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Ladies and Gentlemen this is Alec why are reconvening the case for comedy. Sir would you please make an opening statement. Comedy isn't just a question you get not being funny like at a party I think you've got to be you've got to be a student of comedy. You know I think you've got to learn by trial and error. You make lots of errors. Leaving. Michigan State University radio presents the comic arts an essay and sound on the humor of our times featuring the comic the humorist the joke writer the clown the Dauntless individuals who work in the world of comedy. To the man in the street through a matter of humor is simply a fact of life. It enjoys a special place in the scheme of things. Somewhere between the Fourth of July and Mom's apple pie. But it's nothing much to worry about and
more or less taken for granted but not by you. Comedian for humor is your line and comedy stuff is your stock in trade when you're in the game full time. Every pro will tell you that the business is pretty rough and you'll need a lot of moxie if you're going to stand the gaff. Comedy comedy is. Question You get not being funny like a party. We get the word from an old time star Harold Lloyd of comedy. And I think you've got to learn by trial and error. And make lots of errors. Believe and you've got to be able to study what people left and what you don't like. You got to know when to let a piece of business be a surprise or whether the people will be letting you know. And you've got to figure so many different things that make people laugh.
And fortunately one thing that I did I was one of the first with how Roche of course to start the previews. It's pretty hard for any manager to judge exactly what's funny. But John marries we call the audience they don't they don't go very far afield. They tell you to quit and if you take a picture out short to them and certain things are not funny to them of course the audiences are not the saviors of your conditions but if they don't laugh you better listen to them and find out what's wrong. As a craftsman of comedy you must know your product well and you learn by trial and error what will or will not sound the funny business in your inventory of jokes. You need intestinal fortitude as Elouise Martin insists
I use little mental tricks of myself and I talk to myself and I think I remember you've got something to tell people it's going to take them out of their troubles it's going to make them live and this stuff is really how are you. And it's like Sophie Tucker said once before he went on one of the therapy are you nervous he says No why should I be nervous if I have good material. I thin the wings are when I'm not covered in the winter but you know what I mean when they found the wings I said to myself remember kid you got the best material available in America today. Now you've got good solid backing behind you and I talk to myself because it takes intestinal fortitude to go out and place not in you go out there and you look at the people who are defying you to amuse them. They are daring you with the challenge come entertain me I dare you. You have got to have intestinal fortitude like something that you can't buy a yardstick and put on your back you get that I have so I keep saying to myself remember kid you got the best material available I have to talk to myself this way I walk right out there and meet that audience and I don't advise a shy person to become a stand up comic believe me.
But basically what you're talking about as far as the intestinal fortitude and the courage to go out and work that audience and talking to yourself is it's a matter of confidence. Absolutely. It's much harder to do comedy than tragedy because there are certain things which are unknown tear jerkers you can play a scene or a cloud of bang you want to have a dry eye in the pipe or guaranteed morning situation but can you remember me anything that is a gun getter. No that's why what we're doing as a couple in a perfectly good day. Believe me down Sam Levinson worked in the classroom before he tried the comedy stage. He knows the facts and figures in the entertainment news. If you ask for his counsel you are in for a bit of a shock. How long the odds are against any performer who hopes to hit the top. Well you have as we pointed out before served the public as both a teacher and as an entertainer. You are still
busy in some senses in most capacities today so a sort of question here that would come from let's say a student to teacher what kind of counseling advice would you give to young performers perhaps in Europe or somewhere within the comic arts aspiring to the type of career at which you have so admirably so well. And I think there were performers 0 people in the show business should know that as far as regards making a living they should know that they odds against success are greater and in all of aspects of theater than in plumbing truck driving Madison or any other feel that the chance of ever achieving fame are about one in impossibly ten million or something like that or maybe more than that. I don't advise anybody to you know to buy a pair of new shoes and go move into Greenwich Village and go looking for it. I think that if a boy has the kind of humor that will make him a
comedian it will have been noticed by this time in his private life if people will stop and listen anxiously to his jokes. He's got a good stock. But if you think you're going to go to school and learn to be such a thing. I don't think you're going to get very far. The same goes for musical ability theatrical ability there's something about a talented person that makes people stop in their tracks and turn around and say just a minute stop whatever they're doing to hear what it is that's going on here. If you're honestly fear that people have turned around so many times to see what is this man saying a lot is he doing or wondering at what this special ability that you have is it's in the fraternity guys or whatever it is. If six people are gathered every night to listen to you you've got something you can always open up a box office that's right. You did then you got something. But if you find that they have it and you're out Iraq you should do something else.
It's basically the old story that got a mousetrap people going a bit away to you if you have something if you have something whatever it is. You can develop that talent. I would urge people who have ability to study but are also Origen nobody to go in to quote show biz because it's a glamorous business. It is anything but a glamorous business. You and I are sitting in a hotel room talking about nothing glamorous about this. We are just talking to each other. This is repeated on the road no interviews taking place there are hotel rooms and trains. And audiences and for tea and less. You are welcomed on that stage every time you walk on. You're in big trouble. You are in big trouble and you know it when you're welcome. You can hear the audience breathe when you walk out on stage. If they believe in you. If they know you've got something there's something alive. If you doubt it then the audience doubts it.
It's better to you know like something about automobile McDuck because. And once you ascend to a big time spot you have got to deliver the goods. Here again you need some luck. You are confronting enormous I'm very fortunate. Much as we are working in one of the largest economic shock McCain the largest television area in the country and that's in New York City and we've been here for eight years we've done a lot of network shows also with Steve Allen and I just finished the run with Gary Moore I did that I was a regular on Gary's show and unfortunately that is a perfect example. We can go out here locally and bomb you know one to two days and then the other three days or less we might do great and then maybe Friday would do it so you know maybe in the middle of the road and the audience will stick with us because it's a liberal show and Monday we can do great again. I do that so good when I do great and there is a
bomb again. You know but I'm a network show. We have got a hundred two hundred fifty thousand dollar budget and you're really up against the big guns on opposite stations and there are looking at ratings and Nielsen's and I have a drugs and what have you and points. You're in big trouble if you have points who have been and it's unfortunate So there's no room to experiment on a network show. You had better be good or else. That's how you know and that's what happened on the Gary Moore Show. The ratings slipped the panic button was pressed in and everybody went off in every other direction and they started changing their ideas and things around and it's unfortunate that in network television today you can't experiment anymore you have to do the experimentation on a local basis and that's what we're doing to get another slant on the professional side of humor.
We talked with handy young men gang of the one liners. You're a veteran comedian you're well established that this with many years of experience and success be hanged you what comments you have about the new generation of comics trying to work their way up in entertainment feel right up on and I don't know whether going to practice and have no place to be loud is a kind of truth you know to find out I go to bat and say tough I would advise anybody on opposite about it and that's the end of watch and you know you get the job she got online and we got to do it and we got a test and we got to get an agent. You got to get the jobs and you got to get another job and you got to have someone to believe you have a very rough business for anybody going to say. Back in the early days Harold Lloyd recalls physical hazards were just part of the job and the movie company lines silent screen comedians to question the many false wore special protective pants in very basic place you had a
lot of. But they were mostly my new ones and I had a fire engine. Funny you were jumping on the back end of it I was trying to get someplace and save the girl Mary. I got a hold of the hole and the hole started on real. I was trying to pull it faces I couldn't keep up with it and losing ground in a funny parallel with the ground. Somebody had fastened the hose on all the coupling and hit me in the head and of course knocked me out the way I wrongly could very badly. But one thing I remember about somebody when it came to how you feel hero I got along without it. It was like
oh you know I need to get a bump on you back. We used to wear what we call pay as we call them that really fit and they were most helpful by all coming forward. So the pads are now a thing of the past. But the business of comedy is still pretty tough. Fame is fleeting. Fortune is fickle and the competition is rough. As a comedy professional you live with this as you continue working. You make the rounds and play the shows. I hope the people keep on laughing. Warm thanks to our good humored guests. Harold Lloyd Eloise Martin Sam Levenson Jack McGann and any young man portions of this program were
prerecorded. This is al la gloire. I'll be back on the next program with an inside look at the comedy script and another seminar on the comic arts. The comic arts series with al the wire is produced by Michigan State University Radio in cooperation with the humor societies of America program consultant George Q. Lewis the music by Jerry Tillman. Your announcer can be charter. For. This program was distributed by the national educational radio network.
The comic arts
Episode Number
Episode 5 of 13
Producing Organization
Michigan State University
WKAR (Radio/television station : East Lansing, Mich.)
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Series Description
For series info, see Item 3293. This prog.: Harold Lloyd, Eloise Martin, Sam Levinson, Chuck McCann, Henny Youngman.
Media type
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Producing Organization: Michigan State University
Producing Organization: WKAR (Radio/television station : East Lansing, Mich.)
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-12-5 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:14:31
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Chicago: “The comic arts; Episode 5 of 13,” 1968-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 16, 2024,
MLA: “The comic arts; Episode 5 of 13.” 1968-01-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 16, 2024. <>.
APA: The comic arts; Episode 5 of 13. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from