The Complications of Comedy

Jan 15, 2014

Jenny Leona and Jeff McCarthy in the Hartford Stage Production of "The Underpants"
Credit T. Charles Erickson / Press Photo from Hartford Stage Photo Archive

Dying is easy, comedy is hard. But, why is comedy so hard, especially on the stage, and what makes something funny?

The premise for a famously funny plot could easily sound like a tragedy.  An out of work actor is so desperate for employment that he dresses up like a woman and then falls in love with a beautiful co-star whom he deceives and betrays on several levels. That doesn't sound that hilarious. 

And, speaking of dressing up as a woman, the guys in "Some Like It Hot" have witnessed the Valentine's Day Massacre and now thing they're going to be murdered by the mob.  Hilarious right, but it is.

How about the one where the people don't understand they're dealing with a dangerous leopard escaped from the zoo. 

So, what makes something funny? 

It's our different set of sensibilities writers and actors bring to that same material. We'll talk to some very adept practitioners about that.

Dying is easy, comedy is hard. But, why is comedy so hard, especially on the stage. 

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  • Mike Reiss is a comedy writer and producer for "The Simpsons," co-creator of "The Critic," and a contributor to many screenplays. His plays include "I'm Connecticut" and "Rubble"
  • Heidi Schreck is a playwright whose new play, "The Consultant," is at Long Wharf Theater through February 9
  • Burke Moses is a stage, film, and television actor currently performing in Hartford Stage’s "The Underpants," a Steve Martin adaptation from the play by Carl Sternheim that runs until February 9
  • Didi Conn is a stage, film, and television actress also performing in the Hartford Stage production of "The Underpants"