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This Old Jokes video is available at YouTube to watch for free or you may watch it here for free.
This is one of my YouTube videos. There will be more.
Teams break up. It is very difficult in show business to find the right people who will be sharing your spotlight. If you are doing a two person routine, usually one of the two will be a straight man. He or she might be a singer or a serious actor who has a companion who is the butt of the jokes. The comic will interrupt the singer by doing something wrong and the singer will become increasingly angry. That is called a "Slow Burn."
If the straight man is not a singer, he or she is the logical person who appears most normal. A good straight man is much harder to find than a good comic. Bud Abbott and Dan Aykroyd were great as straight men.
Even more difficult is trying to put together an ensemble. You will need people who can show up for rehearsals and more important be on time for a show. Ensembles that have worked over the years with success were the various casts of Saturday Night Live, Mad TV, Laugh-In, Your Show of Shows and Monty Python. Also the live groups, The Groundlings and Second City.
There are improv groups which appear to make everything up on the spot. There is a trick to doing improv which the audience often does not know. A good improv comic is "ready." He or she has some ideas in advance in case the subject is mentioned. They have an idea of something that might be a funny slant on a cheap date or a traffic jam or a farmer spending the night in a fancy hotel. Keep up with the news of the day and think of how the politicians or celebrities might handle trying to make a phone call to Cutomer Support or how they would behave when they were kids. "What if?" You can work that into an improv situation.
If you are a part of a group or comedy team, practice your reactions in front of a mirror. When I was on the TV series, Dear John, my stone faced character was based on Buster Keaton. He did what is known as "Dead Pan" comedy. I actually practiced in front of a mirror in advance. No reaction to anything, even if it is wildly crazy. I just let my face do the talking by saying nothing. It got me four great years of work.
If you work in some venues, especially ocean liners, keep your act squeaky clean. No mention of bodily functions. If you are a part of a group it is always good advice to work with an act that can do their thing with any age audience.
To meet other comics or straight men, try the local open mic, or Craigs List or start with someone you know from school. Start somewhere and keep improving the act. Read what other great comics did at the begining of their careers. You will have bad nights. Always be honest with yourself.
Something I once did as a favor for a lady comic, helped me develop a character which later earned a lot of money for me. A lady who was 75 who did some comedy songs at an open mic show, needed a musician. Her cassette tape would not work. I offered to play guitar while she sang her songs. I did some facial expressions as she sang as though it was shocking. She would sing about love and look at me and I would continue to play and act surprised. It worked well with the audiences. The reactions later became part of every character I would do in comedy shows. I learned by using the face either to make an expression or to sometimes be expressionless would create humor for the audience. It is often good to have a partner who can bring more out of you than you thought you had.
A good comedy team, whether it is two people or a dozen, works together to bring laughter to the crowd. You do not have to be in love with your comedy partner, but you must be in love with the audience.
This is one of my official promo pictures from the series Dear John. I can use it legally as long as I am promoting the show... so watch Dear John. The world wants to laugh. You are welcome onstage. You and your partner or group will find that some things work with certain audiences and then bomb with the next crowd. It is a good idea to have a line or two for when your act is dying. "Last time I buy a joke from ... (fill in the blank)" Have material ready for special situations like; The dressing room is so small... It was so hot today... (If there is a siren going by) "My ride is here."
The team should rehearse enough to know which people are wild and crazy, which are able to be the serious, straight man type, which are the lovers or the slapstick, fall down, physical comics. Gravitate toward your strengths. Learn to use your voice or voices and facial expressions to get a bigger laugh.
Abbott and Costello were box office magic for many years. They were the highest paid comedy team of their time in the early 1940s. Bud Abbott is considered to be the best straight man of xomedy history. He and Lou Costello developed their acting teamwork in motion pictures to fit the popular serious movies they were spoofing. They did movies with Western themes and horror films and militay comedies. Most of their movies had big song and dance routines done by other popular performers of that era who considered it an honor to work with Bud and Lou in a film. They also were big stars of radio, TV and now... YouTube.
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