Thursday, October 23, 2008

ACTING CLASS, Part 3 by Gregg Gethard

Things just seem to happen to Gregg Gethard. After telling a few stories at comedy shows in New York City, he created his own monthly show in Philly, BEDTIME STORIES, to tell a few more. Over the past year and a half the show has grown in audience and features some of the best comics in the city.

Here, Gregg continues his eight-part series on an acting class he took in Montclair, New Jersey. [Read Part I and II]

Gregg will be performing at our Comic Vs. Audience Comedy Show on Monday, November 3rd at the Shubin Theatre.


The Cute Girl was back. This week, she passed an important test in my eyes, the footwear test. I will not date a girl if she wears retarded shoes. The Cute Girl was wearing these red suede Adidas shell-tops. Apparently, she shops at the same place Run DMC do.

Tonight’s class was more of a traditional class setting, as tradition as it can be with these people. Bob handed us these shoddy photocopied diagrams of a stage with words like “stage left” and “downstage” written on them in Bob’s Richard Ramirez-esque handwriting.

Bob began by telling us how “stage left” actually means to the right and how “stage right is actually to the left. Bob said this usually confused people, but not him. “I’m lefthanded… AND dyslexic!”

Bob then talked to us about the stage theory of “cheating” to help better communicate with the audience via positioning and playing the angles. Bob brought The Overly Competitive Hindu with him up on stage, and positioned him at an acute angle.

“You never see men talking like this -- but, honey, that’s another story altogether. But just remember, the only place where cheating is good is in theater and in gambling!”

Bob then went on to discuss the art of pantomime. He name-dropped some theater actress who was in a production of “Our Town” which had no props. Bob then imitated her pantomimes -- “She had all her eggs here and her pots and pans here.”

“It is like a kitchen came to life right in front of my eyes,” said The Hemaphroditic German, whose mouth was dropped like she had just witnessed a Christian miracle.

Bob then turned to the topic of improvisational theater, a topic close to my heart due to brother’s involvement with the UCB Theater. Bob began by going into a tirade railing against the tyranny that is improv.

“They act like they are just making things all up, but they really all have a lot of practice doing what they are doing. Believe you me, it’s not as made up as it seems.” He spoke with vengeful happiness while tearing down the oppressive walls of improv comedy, revealing the truth to us like he was The Masked Magician, speaking in hushed tones as to how the biz really works.

Bob then discussed with us about theater superstitions like “Break A Leg.” One superstition, we learned, is to wear an article of clothing from a previously successful show. This works, according to Bob.

“I was in a show in Morristown once. We had some wardrobe froma pervious show and I got to wear a jacket that was previously worn by…”

He paused for dramatic effect.

“JIM DALE. You know, THE JIM DALE? He had just finished a great run... just an absolutely fantastic run… And then I myself had a pretty good show, also. But what really surprised me… Jim Dale is the same size as me! The jacket fit perfectly!”

Bob, also, speaks at times like a vaudevillian carnival huckster, for no apparent reason. “Doesh anyong hath any quethstonth about thith shtuff?”

Bob mentioned Debbie Reynolds, whom he said in a 1996 performance brought her own kitchen to the set so she would feel comfortable in the role. Sagging Breasts asked Bob what Ms. Reynolds did with her kitchen at home.

He drew a blank, and then finally told her, “Well, I guess she has doubles of everything.”

He was then asked about how hard it is to memorize a script. Bob said some people can memorize things rote, others have to do it in stages. Bob described himself as an “organic learner.”

For next week, we have to come up with a short scene of our own. We have two options: we can either do a two-minute scene by ourselves or we can have a three-minute phone conversation by ourselves.

Voice Box Girl, wearing a Heinekin Beer t-shirt tonight, had a hard time picking up this concept. “Wait, so WHAT are we doing this week? Okay, do we have to bring anything in? How can we act without bringing anything in? Nothing? Okay. So, let me get this straight now.”

Bob also mentioned that our scenes had to have some sort of conflict. “Just don’t do ‘something,’” he said. “But you have to do… SOME THING. Act exasperated or tired or unhappy.”

Voice Box Girl again did not pick up on this concept.

“The thing I want to do is that I want to be getting ready to go out on a date. What kind of conflict thing can I have with that really?”

I was writing all of this down. Voice Box Girl saw this and started staring at me. I got nervous, thinking I was caught. She had the dead, cold eyes of a baby murderer. Then she apologized and stared laughing about how she had an itch on her neck.

Sagging Boobs then brought the conversation to the final week, where we have to prepare a monologue. She said she does not want to perform a play, but would rather do a “dramatic reading of a song lyric.” My initial guess was that she would do interpretive dance while reciting the lyrics to Stevie Knicks’ “Edge of Seventeen.”

“Just like the white winged dove…”

As for next week, I still didn’t know what I wanted to do. The lover of absurd public situations side of my brain wanted to do something really bizarre, like have a three-minute conversation in Mandarin Chinese. But the journalist side of my brain wanted to remain as “neutral” as possible while watching the behavior of these strange strangers unfold.

At the end of class, we stacked our chairs. The Cute Girl let The Overly Competitive Hindu go first.

“How chivalrous,” he said, giving her a mocking curtsey.

He then took the pen he borrowed from Class Junkie -- he had pens for every person in class a pen -- and threw it side armed at the old man, where it hit him in the throat and fell to the ground.

NEXT WEEK: Next week, one of Gregg's classmates laughs about the possible molestation of retarded children.

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