly the same and robotic.

Avatar of Zdenek Ruzicka
Zdenek Ruzicka on May 11, 2012 at 9:49 pm

This one can be tricky. I try to just let it all out, have a great time, and on the 10th try, it’s not usually that funny anymore, so you should be able to make it through. Bad side to this is though, as Andy mentioned, is that this can ruin the actual comedy moment.

I think that there is not a real “How Not To Burst…” because it will differ from a person to another person. Find your recipe for controlling your LOL muscles and don’t forget to keep those LOLs for outtakes!

Avatar of Jared Charles Choate
Jared Charles Choate on May 27, 2012 at 10:13 pm

Instead of thinking of dead puppies, you could always tape your mouth shut, take a sleeping pill a bit before, film after a funeral, etc. However, these seem to have great effects on making your acting good and making the movie look good… Unless you want to act like someone on a sleeping pill, don’t take a sleeping pill. And I don’t think the person filming wants you acting with tape all over your mouth. It takes a lot of tape to stop those cheek muscles.

Avatar of Caleb Davies
Caleb Davies on July 1, 2012 at 11:03 am

Personally, having a friend give you a brisk slap after you laugh usually helps me when I laugh at our scripts. Either that or a solid kick in the shin.

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