The Nose: Why We Love It When Actors Break Character

Oct 18, 2013

Jacques Lamarre talked about Oreos and other foods of obsession on today's Nose.
Credit Chion Wolf

A popular video this week was a highlight reel of Stephen Colbert being unable to stay in character as a pompous, self-pleased right wing blowhard. Instead, Colbert is swept up in the hilarity of the material. One of his adorable tricks is to hide the lower half of his face behind something, allowing us to see only his laughing eyes.

It's called breaking character, and it usually involves laughter, but not always. Sometimes there's a person in a theater audience who's doing something so disruptive that an actor has no choice but to go off script and deal with it.

Mostly, we love it when performers break character, but there are attendant hazards. Jimmy Fallon was criticized by other performers who said his frequent SNL crack-ups (known in the business as "corpsing") because they took the focus off the script and other players. That's just one of our topics today on The Nose. 


  • Jacques Lamarre - Director of Communications, Mark Twain House
  • Irene Papoulis - Professor, Trinity College
  • Rand Richards Cooper - Restaurant Critic / Essayist

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