Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Making the audience laugh

by Professor Wagstaff
A few years back I went to to a local theatre to see Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau in two 'Pink Panther' films from the 1970s (Return of the Pink Panther & Revenge of the Pink Panther). Something happened during this screening that I haven't experienced in a cinema before or since. The moment that Sellers appeared on the screen as Clouseau the audience started cracking up... even before his character had done anything funny (something he did plenty of in both films).

It's the only time I've seen this audience reaction in a cinema and it's a massive advantage for a film comedy to possess - to have a comic character who audiences inherently perceive as funny even without him/her attempting to be funny. Obviously in the situtaion I saw it a large portion of the audience knew of the Inspector Clouseau character very well but it was a tribute to Sellers and director Blake Edwards that he'd become so highly regarded in this manner. (Regrettably Edwards began over-exploiting this potential with his desperate attempts to create more Clouseau films post Sellers' death in the 1980s and beyond but that's another story).

Has anyone else had similar experiences where cinema audiences they've been in have automatically found particular characters or actors funny no matter what they did in a movie?


Blogger Jackrabbit Slim said...

I've seen that in screenings of old-time comedians like Chaplin, Keaton, Laurel and Hardy, The Marx Brothers, etc. Their comic personas have become such icons that just seeing them triggers the effect that you know they will be doing something funny.

6/27/2006 10:09:00 AM  
Blogger Count Olaf said...

Sort of on topic, but with Pirates coming up I have a story to regale you all with about my screening of the first movie.

My sister and I went to see it the day after it opened (a Thursday, I think) and the theater was well packed. We didn't know what to expect (no one did...what movie based on a ride had ever been successful?) Anyway, when Johnny Depp appeared onscreen and you came to the slow realization that his ship is sinking, a slow snicker started in the crowd. It gained to laughter and then uproarious as he nonchalantly would look at other people as if he was sailing normally. When he finally stepped off onto the dock in one fluid motion as his boat sank at last the entire audience was laughing/cheering/clapping as if the greatest adventure hero had just walked on stage.

From that point on Jack Sparrow could do no wrong and I was involved in one of my rare great movie-going experiences where it's a joy to be a part of the audience having a good time.

6/27/2006 11:32:00 AM  

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