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Comedy Etc: Silver Lake
What does it mean when someone says your timing is off? Tonight material that always works fell flat. And I started to wonder why. It may have been the same material I always do, but it wasn't in the same order. It wasn't delivered with the same subtle inflections. I didn't deliver it remotely close to the manner I usually do. At one point my dad dying of stage four cancer got a sympathy applause break. Talk bout throwing the audience for a loop. I've had sympathy laughter before; I have never had a sympathy applause break. On the drive home I realized the cadence was wrong. There's a reason I sometimes will work in a story with a long set up. I used to think it was to get the audience to practice listening. Tonight I realized I use long stories to intentionally change the cadence of the delivery.
The longer stories my setups are more detailed. More intricate. And therefore the picture they paint is much more deeply contrasted against the punchline. Normally my material is so quick the space between set up and punchline is so small it's easy to miss. When your material is that quick, delivery is even more important. The cadence has to have a poetic sense to it. If you deliver it too quickly, the punchline and set up become the same thing. This will throw the audience off.
The difference between the setup and the punch has to at least be felt, so the audience feels like it's riding on a steady stream of ocean waves. Some people call that timing. It's more like the meter and beat of poetry. If the set ups and punchlines start to create a random rhythm, it almost feels like you are suggesting the audience laugh at the wrong time. That will make the audience start to doubt their roll and in turn make you doubt yours. Comedy must have a very clear cadence. There has to be a change in your delivery between the setup and the punch. It can be subtle. It can be overt. But it needs to be there, otherwise the audience will become a group of rhythmless bystanders clapping to the wrong beat.
Posted September 10, 2012 by Shayne Michael under Timing / Accessed 17665 times.