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Table of Contents

Title Page
Copvright Page




1) Conflict:

2) Comedic technique:
3) Commitment:

4) Character:


The Eight Characters of Comedy



About the Author

Praise for Scott Sedita and "The Eight Characters of Comedy"

"Scott Sedita is a comedic genius when it comes to teaching actors what it tak2s to understand the theory, techniques and
fundamentals of breaking down the basic characteristics of comedy. "
-Mara Santino, Agent, Kazarian-Spencer & Associates

"This will be another bible for actors as they are preparing for auditions and creating a comedic character. It will help them to keep
focus on what each of the Eight Characters wants and needs in order to stay true to the parameters of the character they have
chosen. ... I insist that all of the actors who study with me tak2 Scott's one-day comedy intensive class, and now I will have to insist
they have this book. "
-Judy Kerr, Sitcom Dialogue Coach

"In his new book, Scott Sedita has dissected comedy archetypes in a way that is revolutionary, insightful and great fun to read. This
secret weapon should be part of any aspiring actor's or writer's arsenal. "
-Jed Seidel, Writer, Executive Producer

"IJt sitcom casting, the guy who gets the most laughs wins. Understanding how to build realistic, complex, yet fUI!J!)I characters is vital
to getting those critical laughs in the room. Scott's unique and fascinating book is a fun starting point for any actor or writer hoping
to break into comedy. "
-Patrick Boca, Board ofGovernors, Casting Society ofAmerica

"Nobody has given me more confidence when it comes to comedy than Scott. He is THE 'must-see' comedy coach, and this is THE
'must-read' comedy book. "
Jennifer Finnigan, Actor (Committed, Close to Home)

House Built on Sand Will Not Stand. ' And that's what Scott Sedita's 'Eight Characters of Comedy' gives the actor: a rock-The
Character-<15 the foundation for a great performance. As Scott dissects the core building blocks inherent in each character, he allows
the actor to completely free himself to create a spontaneous, free-form and truthful portrayal. And, as most 'insiders' know, truth
makes the ultimate comedy. "
-Peter Kluge, CEO, Impact Artists Group


"With his 'Eight Characters of Comedy, ' Scott Sedita shows why he is a top comedy coach. His informative and unique approach
serves as a blue-print for actors who want to understand half hour television and what it takes to become a sitcom star. "
-Stew Strunk & Tracy Steinsapir, Presidents,
Main Title Entertainment

"A clear technique for mastering comedy. This book is for the actor who wants to understand how to deliver a professional comedy
performance. "
-Steven Nash, Arts and Letters Management



Scott Sedita

Atldes Publishing Los Angeles, Cal ifornia

The Iight Characters of Comedy

A Guide to Sitcom Acting and Writing

by Scott Sedita
Published by:
Atides Publishing

526 N. Larchmont Blvd.

Los Angeles, CA 90004, USA
Copyright 2006 by Scott Sedita
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, graphic, electronic or
mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping or information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the
ISBN: 0-9 770641-0-7
Library of Congress Control )lumber: 2005931094
Cover design: Jim Suthers
Interior design: Paul Tanck
First printing: 2006
Printed in the United States of America

In Loving Memory Of ...

My Mother Doris
A single mother of three boys, she worked 12 hours a day
and so sitcoms became my babysitter. She'd always joke,
..Some day, you'll tum into a sitcom.~

First of all, I would like to thank fellow sitcom aficionado Jim M artyka for his dedication to helping me research, edit and
self-publish this book. I would also like to thank my good friend Frank Salamone for his countless copy edits and words of
encouragement. Also, I would like to thank my mentor, Judy Kerr, for her support, guidance and help throughout this process.
Special thanks to all the teachers at Scott Sedita Acting Studios for helping to make the studio the success that it is: Scott Tiler,
Jorge Luis Pallo, Patrick Munoz, Andy Mower and, especially, my funny wingman Todd Rohrbacher and my equally funny
wingwoman Kathryn Schorr.
I would like to thank my .,immediate family" for being a real life sitcom: my mother Doris, my father Chuck, Helen, Peter, Guy,
Samantha and Van.
I also would like to thank my ''family of friends" for all their love, support and humor: Nicholas Proietti (for his patience and
understanding), Rob Lotterstein, Ed Fitz, Patrick Baca, Ellen Pittleman, Phil Oster, Jed Seidel, Tony Wisniewski, Claes Lilja and
everyone else I might be forgetting. Sorry.
Finally, my sincere gratitude goes to all of my students who inspire me and challenge me day in and day out to become a better
teacher, a funnier person and a more creative human being. You all make me proud, make me laugh and make me remember why
I'm doing this in the first place.
One last heartfelt thanks needs to go out to all those wonderfully talented actors and writers that have made generations laugh
in the beautiful medium of situation comedy. Thank you all so much.

I'm coming out of the closet.
For the past twenty years of my career, I've had a secret, a secret that I was afraid to reveal for fear of being shamed, ridiculed
and mocked b y my peers. And today the stakes are higher than ever. For I have earned the reputation as one of L.A.'s most
well-respected Acting Coaches (hey, it's what my bio says). And now, I risk everything.
Okay, here it goes (deep breath).
For many years, actors have asked me "Scott, who are your favorite actors?" I would throw my arms up and proclaim, "Meryl
Streep, AI Pacino, Anthony Hopkins, Julianne M oore, of course! " And that is the truth; they are my favorite actors. But the
"other" truth is that I have not been completely, uhh ... truthful. You see there is another part of me, dare I say, which I have kept
secret. But no more! Today, when actors ask me that same question, I now throw my arms up, hold my head up high and proudly
proclaim, ''Bea Arthur! Kelsey Grammer! Jackie Gleason! Megan Mullally! The cast of ' Friends! '"
(Sigh) ... Oh, how good it feels to finally admit that.
I am no longer afraid! I love these actors-these sitcom actors! For these performers are equally brilliant in their medium as
any of those acclaimed, award-winning dramatic fihn actors. Yes, I know it's apples and oranges, but these apples are just as
beautiful and delicious as those oranges. And it's about time they got their due.
This book is a guide, or a ''How To" if you will, for sitcom acting. But it is also a celebration of these increchbly skilled actors. It
is for the Lucille Balls, the Carroll O 'Connors, the Roseannes, the Jason Alexanders, the Sean Hayeses, the Elizabeth
Montgomerys and those great ensemble casts like "Cheers," "MASH" and "Taxi." It is for the writers that brought us "Frasier,"
"Seinfeld," "Everybody Loves Raymond" and all those other shows we can' t live without. It is for anybody who has made us
laugh over the years, those who continue to make us laugh today and those who will make us laugh tomorrow.
I have a great respect for the work of sitcom actors. They are brilliant in their work, their craft, their art form. But no one in the
business really talks about those actors who we let into our home day after day, week after week in the same breath as classic
fihn actors. Oh, we all love them and they make us laugh, but when asked who our favorite actors are, we suddenly become
elitists. I'm not saying they don't get their recognition, their awards and their big bucks (just ask the cast of "Friends) . But
sometimes, I think they don't really get the respect they are due.
There is a specific craft to sitcom acting. It comes with its own rhythm, its own techniques, its own set of rules. And the truth is
it may be harder and more challenging than dramatic acting. Don't misunderstand, good acting is good acting. In order to be a
successful working actor, you need to be well-trained. But sitcom acting stands alone for many reasons that you'll discover when
reading this book.
How do I know? Well, it's an educated opinion that has formed over many years as an actor, writer, agent, casting director
and acting coach. I have seen first hand the anatomy of a sitcom. Beyond writing half hour comedy scripts myself, I have worked
with very successful writers and show-runners. I have sat at writing tables to see how storylines are developed, how jokes are
created and how "timing is everything!"
As a former agent, I have placed actors on a variety of sitcoms. As an acting coach, I have worked with a number of series

regulars, guest stars and co-stars. Plus, I spent many hours, days, weeks, months and years of my life watching sitcoms. I am a
living, breathing sitcom connoisseur with a collection of TV Guides dating back to the 1960s in my garage to prove it.
Most important, I have seen how the success of a good sitcom depends on 'character." I have learned that comedy should not
only come from the jokes, but also from character." Defining a specific character and having them interact with other specific
characters, creating conflict, is essential for any good sitcom.
The art of sitcom acting and writing has become the object of my fascination-especially the characters. I have fallen in love
\\~th the bumbling, stumbling loser who never gives up his dream, the sarcastic \\~e who holds it all together, the high-strung
neurotic who thinks too much, the cynical and bitchy servant who is frustrated with life, the sweetly, naive overgrown child, the
sexy flirt, the pampered princess and that wacky, odd, eccentric neighbor. I have learned how these characters work, how they
bring life to the show, how they bring viewers back week after week and how they keep the sitcom side of the television industry
I have also discovered these classic characters have been around since the advent of the sitcom. While each and every actor in
sitcom history brings originality to their roles, I have noticed similarities in overall character personalities, traits, plotlines and even
the jokes they deliver. I have great admiration for sitcom writers and am in no way trying to diminish their Wlique, individual work
by 'stereotyping" the memorable characters they've written. But I've noticed that there is a definite pattern when it comes to
characterizations. Tbis is a pattern that has proven to be successful in making generations laugh.
It is these character archetypes, The Eight Characters of Comedy, that are the main subject of this book. I didn't create these
characters-1t was many years worth of gifted sitcom actors, writers, producers, directors, makeup artists and costume designers
that brought them to life. But what I have been able to do is identify them and their personalities. Tbis character breakdown makes
it easier for actors to distinguish who they are and how to play them, whether in an audition, in a classroom or on a sitcom.
Tbis book is a teaching guide for any actor, writer or student of comedy looking to make their mark in the world of half hour
television. While I touch on sitcom history and technique, the main focus is on characters and the funny actors who play them. It is
a very specific character analysis, complete \vith personality traits, character histories, physicalities and anything else an actor
needs to play a sitcom character.
In this book, you'll learn how to break down a comedy script, how to identify and deliver jokes and, most importantly, how to
incorporate The Eight Characters of Comedy into your work. Tbis \vill help you find your ..comedic note," which in turn \vill help
you market yourself and succeed in this competitive industry.
Tbis book is a collection of the many things I have learned over several years of experience in the half hour business, my
interactions \vith successful, accomplished actors, writers, directors and producers, my teachings and my endless hours spent in
front of the television.
Beyond that, ..The Eight Characters of Comedy" is a celebration of this industry, these wonderful characters and all the brilliant
sitcom actors we have seen over the years ... and those that are waiting to emerge.

Scott Sedita

P.S . As much as this book is geared toward the actor, I would like to invite new sitcom writers along for the ride. This book is
really as much about writing as it is about acting. This guide is beneficial to all the writers out there, writing those endless,
exhausting comedy spec scripts to land a job on the next 'Will & Grace," "Two and a Half Men," "Scrubs," "Entourage" or even
a "dramedy" like "Desperate House\vives." You will learn how to write half hour jokes, how to implement age-tested comedic
techniques and, most important, how to write characters and characterizations that will help you achieve your goal of creating a
sitcom \vith staying power. As much as the word "actor" appears in this book, know that all of this material applies to you writers
as well.

"Dying is easy. Comedy is hard."
Old adage, but so true. But the real question is, are you f unny? Can you be funny? Can you do half hour comedy? Do you
have what it takes to create a character, follow the half hour comedic formula and make casting directors, writers, directors,
producers and audiences laugh and love you? N ot everybody can. Why? Because this thing called comedy is a lot harder than it
Sitcom acting-being funny--1s not just about performing jokes in front of multiple cameras. There's a lot more to it. The
world of half hour comedy is incredibly fast-paced (more so than fihn). It comes with its own set of rules, its own techniques, its
own rhythm. And guess whose job it is to get a grasp of this very specific half hour format. That's right. Yours!
This comedic formula has been passed down from generation to generation, and it's up to the well-trained actor and writer to
not only be able to recognize it, but also follow it to the letter and make it funny. Sitcom acting requires training in a very specific
technique. It requires you to be energetic, to always be funny, and to commit to the character, the dialogue, the jokes and the
interaction with other characters.
Are you scared yet? Don' t worry. If you are funny, if you are disciplined and if you practice, practice, practice, you can work
in this high-pressure, but incredibly rewarding business. And I can help you.
So, first things first. Do you have a sense of humor? It's actually a serious question. The first step to being a successful sitcom
actor is ha-ving an innate ability to be funny, to have a sense of humor about yourself and to find the comedy in everyday life. As an
acting coach, I cannot teach someone to act if they are not born to act. N o acting coach can. I call this innate ability the Acting
Gene. And yes, I know it's not ''technically" a gene, but rather, it's your inborn, intuitive ability to act or to pretend. And a good
acting coach can help you tap into this gene, discover (and uncover) your gift and teach you techniques that will help you access
your emotions and your imagination.
Comedy is no <iliferent. To the left of the Acting Gene is the Funny Gene (yeah, another made up word). If you have the
innate ability to be funny (Funny Gene), no matter how developed it is, I can teach you to do comedy. It's like any other skill or
craft. You need to have a physical gift to play basketball, a good ear to play the violin or a keen mind to be a mathematician. You
need to have the Funny Gene in order to do half hour comedy. And if you do, I can teach you what you need to make it as a
sitcom actor.
So, buckle up. Here we go, into the world ofhalfhour comedy and into your future career.


Comedy comes from a few different places (some of which may surprise you). As I just mentioned, in order to be funny you
must tap into your Funny Gene. And where does your Funny Gene come from? It didn't start "~th you. Trust me, you inherited
your sense of humor from either your mother' s side of the family, your father's side or both. Or, if you can't look back into your
biological family history, look to your environment (your upbringing), which also plays a major role. But more on that later.
Whether your sense of humor was inherited or comes from your environment or both, it all starts with family.
So look to the family that raised you. Is your mother funny? Is your mother's mother funny? Is your father funny? Is your
father's father funny? Do you have a great aunt with a wicked sense ofhumor? Do you have a cousin who likes to play practical
jokes? Do you have a flamboyantly bitchy uncle?
Who made y ou laugh? If s important to know. Because f unny begins with your family and it goes back generations. But what
is the primary source of their humor? Where does it all ultimately start?
Well, comedy starts with pain. That's right, comedy comes from conflict, oppression, repression and persecution. It comes
from unadulterated, horrific pain. And this pain is often played out through desperation. Good comedy is somebody desperately
trying to overcome odds, make their dreams come true, see their big ideas succeed, find the perfect mate, etc. If s about a
character's desperate attempts to get what they want And what makes this even funnier is that they n ever get what they want
(in fact, you'lllearn in a later chapter that this comedic desperation is a defining characteristic for one of The Eight Characters of
Comedy) .
So, comedy comes from pain and desperation?
It is a fact that many of yesterday and today' s top comedians and comedy writers come from generations of disenfranchised
and persecuted people, be it for their cultural differences, beliefs, philosophies, whatever. The history of the world is made up of
groups of people who have faced oppression at some point in time. And one way to deal with it is with a strong sense of humor.
The idea is either die or you laugh about it." They could have chosen to be miserable and depressed about their
situation-their individual and ancestral experiences (some have and continue to do so). But others chose to find the humor in
their hardship. This can be said for any group of people that's faced generational oppression and persecution. Every race and
culture has something painful in their ancestry that can be tapped for comedy.
But our sense of humor doesn't just come from our ancestral pain. It also comes from the pain we experience on a daily basis,
going all the way back to our childhoods. Our individual sense of humor comes from our environment, our upbringing and our
personal experiences. All of these play a major factor in how we perceive life, death, family, society, ourselves ... all of those
wondetful comedic topics.

Growing up, I had two parents who were funny. I had a mother who was smart and sarcastic and a father who was kind of a
lovable loser. Before they were divorced--the second time that is-I remember them constantly arguing. It wasn' t funny to me as
a child, but looking back now as an adult, it's hystericaL
If! were pitching this to a network, I would say my childhood was kind of a cross between "Maude" and ''Everybody Loves
Raymond." It was at times tumultuous, but there was always humor. At no time was this more evident then it was during the
holidays. Ahh yes, those wonderful holidays!
In my family, Thanksgi\mg and football did not go hand in hand. One Thanksgi\>ing, my Dad, once again going against my
M om's very strong wishes, not only insisted upon watching the football game but actually rolled the TV set into the dining room!
Upon seeing the TV, my mother got so upset that she hurled the whole cooked turkey across the dining room, breaking it into
pieces. My father's response?
"Well, at least now I don't have to carve it."
Funny. But it came out of pain ... my M om's pain, my Dad's pain and my pain (the hungry participant, observer and future
storyteller). My parents were characters and they helped me form my own sarcastic sense of humor. Tbis became my weapon,
my way of dealing with my pain, and it was formed b y my upbringing and my environment
Think of your own life. What's funny about it? What about your childhood was funny? What's funny about your life now? Who
in your family is funny? Who in your family of friends is funny? Combine all of that with a Funny Gene, some ancestral and
personal pain, and you have your sense of humor.
You also have the source of where all half hour comedies begin...


So now that we know that comedy comes from some tembly depressing places, let' s see how that translates into the sitcoms
you're watching on TV today.
It all goes back to vaudeville. Situation comedy first emerged in its most basic form in the old vaudeville acts that were played a
lot differently than theatrical comedies of the time. Without going too much into the history of comedy, early vaudeville acts and
stand-ups (like Fanny Brice, Milton Eerie, Jack Benny, Bums & Allen, etc.) developed classic set up/punchline jokes, slapstick
humor and snappy, witty dialogue that touched on a number of topics including love, life and all those miserable things we just
discussed (pain, oppression).
There was a certain art form to the set up/punchline joke, the dialogue and techniques used in these vaudeville shows and later
b y comics and stand-up acts found in N ew York' s Catskills circuit. And these acts were so immensely popular that they carried
over into radio when that became the new entertainment standard.
Radio shows like ..Amos & Andy," ''T he Bums & Allen Show," 'The Adventures ofOzzie & Harriet," ..Life of Riley" and ..My
Favorite Husband," starring Lucille Ball, are considered the forerunners of sitcoms. Using simple but effective plots, a wide range
of funny characters and specific techniques designed to get a lot of laughs, these radio shows had listeners planning their dinners
around them, much like popular TV sitcoms today-unless you have TiVo.
These shows and many others like them were produced and sponsored b y advertisers, who required a certain amount of time
in each show to sell their products. Therefore, radio writers at the time had to be inventive. In order to work around sponsors'
co=ercials, they had to come up with an engaging, funny, short story with interesting characters and universal appeal in a limited
amount of time.
So when TV made its move as the entertainment medium, studios took these types of shows and turned them into televised
sitcoms. They adapted a similar formula to work \vithin a 30-minute format, 22 minutes of story, eight minutes of co=ercials.
And this basic format is still used today.

Story (Teaser I Cold Open)

End of story
With the visual medium of television quickly gaining popularity in households across America, the trick for early comedy
writers and producers was finding faces to match their characters. Plus, they had to find jokes, storylines and plots that people
could Wliversally identify \vith and, more importantly, find funny. Those struggles continue today.
From the dawn of television to today, I believe most sitcoms are based on the idea of fa.mily. "What kind of family? Well,
whether it's one's relatives or group of friends, it's a ''family" that loves each other, has conflict \vith each other and experiences
the joy, pain and everything else life has to offer \\~th each other.
And every family has different personalities \\~thin its structure. There are maternal ones, cynical ones, naive ones, spoiled ones,
controlling ones and just plain odd ones. And sitcoms are no different. It is said that many of our television dramas hold a mirror
up to everyday life. Well, sitcoms also hold a mirror up, but at an angle so it appears funny. And most of that "funny" comes from
a skewed look at life \vithin a family.
Situation comedies are essentially comprised of two sets offamilies, an immediate family and a family of friends, and the
funny situations they get themselves into and out of week after week.
From early tele,~sion on, you 'vill see immediate families-the mother, the father, the kids-\vith clearly defined roles (think
"According to Jim) . And many times you'll see immediate families \vith certain roles reversed (think of the family dynamic in
'T wo and a Half Men"). And you \vill always see a family of friends, where these traditional family roles are taken on b y friends,
roo=ates, neighbors, co-workers, etc. (think "Friends"). You \vill see variations on these themes in all shows dating back to the
advent of television.
In the early 1950s, when TV sitcoms still had their training wheels on, they introduced these two types of families. The
immediate families were featured in shows like "Father Knows Best," 'The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet," "Make Room For
Daddy," "Leave it to Beaver" and 'The Donna Reed Show." They made cute, simple humor out of everyday situations in what
was considered the "normal" household_ These shows had a patriarchal figure, a smart and patient \We and mother and innocent
yet precocious children.
The family of friends shows at the time had similar dynamics, taking the immediate family and moving it into a group of friends.
And sometimes the roles were reversed_ The patriarch became the child, and the logical, smart \We and mother became the
endearing loser. Think of casts like Ralph, Alice, N orton and Trixie in 'The Honeymooners" and of course, Lucy, Ricky, Fred
and Ethel in '1 Love Lucy."
In the 1960s, the family theme remained strong. But mirroring the turmoil of the decade, the concept offamily took a more
realistic nvist. Sitcoms opened up to different types of families. Shows like 'The Andy Griffith Show," "My Three Sons" and 'The
Courtship of Eddie' s Father" featured a \vidower. 'The Brady Bunch" featured stepchildren. "Julia" featured a black, single

Some writers gave the concept of family a fish out of water twist with shows like Green Acres" and 'The Beverly Hillbillies."
These shows took inunediate families and placed them in wmsual environments to add to the overall humor.
And some gave the concept a more ''fantastical" twist Remember, this is the decade that gave us ''Bewitched," 'The Addams
Family," 'The Munsters," 'The Ghost and Mrs. Muir" and My Favorite M artian."
There were also family of friends shows, and even these had twists. ''Gilligan's Island" had a cast on a deserted island,
McHale's N avy" set the cast on a warship, 'The Flying Nun" was set in a convent, ''Get Smart" put them in the world of
espionage and ''Hogan' s Heroes" featured a cast in a concentration camp (of all places) .
The family theme continued into the 1970s, where the subjects of politics, race, religion and even sex were brought up not just
at the dinner table, but also on television. And there is one show to thank-one that never held back from hitting the issues of
the day- N orman Lear's ''All in the Family." This revolutionary comedy about a family headed b y a bigoted, yet loving, father is
still one of the most popular and controversial shows ever made and one that epitomized the changing times at home, in society
and in half hour comedy.
Other shows of the time also broached touchy subjects within their storylines including; "Maude"(abortion), ''Good Times"
(struggles of a poor black family), 'The Jeffersons" (inter-racial marriage), "Soap" (homosexuality) and even 'Three's Company"
The family of friends shows also boomed with hits like 'The Odd Couple," ''Happy Days," Laverne & Shirley," Welcome
Back, Kotter" and Mork & Mindy." These families of friends also moved into Workplace sitcoms like 'The M ary Tyler M oore
Show" (a news-room), Barney Miller" (a police squad room), 'Taxr (a garage), "WKRP in Cincinnafl~ (a radio station) and
"MASH" (a war).
Continuing the trend of provocative 1970 's shows, the sitcom family in the 1980s became smarter, bolder and more truthfuL
Storylines, dialogue, characterizations and acting styles became less exaggerated and more realistic. Shows like "Roseanne," 'The
Cosby Show," "Family Ties" and "Growing Pains" put the emphasis back on the inunediate family and the issues at home. They
dealt a little more with the real struggles of the everyday family.
N evertheless, the decade did introduce some of the most popular family of friends shows like "Golden Girls," a series about a
group of "mature" women sharing their lives at the kitchen table over a slice of cheesecake. And some of these shows took the
family of friends out of the kitchen and into a bar ('Cheers), a lodge ('N ewhart) , the inner workings of a network news program
("Murphy Brown) and the office of an interior designer ("Designing Women) , just to name a few.
The 1990s made the inunediate family a little more dysfunctional with shows like 'The Simpsons," Married ... With .Children,"
"Everybody Loves Raymond" and "Frasier." But most of the popular shows of the time took a step away from the inunediate
Why? I believe the 90s was a time when Americans questioned and challenged the meaning of family and what makes up a
family. It was a time in life when we as a society seemed to separate ourselves from our inunediate families a little more to
discover who we were as individuals. With emphasis on disenfranchised families, extended families, single-parents and gay
relationships, the idea of"family" took on a broader and deeper meaning. And once again television mirrored this \vith shows like

"Seinfeld," Friends," "Sex and the City" and w ill & Grace." You could say that the family of friends and the immediate family
merged in this decade.
In the new millennium, it looks like the half hour industry is once again trying to redefine itself \\~th shows like "Scrubs,"
"Entourage" and 'A rrested Development." It will be interesting to see what show(s) will define this decade as "All in the Family"
did for the 70s, 'The Cosby Show" did for the 80s, and 'Friends" and "Seinfeld" did for the 90s. Will it be more of an emphasis
on dysfunctional families and individuals like Larry David on "Curb Your Enthusiasm?" Or will sitcoms turn more to single-camera
dramedies like "Desperate Housewives?" We 'll have to see what next pilot season brings.
So now you can see that while the format and general theme has remained the same over the years, plotlines and the styles of
the half hour comedy have gone through (and continue to go through) constant evolutions. But what's certain is that agents,
networks, writers and producers are always scouting for comedic actors to star in that next funny series that's going to make them
millions and live on in syndication.
Like diamonds, some things in the sitcom world are forever. M ore specifically, characters, character plotlines and half hour
comedy teclmiques. Tbis is what we 'll spend the rest of the book exploring, for this is what you need to know to make it in the
half hour industry. N ow that you have at least a partial understanding of where sitcoms come from, I can start sho\ving you what
makes them work and how you can work in them. So, let's start giving you what you need as an actor or a writer b y taking a
look at one of the most important aspects of half hour comedy-Half Hour Technique or what I call, Finding the Funny.



Okay, now that you have a solid grasp on the history of half hour comedy, let's get you ready to do your part so that you can
be the next great sitcom actor.
Your job is twofold. One part is finding your character, which we' ll explore in the next section. But for right now, let's focus on
another important part of the job--half hour comedy technique. Let me say right away that this comedy technique is different
from any other technique that you may have already learned as an actor. Just like any other mediwn, half hour comedy has a
rhythm and a structure that needs to be followed, and as an actor or a writer, it is your responsibility to be familiar with it before
you step into a casting office or a writer's room. So let me show you how you can go about Finding the Funny!

C omedy is all about the rhythm. The first time you read a comedic piece, you instinctually hear a certain rhythm in your head.
And for those of you who watch a lot of sitcoms, you hear it loud and clear. When reading a script or a scene, it is your job not
only to hear the rhythm of the piece that the writers intended, but also be able to perform it exactly as the w riters intended. Of
course, all entertainment writing has some kind of a rhythm, but for comedy to really work, there is a specific kind of rhythm that
you must hear and play to perfection.
One strategy to help you is to think of comedic writing as a good song. W hat makes a good song? A good melody. The
singer's job is to follow the melody as composed. W hen it's sung right, you can tell it's working. But when a novice singer strays
from the melody, there's a good chance they'll ruin the song. Believe it or not, sitcom writing is the same w ay. If it's working, it is
a beautiful (and hilarious) song. Ifit's not, it's like nails on a chalkboard-or one of those painful auditions on "American Idol."
Just as an example, try singing "Happy Birthday," changing the notes in the melody of the song, such as going down on the
'birth" and up on the "day." Sing it out loud. See, it simply doesn't work. The same is true \vith half hour writing.


1. The callback

Sure all you actors know what a callback is in terms ofauditioning. But in the sitcom world, it has another
meaning. A callback is a reference to a joke that happens early in a show. That can mean repeating a bigjoke or
simply referring to apiece of the bigjoke in later jokes or physical actions.

2. The blow or the bufton

A blow or a button is the last joke in the scene. It can either be a piece ofdialogue or a physical action. You will
most definitely find them at the end ofa scene right before a commercial break. That's because each and every
comedic scene ends on a joke. The idea is to keep the audience laughing so they'll come back after the commercial
Your job as an actor is to identify the rhytlun (the melody) in the script and then make it work. How do you do that? By
following the words, the punctuation, the timing and pace and b y hitting the jokes.

The complexity and the great attention to detail in sitcom writing is something that actors new to comedy often take for granted.
They will add words, drop words or just paraphrase. Although there might be more leniency in the world of drama to play with
the dialogue (I don' t recommend it), it CANNOT be done in half hour comedy. There is a simple rule to follow when working
"~th written half hour dialogue: DONT CHANGE A WORD! And if you do change it, you better make it amazing-so amazing
that the writers are actually impressed with what you did. And I can tell you, writers are an obsessive bunch, especially about their
Actors do this all the time, and sometimes they're not even aware of it. They'll add words or " bandies" as they're called in the
industry, thinking they're making the dialogue more conversational, when really they're messing up the rhytlun. The follo\\~g are
the most common words actors will add to the beginning of a sentence:


Or actors will end a sentence with ..... you knowT Or ..... okay?" Or they will breathe heavy, they will throw in a sigh, a laugh,
a chortle, whatever. DON'T DO THAT!

Tbis is not about the writer's ego. It's about the words. The reason the writing needs to be followed word perfect is because of
comedy's distinct and Wlique rhytlun. And that comes partially from the words. Make no mistake, no comedic actor could be
funny if they did-n't have the words. Here's an example of how words make up the rhythm. Please read the following out loud.
PAT: You're the smartest one.

KELLY: No, I'm not.

PAT: Yes you are.
KELLY: No, I'm not.
PAT: Yes, you are.
KELLY: No, I'm not.

PAT: You're right. You're not.
Tbis example is a funny little bit. But what's true about it, is that these words make up a certain rhythm. In this example, you
can hear the rhytlun, can't you? You can hear how the words flow. These specific words are used by the writer to create this
specific rhytlun to make the dialogue the funniest it can be. The words simply make it flow smoothly. Now if we just add one
word to this piece, let's see how it changes the rhytlun and disrupts the flow.
PAT: You're the smartest one.

KELLY: No, I'm not.

PAT: Yes you are.
KELLY: No, really I'm not.
PAT: Yes, you are.
KELLY: No, I'm not.

PAT: You're right. You're not.
Doesn't this just change everything? By simply adding the word "really," you have changed the rhythm of the piece. The
piece no longer flows as smoothly, and therefore, it isn' t as funny. You can't change the words because you'll change the rhythm.
Now let's see what happens when we drop a word.
PAT: You're the smartest one.

KELLY: N o, I'm not.

PAT: Yes you are.
KELLY: I'm not.
PAT: Yes, you are.
KELLY: No, I'm not.
PAT: You're right. You're not.
As with adding a word, dropping a word changes the rhythm completely. Comedy casting directors and writers say that
changing, adding or dropping words is one of their biggest pet peeves. Many actors do it, not knowing how much time and effort
went into plotting out that specific dialogue to make for the best rhythm. Now you know. DON'T ADD, DROP OR CHANGE


Consonants are big in comedy, more specifically hard consonants. For whatever reason, hard consonants like the
letter "K" help to create words that simply sound funny when played out in half hour scripts. The letters "B, " "P, "
"C " and "T" have a similar effect. Check out this example from "Seinfeld" where George Costanza (Jason
Alexander) has something to say about Kramer's (Michael Richards) latest adventure.

GEORGE: Kramer goes to a fantasy camp? His whole life is a fantasy camp! People shouldplunk down $2,000 to
live like him for a week. Sleep, do nothing, fall assbacliwards into money, mooch food offyow neighbors and have
sex without dating ... THAT's a fantasy camp!
Notice the use of the "C" and "K" sounding words (Kramer, camp, plunk, week and asc-backwards)? Even the
choice to use the figwe of $2, 000 (with a "T" sound) is done intentionally to help bring the most comedy to the
Also, in order to make a half how joke work, you often need to emphasize a certain word or words in the set up and
punchline. Sometimes the writer will let you know the correct word to hit (or punch) by underlining it, italicizing it or
putting it in all caps. But mostly, it'll be up to you, the actor to identify and emphasize the right word (the operative
word) to make the joke work. And even though it's yorr who places the emphasis on the word, it's important to let it
always come from yow character.
Here's another example from an episode of "Seinfeld, "where Jeny (Jeny Seinfeld) and Elaine Benes (Julia
Louis-Dreyfus) are arguing over a lingering odor in his car. See ifyou can guess what the operative words (or in this
case, a/etters'} are.
ELAINE: Jeny, it's B.O.

JERRY But the whole car smells.


So when somebody has B.O., the "0" usually stays with the "B." Once the "B" leaves, the "0" goes with it.

Pwtctuation is something else new actors tend to ignore.
KELLY: Follow the punctuation.

PAT: Follow the ... punctuation?

KELLY: Yes. Follow the punctuation.

PAT: The pwtctuation, you want me to follow?

Think of pwtctuation as your roadmap to the script. It helps you merge into the flow of the dialogue smoothly- avoiding a
traffic jam or worse, a crash. Pwtctuation tells you when to stop, when to slow dow n, when to question; everything you need to
make the most out of the words you're reading and to keep with the rhythm of the piece.
Let's start with the obvious, but still one that actors \~olate the most. Pe riods. They are your stop signs, your red lights. When
you see one, you need to come to a complete stop. A period is not only the end of a sentence, but also the end of a thought. As
an actor, when you see a period. stop talking (finish your thought). And then, \vith a new thought, start the next sentence ... even if
it's just a word or two.
Along the same lines is a comma, which can quite simply be thought of as a pause (or a yield) in the middle of a sentence or a
thought, before continuing \vith the same thought. It is not a complete stop like a period. but rather a place where a thought simply
takes a little break, a little pause.
Ellipses ... are used to let a thought trail off ... Many actors ' vill incorrectly use ellipses instead of periods, making their
intention in that dialogue weaker and less committed. Ellipses are used for exiting a thought or as a sign for one actor to .,cut o1I
another actor and interrupt his or her thought ... And that brings us to ...
Questions marks? That's right, question marks; which are only used to ask a question. So don' t put it at the end of a
definitive sentence. Many actors also inadvertently replace periods "~ a question mark; which not only changes the intention of
the line, but also makes the actor sowtd hesitant and wtsure. Also, question marks don't mean that the actor has to put the
inflection on the last word of the sentence. (You know what I meAN?) Question marks are for inquiring and questioning only.

Got it?
Exclamation points! These are used in dialogue to show excitement, anxiety, fear, joy or exasperation! The writer is simply
asking you to exclaim the thought, the sentence, the word. Shout it out! Get excited! Pwtch itl Don't be hesitant! N ow that
doesn't mean going over the top, but \vith the right thought and active intention behind it, a good exclamation can be truthful and
Also, a bolded word. an wtderlined word. an italicized word and a word in ALL CAPS is a notation for you to emphasize
that particular word in your dialogue. The w riter is putting a flag up and telling you that there is a joke present. Whether the word
is in the setup of the joke or in the pwtchline, it is your job to find it and emphasize it in order to keep the rhythm of the piece. Is
that CLEAR?!
Look, I know this all might sowtd obvious, but pwtctuation IS an area that can separate a well-trained actor who wtderstands
comedic rhythm from one who thinks the words are merely a guide. Read this example out loud and watch how the pwtctuation
makes the scene work.
PAT: You're the funniest.

KELLY: Really?
PAT: N o. I just said that to make you feel better.
KELLY: Oh. Thank you?

In this example, you see that Pat is setting up Kelly for a falL And Kelly is falling for it. After Pat jabs Kelly, Kelly's confusion
comes out on the ' Thank you?" The 'Thank you?" implies that Kelly is unsure and questioning Pat's intention. W e lmow all of this
because of the question mark.
Changing or ignoring punctuation can mess up the rhythm as much as adding or dropping w ords. Even worse, it can destroy the
joke. Sometimes changing punctuation changes the entire intention of a scene. And that's disastrous. N ow read this example again
and take out the question mark at the end. W atch how it changes the scene completely.
PAT: You're the funniest.

KELLY: Really?
PAT: N o. I just said that to make you feel better.
KELLY: Oh. Thank you.
See how the rhythm shifts, the scene flattens and the intentions for the character and the scene are completely changed? And
it's less funny. Here, let's try it again, this time taking out the period after "No" and the period after "Oh" as well.
PAT: You're the funniest.

KELLY: Really?
PAT: N o I just said that to make you feel better.
KELLY: Oh thank you?
This doesn't work, does it? B y not playing the periods, it makes the thoughts run together, once again changing the intention,
the rhythm and the humor of the scene. "No" is a separate sentence. It halts the dialogue for the joke and also sets up the next
sentence-the bigger joke. With no period after the "No" there is less bite in Pat's response. The "Oh" is also a separate
sentence that implies Kelly' s confusion. It also sets up the next sentence, the final joke (Thank you?).
The timing changes if you don' t follow the words and the punctuation exactly as they are written. As another quick example,

read this bit and make sure you follow each and every period, comma, ellipsis and question mark. In this example, Pat is showing
Kelly a new painting.
PAT: Do you love it? Do you like it? (THEN) You hate it.

KELLY: No. I don't hate it. I think it's ... interesting.

PAT: Interesting?! Kelly, I'm an artist. I'd rather have you hate it.
KELLY: Okay, I hate it.
N ow read the following and look what happens to the rhythm and the pacing if the punctuation gets changed around.
PAT: Do you love it? Do you like it? (THEN) You hate it?

KELLY: N o I don't hate it, I think it's interesting.

PAT: Interesting. Kelly, I'm an artist I'd rather have you hate it!
KELLY: Okay I hate it.
Ugh, what a mess! The timing, rhythm and intentions are completely off when its read this way and it's not funny. Just as I
emphasized DON'T CHAN GE A WORD, I will once again emphasize FOLLOW THE PUNCTUATION !


When you talk about rhythm, you must also talk about Comedic Timing. Once again, part of it is innate. Some people have
timing down from the moment they are born just as there are those who have a strong sense of rhythm. I think that Comedic
Timing is a molecule within the Funny Gene. If you have it, I can help you access it and hone it. But first, you need to practice it.
So let's assume you have an innate sense of timing. How can you practice it and get it down? First of all, you need to watch
situation comedies and really listen for the various rhythms. Pay close attention to the pace of the dialogue on shows like
"Friends," ''Frasier," "Will & Grace" and "Everybody Loves Raymond." You need to acclimate yourself to the rhythm, the Wlique
pacing of situation comedy. Once you've heard it in your head, it will stay with you.
In addition, follow the words and the punctuation in a script. The writers have pretty much done part of your job for you. As I
said earlier, they can hear the rhythm in their heads and they know how it's supposed to sound. They put it down on paper and all

you have to do is follow it to the letter, staying committed to exactly what they write.
You will often hear acting coaches, directors and writers tell you to do comedy "louder, faster and funnier." And you
should. Remember, situation comedies are not written b y Chekhov; they are not directed b y Ingmar Bergman. There are no long,
unwanted pauses, no deep, dark thoughts and no shots of a deer grazing in a meadow at dusk. Situation comedies are written b y
COMEDY writers, directed b y COMEDY directors-people who understand how to tell a story in 22 minutes with snappy
dialogue, heightened characters, physical humor, quick cuts and, let's not forget; witty; fast-paced jokes. That said, it's important
that you are able to find all of the jokes in each and every script. That will prove to be a lot easier for you once you are familiar
with the concepts of.

The Turnaround


The Turnaround is a comedic technique that comedy writers have used for years: in vaudeville, radio, comedy clubs, fihns and
most predominantly in half hour. Actually, I would say it is THE most used technique for telling a joke on a sitcom. What I've
done is simply identify it and name it. So what is The Turnaround?
Essentially, The Turnaround is a type of joke that requires the actor to say a line with a strong intention and then ''tum around"
and say something completely opposite--and unexpected-\\~th an equally strong intention, thus getting a laugh.
The Turnaround is comprised of two very important elements. The Conviction and The Contraviction. And yes, I'm aware
that ..contraviction" is not a word. But trust me, this is the best way to help explain how to deliver this popular type of sitcom
joke. I also think it's important when talking to actors to use a word like ..conviction," which instills in them that the words they
speak and the actions they perform have strong intentions behind them.
I !ere' s an easy example to start \vith to practice this technique. N ext time you see your best friend, look at his or her shirt and
say, \vith great sincerity ...
I like your shirt. (THEN) But not on you.
This is a classic Turnaround joke and one that I always use in my class. Let me break it down and show you how it works and

Line \: I lilc pmr 'han.

<:4>11\ icti<>n


I. me B: Btu


on you.

( :ontr.1\'icuon

Line A is said to your friend as a compliment and you say it with sincerity: The Conviction. Line B is said to your friend as an
insult and so you say it with ridicule: The Contraviction. Once again, Line A you say with conviction, and Line B with
Contraviction, meaning you go against (contrary to) what you just said with equal conviction. There is something to be said about
the comedic forces of positive and negative. As you can see, Line A is a positive statement, and Line B is negative.

l.onc .\: I like your 'hin.


Lone B: But not on you.

( :om inion


(Til E:-\J

( :ontl":l\' IClH H1

You put these together in any way and you have a joke. Here, let's flip it around.

Line A: I hate your shirt.




Line B: Can I borrow it>



See, it works the same way. Having a positive and negative flow throughout a script not only gives us constant conflict, but it
also makes it funny. All Turnaround jokes are written positive-to-negative or negative-to-positive (no matter how they're

The Turnaround is also about the unexpected. Not only are these two examples funny because you're going against what you
just said, but also because w e, the audience, didn't expect it. We couldn' t predict it. We expected you to continue the thought
pattern, follow ing up your initial positive line of dialogue with another positive line of dialogue or vice versa.
In the Turnaround, between the Conviction I Contraviction, stands the word THEN in parenthesis. What does (THE!\') mean?

(THEN) is the bridge from the Conviction to the Contraviction. On this bridge, you essentially go forward and then do a 180
degree tum and go back. It is the point at which you (in your head) form a completely new thought The (THEN) is the BEAT
that needs to be taken in order to tum around" your thoughts.
Let's talk about the word BEAT, a word I'm sure is familiar to most of you actors. The word BEAT placed in parentheses in
between dialogue was most common!y used over the years and still is, but writers today seem to be spelling it out more clearly for
the actors. It is much more than a physical pause, waiting and holding before saying the next line or performing the next action.
There is a lot that happens in that (BEAT). That's why many writers will now use (THEN), sho\ving how the thought, intention or
attitude actually changes. You say this. (THEN) You say that.
In other words, say this piece of dialogue ...
I like your shirt.
(THEN) Take a beat to change y our thought and say this piece ofdialogue.
But not on you.
On sitcom sets across Hollywood, directors \viii sometimes tell the actor to .,take a beat" Beyond the physical aspect of
holding for a beat, the actor needs to interpret this direction as ..what's the thought?" during that physical hold. What the director
is ultimately asking of you is to hold for a second and then go even further \\~th your thought OR change your thought, thereby
changing your intention and attitude. In this example, it's important to understand that '1like your shirt" is one thought and ''But
not on you" is a completely different thought The (THEN) is the bridge that takes you from one to the other.
Here's another example of a Turnaround joke. For this example, let's say you're talking to two different employees: one you
just hired and one you' re about to fire.

(Talking to new employ ee) You I see a future \vith.


(Talking to old employ ee) You can get lost

What is your intention for each line? What are the thoughts connected to them? What's the change in attitude? It seems like, at
first, you want to excite the new employee. (THEN) You want to crush the old employee. Even though this piece of dialogue is
being said to two different people, it still follows the same rules as the line of dialogue used earlier. With conviction, say the first
line to excite the new employee. (THEN) tum around and crush the old employee \\~than entirely new thought (contraviction).

You I ~e a fumre with.






You c~m get lost Conrra,iction :"\egati\'e

Now you're getting the hang of it. Sometimes, a Tumarowtd can be broken up by another piece of dialogue, as in this example.
Once again, come up with a back story (this one is a little more obvious). Tbis scene takes place right outside Senator Murphy's
office. The receptionist has just introduced Tom to Senator Murphy's new intern. What are Tom's intentions with both lines?
TOM: (To intern) Welcome aboard. Senator Murphy is an honorable woman who only does good for the people.

RECEPTIONIST: She's not in.

TOM: In that case, she's a conniving bitch who only cares about herself.
I bet you've seen this type of dialogue a million times in sitcoms. Notice how sweet Tom is when he thinlcs that Senator
Murphy is in her office. (THEN) notice how he changes his twte the moment he realizes she's not. The (THEN) is still there, but
it's spawned from new information via the receptionist. Tbis changes Tom's thought so that now he can say what he truly feels.
If you're really observant, you might also have noticed that this Turnarowtd in the dialogue was actually broken up into three
parts. Tbis is perhaps the second most common comedic technique writers use in half hour scripts. It's a technique I call Triplets.


When doing situation comedy, always hold for laughs. Remember that what you're doing or saying is going to be
funny (because you and the writers will make it funny). So therefore, whether it's in class, at an audition or in front of
a live studio audience, you need to hold for the laugh. Know where the jokes are and be prepared that the audience
will laugh. What you need to do when you hear that laughter is hold a moment, keeping the thought and intentions in
place until the laughter dies down and then deliver your next line. This way the audience doen 't miss anything.


Triplets are one of a half hour writer's most pow erful weapons. It is a great source of comedy and a technique that is used all
the time. The basic concept behind Triplets is that ..comedv comes in threes." Things that happen in ..threes" are just funny. As an
actor, you need to learn to recognize them in a script.
Triplets are everywhere in half hour comedy. You can find them in w ords, phrases, dialogue from one character, spoken
exchanges between multiple characters and even in physical actions. For you the actor, the first and most important thing you need
to do is to be able to hear it. For a moment, put aside intentions and motivations and let's just listen to the rhythm of a Triplet.
Here's an easy one to start \\~th.
Say the next three w ords out loud and change the inflection UP on the last word.




Righ1. Right.

N ow, there is nothing really funny about these three words, but if you go up on the inflection on the last one, it becomes
different, out of sync and therefore funny to anyone listening. The first two are done the same way to set up the change of
inflection on the third.
N ow let's do it again. Say out loud the first two words the same way, but put the inflection DOWN on the last word.

( I)






B y just looking at these words you can see the birth of a joke. It's humorous simply because it reads odd or different. It's a
simple but effective joke. Here's another example for you to try. This time, all three phrases are the same. But once again, say it
out loud, changing the inflection on the last phrase and follo\\~g the punctuation.

(I )
Oh my God. Oh my God. OH MY GOD!

There is nothing really funny about this phrase, but we decide to twist it a little and change the inflection. If you merge that
inflection with a real honest intention, you've got comedy. This happens all the time in situation comedy.
The other reason the Triplet works is because of the predictability factor (the unexpected I referred to in the Turnaround
section). The idea once again is that comedy simply works when it comes in threes. A character will start saying a series of things
that go together and you think you know what's going to follow. Then suddenly the character will say something totally
unexpected. Here's an example.
In this brief bit of dialogue, picture a flight attendant tallcing to a male passenger:
' Would you like coffee, tea or meT
What we were predicting was something like soda, juice, whatever. But the outcome was something totally unexpected. By
simply replacing the third or last word in a sentence with something unpredictable and absurd, the line of dialogue and the scene
becomes funny. How about this one? Imagine two buddies planning a fishing trip. One of them turns to the other and says ...
"Don' t forget to bring your fishing rod. your tackle box, and your pimple cream."
Didn't expect that, did you? You expected him to say bait or lures or wading boots, but certainly not pimple cream!
There are several ways in which a Triplet can work in sitcoms. M ost of the time the set up and the joke (punchline) will come in
the words, but there are also times when a physical activity can be part of the Triplet. Either way, executing an effective Triplet
requires great skill and understanding from all parties involved. And that is what makes it funny. Here are diagrams of three
different kinds ofTriplets (keep in mind. a "Set up" or "JOKE" can be a word. a line of dialogue or a physical action).

I. Classic Triplet:
Setup- Setup- JOKE
2. Extended Triplet:
Set up - Set up - Set up (THEN) JOKE
3. Over-Extended Triplet:
Set up - Set up - JOKE (THEN) BIGGER JOKE
You will see numerous examples of these Triplets in every sitcom you watch and every half hour script you read. They also
appear in comedic fihns. Remember that these can be used in one character's dialogue or between two or more characters. There
are many ways to play them, and b y the end of this section, you' ll be able to very clearly identity them. But for now, let's take a
look at each one and follow up each one with an example from a classic show so you can see exactly how they are used. First
up ...


The Classic Triplet once again is:

Set up- Set up- JOKE

Quite simply, the two pieces of dialogue or the physical actions at the front of the Triplet are used to set up the joke on the
third. 1bis is the most basic form of a Triplet and one that has been used for decades. If s an easy and effective way to create
comedy in any scene, whether if s one person talking or two characters working together like in this classic scene from the show

In this scene, the of!:beat Reverend Jim Ignatowski (Christopher Lloyd) and Bobby Wheeler (Jeff Conaway) are both taking a
written driving test and Jim needs some help.

JIM: Pssssttt ... what does the yellow light mean?

BOBBY: ''Slow dow n."

JIM: What ... does ... the ... yellow ... light ... mean?
Can you hear how if s played? Can you picture the actors doing it? Let me break it down even finther and show you why this
is a Triplet
JIM: Pssssttt ... w hat does the yellow light mean? (SET UP)
BOBBY: "Slow dow n." (SET UP)

JIM: What ... does ... the ... yellow ... light ... mean? (JOKE)
You can see how the w riters are setting up this particular piece of dialogue to hit a simple, yet effective joke on the third note.
And when you see these two skilled actors add their characters and commitment to this dialogue, it makes for great comedy .
N ext up ...


Once again, the basic layout of this Triplet is:

Set up- Set up- Set up (fHE:N) JOKE

The Extended Triplet works essentially the same way as the Classic Triplet except there is another piece of dialogue (or
physical action) added to help set up the joke. There is also a (BEAT) or (THEN) to help heighten the joke. This can be used in
one character's speech or between two or more characters, like in this scene from ''Roseanne" where Roseanne Conner is having
a heart to heart talk with her daughter Darlene (Sara Gilbert).
DARLENE: Were you a virgin when you married Dad? (SET UP)


ROSEANNE: Absolutely, I still am. (JOKE)
B y adding the extra piece of dialogue and the beat, the writers allow for more interaction between characters and a bigger build
up for the joke, which Roseanne is able to pay off with her trademark sarcasm.
And finally ...


Once again, the basic layout of this Triplet is:

Set up- Set up- JOKE (fHE:N) BIGGER JOKE

The Over-Extended Triplet might be the most fim Triplet to play because it packs in more jokes and gives the audience a
bigger laugh. Once again the dialogue (or physical activity) is used to set up the joke, but after you make the audience laugh with
the payoff joke, you (or one of your scene partners) get to make them go crazy b y following the joke up with an even bigger joke.
There are some actors that have perfected this kind of "payoff punch." And one of them is Eric M cCormack, with his character
Will Truman on "Will & Grace." Check out this scene where he's telling Grace (Debra M essing) why nobody wants to play
poker with her.
\VILL: N o one can stand playing with you. You' re bad. You get taco sauce all over the cards and at this point you' re down so

much, you're paying people in turquoise jewehy! (THEN) And except for Larry, none of us want it.
Let me break this down and show you how this works as an Over-Extended Triplet.
N o one can stand playing with you.

You're bad. (SET UP)

You get taco sauce all over the cards and at this point you're down so much, you're paying people in turquoise jewehy!
And except for Larry, none of us want it.
All three of these Triplets are used over and over again in half hour scripts. And actually, they can go even finther than what I
just diagrammed for you. A well-trained comedic actor will use inflection to help make the jokes even more effective. They will A)
build up to the joke; B) build down to the joke; C) build up, then down, then up to a joke or; D) tlatline a joke, keeping the
inflection at the same level, therefore doing it deadpan. For example, a Classic Triplet can read as follows:


Set up
( I)



( I)

Set up

Set up



( I)

Set up

Set up






Set up

Set up


This layout can work for all three of the Triplets (the Classic, the Extended and the Over-Extended) we just discussed. The use
of inflection can help in heightening the joke or the scene. Again, deciding when to use inflection is based on many factors,
including how your character speaks, your intentions and thoughts, the pacing of the scene and your interaction with other
characters. But you need to know there are several ways in which these Triplets can effectively be used.

When doing situation comedy, never, ever move on a joke, whether it is yow own or someone else's. Never make
any unnecessary movements when a joke is in play, unless specified in the stage directions (which may be done to help

with a joke or the rhythm of the piece). Tbere should be no physical static. This includes acfjusting yoW' wardrobe,
playing with yoW' hair, scratching yoW' nose, stretching your neck, waving yoW' arms, tapping your thigh, shaking
yoW' leg, sighing or making any "big" facial expressions (like rolling yoW' eyes). Any extra movement will distract
from the joke and break up the rhythm of the piece.
Even though sitcoms are in a "heightened reality, "and sitcom acting asks you to be "louder, faster and funnier, "
that doesn't mean you should face act or mug (make over-animated or exaggerated facial movements). Many actors
new to comedy mistakenly think they can put their characterization on their face, thereby making funny expressions to
show their emotions.
To be funny, you need real intentions, thoughts and objectives, and you must always have an honest, truthful
character. Ifyou don't have all of this in place, you become a caricatW'e. It might work for sketch comedy or
improvisational acting, but it doesn't work for sitcoms. Also remember, you're on camera and not on stage, so the
audience will see everything you're doing with yoW' face. There should be no bug-eyed expressions, dancing eyebrows
or wide-open mouth movements. YoW' face shouldn't be any more animated than it is in real life when you are telling
an exciting or funny story or a j oke. Trust the dialogue, the j okes and yoW' acting to make you funny!
Triplets can fall right in line with each other or they can be spread throughout a piece of dialogue or a scene. It is important for
you, the actor, to be able to look at a script, identify the Triplets and then play the joke.
When reading through a script, it is important for you to locate ALL of these comedic techniques because they all play a part in
the rhythm of the piece. If you can identify them and you know how to play them, it will go a long way tow ard landing you a role
on a sitcom.
Equally important, you must watch sitcoms. W atching sitcoms (especially when you' re familiar with comedic techniques and
The Eight Characters of Comedy) will put you a step closer to becoming a successful sitcom actor.
You need to tape or TiVo your favorite shows and watch them first for pure entertainment value. Go ahead, laugh and lose
yourself in the show. Then w atch them again, this time as an objective observer, a researcher, a student of comedy. Pay attention
to the rhythm and the pace, identify the Triplets and Turnarounds (Conviction I Contravictions) and don' t be afraid to hit the
pause button and practice those jokes OUT LOUD! Yes, practice them out Ioudin your living room (you' re an actor, you can get
aw ay with it).
You need to recognize how half hour scripts will differ from scripts from any other medium. Simply put, it is your job to take
that half hour script and make it louder, faster and funnier. That's w hat makes half hour comedies work. You need to follow the
punctuation, recognize the key words and hear the rhythm and pace in your head. You need to be a bold performer with
confidence in your comedic abilities, as well as the scene you 're playing. You need to be fast and articulate, keeping up with the
quick-paced, snappy dialogue and action that makes comedies so much fun to watch. You need to be funny in your delivery and
in the dialogue you're playing. And you need to do all this while staying connected and true to your character's wants, obstacles,
intentions and emotional life. And to help you do that, let me introduce you to my Acting Technique-WOFAIM.


Tool# 1: Sai'Casm - The most commonly used tool in the comedic toolbox, sarcasm, as defined by Webster's
Dictionary, is "a cruelly humorous statement or remark made with the intention of injuring the self-respect of the
person to whom it is addressed, usually by drawing attention to one of his weaknesses and often associated with
irony. "In the comedic world, almost all characters use this tool for just that reason-to ridicule, to mock, to put
people in their place or even to make fun of themselves. Think Audrey Meadows, Jerry Seinfeld, Roseanne and
Matthew Perry respectively.

Tool #2: Verbal jokes - Other techniques halfhour writers use to make verba/jokes include alliteration, puns,
funny-sounding words (think of the "K" sounds), wosds that are difficult to pronounce, foreign languages and words
that are purposely mispronounced or misused ... a malapropism. Watch Bronson Pinchot as Ballci, Wilmer Vladerrama
as Fez and Carroll O'Connor as Archie.
Tool #3: The Spit Take- A spit take occurs when a character takes a drinkjust as they hear something outrageous,
causing them to "spit" out the liquid in an exaggerated way. Watch John Ritter or Michael Richards.
Tool #4: Double Take- A double take occurs when a character looks at something, doesn't process it, looks away and
then whips his head back and sees it for what it really is and reacts accordingly. Think of the actors playing "mortals"
on "Bewitched. " "Did {just see what I think I saw?"
Tool #5: Slow Burn- A slow bum occurs when a character hears another character say something ridiculous and
s-1-o-w-l-y turns their head, giving them an incredulous look. Two words, Bea Arthur.
Tool #6: Prot Fall- A pratfall occurs when characters stumble over a piece offurniture, slip on a banana peel, fall off
a ladder or trip on their own two feet, to name a few. Watch the "The Dick Van Dyke Show. "
Tool #7: Sight Gags - A sight gag occurs when a physical object ina scene becomes part of the humor, like something
blowing up, something breaking or something catching on fire. Or it occurs when a character relies on physical
reactions to something happening in a scene, like making a face-be it surprised, shocked, etc. Lucy, Lucy, Lucy!


Although this isn't a traditional acting book, it is still important to remember your acting foundation. As you have learned,
comedy comes from drama, and therefore, to do comedy, you need to alwavs remember vour basic acting techniques.
If you haven't taken basic acting classes, I would suggest that you do so before you take my sitcom acting class. It is important
for all actors to familiarize themselves with techniques like relaxation, sense memory, moment to moment and personal
substitution. It's important that you as an actor study the lessons of the masters like Stanislavski, Lee Strasberg, Stella Adler,
Uta Hagen and Sanford Meisner. These will help you secure a solid acting foundation that is vital for half hour comedy.
In my class, I have students who have developed a strong acting foundation, either b y studying at my studio or \vith the many
great acting coaches in L.A. and N ew York or b y attending some formal acting program. But when they start acting in a comedic
scene, they ' vill focus so much on the character, the comedy technique and the jokes they're delivering that they forget about their
acting foundation. They 'vill forget that there is a want, obstacle, emotions, intentions and history behind the funny thing they are
saying and the situation they're in.
To truly make comedy work, you cannot forget your acting technique. I always tell my dasses that to do comedy, you need
to merge your acting technique, your comedic technique and a solid character. When all three of these are in harmony \vith each
other \vithin an actor, the result is great comedy.
So since this book focuses so much on the comedic technique and the character, I decided to just give you a reminder of your
acting foundation. It is a simple audition technique I developed to help actors remember their acting basics when approaching a
scene in class, an audition or a cold read. So let me show you how to "WOFAThl It"
WOFAIM is an acronym that encompasses basic acting techniques. It is a tool that an actor can use to examine, breakdown
and personalize any audition material in less than ten minutes. It can also be used for breaking down scenes in class or even script
work if you get a regular job on a series. I am proud to say that many of my actors who work regularly have told me that the
WOFAIM method has been extremely helpful in auditions and in their careers. If you learn it and practice it, WOFAIM \vill give
you a head start on any type of reading.
WOFAIM stands for:
As If

Moment Before
These are all questions you should ask yourself when first reading a scene or sides for class or an audition. Let me break it
down even more. Keep in mind, when I say you," I mean your character.

Want- What do you want? What is your immediate want in the scene? What is your objective?

Obstacle- What is the obstacle in the scene thats stopping you from getting what you want?
Feeling- What are the feelings (emotions) you explore in the scene?
As If- What is your personal substitution? How do you the actor relate to the experience of the character and their want? Tbis
can come from either your past or your present. Or open up your heart and mind and use your greatest gift, your imagination. As
if! what?
Intentions -Active verbs. What are the active intentions you use in the scene to get what you want? What are your tactics?
Moment Before - What is the logistical moment before and the emotional moment before? What is happening to you physically
and emotionally before the scene begins? Where are you coming from?
Ask yourself all of these questions when approaching a scene and it will automatically give you a back story, emotions,
intentions and most important, depth to your character. It gets you going before the scene even begins.
I'm going to break down a scene for you and show you exactly how you can use WOFAIM in your work.
EXAMPLE: In this scene, you (your character) want to borrow S300 from your father for acting class. But your father doesn't
want to give you the money. He thinks that an acting career is a ..waste of time." You need that $300 because you know this
acting class will not only help you become a better actor but will also help get you the next job. Plus, your agent insists you study
with this coach. To make matters worse, the class starts this Monday.
What do you Want? You want your dad to give you S300.
What is the Obstacle? Your dad won' t give you the money.
What are you Feeling? Anxious, nervous, frustrated.
What is your As If (personal substitution)? Well, maybe as an actor, you could identify with this. Has this happened to you in
your past? Is this happening N OW? Or maybe you've never experienced it. In that case, you need to use your imagination.
Remember the time that you needed to borrow your roo=ate' s car to get to an audition and he said ..N o?" Remember when
you needed to borrow your friend's Prada shoes for a hot date and she said N o way?" Essentially, remember a time when you
needed something so badly and couldn' t get it. Either way you need to personally identify with the character's situation, want,
obstacles, feelings and intentions.
What are your Intentions? What active intentions are you using to get your dad to give you $300? What are your tactics?

Here are just a few you could use. You could try to convince, to persuade, to charm, to manipulate, to beg. Any of these could
What is your Moment Before? Remember this is broken down into two parts. What is your logistical moment before? Let's
say you're outside the door of your father' s study or house and you're about to enter. What is your emotional moment before?
Well, you are full of anxiety and you're pumping yourself up, trying to build up your courage and overcome your nerves.
Add " stakes" to all of this. I tell my students to look at three levels of stakes if they can. It will make the character and his or
her wants deeper. In this case, the stakes are: that you need the money because you don't have it and you need it by M onday.
The higher stakes are: that this money could get you into a class that could get you a job and will satisfy your agent. The highest
stakes are: if you get the money, get into class and get an acting gig, you might finally be able to prove to your father that acting is
not a "waste of time."


Ask y ourself these guestions when looking at a script or sides:
How does the scene begin?
Who are y ou?
What 's y our history?
Who are the other characters involved (in the scene)?
What is the time and p lace?
What are y our current circumstances?
What is the arc ofy our character and the arc ofthe scene?
How does the scene end?
And finally, remember your "thoughts." I've talked a lot about it in comedy tedmique and you'll read more about it in The
Eight Characters of Comedy chapters, but as a general note, "thoughts" are extremely important. They are basically silent
thoughts, your subtext, your inner dialogue, what your character is acturrlly thinking.
In this example, what are you thinking before the scene with your father begins? What is the thought before you start your
dialogue? If you have a good thought that matches your character' s intention, it \vill help you "rev the engine" and come into the
scene strong.
Also, what is the thought during the dialogue? Is it the same as what's written? In this scene, the dialogue might read, ''Dad,
please can I borrow the money," but what you might be thinking is "You owe it to me, dammit! " What thoughts might your
character be thinking that he or she can't say? Also, why are you saying what you're saying?
Okay, before we get too heady, let me just remind you that all of this should be done as your homework, whether you get the
scene days or moments ahead of time. Answer these questions and W OFAIM a script to the best of your ability with the time you

have before your read, and then go into the audition and leave your homework at home, so to speak. Trust that you've done the
homework and you KNOW the character's wants, obstacles, feelings, intentions, etc. Keep all of this with you, stay in the
moment and have some fun.
Now that you know about comedic technique and how to WOFAIM a script (audition technique), let me give you the four
most important things you need to remember when doing situation comedy, what I call The Four C's of Comedy.

Here are a few helpful hints for auditioning:
Be prepared and do all ofyour homework. That means breaking down the comedy script and "Finding the
Funny. "WOFAIM it and memorize it as best you can (ifyou've worked on your sides long enough, you'll naturally
memorize it).
Leave your homework at home.
Dress like the character would dress, but don't ever wear a costume.
Don't "chat up the waiting room. " Use this time to prepare mentally, emotionally and physical(v for your
audition rather than chatting with the other actors. Don't psyche yourself out and don't let others psyche you out
either Stay focused.
Walk in to the casting room with a good attitude, not desperate to get the job.
Be friendly and charming with the people in the room, but don't talk too much. A nervous actor will ramble on and
end up with his foot in his mouth.
Your script is your best friend. Be off book, but hold it in your hand. Don't rumple it, roll it up or shove it in your
back pocket.
Make eye contact with your reader, but don't stare him or her down.
Be confident and have fun. Know that this is your time-you were asked to audition and you've earned the right to
be there. So enjoy it, because ifyou're having fun, the casting director will have fun.
lfyoufeellike you're off to a bad start, politely ask the casting director ifyou can stast again. But ifyou're
midway through, refocus and finish the job.
After your audition, you can sometimes ask (if it feels right), "Is there anything else you'd like to see?" If the
answer is "No," you say "Thank you" and leave with a smile. Even ifyou think it didn't go well, don't leave the
audition loo/.:ing defeated.
Whether your audition was good or bad, the only question to ask yourself is "Did I do my best?" Then, forget
about it. Learn from your mistakes, pat yourself on the back and get ready for the next one. Auditioning is like
"catching a bus. "Ifyou don't get this one, you'll get the next one.
Always stay positive. Auditioning is an opportunity to act. And ifyou love to act, then you need to learn to enjoy

the experience.
Here's an extra tip. Sometimes, the walls at casting offices are so thin you can hear the actor before you
auditioning. Don't listen! Focus on your own sides, your own role, your own "job. "Move away from the door, if
possible. Ifyou hear laughter coming from the audition room, don't get discouraged and say something negative to
yowself (or anyone else in earshot) like, "I'll never be able to follow THAT."
Instead, think positive like, "Good, they're warming up the casting room for me." Go to any live taping ofa sitcom
and there will always be a warm-up act (most likely, a stand-up comic) whose main purpose is to loosen up the crowd
and get the audience laughing. Therefore, use the actor auditioning before you as~ warm-up act.



As an actor or writer approaching a half hour script, always remember these Four C' s of Comedy.

1) Conflict:
Conflict is everything. Without conflict, there is no comedy, because without conflict, there is no drama Remember, comedy
comes from drama (which comes from pain).
And in any good drama, we must have connict-two opposing sides, two opposing personalities, two opposing philosophies,
two opposing cultures. And we L0 VE watching this conflict Just turn on TV and watch any show, be it a crime drama, a reality
show or even a game show and there will either be conflict or it will be boring.
The same is true for sitcoms, except the contlict is simply written to be humorous. In order for a sitcom to work, it needs
conflict not just in the storylines, but also with characters. Characters can have conflict with other characters (how many story
lines revolve around polar opposites falling for each other?). They can have conflict with themselves (how do I ask this guy or girl
out?), with an idea (how do I get rich quick?!), an evil thought, a machine, an animal, anything. But for good comedy, you need to
have conflict

2) Comedic technique:
After reading a script a few times, it is your job to 'Find the Funny" in the piece. Always remember your technique. As I said,
comedy is like a musical score. First you need to hear the music in your head the way the writers intended it, and then you need to
implement the comedic technique.
You need to identify the Triplets, The Turnarounds, the 'K" sounds, the beats, blows, rhythm-everything that has to do with
half hour comedy technique. As I stressed in the last section, it is imperative for half hour comedy to have a sense of rhythm and a
sense of flow. Following this comedic technique will not only help you hear it, but also perform it. Beyond the jokes, this includes
not adding lines, not dropping lines, following punctuation and keeping the pace. Remember, this comedic technique is formulaic in
nature and it is a formula that has stood the test of time.

3) Commitment:
What makes the techniques funny or the conflict real? Commitment. Tbis means, as an actor, you need to be 100 percent
committed to the dialogue, the physical actions, the jokes, the technique and, especially, the characters. It takes just as much
committment to do comedy as it does to do drama, perhaps even more so.
It is the new actor to comedy that will have that smile in their eyes, that look on their face that says, ''I know r m being funny."
Or they will laugh at their partner's joke. Or even worse, they will laugh at their own joke, making it less believable and less funny
for us to watch.
Check out the great sitcom actors and you will see a committed actor at work. Just think of how committed Lisa Kudrow is to
Phoebe's eccentric behavior or how Jackie Gleason is committed to Ralph's money-making schemes, how Kim Cattrall is
committed to Samantha's unquenched thirst for sex or how Rhea Perhnan is committed to Carla' s condescending one-liners.
Commitment is vital in the world ofhalfhour comedy, especially when it comes to your character.

4) Character:
So now we get to the heart of the book and what I think is the most essential ingredient in half hour comedy-character. The
great sitcom actors and writers create living, breathing characters \vith a life, a history and a personality all their own. And they
stay committed to that character whether it's for 22 minutes or ten seasons. It is this commitment that makes us fall in love \vith the
likes of Joey, Kramer, Frasier, Lucy, Archie, Jack and Karen, etc.
In the rest of this book, I will focus on character. I will help you identify and recognize characters within yourself and then
teach you how to play them with the same kind of commitment as many of yesterday and today's wonderful actors.


As I mentioned at the end of the last section, the development of a character and the conunitment to that character is just as
vital to half hour comedy as the technique and the rhythm of the delivery, maybe even more important. Think of how incredibly
funny M att LeBlanc's sweetly naive portrayal of Joey is, or Lucille Ball's complete conunitment to being a lovable dreamer as
Lucy or Michael Richards' authentic zaniness as Kramer. We believe that these are real characters because of the truth, depth,
history and conunitment the actors and the writers bring to them.
That said, as an actor you need to know who you' re playing just as much as how to play it and you need to know how to
make it real. Not to worry, there are characters you can use that have been built over the years that have worked for many, many
sitcoms. Much like how the jokes in half hour writing are formulaic and rhythmic in nature, these characters date back to the
beginnings of sitcom television. It's not that these are character stereotypes, but rather character archetypes \vith specific
personality traits that enable the actors playing them to reach their fullest comedic potential.
Each actor and writer will have a different take on these characters, but to make them work, you need to know what makes
them tick. You need to have a full understanding of who these characters were growing up, who they are today and why they are
the way they are. And most important, you need to figure out how you can use these characters to "Find the Funny."
In the next eight chapters (or episodes as I call them), I will break down each of these characters for you, giving you specific
exaruples of sitcom actors that fit the various models. I will also show you how to identify them and how to play them. I will
provide you with a list of defining traits that each of these eight characters have that you can use in your acting. And then I will
show you how to figure out which characters will help you build your own personal niche in half hour comedy.
I often think of my classes as their own sitcom. Each class has a host of comedic actors who bring their own individuality and
originality to the class or ''the story" week after week. It amazes me to see how these actors pick up these different characters I
am about to show you, how some fit so naturally for them, how they can bring the comedy once they figure out who they are and
how entertaining "the show" can be.
So, without finther ado, let's roll the credits, play our theme music and bring you into my show: eight episodes of a hilarious
sitcom with laughs, conflicts, t\vists and turns and characters you'll grow to love and love to play. Let me introduce to you my
sitcom entitled ...

The Eight Characters of Comedy

Scott Sedita

Current Revision


Scott Sedita
C/0 Hasenfeffer Incorporated
227 Wisteria Lane
Springfield, USA
Planet Ork

(555) 555-5555
Episode 1. The Logical Smart One
Episode 2. The Lovable Loser
Episode 3. The Neurotic
Episode 4. The Dumb One
Episode 5. The Bitch I Bastard
Episode 6. The Womanizer I Manizer
Episode 7. The Materialistic One

Episode 8. In Their Own Universe



We open on a married middle-aged couple lying in bed, talking, late at night. W ell, actually the husband is doing all the talking
while the wife listens patiently. It is an episode of the long-numing hit series ''Everybody Loves Raymond," and Ray Barone,
played b y Ray Romano, finds himself a victim of yet another of his "bright ideas" gone awry. And this time, he has managed to
seriously hurt his back. Here he is trying to apologize to his ,vife Debra, played b y the wonderful Patricia Heaton. As poor Ray
whines about his injury, Debra cahnly waits for him to finish. When he tells her that he'll probably be "out of commission" in the
bedroom, Debra takes a beat and responds in her trademark, sarcastic tone ...
DEBRA: I wouldn't worry. It's not like Van Gogh has lost his paint brush.
Ray is put in his place once again and laughter fills the studio and living rooms across America
Oh, where would Ray and his crazy family be if Debra wasn't around? Where would they be if they didn' t listen to her words
of ,visdom, her common sense, her logic? Oh wait, they don't. And that's a main reason the show has won so many ofTV's most
coveted prize--The Emmy.
While Ray, Robert, Frank and M arie get themselves into ridiculous situations week after week, Debra remains the glue that
holds this dysfunctional family together (well, at least she tries). Her intelligence and strength in the face of lunacy is what makes
the actions of Ray and his family appear that much funnier. She is the one 'vith patience, understanding, a sharp tongue and that
derisive look that says "You've gotta be kidding me." She is an intricate character to that show and a necessity in any sitcom
because Debra is The Logical Smart One.



The Logical Smart One is, well, you the audience. Hopefully you're sitting at home in your favorite recliner or couch watching
Ray's actions in awe and disbelief, thinking to yourself .'What is he doing? This isn' t going to be good." Hopefully, you laugh at
the crazy scenarios that some of TV's best sitcom leads get themselves into week after week. And hopefully, you're smart enough
to !mow how to handle these situations better than they do. I did say hopefully, didn' t I?
Essentially, The Logical Smart One is the point of reference for the comedy in the show or more simply, the voice of reason. In
the simplest of comedic terms, he or she is the straight man" to the often hilarious actions of the show's main character, an
essential ingredient for conflict And remember, conflict breeds comedy. What's ironic is that more often than not, the straight man
is a woman. Even more specifically, they are often the wives. Tum on your TV and you'll see Carrie (Leah Remini) on 'King of
Queens," Cheryl (Courtney Thorne-Smith) on ..According to Jim," Judy (Jami Gertz) on ..Still Standing" and of course, Debra
Barone. Whether intentional or not, this has become almost a standard in situation comedy. The husbands are usually
good-natured, optimistic yet desperate Lovable Losers (we 'll get to them in the next episode). The wives, meanwhile, are the
caretakers, the ones with the common sense, the patience and that acerbic, sarcastic wit
And that can be traced all the way back to 1950s situation comedies and actors like the Queen Bee of Logical Smart Ones,
Audrey Meadows, who played Alice Kramden on 'The Honeymooners." In order to deal with her blustery, oversized TV hubby
Ralph (Jackie Gleason) and his continuous desperate attempts to get rich quick, Alice has to be smart, rational and understanding.
Oh yeah, she also has to be an expert in the art of sarcasm. For a great history lesson on this character, watch Meadows work
next to The Great One and learn how The Logical Smart One can steal a scene from a huge star.
RALPH: (Excited about his latest schem e) Alice, this is probably the biggest thing I ever got into.
ALICE: The biggest thing you ever got into was your pants.
Alice' s witty retorts and deadpan delivery not only set Ralph straight, but also make the scene that much funnier. With her
steadfast commitment, Audrey was able to make Alice one of the most memorable characters of all time, despite the fact that
'The Honeymooners" was only on for a few seasons.
Another perfect example is The Cosby Show 's" Clair Huxtable, played b y Phylicia Rashad. While her good-natured husband,
Dr. Cliff Huxtable (Bill Cosby), tries to do what's best for his family, he has a tendency to, well, mess things up. And it's Clair
who is often calling him out on his actions. Want proof? Check out the episode where Dr. Huxtable sits in on Clair's book club.
After reluctantly joining the book club, Cliff attends his first meeting. Even though Cliff read the assigned book, he struggles to
participate intelligently in the conversation about it. As Cosby hysterically rambles on and on, its Clair's understated but
oh-so-clear look of disbelief that makes the scene truly funny.

_ __,f l

As discussed in the comedic technique section, in good comedy there has to be a positive and negative energy in each scene to
produce conflict (the funny). In this case, while the comedy should (and does) come from Cosby's hopeful (positive) attempt to
convince the book club he's read the book, it's Clair's (negative) reaction to him that not only complements but also balances the
scene, ultimately making it funnier.
Though this character has been dominated by women, there are some amazing male Logical Smart Ones, including one of the
most famous sitcom characters of all time on one of the most famous shows of all time. That being said, try and guess who it could
be ... Give up?
"Lucy ... I'mhooooome!"
Ricky Ricardo, played b y Desi Arnaz, is the ultimate male Logical Smart One. Just think of how many screwball schemes Lucy
gets herself involved in that he must fix, including her never-ending attempts to become a star. And he does it with patience and
understanding because he loves Lucy. But that doesn't stop him from dishing out that saucy Latin sarcasm.
RICKY: This whole thing is my fault. Something I said started this whole mess.

LUCY: What's that?

RICKY:"! do."

(Notice the Classic Triplet.)

As The Logical Smart One, Ricky is vital for not only the humor that Lucy brings, but also for the humor he helps set up. So,
whether you're a man or a woman, there are Logical Smart One roles for you. Now we just need to show you how to identify
them and more importantly, how to play them.

Commercial Break
Cartoon wives

The role of the "wives" as The Logical Smart One is also evident in cartoon sitcoms, dating back to one of the most
famous, "The Flintstones. "Pretty much a cartoon version of "The Honeymooners, " Wilma is always there to bail
out and talk some sense into her Lovable Loser husband Fred. The same is true today with cartoons like "King of the
Hill" and "Family Guy. "But my favorite is Marge Simpson (voiced by Julie Kavner) on "The Simpsons. "No other
Logical Smart One in television history has had to deal with what Marge experiences on a daily basis with her
rambunctious son Bart, her outspoken prodigy child Lisa, her perpetual infant Maggie and, sigh, Homer. Marge and

these other poor animated wives have to put up with some crazy ideas from their desperate but good-natured hubbies.
And in cartoons, nothing is too crazy....

Back to our show ...

Brutally honest
Has common sense
l\'laternal or Paternal



Obviously, not all Logical Smart One characters are the same. After all, how boring would that be? But this character-like all
the other characters I will present in the follo\ving Bepisodes-does have some defining characteristics that every actor who plays
them can identify. You'll notice in this list, as well as characteristic lists in other chapters, that some of these traits are very similar
to each other. They're listed this way because, as an acting coach, I've come to find that certain descriptions, characteristics or
intentions register differently \vith some actors than \vith others. So I've tried to provide a broad list of characteristics to help you
identify with these complex characters.
N ow, on the surface, it would seem that The Logical Smart One would be the easiest of The Eight Characters of Comedy to
play, and, for some actors, that might very well be the case. But there is a lot of depth to this character and it requires a good
grasp of these personality traits in order to be funny. While some Logical Smart Ones showcase certain characteristics more than
others, it is important to remember that all of them have at least a hint of all of these traits.

Growing up Logical Smart

Let's start out \vith the most basic. The Logical Smart One is logical and smart. Sounds obvious, but it's important to
reinforce. They are often well-educated or at least have an abundance of common sense. And they probably have always been
that way.
They are the smart ones in schooL They're not the nerds, mind you (we' ll get to them later). They are simply smart enough to
do well in school, !mow right from wrong, balance studies \vith extracurricular activities and avoid "bad" decisions that many kids
make gro\ving up. They learn, at a young age, the value of being knowledgeable and working hard. They also learn how to take
care of themselves and of others, just like W ally Cleaver (Tony Dow) on "Leave it to Beaver." Yes, it's the Beaver (Jerry
M athers) w ho gets himself into funny (and sometimes messy) situations, but it's Wally who gets him out of it week after week.
Wally simply has it together and is patient \vith those who don't.
The young Logical Smart Ones are often influenced b y their family or at least a family member who is intelligent. Or, the polar
opposite, they grow up in a household of misfits and they are forced to learn basic logic and reasoning skills through other means.
Think ofM alcohn (Frankie Mwliz) from the show Malcohn in the Middle." Despite being just a kid, it is M alcohn that appears to
be the responsible and rational one, especially compared to his goofball father, his somewhat eccentric mother, his
mean-spirited older brother and his out-of-this-world younger brother.
MALCOLM: (Frustrated w ith his family) I did the math once. It turns out, every 17.4 dinners, my family actually has a

pleasant meal together.

The yowtg Logical Smart One is often someone who can take care of himself and anybody else that needs help. They are kids
who want a dog and will not only pet and play with the dog, but will be responsible enough to feed it, walk it and clean up after it.
They are the ones that have an early wtderstanding of how the w orld works and have the diplomacy it takes to handle most
situations. They are the ones that learn quickly from their mistakes. They are the ones that everybody has looked to for advice
throughout their lives. That's because, even at a yowtg age, they are responsible and reasonable.
On the dramedy ..Desperate Housewives," Julie (Andrea Bowen) is the voice of reason for her mother Susan (Teri Hatcher)
and her desperate attempts at dating. In one of the first episodes, the teenager asks her mom the last time she had sex and
suggests that her mom is coming off as pathetic and a little too desperate. Susan adheres (briefly) to the strange-but-true advice of
her daughter, who is sometimes the most intelligent, practical and responsible one on the show.
The same is true for Donna Pinciotti (Laura Prepon) on 'That ' 70s Show." Donna stands as the pillar of reason, not only within
her circle of pot-smoking, delinquent friends, but also "~th her not-so-bright parents. Here she is trying to explain to her father
Bob Pinciotti (Don Stark) why her mother left him.
BOB: I don't get it. She didn't give me any sign, any warning.

DONNA: Dad, she kept saying T m unhappy and I'm going to leave."
Donna gets herself involved in her fair share of predicaments, but in general, she is the first one to question the irrational acts of
everyone else on the show with reason far beyond her years.
These basic traits carry all through this character's life. Remember that The Logical Smart One is really a reflection of the
audience, so they need to know more than the other characters. The Logical Smart One is aware of what is happening. Therefore,
to play this character, you need to tap into your knowledgeable and reasonable side. Remember, it's often the job of this
character to explain the ..message" in a sitcom and to teach the main characters the lessons that all of us already know (and could
see from the beginning).

Tlte weapon of sarcasm

Being sarcastic is THE most important trait for The Logical Smart One because this is where their comedy emanates from. It
is something they picked up at a very early age. It is how they handle situations and how they bring the comedy to square off
against the other characters' illogical actions. Every great Logical Smart One character in the history of sitcoms has been a master
of the art of sarcasm. Make no mistake, sarcasm is an art form that requires constant training and expert timing.
Look no further than one of my favorite comedic actresses, Bea Arthur. Her barbed-wire tongue and spot on comedic timing
served her well in the 1970s series "Maude." Arthur, who practically invented the condescending slow bum, brought her comedic
tools into the 1980s with the logical, smart and sarcastic Dorothy Zbomak on "Golden Girls." Don't we all just eagerly wait for

Dorothy's reaction when one of the other girls says or does something stupid? In one episode, Dorothy's spitfire mother Sophia
(Estelle Getty) walks into the kitchen proudly sporting her huge, dark sunglasses. Dorothy turns and spots Sophia, and after a
wonderfully long beat, she slowly turns back and says ...
DOROTHY: (Deadpan) Ladies and gentleman, Roy Orbison.
Though there is the "sight gag" of the elderly Sophia wearing hip sunglasses, it is Dorothy's co=ent on this absurdity that
brings home the joke. Students of comedy should study the brilliant deadpan sarcasm ofBea Arthur. Her slow burn ending in that
"condescending look" is so understated and so specific, yet it speaks volumes. Check out "Golden Girls" and watch a master at
There is so much humor that can come from the use of sarcasm. Audrey Meadows, Patricia Heaton and Phylicia Rashad are all
wonderful at playing sarcasm, especially when dealing with their overzealous spouses.
It's also important to note that while they listen to the ramblings of their TV hubbies, these actresses never mug or face act.
They internalize their thoughts as they listen to their partner cahnly and attentively. Then, after a beat, they speak their thought and
unleash the sarcasm. This familiar interaction between the spouses adds to the conflict in a scene.
Sarcasm is a trait that simply can't be faked. But it is a trait that The Logical Smart One needs to have, whether it's used as a
gentle reminder or a biting retort. And if you want to play this character, you need to practice this skill, finding the timing, the tone
and the intention in every sarcastic piece of dialogue.

Keep your feet on tlze ground

For every Tim Taylor, there needs to be a Jill Taylor. On '1 Home Improvement," Tim Allen's character is notorious for trying
to be the ''Uber-male" with his tools. A pathetic MacG}'Ver, all Tim wants to do is make things bigger, faster and better. Tbinking
he's Superman with a saw, he is willing to try anything. It's Jill, played b y Patricia Richardson, who has to constantly talk him
down before he leaps tall buildings. Jill is a grounded Logical Smart One who has the co=on sense that Tim lacks.

TIM: Some tool-men say ''WhyT This tool-man says "Why notT

JILL: This tool-man's wife says ''Why meT

While Jill teases him about his lack of co=on sense, she is always supportive when Tim needs her (even if he doesn' t always
realize it).
The Logical Smart One actually creates comedic conflict on a sitcom by being the more reasonable one. He or she knows
better than to just go along with any wacky ideas the main characters might have. Often, it is their responsibility to trY and talk
some sense into the main character and then show them the foolishness of their actions.
This role requires you to show your co=on sense and your sensibility. You need to dig deep into that sensible side of

yourself. And believe it or not, some humor will come from that. Tbis really emphasizes the importance of committing to a
character. You have to be committed to being the pillar of reason. Look to your family, your friends or maybe yourself Who has
these traits? How can you play them?

Commercial Break
An unlikely combo
So, why does the tubby, goofy, not-so-bright guy get the beautiful, smart and sassy wife in the world ofsitcoms?
Well, after reading this chapter, you should see how it works for the humor, but what about the psychology behind it?
The reason it works is that The Logical Smart One has an exceptionally high amount ofself-esteem and they really
don't mind being around those who don't. In fact, sometimes they prefer it. They like being the caretakers, the
responsible ones, the maternal ones, and let's face it, the smart ones. Because The Logical Smart One has some control
issues, they are accustomed to being the caretakers, and it's something that makes them feel good about themselves.
And yes, that makes them kind of co-dependent.
Also, because they are so responsible and patient, they enjoy being with someone who is a little more spontaneous
and impulsive, someone who makes life more exciting and interesting. It's a case of opposites attract in that they are
fascinated by somebody who is so completely different than themselves. That's why they fit so well with The Lovable
Loser. What's a Lovable Loser? Well, I guess you '/!just have to stay tuned for the next episode.

Back to our show...

Just stay calm

As The Logical Smart One, you need to remember that you are often dealing with somebody who is desperate and impulsive,
someone who simply reacts to the first thought, idea or ridiculous scheme that pops into their nutty brain. Tbis requires the LSO to
be calm and stable. And these two traits make for balance, not only in a character but also in a show.
A good modem example is the terrific Eric McCormack as Will Truman on will & Grace." Think of how patient and
understanding he needs to be with Grace (Debra Messing) or how calm and non-judgmental he needs to be with Jack (Sean
Hayes). Even though he can be neurotic at times (in order to add more conflict and humor to his character and the series), Will is
most certainly the show's voice of reason, the straight man (so to speak). He is a well-balanced and stable guy who knows how
to deal with these other oftbeat characters (and the writers gave him the perfect Logical Smart One profession-Will's a lawyer).

Tell it like it is

On the flip side of being patient, wtderstanding and reasonable, The Logical Smart One can be biting. When their back is up
against the wall or the ''idiot factor" is more than they can take, they need to sometimes slap other characters back into reality.
And they do so "~th brutal honesty, no matter the consequences.
Whether it's calling a slut a slut, an idiot an idiot or a bitch a bitch, The Logical Smart One speaks his or her mind. For them,
it's all about being straightfonvard and speaking the truth. That's where Roseanne can shine. Roseanne Co!Uler is a tough,
working-class mother who loves her family but doesn't take any guff. If she sees that her husband has a dwnb idea, she will tell
him that it's a dwnb idea, ifher sister is acting irrationally, she will tell her so, ifher kids are acting up, she will tell them to "Cut the
crap! "
ROSEANNE: The only thing I've ever wanted for my kids is that they're happy ... and that they're out of the house, and I tell
you something ... happy ain' that important.
This straightforward approach goes for the male Logical Smart Ones as well. Ifhis wife has made yet another mess of things,
he 'vill probably say something like, "Lucy ... yooo got some ' splainin' to doooo." This brutal honesty brings the other characters
back into reality, or at least sitcom reality.
Also, The Logical Smart One can use his or her intelligence in doing this. They are often very quick-witted, well-spoken,
articulate characters and they're not afraid to use these skills in a confrontation, like Will does on ''\Vill & Grace." Here in this
scene, Jack is amo)mg him yet again.
JACK: Oooh. Barracuda What crawled up your culottes?

WILL: N othing crawled up my culottes. It's just that you're two inches from my head, polluting my brain\\~ your inane
ramblings and buzzing through those chips like some queer gopher.

(Notice Will's Over-Extended Triplet.)

Even though The Logical Smart One is almost always patient, they do have their moments of frustration and they \villlet it out
on their partner in a very intelligent, articulate and sometimes ~cious way.
This brutal honesty can also be done a little more tongue in cheek, as is the case \~th "Seinfeld." While Jerry can sometimes
display his neurosis, he is the voice of reason on the show . He's often the one who \\mks to the audience and says "Ain' t these
people crazy?" I'm not even sure if it's intentional, yet it works brilliantly because he often stays outside the character and
co=ents on what he sees \~th brutal honesty.
He's playing Jerry Seinfeld (and his wacky family of friends is part ofhis fantasy world) all the while letting the audience know
that he's the sane one. His no-holds-barred co=ents about what's happening arowtd him make many of his scenes funnier,
especially if his target is eternal neurotic loser George Costanza (Jason Alexander).
GEORGE: What kind of person are you?

JERRY: I think I'm pretty much like you, only successfuL

And he really lets George have it when if comes to the subject of women ...
GEORGE: She's got a little Marissa Tomei thing goin' on.

JERRY: Ah, too bad you've got a little George Costanza thing goin' on.
As an actor playing this character, there will be times when you will need to present a brutally honest attitude and approach to
the text or another character and you will need to do so humorously and most importantly without being mean-spirited.
Otherwise the character would tum into a Bitch I Bastard. But more on them later.

Olt Mom! Olt Dad!

Logical Smart Ones are the caretakers of The Eight Characters of Comedy. They are not only mothers or fathers to their
overgrown, childlike husbands or wives, sometimes they are actually mothers and fathers. From June and Ward Cleaver
(Barbara Billingsley and Hugh Beaumont) on 'Leave it to Beaver" to Carol and Michael Brady (Florence Henderson and Robert
Reed) on 'The Brady Bunch" to Elyse and Steven Keaton (Meredith Baxter-Birney and Michael Gross) on "Family Ties," many
of the great Logical Smart Ones show maternal and paternal qualities because they ARE moms and dads. They need to be
tolerant because that's how mothers and fathers should be.
But in life, you don't need to be a parent to be paternal. Same with TV. Many famous Logical Smart Ones don't even have
children. Where would the crazy staff of Blush Magazine on "Just Shoot Me" be without Maya (Laura San Giacomo)? Where
would Murphy Brown be without Eldin (Robert Pastorelh). And then there's Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman) on "Arrested
Development," who actually has a son, but mostly has to play parent to his mother, his father and the rest of his dysfunctional
MICHAEL: (Sarcastically to his older brother) You want to deal with what I deal with? A sister who takes your money and
throws it away? A mother who you can't trust? A father and company founder who may be on trial for treason? Is that what
you want?
There is a huge difference between being a mom or dad and being maternal or paternal.
Another great example is Mary Tyler Moore and her character of Mary Richards on 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show."
Surrounded by outrageous characters, Mary has to be patient, understanding and responsible. Just like in real life, Mary does
have her moments of weakness, like in the famous "Chuckles the Clown" episode. During the scene, even though she felt temble
about it, Mary couldn't help but laugh at the absurdity of a clown's funeral-just like any of us would (and did). She was

representing us, the audience, and it made us identify with her even more. She is a great Logical Smart One because she is caring
and compassionate. And she ahnost always comes off as the responsible one, the maternal one, the one that all of the other
characters on that show look to for advice and guidance.

Commercial Break
Reality check
As reality television hatches more and more popular personalities, there are some characters that resemble The
Eight Characters ofComedy.
A good example of The Logical Smart One would be winner Tina Wesson from "Survivor: The Australian
Outback. " Remember when she jumped into the river to save the bundle offood for her tribe? How motherly is that?
Another one would be Nick Lachey from "Newlyweds. " With Jessica Simpson as your wife... well, you get the point.

Back to OW' show ...

A Logical Smart Witch?
Perhaps the greatest example ofThe Logical Smart One is actually ... a witch. No other actress conveys everything it takes to
be a wife and mother better than the enchanting Elizabeth Montgomery, who played Samantha Stephens (with impeccable
comedic timing) on "Bewitched." Think about it. She is cahn, caring and willing to do just about anything for the love of her life,
her uptight mortal husband Darrin. She is loving yet firm with her charmed children and receptive and understanding of her whole
wacky family.
Even though Montgomery never won an E=y (nominated five times), her bewitching portrayal of Samantha is timeless. For
the last 40 years, she has shown us how to care for all people, how to be tolerant, loving and nonjudginental of those who aren't
considered ..normal."
She has a family of witches and warlocks (meddling mother Endora, senile Aunt Clara and flamboyant Uncle Arthur) who are
often causing magical mayhem, but she is accepting of all of them. Many people watching not only see her as a great mother, but
actually \\~sh she was their mother. I mean, who wouldn't want a mom who was beautiful, loving, understanding, compassionate,
accepting ... with a wicked sense of humor?
Montgomery was able to play this character so well because she encompassed everything I have talked about in this chapter.
In order to play a strong Logical Smart One, so must you.

Who in yoW' life is The Logical Smart One?



I w ant to emphasize once again that while all Logical Smart Ones have these characteristics in co=on, they are not limited to
them. These are simply some defining characteristics that help viewers identify them, writers write them and actors portray them.
As \vith each of The Eight Characters of Comedy, the individual actors that tackle this role bring something Wlique to their
individual character. And sometimes, whether it comes from the writing or the acting, the character can take on personality traits
of other characters.
An example I already mentioned is Will (McCormack) from "Will & Grace." While he is almost alw ays the voice of reason, he
sometimes carries a high-strung nervousness about him. When he is placed in certain situations, such as finding a guy he likes or
getting frustrated with Grace or Jack, he can show a touch of another character called The N eurotic that I'll get to in a later
episode. Same is true for the anal-retentive Jerry Seinfeld. In order to bring more comedy to "Seinfeld," he often shows signs of
his germophobic neurosis.
Another example is Patricia Heaton. We already know that Debra has a biting sarcastic wit, but boy oh boy, when she is
backed into a comer b y Ray or his manipulative mother, she comes out throwing verbal punches. Her tone turns condescending
and her words tum mean-spirited, almost making her a Bitch, another character we ' ll soon explore.
DEBRA: (Frustrated "~th Ray) You know what? I'm tired! Could you just call yourself an idiot?!
She' s not alone. Many Logical Smart Ones can slip into other characters (especially The Bitch or The Bastard) when their
infinite patience actually reaches an end. B UT-and this is important to remember-by the end of the episode, they \vill slip
comfortably back into their more familiar role as the one with reason and understanding.
This is also an important note about The Logical Smart One; not only does every sitcom need one, just about every pivotal
scene needs one in order to help create conflict. In all conflicts, somebody needs to step up to be The Logical Smart One for the
humor to come through. A s such, sometimes other characters \vill step into this character's shoes, even if just for a moment.
However, the moment typically doesn' t last very long and the character \vill revert back to his or her own personality on the final
joke, usually right before a co=ercial break or the end of the show (the blow).
After reading each of the episodes, you'll see more examples of characters like Will Truman, Jerry Seinfeld and Debra Barone,
characters that either temporarily take on other personality traits or those that have them under the surface all the time. These
actors can add this kind of depth because they are talented and because they work with great writers. In time, you can too. For
now, get a sense of who The Logical Smart One is b y revie,~g the characteristics that make up the core of the character.

Possible intentions for The Logical Smart One:

To Reason
To Pacify
To Educate
To Compromise
To Enlighten
To Comfort
To Reassure
To Ease
To Set straight
To Slap back into reality
Final Thoughts On Playing The Logical Smart One
Now that you know the characteristics of The Logical Smart One, how do you tap into your own experience and personality to
play this character? Remember, The Logical Smart One is what we wish to be. We all want to be patient, stable and sensible, and
we all look forward to opportunities where we can use our own bit of dry sarcasm. Or, if there's no hope for us, we at least want
our parents, siblings, children, friends or significant others to be logical and smart. We want to be in their presence. We need them
because we need that balance that allows us to be irrational at times.
And they need that dependency. It's under the surface, but it's something that a really good Logical Smart One will be able to
show. They are the caretakers. They need to take care of people, and there is a part of them that enjoys doing it They are the
loving, responsible ones in our life that we go to for the answer, that talk us out of doing something crazy. Or they are there for us
when we do end up doing something crazy. And they do it with a sense of humor. What part of you is The Logical Smart One? If
you can figure it out, you might be able to capture this all important sitcom character.
Also, I need to emphasize once again the Logical Smart One's occasional role as the setup man or woman. Tbis is vital to
bringing balance to a show. In an interview \vith Andy Griffith, the television legend said he never tried to be funny on The Andy
Griffith Show" because he was surrounded by funny characters. He knew that it was his job to stay in the middle and make the
stories believable. Jason Bateman says the same thing about his role on "Arrested Development." Not only does playing the
straight man help set up the funny moments for the other characters, it also makes the character's few featured comedic moments
that much funnier. As The Logical Smart One, that is going to be your job a lot of the time. Don't get me wrong, you'll still be able
to "bring the funny." But never forget the important responsibility this character has to carry.
One more thing on this character. Whether you are a man or a woman, there are some universal rules to playing The Logical
Smart One. And they start with being able to identify the characteristics that we just discussed. Tbis is a point that I'll be repeating
over and over again with each of The Eight Characters of Comedy. It is vital that you become familiar with each of these
characteristics and how you could play them realistically. Remember, you can't say Tm going to play patient' for this scene."
You have to "be patient" Otherwise, you will come off looking like a caricature rather than a character. And remember, a funny
actor with a real character 'vill get the part on a sitcom.

You need to identify which of these you can play from the heart and which you think the scene or the character requires. Once
you get familiar with them, they will become second nature, like it is for Patricia Heaton. She is smart, patient and she actually
likes taking care of Ray, even when he is being, well, Ray. And she makes it obvious that it's not an actor p laying these traits, but
rather living them.

A NNO UNCER V.O.: In the next episode ofThe Eight Characters of Comedy," the Logical Smart One watches her dope of
a fiance damage a priceless heirloom at a family gathering. He tries to fix it, making matters even worse. She starts to get angry
\vith him, but really can't because he is a Lovable Loser.


Here is a list of some of the great Logical Smart Ones.

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We open on a small, cramped kitchen in a New York City flat where an attractive homemaker is talking to her upstairs
neighbor through the window.
Just as the gossip session is getting good, the front door opens and in walks an overweight bus driver in his late 30s with a slight
smirk and a look of sheer pride in his huge doe eyes, and the studio audience goes wild.
Our hero savors the moment, holding that expression as his slightly cynical yet supportive wife comes over to see what he's up
to THIS time. Finally, after he can't hold his new scheme to himself any longer, he speaks in a loud, bellowing voice that we've all
come to recognize and love. His name-Ralph Kramden.

RALPH: Yessir, this is the time r m gonna get my pot of gold!

He says it with pride, as he confidently strolls arowtd the tiny apartment. His wife Alice simply stands there, hands on her hip,
staring at this cuddly giant. She's heard this speech many times and while she loves and supports her rolly polly husband, she
can't help but take a shot at him.
ALICE: Just go for the gold, you've already got the pot.
And just like that, Ralph's expression changes. He loses his optimistic grin, shakes his head, raises his fist and says ...
RALPH: One of these days, Alice, one of these days. POW! Right to the moon!
Ralph Kramden, played by The Great One, Jackie Gleason, is one of the funniest sitcom characters of all time. We love to
watch how big and bold he is as he carries himself through life. Beyond that, we REALLY love to laugh at Ralph's never-ending
search for a better life, his bottomless pool of get-rich-quick schemes and money-making gimmicks. This is the man who invented
diet pizza, tried selling useless kitchen utensils on television, cooked up his famous Kraru\.far Mystery Appetizer (which was
actually dog food) and made up a story that he was dying and sold it to a magazine.
Ralph is so desperate in his pursuit to find his "pot of gold" that he is \villing to take risks and try just about anything, including
the impossible. And he approaches each and every plan \vith wtabashed enthusiasm. He is sometimes pitiful, sometimes pathetic
but always endearing. We love his childlike enthusiasm when he gets a new idea, his narrow-minded impulsiveness that doesn't let
him see his idea \vill fail, his never-ending ability to screw everything up and his determination to never give up his dream. We love
him because he is lovable. We love him because he is a loser. We love him because he is The Lovable Loser.



The Lovable Loser is another character that appears in just about every single sitcom in history. In fact, The Lovable Loser is
often the reason we watch and follow a show week after week. We love to watch "Friends" to see how Chandler Bing (Matthew
Perry) is going to make a fool of himself. We cheer for Michael Kyle (Damon Wayans) as he tries a little too desperately to
identify \vith his children on "My Wife and Kids." We wait impatiently for how Doug Heffernan (Kevin James) \vill mess up his
relationship on "King of Queens," Tim Taylor's next project gone awry on "Home Improvement" or what Robert Barone (Brad

Garrett) will do to get his parents' love and attention on "Everybody Loves Raymond."
ROBERT: You obviously haven't read my book, 'You' re In The W ay: The Robert Barone Story."
See, The Lovable Losers are often the "com" in sitcom. They bring the funny, if you will, week after week with their
hair-brained ideas, their ability to mess up just about anything and most importantly, their desperate attempts to get what they
want, no matter how ridiculous they appear. They are constantly making mistakes in their quest to get whatever it is they want.
And luckily for us, they never learn from those mistakes.
And they all want something. Chandler wants to find the perfect girL Michael wants to be the perfect dad. Doug wants to be
the perfect husband. Tim wants to build the perfect whatever. And Robert wants, just once, to not come in second to Ray. It goes
on and on, but the one thing they have in co=on is they all go about getting what they w ant the wrong way, thus never getting
the "perfect" anything.
That is why The Lovable Loser is an essential ingredient to a successful situation comedy . Team them up with The Logical
Smart One and you have a sitcom. It is the most co=on combination of characters and a perfect pairing for comedy. This 1-2
combo dates back to the origins of sitcoms and has carried through to today' s prime time television.
As I mentioned in the previous episode, the w omen (or the wives) in many television relationships play The Logical Smart
Ones. \V ell, as you can tell from the examples given above, most television husbands are The Lovable Losers. There are, of
course, exceptions, but when a male comic tries to make sitcom history, chances are the studio or the network will start him as a
lovable goofball who is full of good intentions and bad ideas and place him next to a supportive, sensible and attractive wife.
B UT, there have been some incredible female Lovable Losers, including one of the best of all time ... Lucy (played b y the First
Lady of Comedy, Lucille Ball). All Lucy wants is to be a STAR. And she is willing and eager to try just about anything to get it,
including doing "research" for her big movie audition, much to the chagrin of Ricky.
RICKY: Look honey, Italy has enough problems already. I don't want to have to worry about you lousing up the entire grape

LUCY: Oh, all I want to do is soak up a little local color, so I'll know what I'm acting about. What could possibly happen to
RICKY: I could answer that but we 're only going to be here ten days.

(Notice the Classic Triplet.)

While Lucy's zany attempts at stardom usually get her in trouble (like finding her wrestling in a vat of grapes), it's her physical
humor and comedic timing that make her one of the greats. It is Lucille Ball's commitment to her goals, her focus on obtaining
these goals episode after episode and her ability to mess up that makes her character an icon and "I Love Lucy" legendary.
And the female Lovable Loser role has carried throughout the years. That Girl" \vith M arlo Thomas, The M ary Tyler M oore
Show" and later 'Rhoda" \vith Valerie Harper, "Laverne & Shirley" with Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams, 'Ellen" featuring

Ellen Degeneres, "Suddenly Susan" with Brooke Shields, "Moesha" with Brandy and "Desperate Housewives" with Teri Hatcher
all feature this character as a leading lady.
There are plenty of lovable Loser roles out there and there are more popping up every day.

Commercial Break
Minority Lovable Losers
The Lovable Loser role can also be credited for the steady rise in minority sitcoms today. Most if not all oftoday's
minority comedies have strong Lovable Loser characters that drive the show. Just watch "The Bernie Mac Show, "
"The Hughley's," "The George Lopez Show," "Girlfriends," and "The Parkers." You'll see incredibly funny Lovable
Loser characters that play to multiple generations.
These characters, bringing their own ethnic flavor to the role, date back to classics like "Good Times" (remember
J.J. desperate attempt to make it as a comic book artist?) and "What's Happening" (where all three guys were
constantly looking for money). A resurgence began in the early 90s with shows like "The Fresh Prince ofBel-Air,"
"Martin" and "Afoesha, "and continues today.
Back to our show...


Childlike in nature
Consciously oblivious
Good hearted
Has an agenda

Not easily deterred
Self deprecating



All sitcom characters, whether a Lovable Loser or not, must possess some of these characteristics. After all, we need to like
them if we're going to tune in to see them week after week. But The Lovable Loser embodies all of these. These are the
characteristics that keep them living in our hearts (sometimes several years after the show is off the air). These are the traits that
make us cheer them on and laugh when they faiL They are all vital to the success of a Lovable Loser. Remember, as an actor
playing this role, you need to embrace these characteristics. It's easier to identify \vith the '1oser" part of this character because
we've all had ideas that have gone tembly wrong. But it's the mastery of merging the '1ovable" part \vith the '1oser" part that
makes this character classic and has brought great acclaim to many actors.
I believe, I believe, I believe
As a small child, did you believe that you were a superhero? Did you go up to the neighborhood bully and tell him he couldn't
hurt you because you had super powers? Did you cry when he socked you in the stomach? Did you believe enough in your super
powers to confront him again the next day? Were you perplexed when the same thing happened?
If you can relate, The Lovable Loser might be a good fit. These characters are childlike in nature in that they believe they can
do anything, whether practical or far-fetched. They are the dreamers, and this is a characteristic that they \vill never outgrow. As

kids, the dream might be to possess super powers or to be a star athlete or to meet a knight in shining armor. As adults, the
dreams become quests to find greatness, fame, fortune, the perfect mate or a better (more exciting) life. The dreams may change
over time, but the dreamer doesn't. And neither does their childlike nature.
There are some great Lovable Loser sitcom kids that provide some insight into this fimdamental characteristic, most notably
Beaver Cleaver (Jerry Mathers) on "Leave it to Beaver." Here he is sitting down for yet another father-and-son chat with Logical
Smart One Ward Cleaver (Hugh Beawnont).
WARD: Beaver, you know what Larry was doing was wrong. You could have stopped him.

BEAVER: Gee, dad. I have enough trouble keeping myself good 'vithout keeping all the other kids good.
Later on, we were introduced to Kevin Arnold on 'The Wonder Years." With Fred Savage's innocent, yet intelligent acting
and Daniel Stem's sweet-with-a-touch-of-irony narration, we get to watch Kevin come of age, struggling to hold onto his
innocence in a turbulent decade (1960s), tr}oing to ' vin the heart of Winnie Cooper and dreaming all those things that make kids ...
KEVIN: When you're a little kid, you're a bit of everything. Scientist, Philosopher, Artist. Sometimes it seems like grO\ving up
is giving these things up one at a time.
1\-Iarcia, :M arcia ... Jan
On the other side of the sitcom coin, there is the ultimate middle child, Jan Brady (Eve Plumb) who essentially dreamed of
being her older sister M arcia (Maureen McCormick) . Through Jan, we get to see how sweetly pathetic a Lovable Loser can be
(I'll get more into that in a bit) and how they always look to something they don't have. In Jan's case, popularity, beauty,
boys-pretty much everything M arcia has.
It is vital to remember that The Lovable Loser dreams more than any other character, whether they're children or adults. They
have dreams so big that sometimes the dreams lead to trouble and they can't see why. N o matter what, The Lovable Loser
believes these dreams will come true. Sho\ving they want something so bad makes the character vulne rable. And it is this
vulnerable, eternal dreamer quality that makes them lovable, makes them losers and makes them incredibly fimny.
Combining an '1 believe" attitude with dreaming big provides the motto of The Lovable Loser that \vill carry characters and
actors through scenes and storylines. It is very simple.
'1 hope. I hope. I hope."
But sometimes, they hope a little too much and it comes across as desperate. The reason it comes off this way week after
week is that they ARE desperate. They are a needy bunch. They \vill do just about anything to get what they want, what they
need. They are never truly happy with what they have in their lives, and they are tr}oing desperately to get what they think \vill

make them happy. The Lovable Loser has faith that everything is going to tum out Of course, even when they get what they
w ant (it does happen from time to time) they quickly discover that they need something else to TRULY make them happy. Be
careful with this. Playing needy isn't fun to watch. The skilled actor will find the /ikeability in the character's desperation as Ed
O 'Neill did with AI Bundy on M arried ... With Children."
Has there ever been a more desperate and pathetic sitcom character than AI? He is so miserable with his life, his nagging wife,
his dead end job, his Wlioving children, his home, his everything that all he wants is a return to his glory days of high school when
he was the star quarterback, the kid with a full head of hair and his whole future ahead of him. Instead, here he is trying to put
some shoes on an obnoxious customer who feels the need to call him a loser.
AL: You think I'm a loser? Because I have a stinking job that I hate, a family that doesn' t respect me and a whole city that
curses the day I was born? \Vell, that may mean loser to you, but let me tell you something. Every day when I wake up in the
morning, I know it's not going to get any better until I go back to sleep.
See how pathetic and desperate he is? But still, he keeps just the tiniest shred of pride.
AL: But I'm not a loser. Because, despite it all, me and every other guy who'll never be what they w anted to be, we're out
there, being what we don't want to be, forty hours a week for life.
To return to his glory days is an unattainable goal, but his desperation for that dream (or anything to make his life better) makes

him a pitiful, vulnerable and hilarious character.

The next step's a doozey!
AI Bundy represents another type" of Lovable Loser. I mentioned earlier that most Lovable Losers are big dreamers from the
time they're little kids. W ell, some were able to accomplish their dreams without scre\ving up. Some w ere successful, some had
all the things they now dream about, some even started out as Logical Smart Ones ... but then everything changed. They grew up,
got married, had kids, took on a career, whatever. And that's when we tune in. W e watch these once-successful guys and gals
deal with the rigors of a new life or at least a new situation.
Remember, AI was the star athlete who is now poor, unappreciated and working at a crappy job. On the hit show ''Scrubs,"
Dr. John Dorian (Zach Braff) was in the top of his medical class and now he' s trying desperately to make it as a doctor. Laverne
and Shirley were the popular girls in high school now struggling to make it" in life. Even Dr. Cliff Huxtable (Bill Cosby) has his
challenges. While he is a successful and w ell-respected doctor, he isn' t alw ays as prepared as a husband and father.
But the one thing ALL Lovable Losers have in co=on is that they all are dreaming of something. There is alw ays something
else that each and every one of them want in their life that they don't have now, whether it's fame and fortune, a return to days of
old or to be the perfect parent
But why do we find all of these dreamers so funny? Well, you have to remember that as I mentioned in the introduction, the
root of all good comedy comes from desperation. This is present in every sitcom, but more specifically there is almost alw ays one

character (The Lovable Loser) that has a life long goal or dream (no matter how Wlfealistic) that they shoot for. And we get to
watch all the obstacles that get in their way week after week. I think we enjoy watching Lovable Losers because it makes us feel
better about our own hopes, dreams and failures. Therefore, we can openly cheer for them, feel bad for them and wait until they
get another ''big" idea.
It also helps that these characters don' t hide their vulnerability. On one end, that can be an attractive quality while on the other
it can be pretty pathetic. Tbis sets up the dichotomy of The Lovable Loser. As actors, this makes the character fun to play, as a
writer, fun to write and as viewers, fun to watch.
Hey , at le ast you' re oot me
As \vith The Logical Smart One (and \vith almost all ofThe Eight Characters of Comedy), sarcasm is a powerful weapon for
The Lovable Loser. They use it in both defending their dreams, ideas and philosophies or for mocking somebody else's. But they
also use sarcasm on themselves. With all the vulnerability and desperation they put out, the writers and actors have to give this
character a sense of humor about themselves. Other\vise they reallly would be pathetic. And there is one character who
encompasses this self-deprecating sense of humor better than anyone else. Two words, Chandler Bing.
RACHEL (Jennifer Aniston): You're a pathetic loser, right?

CHANDLER: Ohh yeah.

Chandler Bing, in my book (and this IS my book), played \vith exquisite timing and characterization b y M atthew Perry, is a
quintessential Lovable Loser. Chandler spends most of his time complaining about not being able to find the right girl, happiness,
success and oh, the right girl. What makes this character so endearing and ultimately enduring is his self-deprecating sense of
humor. He is aware of what a loser he is and he jokes about it \\~th a snappy, sarcastic \vit.
Anybody who watches "Friends" (is there anybody who doesn' t?) knows that Chandler can use his sharp \\~t against just
about anybody, but he will usually tum it around and use it against himself as part of the same joke.
CHANDLER: (On being told somebody found him the perfect girl) Ah, you see, ' perfect' might be a problem. Had you said
'co-dependent,' or 'self-destructive' ..."
Tbis use of sarcasm helps establish the loser quality of the character. It is a constant comedic reminder of who that person is
and how unlucky they are. It also makes them seem humble and endearing; which makes us want to cheer them on even more.
Take Rhoda Morgenstern (Valerie Harper) on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show ."
RHODA: I know exactly where I was twelve years ago. I was at a party like this, sitting on a couch like this, drinking \vine
from a paper cup like this. (BEA1) You've come a long way, baby.

The light at the end of the tunnel

Even if The Lovable Loser's dream seems Wl!eachable and others continually appear to be putting them down, they are always
hopeful and that makes us love them all the more. They see the silver lining in everything. With each new scheme, they once again
become determined to beat the odds and get what they want They can appear defeated at times, but there is always that spark
of hope inside a Lovable Loser because they are optimistic. In every episode that spark shows itself (usually in the first three
minutes). As an actor, you need to find that spark and be optimistic about your character's idea and future.
W ayans' portrayal as Michael Kyle (an updated, edgier Cliff Huxtable) on My Wife and Kids" is a perfect example. All he
truly wants is a normal life, but his energetic wife, his troubled son and his adorably devilish daughters make that a weekly
struggle. A kid at heart, Michael also doesn't exactly know how to give the best advice. But his character is always determined,
hopeful and optimistic. And Wayans plays that every time he gets a chance to have a chat with his wife or his kids, even if he
doesn't know what he's talking about
The same is true for Ray Barone (Ray Romano) on .,Everybody Loves Raymond." Ray is hopeful that he can be a good father,
but when given a chance, of course, he screws it up.
RAY: It turns out that Allie didn' t want the sex talk. She asked me why God put us on earth.
DEBRA: So, what did you tell her?

RAY: I told her heaven was too crowded.

DEBRA: You what?
RAY: And then, I faked a cold and got the hell out of there.
DEBRA: I don't believe this! You wanted to act like a mature adult! Why didn't you stay and talk to her about it?
RAY: Because I studied for the sex talk!
(Notice the p unctuation and the multiple Triplets.)
All Ray wants is peace with not only his wife and kids, but also his parents and his brother. But somehow he always manages
to put his foot in his mouth. One thing to remember is that it is this hopeful quality that often gets The Lovable Losers into the
worst predicaments. They desperately want something so bad that they will consciously put blinders on and not realize what
they're doing isn't smart. It's what I call being " consciously obliv ious."
What this means is that a dwnber person (see The Dumb One in Episode 4) will happily go along with a crazy idea and not
have any clue (or concern) as to why it isn't working; whereas, The Lovable Loser IS smart enough to know that this is a crazy
idea and that it might not work BUT they will do it anyway. They have a conscious understanding that this might be a bad idea,

but they will put blinders on, focusing intently on getting what they want (achieving their goal). When The Lovable Loser doesn't
achieve his or her goal, everything crashes around them. But still, they are not easily deterred. They are not clueless. They are
just in denial, as they should be.
Essentially, The Lovable Loser's character arc (and thought pattern) from week to week is as follows:
''This idea has to work, this time I'll get rich, this time I'll succeed."

'Tm a failure, nothing ever works for me, I'm such a loser."

''This idea has to work, this time I'll get rich, this time I'll succeed."
Remember, this character fails over and over again. But each week, they try again, facing their new venture with optimistic
enthusiasm, blocking out the lessons they should have learned from past failures.
One final note on these particular characteristics; not every Lovable Loser shows optimism and hope as outwardly as others
(i.e., AI Bundy), but it is there and it is what keeps them going day to day. It's important to remember that without hope and
optimism, the sitcom could quickly tum into drama. You need to make the viewer cheer for you and your dream no matter how
ridiculous it seems.

Commercwl Break
Reality check

A good example ofa reality TV Lovable Loser comes from one of my st?sdents. Here's Jim Martyka's story of his
experience on "Oblivious. "
"So just arriving in L.A., I was eager (and desperate) to find some oddjobs of any kind. After quite a bit of
browsing, there it was... the most perfect part-timejob for me. The posting read 'Spend your summer as a Little
League Baseball umpire!!!' Now, I always thought it would be cool to be an umpire. I quickly called, got an interview,
turned on my natural charm and they loved me. All I had to do was get my certificate.
My 'training' started with this weird guy 'teaching'me how to scream 'STTRRIIIIIKKE!!!' as loud as I could and
showing me how to do a little booty-shaking dance when signaling a home run. Oh, he also spent a good 20 minutes
preaching to me about the importance of dusting offhome plate with your butt up in the air pointed at the pitcher.
Okay, this was getting weird, but whoteve~I was still excited.

But then, this guy said he was going to simulate a player throwing a fit after a bad call. He wanted to see how I
would handle myself. For the next five minutes, he proceeded to throw an absolute tantrum. And for five minutes, I sat
there looking clueless, wondering what I had gotten myself into. That's when a familiar face popped out from behind a
dugout and iriformed me that I was on the Spike TV hidden camera show 'Oblivious. "'
Back to our show ...
What a great guy (or girl)!
Look at all the great Lovable Losers and you will see something sweet and kind in them (even if it only appears from time to
time). You will also see some of the most charming people you could ever hope to meet. Even though he can be very
short-sighted and narrow-minded, there is something sweet and charming about Jim Belushi and his character on "According to
Jim." He is like a good-hearted teddy bear at times and that makes you love him, even if he's saying or doing something stupid.
Every Lovable Loser needs to have this quality. As an actor, you need to find and play upon that natural part of your
personality that attracts others to you. Are you endearing and nice? Is it the way you openly care for people? Is it your ability to
make people smile? Is it your zest for life? Tbink of how you, as an actor, go in and try and "win a room" at an audition. How do
you do it? Whatever it is that makes YOU charming and lovable, find it, embrace it and play it to the hilt.
Another bright idea
This character is impulsive, and this is where writers can have the most fun and where actors can really feel the most free.
Because Lovable Losers are so hopeful and desperate to change their lives, they will sometimes jump at the first opportunity or
new idea that comes their way, often without thinking it through. And the results range from minor mishaps to complete and total
chaos. Want an example? Let's take a look at Dr. John Dorian on "Scrubs."
Anyone who watches the show knows about his constant standoff with his arch enemy, the janitor (Neil Flynn). Actually, it's
more like the constant harassment J.D. suffers at the hands of the janitor. But every once in a while, J.D. will retaliate impulsively
and the results are, well, see for yourself.
J.D.: (Tips over trashcan, spilling garbage and smiles proudly knowing the janitor will have to clean it up) Okay, I win.

JANITOR: Can I play? (He knocks J.D.'s huge stack offolders to the floor) This is fun.
J.D.: (Defeated yet again) Yeah.
This impulsive trait is very important for The Lovable Loser to possess because it makes for endless story possibilities whether
you're J.D., Lucy or Raymond. There is really nothing The Lovable Loser won't try if he or she thinks it can get them what they
want. You need to approach this character in much the same way.
Also, it's important to remember that as impulsive as they can be, The Lovable Loser does have an agenda. Every idea (or

plan) is going to serve a greater purpose--to help them get their w ant. They are wanting of many things they don' t have in their
life. But, The Lovable Loser is good-hearted so they w on't hurt anybody along the way.

Who in yoor life is The Lovable Loser?



B y now you can probably see that this is the most popular of the characters and one that is used in just about every sitcom. As
I said, good comedy comes from desperation, and "somebody desperately needing something" is found in just about every sitcom
As such, other characters will sometimes step into The Lovable Loser role even if just for an episode. Actually, one can argue
that just about every character has at least a little bit of The Lovable Loser in them because every character has a specific ''w ant."
But where it differs is that having that "want" is all this character thinks about and dreams about. Having that "want" is a defining
trait ofThe Lovable Loser.
And that is why The Lovable Loser and The Logical Smart One make such a good pair. The Lovable Loser has the desperate
want and goes about getting it in a ridiculous fashion, while The Logical Smart One is there to try to talk some sense into their
thick heads. When the two clash, it's instant humor.
Also, as a plotline twist in a long-running series, writers will occasionally interchange the roles of The Lovable Loser and The
Logical Smart One. M ore often than not, this role reversal is brought on b y something that touches The Logical Smart One' s
nerves, sending them into a panic, clouding their judgment and making them act irrationally. They become a Lovable Loser. A t this
point, The Lovable Loser gets to step up and take over as The Logical Smart One and hilarity ensues. But once again, b y the end
of the episode, The Lovable Loser will fall back into his or her place, desperately chasing their unreachable dream.

Possible intentions fo1' The Lovable Lose1':

To Dream
To Charm
To Persuade
To Endear
To Pursue



Final Thoughts On Pla)'ing The Lovable Loser

So, are you thinking that this character might be a real challenge to play? You shouldn't be. You have played this role many
times already in your life. After all, you're an ARTIST! And actors and writers trying to live out their dreams ... are all Lovable
Losers. N ow, hold on, settle down and let me explain.
Think of a time when you have wanted a job so bad. you needed it so bad. that you were willing to try something crazy to get
it. Think of how you left home with only $10 in your pocket and a million dollar dream. Think of how your parents didn't approve
and how you didn't care because you were optimistic that you could (and still can) be a success. Think of how many obstacles
have gotten in your way, how many times you've been defeated. how many times you've seen your brilliant plan fail and how
you've picked yourself up, dusted yourself off and started all over again.
As actors and writers, you can all relate to the overall want, the overall need. to ful6ll a dream. Remember, as artists, we are
the risk-takers, the heroic Lovable Losers. W e all wish, we all dream, we all hope; and sometimes what we do can be damn
funny. Remember that feeling next time you write or audition for this character.
One more thing on this character. In my classes, I will ask my students what their character "wants" in a scene. What is their
immediate objective? While playing The Lovable Loser, you need to "think bigger picture" because your want often will go
beyond the immediate want in the scene. And throughout each scene of a script, The Lovable Loser will go after that ultimate
want. You have to remember that the most basic defining characteristic of a Lovable Loser is that he or she wants something
different than what they have in their lives at the moment. And that factors into every decision they make, whether rash or planned
If a Lovable Loser's want is to find a perfect mate, chances are they probably won't. That's one way the writers maintain the
comedic predictability. If they do find that special someone, the writers must give that character a whole new want. In order to
keep the conflict, the comedy and the audience' s need for predictability, The Lovable Loser must always have a strong want. As
an example, once again, Chandler Bing.
For most of''Friends," all Chandler wanted (and couldn't seem to get) was the "right" girl. Then he fell in love with the "right"
girl (Monica) and it would seem that his "want" was ful6lled. But not for The Lovable Loser. After he and Monica started dating,
his "want" was to keep it secret from their friends (but he couldn't). Then his "want" was to get a new job (and he struggled).
Then his "want" was to have a baby (and that proved to be tough) . The point is that this character is defined b y the fact that he or
she wants something and they can never get it. And if they finally do get it, then the show 's over. Once Chandler got everything he
wanted. the character was ful6lled and the show was over.
But that doesn't happen for most Lovable Losers. Ralph Kramden will always stand out as one of the great Lovable Losers
and a role model for anybody looking to play or write this complex character. Ralph is somebody who is increchbly vulnerable,

somebody who will always pursue his dreams (or schemes) no matter how ridiculous they are and somebody who can always be
counted on to mess up. That's why we love him. That's what makes him a Lovable Loser.

ANNOUNCER V.O.: In the next episode of'The Eight Characters of Comedy," The Lovable Loser wants to take a girl he
just met out to dinner. But, unbeknownst to him, she has a major phobia about dining out. Chaos ensues when The Lovable
Loser dines with The Neurotic.


Here is a list of some of the great Lovable Losers.




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Scene opens on an older man looking tired, weathered, frustrated and yet, slightly amused. This is poor M artin Crane (John
Mahoney). And here the widowed father of two sits in yet another brilliantly -written episode of ''Frasier" tr)mg to explain to his
sons Frasier and Niles, played superbly b y Kelsey Grammer and David Hyde Pierce respectively, how they are and always have
been "different"
MARTIN: People think you're stuffy. You !mow, \vith your opera parties, and your wine parties and your seasoned crepe

FRASIER: In my defense, Niles is the only one who has ever seasoned his crepe pans.
NILES: Which is precisely why I've had the same set since the ninth grade, thank you very much.
W e feel M artin's pain because week after week we watch as his two sons talk and get excited about things outside the norm.
We are right there \vith him, rolling our eyes.
MARTIN: ... Even when you were in jwlior high, you used to love that TV program, 'The Avengers." You used to run all over
the neighborhood pretending you were that guy with the umbrella Did you have to run through the neighborhood in bowler
hats? You were just begging to get beat up.

FRASIER: Come to think of it, it was rather a rough summer that year, wasn' t it?
NILES: I remember getting a chin strap, so the bowler wouldn' t fall off when I ran.
MARTIN: And all that did was make you look like Elizabeth Taylor in "National Velvet."
We watch as they flaunt their intelligence and their cultured demeanor. We watch as they analyze the world around them. We
watch as they obsess over things that seem so ridiculous to us. And then we laugh as they lose their grasp of it all. Frasier and
Niles are like several other classic sitcom characters. They are high-strung, intelligent and sometimes nerdy, but always
entertaining to watch. They are both The Neurotic.



The N eurotic is one of the most cherished of The Eight Characters of Comedy going back to the days (not so long ago) when
television comedy could really get ''over the top." They are often among the most theatrical of the characters because they act,
shall we say, "abnormal wtder normal circumstances." They talk about the most obscure things. They get frustrated when nobody
wtderstands them. They tell you what they're thinking as they're thinking it. They always expect things to turn out a certain way
and they get upset when they don't. They have a "rulebook" that they just assume everyone \vill follow, a set of rules that helps
them make sense of things. They talk and talk and talk some more.
If this sowtds like a familiar character, then obviously you already have an wtderstanding of The Neurotic, whether you are one
yourself or you know one (anybody who studies \vith me knows that they are being taught b y one). The N eurotic is one of the
funniest, deepest and most complex ofThe Eight Characters of Comedy.
And we all have a guitty pleasure in watching them, whether it's the buttoned-up Darrin Stephens (Dick York) coming apart at
the seams because his , vife's "Be\vitched," Felix Unger (Tony Randall) hyperventilating because his sloppy roo=ate Oscar
Madison (Jack Klugman) is making the apartment messy in 'The Odd Couple," Alex P. Keaton (Michael J. Fox) trying to explain
his extreme right-\ving views to his left-,ving parents in "Family Ties" or Monica (Courteney Cox) just being M onica on "Friends."
W e love watching when things don't go their way. And we really love it when the other characters confront them on it.
As an example, here's an exchange between M onica and Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow) from an episode of "Friends" where Monica
is setting the table for the perfect dinner. Watch as she begins to wtravel.
M O NICA: Can you help me fold these napkins?

M O NICA: I'm gonna go across the hall and check on the yams. (Notices Phoebe fo lding the napkins) N o! ... N o, honey ...
N ot like that, we 're not at a bam dance. You want to fold them like swans like I showed you at Christmas, remember?
PHOEBE: Yeah. It all came screaming back to me.

(Notice the Over-Extended Triplet.)

With the exception of 'The Odd Couple," past sitcoms weren't really built arowtd this character, mainly because they are
too-neurotic! In most cases, The Neurotic was a second-banana type of character that could always be relied on to provide
instant comedy just b y walking into a room and showcasing their neurosis. But that has really changed over the past decade or so
with the popularity of shows like "Friends," Frasier" and Monk." We all know characters from our own lives that are like this.
Or maybe you're like this.
Are you the one who lives in a dust-free apartment? Do you always have to make lists? Do you often think you have some rare
disease ? Do you think out loud? Do you think and think and think, obsessing over anything and everything? Is this you?

Commercwl Break
Frasur and Niles
So, how does a show that's led by two Neurotics keep the comedic conflict? The answer is constant role reversal.
For example, ifFrasier is acting neurotic about a woman, Mles will step up and act more like a Logical Smart One or
vice versa. The two always complement each other in the show and the writing allows them to wear different hats.
Back to our shaw ...
Anal retentive
F oUows their own life rulebook

Internalizes every thought
Sense of bravado



The role of The N eurotic is more open to interpretation than many of the other characters because The N eurotic has many
faces, which you'll see as we go along. That's because neurosis comes in all shapes and sizes. But at its heart is a deep insecurity
that will follow The N eurotic from the time they are nerdy little kids to neurotic adults. This character has alw ays been different
from others and there is a part of them that will alw ays be insecure for this reason. Right away, this insecurity is a great way to add
depth to a character that you will soon discover has many layers. It is unavoidable. To play The N eurotic, you need to understand
the insecurity they faced growing up and still deal with on a day to day basis (more on this later).
But for now, lef s go back to where The N eurotic begins because it is a fascinating character to dissect. It all starts when
they're children because all N eurotics start out as ...


That' s right, Nerds. You know, those boys and girls with the thick glasses, the pocket protectors, the bow ties, the comic
book collection, the obscure facts they spew out at you, the lack of social slcills and the look in their eye that tells you they're just
a little oftbeat. You know, nerds!
In jwrior high or high school, they were the ones who spent most of their time in computer clubs, marching bands and study
groups. They were the brainy, four-eyed geeks who the jocks picked on. Or they were the over-achieving, slightly plump girls
the cheerleaders taunted. They were just about any of the main stars on the short-lived but highly-acclaimed series .,Freaks &
Geeks," a show where these dorky characters contemplated the most important oflife's issues ...
BILL HAVERCHUCK (Martin Starr): If I was the Bionic Woman, what would I wear?
How do I know that N eurotics start out as nerds? \Veil, besides my own personal experience, I think back to some of my
favorite TV N eurotics, like siblings Ross and M onica Remember when they were seen in high school flashbacks? Monica was fat
and insecure while Ross was a nervous and awkward geek. Once again, refer back to the Frasier example. A bowler hat with a
chinstrap? Hello?
If you are this character, please embrace it, write it, play it! Nerdy Neurotics make some of the funniest characters on
television. There are some great young nerds, including Chip Douglas (Stanley Livingston) on ''My Three Sons," \vith his
Coke-bottle glasses, Paul Pfeiffer (Josh Saviano) on 'The Wonder Years" \vith his awkward appearance, Carlton Banks
(Alfonso Ribeiro) on 'The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" \vith his patented Carlton dance and the king of all nerds, Steve Erkel (Jaleel
White) on "Family M atters," who only has to walk into a room to get laughs. Why? Because he was so dorky!
Want an even more popular example? How about the amazing super nerd that is Screech? Dustin Diamond's character on
"Saved By the Bell" loves the show "ALF," enjoys peanut butter in his ginger ale and has tried a couple of times to rewrite the
words to the school song. When told b y a teacher how strange he is, his response ...
SCREECH: Well, thank you very much for noticing.
Okay, you want further proof that all N eurotics start out as nerds? Remember the tall, skinny, hi-spectacled high schooler Patty
Greene on the short-lived series "Square Pegs?" Well, she grew up, moved to The Big Apple and became the famous modern
day Neurotic Carrie Bradshaw on "Sex and the City." That's right, I'm talking about the captivating Sarah Jessica Parker. As a
young actress, Parker convincingly played a shy, nerdy girl. And as an adult, she transformed herself into a glamorous, successful
woman. Interesting, huh? Even though her characters (Patty Greene and Carrie Bradshaw) are completely different, what they
have in common is that they share many of the same traits of The N eurotic.
Tbis nerdy quality is one of the things that make N eurotics endearing. In order to capture this, you have to call upon what
makes you insecure. Look back to your own awkward phase (we all had them-okay, maybe not all) and tap into that part of
yourself that made you feel insecure (and maybe still does) .

Commercial Break
Reality check

A good reality television example ofThe Nerdy Neurotic would be just about any of the guys on "Beauty & The
Geek" or "Average Joe." Intelligent, bright, insecure and nerdy, they spent the entire show wondering why the
beautiful woman (the prize) would pick them.
Back to our show...
Oh, how you worry so
Neurotics are the worriers. They are the warriors of worrying. They are extremely an..'-;ous and nervous characters. Even
though they are often some of the most intelligent people, they are worried that they won't find the perfect mate, a good job, a
fulfilling Hfe. They worry, worry, worry about everything. And it all goes back to their adolescence. Think about it; after being
picked on for years and years in school, a person will grow up fearful. Because they are so different and they are so interested in
things that are slightly out of the norm, they feel insecure about themselves (and what others think). And so, just as they talk and
talk and talk ... and think and think and think ... they also worry and worry and worry.
Higher learning
Now let's take this character from high school into college, where geek becomes chic. Tbis is where they actually are
embraced for being inteUectual, where being nerdy is actually much more accepted. Tbis is where The Neurotic character really
starts growing into his or her own. For those of you who went to college, didn't you notice that it was suddenly the intellectual
guys and girls that were getting laid? Smart becomes sexy. Tbis is where they begin learning social skills and start defining what
they want to do with their lives.
BUT young adulthood also pro\~des some challenges for these characters, especially since they are so slow in developing
social skills. Tbis is where their intellect (and leftover nerdiness) can sometimes get in the way. Think of Ross Geller, played with
perfection by Da~d Sch\~er. Even though he is a grown man, the follo,~g scene gives a pretty good glimpse of his idea of
flirting; an approach that shows high intelligence, but a lack of street smarts.
Remember the episode \~th the pizza delivery girl? In this scene, Ross is working his "intellectual magic" \~th the pizza girl,
who actually seems to be into him, until he awkwardly tries to impress her \\~th some obscure fact.
ROSS: Hey, you know that smell that gas has?

GIRL: (Taken aback) Yeah.

ROSS: They put that in.
GIRL: What?
ROSS: (BEAT. Reluctantly explains) The gas is odorless. But they add the smell so you know when there's a leak.
GIRL: Well, okay.
ROSS: (Unable to stop himself) A lot of gas smells.
Also remember, intellectual and intelligent are two different things, and The N eurotic often lacks ..street smarts." As smart as
they are, they typically struggle in coping with day to day things that come easily for the rest of the characters like talking to
someone of the opposite sex "~thout sounding like a dork.
Like a fine wine
As these characters turn into adults, they become more cultured. And this is another characteristic that most, if not all
N eurotics share. M ost of them appreciate the more cultural things in life, be it fine dining, museums, art galleries, classical music or
the love of the opera.
Once again, take a look at Frasier." Has there ever been a smarter and more cultured sitcom than this one? The reason it's so
highbrow is that it features two N eurotics. These characters and other Neurotics are refined, proper and very smart. And they
always look good.
As kids, they were always neat, but never fashionable. But now they have some style. They wear nice threads, are
color-coordinated and well put together. Essentially, these characters who are cultured, refined and intellectual are simply nerds
that have grown up, have gained an appreciation for the finer things in life and are now getting respect (and notice) from others.
They're also more forthcoming and "~ttier than they were in high school. And they are not afraid to WJ!eash their sarcastic wit.
Like most of the other characters, The Neurotic can use sarcasm, although it isn't as obvious a comedic tool for this character as
it is for others like The Logical Smart One. N eurotics still use it towards those who aren't as intelligent or knowledgeable as they
are. You'll really see it emerge when somebody is picking on them, questioning their rulebook or challenging them on their control

Commercwl Break
Something to watch for ...

This is an unexplainable phenomenon, but for some reason, in the half hour world, The Neurotic almost always gets
the girl or guy. On the surface, it would seem that The Neurotic would annoy the hell out ofanyone they dated (and
sometimes they do), but check out the credits at the end of this episode and notice how many girlfriends or boyfriends
they have over the course ofa series ... even the more nerdy ones. Ross was married multiple times, Frasier and Niles
had (ex-) wives. Carrie had significant relationships, as did George Costanza, Grace Adler, Ally McBeal and even
Erkel! But, in the end, it typically doesn't work out because they're so neurotic!

Back to our show ...

What are they thinking?!
The N eurotic generally knows that he or she is neurotic. Part of this whole growing up process also leads N eurotics to become
analytical and in some cases over-analytical. It starts with them feeling insecure as kids. They are concerned with what the world
thinks of them; which in tum makes them second guess everything. Regardless, over the years, The N eurotic becomes more
analytical and introspective.
Still, The N eurotic has a difficult time making decisions. They plan everything out in their heads, going over it again and again,
w eighing all the options and checking all sides before acting. They obsess about every possible scenario, often before a problem
even occurs. That way they feel prepared for it if and when it does occur. They internalize every thought (and it shows). Just
think of how you can almost alw ays see Ross' wheels turning in David Schwinuner' s head.
Sometimes these thoughts actually become a voice-over narration, giving us a first hand look into the mind of The N eurotic.
Such is the case \\~th Carrie Bradshaw and another famous Neurotic, Ally McBeal (Calista Flockhart), whose neurosis was
brought to life for us to see. Ally is alw ays worried about something, including life itself. M any times you can find her actually
talking to herself.
ALLY: The truth is, I probably don't want to be too happy or content because, then what? I actually like the quest, the search.
That's the fun. The more lost you are, the more you have to look forw ard to. W ait! What do you know? I'm having a great
time and I don't even know it.
Just like Ally, Carrie, Ross and Monica, if you watch the character closely, you can alw ays see the w heels turning and the
thoughts flowing. Unlike many of the other characters, The N eurotic is constantly dealing \\~th conflict-their own internal
conflict-that goes something like this ...
''Well, maybe I should go. No, I can't. Do I want to go? Do they want me to go? Of course they do! Why weuldn' t they?
Maybe I shouldn't. No, they'll be mad. I probably should. Okay, slow down. M ake a list. Pros and cons."
Remember, this is simply how The N eurotic processes information. And it's increchbly important for bringing out the humor in a
character. Obviously, the dialogue is created b y the writers, but it's the actors who need to demonstrate how this character

obsesses about every single decision or situation. You have to practice the art of talking to yourself (in your mind and out loud).
It's funny and it'll bring you one step closer to becoming The N eurotic. That's what helps Sarah Jessica Parker play this character
so brilliantly. Her defining characteristics are that she is intelligent, insecure and that she over-analyzes everything.
Just watch the wonderfully written episode of ..Sex and the City" where Carrie is in the Hamptons with prospective boyfriend
Jack Berger (Ron Livingston). Here she is talking incessantly on and on about her last messy, complicated relationship (and
talking him right out of dating her in the process).
CARRIE: Yeah, well, we hadn' t sufficiently hurt each other enough the first time around, but we definitely took care of
business this time. Because this time, he moved in. So we had the merging of things, the dividing of things, then the things that
are left behind that you don't w ant to give back because that seems mean and you don' t want to throw them away because
that's all you have left. And it just gets harder as we get older because w e are not dating wildly inappropriate people anymore.
You know, there are no ..shoo, glad that's over." And after every breakup, I keep telling myself'Tm never doing this again, it's
too hard." I mean, how many of these things can a person survive? You know, they should institute a Helmet Law for
These are my rules
Tbis tendency to over-analyze also leads The N eurotic to come up with plans for every possible scenario and to follow their
own life rulebook. Where The Lovable Loser's motto is 1 hope, I hope, I hope," The N eurotic's motto is 1 must, I must, I
must! " Tbis is one of the easiest ways to pick out a N eurotic rather easily. The N eurotic has his or her own set of rules that they
MUST follow (and that they expect everyone else to follow). Tbis brings out the perfectionist characteristic. They often want
things to be perfect, to go as planned, and when they don' t, watch out!
Because of this, they can be infle:r..;bte and they most certainly can be controlling. Plain and simple, The N eurotic has control
issues. You see, they have a set of rules that they have thought long and hard about and worked through over and over again and
those rules give them a sense of structure, balance and security. They need to be in control, and once everything is in control, they
believe that they will be happy.
While The Neurotic appears to be controlling, it is really the fear oflosing control that is at the core of this character. As an
actor, focusing on playing ..controlling" is one-dimensional and doesn' t make us care about the character. In contrast, focusing
your acting on playing the "fear oflosing control" not only makes us root for and care about the character, but it's funnier.
And this gives The N eurotic conflict with other characters, like in this funny episode of "Friends." Here Monica and Chandler
have recently moved in together and Monica is explaining the "importance" of having their CD collection organized.
MON ICA: (Breathing heavy) Okay, where is the Cat Stevens CD?

CHANDLER: In the James Taylor case.

MONICA: (Starting to panic) Where is the James Taylor CD?

CHANDLER: Honey, I'm gonna save you some time, 200 CDs, not one of them in the right case.
M ONICA: Okay. No need to panic. Deep breaths everyone. Okay, umm ... uh, we're just gonna have to spend some time
and put the CDs in the right cases.
CHANDLER: Well, if we're gonna do that, we should come up with some kind of order. You know, alphabetically or b y
M ON ICA: (Not getting his sarcasm) Hmm, I don't know. We really have to talk this through.
(Notice the various Triplets in this dialogue.)
It's this kind of rigidity and infleXIbility that makes The Neurotic such an interesting character to play. Because they are
insecure, they feel they have to over-analyze everything. And the more time a character spends in their mind obsessing and
woiT)<ing, the more neurotic they become.
It doesn 't go there!
There are so many amazing N eurotic characters that all share the traits I just mentioned above. But like all of the other Eight
Characters of Comedy, the truly great ones will add even more depth to their character. Here are some ways that many of the
great N eurotics do it.
Look no further than Felix Unger on The Odd Couple," one of the greatest Neurotics of all time. The whole show is
essentially based on how anal retentive, meticulous and fussy Felix can be and how this drives his slob of a roommate, Oscar,
FELIX: Everyone thinks I'm a fussy hypochondriac. It makes me sick.
Felix is one of the ultimate N eurotics. Tony Randall's take as this popular N eil Simon character showcases everything that is
lovably irritating about The Neurotic and his neurosis. W e can't wait to see his reactions to Oscar's messes or his boorish
behavior. Whether he's hyperventilating, clearing his sinuses or simply whipping out the dust mop, Felix never requires a laugh
We also like it when others ridicule The Neurotic for their behavior, even if they're a little harsh about it. A perfect example is
in an episode of the short-lived "Sports Night," where executive producer Dana Whitaker (Felicity Huffinan) is barking orders in
the control booth and all of her co-workers have fun \vith her b y calling her ..persnickety" over and over again, driving her nuts.
'Persnickety. Persnickety. Persnickety!" You feel bad that they're teasing her, but Huffinan' s panicked reaction is hysterical.
And Huffinan takes some ofDana's traits into a N eurotic \vife and mother role as Lynette Scavo on "Desperate House\vives,"
as we can see here when she is told she can't get into her yoga class.

L YNETrE: r m a mother offour. Today I had to get up at five, make lunches, make breakfast, drop the twins off at school
and get across town lugging a baby and a sick child. Telling me to ''plan ahead" is like telling me to sprout wings. And it's things
like being told to plan ahead that make me so crazy, that yoga is the only thing that relaxes me. Except I show up here and I
can' get in and you tell me to plan ahead. It's a vicious cycle. See how that works?

Commercial Break
Neurotic physicali.ty

There are a few tricks to The Neurotic's physicality that can help you play this character. First ofall, it is important
to remember that The Neurotic always has something mulling about in their brain. Remember, they think incessantly
and ifyou play that, the audience will be able to see it not only in your eyes, but more importantly in how you react to
Also, The Neurotics have a tendency to blow up more quickly than other characters. Mainly, this happens because
they are wound so tight, but the real root of it is that they don't understand how somebody could disagree with them
or ignore their ru/ebook. Think ofFrasier yelling at Niles. Think ofNiles yelling at Frasier. Think ofFelix
hyperventilating. Think ofCarrie freaking out. Or, just think ofMonica! The Neurotics "lose it" at times, and that's
fun to watch. Bring that anxiety to the beginning, middle and end ofa scene, and play it under the surface, keeping it
ready to explode at any second.
The Neurotics are the masters ofsubtle nuances. For a perfect example, watch Niles whenever he meets Frasier at
the coffee shop. The first thing he does every time is pull out a handkerchief and wipe off the seat. Other Neurotics
walk a certain way, others dress a certain way and others talk a certain way. These little idiosyncrasies have added
extra dimension to some of the best characters ofall time and it's an area where you as an actor or writer can have a
little fun.
Bock to our show ...
I think I'm dying
While Felix Unger set the bar for The Neurotic being a hypochondriac, there are plenty that have come along and taken the
torch. One of the best in recent history is Monk, played by Tony Shalhoub. A detective conflicted with obsessive-compulsive
disorder and more phobias than anyone else in sitcom history, Monk has come to define a modern-day Neurotic.
MONK: (I'm a) germophobic, afraid of the dark, heights, crowds and milk.

And ...

MONK: (Panicking) I'm dehydrated. I'm tr)<ing to sweat! I can't sweat!

Or ...

MONK: That officer out there told me I was dead. I'm not dead, am I?
In order to play this type of Neurotic, you don't have to suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder to relate. Aren't there
times in your life when you let your imagination get the best of you? Think of when you stubbed your toe and thought it was
broken and needed to be in a cast for six months. Or when you gave yourself a paper cut and thought you needed stitches. Or
when you came down with a cold and thought you were dying of Mad Cow Disease. These characters are plagued by these
kinds of irrational fears ahnost every day.

The Neurotic Cocktnil (The Anxious-tini)

I shot of conflicting thoughts
Halfshot of insecurity
Twist of obsession
Dash ofanxiety
One aspirin
The Neurotic hero

Not all Neurotics are cultured and sophisticated. There are some great working-class Neurotics as well. One of my favorites is
Roseanne's sister Jackie (Laurie Metcalf) on ''Roseanne." In the first few seasons of the show, Jackie was more of a Lovable
Loser-11ever quite finding the right job or the right man. As the show continued (and the writers caught on to Metcalf s
breakneck comedic timing), she merged into a full-fledged Neurotic, defined by her high-strung personality. In the episode
where Roseanne and Jackie's father dies, check out the scene where an exhausted Roseanne has been calling family members to
give them the sad news and finally passes the phone to Jackie.
JACKIE: I can't call people, Roseanne!

ROSEANNE: Jackie ... dial!

JACKIE: I'm supposed to be in mourning.

ROSEANNE: Well then, wear a veil over your face while you do it!
JACKIE: (Dialing the p hone) Hello, Awttie Barbara? It's Jackie ... JACK-KEY! Yes. I'm fine ... Fine! ... I'm FINE! ... I got
some bad news ... Dad isn' t with us anymore. I said Dad has passed away ... He's passed away! ... Dad is gone ... Dad's
dead! ... He's dead! ... N o ... DEAD! ... DEAD! DEAD! ... N o, he's fine. He sends his love. (hangs up the phone) I am not
doing that again, you can' t make me.
Funny, huh? A character experiencing anxiety, becoming high-strwtg (in the right amowtt) is funny to watch, and Metcalf is
skilled at it.
Last but not least, I have to mention another of the classic N eurotics who defined a sense of high strwtg bravado. I'm talking
about 'The Andy Griffith Show's" Barney Fife, played b y Don Knotts. In the little town of Mayberry, the pwty Deputy Fife walks
the streets with his single hullet, his police swagger and his oversized hat ... keeping the peace. And when trouble comes to town,
Barney, despite his fears, tries to be brave and handle the situation in his own nervous way. The result is often messy, but funny.
Just like Barney, many other N eurotics really like to think of themselves as heroes from time to time. It comes from the fact that
they really do feel that they have worked out the best solution to any and every problem. It's also the antithesis of what they were
like growing up. Whether they really do have the best solution or not is often a mystery. Typically they screw things up well before
they get to that point.
To play The Neurotic you need to at least have an wtderstanding of most, if not all of these characteristics, even if your
character doesn't embody all of them. A sexy, confident neurotic can look at a shy high school geek and wtderstand where
they're coming from. They share a co=on bond, an wtspoken truth: we're different from the others."

Who in your li.fe is The Neurotic?



In general, The N eurotic is a character that works well in a scene with many other characters, especially with a Logical Smart
One. You will often see this character paired up with The Logical Smart One in much the same way The Lovable Losers are

paired with them. Tbink of the Crane brothers paired up with their father or how Barney works best played against Andy Taylor' s
conventional wisdom.
However, there is a great N eurotic that has yet to be mentioned because he is such a complicated character. And that would
be George Costanza.
Played hysterically b y Jason Alexander, George is what many would consider the classic middle-class N ew York Neurotic. He
is deeply insecure, and he worries about everything. He over-thinks, is controlling and high strung. George is constantly fueled b y
anxiety, and like a true N eurotic, he is aware of it. Just check out this scene where George comes to grips with his baldness.
GEORGE: When she threw that toupee out the window, it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I feel like my old self
again. N eurotic, paranoid, totally inadequate, completely insecure. It's a pleasure.
That being said, George also shows many of the traits of The Lovable Loser. He is constantly trying out new plans, new
schemes to get what he wants-be it a new job, a girlfriend (or later to get RID of his girlfriend). He is so determined and so
hopeful that he doesn' t realize how far-fetched some of his ideas are and who he might affect along the way. He is a desperate,
optimistic and sometimes Lovable Loser as he shows in this scene where he sarcastically talks about his ill-fated attempts to get
fired from the New York Yankees organization to take a job with the Mets.
GEORGE: And to think that I'd fail at failing.

JERRY: Aww, come on now.

GEORGE: I feel like I can't do anything wrong.
JERRY: N onsense. You do everything wrong.
GEORGE: You think so?
JERRY: Absolutely. I have no confidence in you.
GEORGE: (Proudly) Well, I guess I'll just have to pick myself up, dust myself off and throw myself right back down again.
But, I believe the reason George Costanza is a N eurotic is because he knows he' s a Lovable Loser and he can't do anything
about it. He is what I guess you could call a N eurotic Lovable Loser.
I went to acting school at Boston University with Jason Alexander and you could tell right away that he understood comedy
(and his comedic niche.) As a young adult, he was funny and had a great sense of humor about himself and life. On the outside, he
is really nothing like George Costanza. Jason was, and still is, a gracious, smart, confident and well-balanced human being. But his
sense of humor, his way of being funny, fluctuates between charmingly witty, neurotically insecure and bitingly sarcastic. I believe

that he used all of this to step into the shoes of George Costanza.
Another N eurotic character that has Lovable Loser tendencies is Larry David, star ofHBO' shit ..Curb Your Enthusiasm" (and
the man responsible for writing George's character). An anxious character "~th his own rule book on life, Larry has a tendency to
screw things up much like a Lovable Loser would.
Same could be said for Grace Adler (Debra Messing) on ''Will & Grace." A N eurotic through and through, she thinks too
much, talks too much and worries too much about practically everything (especially when men are involved). That being said, the
writers of that funny show constantly put her in Lovable Loser plotlines, sometimes showcasing her as a N eurotic Lucy Ricardo.
So you can see that sometimes The Neurotic can easily take on some of the characteristics of The Lovable Loser and vice
versa. In fact, often times The Lovable Loser can show hints of Neurotic behavior because he or she wants something so badly
and they can' t get it, so it drives them a little nuts.
The N eurotic can also grab some of the traits of The Bitch I Bastard (coming up soon). When people aren't follo\\~g the
rulebook of The N eurotic or they're not being understood, they can become cranky and even mean-spirited. Think of George,
Grace and Larry once again. They can be abrasive, curt and even manipulative at times (it usually backfires on them). But at their
core (and the core of every Neurotic) is a nervous, high-strung person \vith control issues who worries about the world and their
place in it.

Possible intentions for The Neurotic:

To Convince
To Perfect
To Nit-pick
To Enlighten
To Control
To Fuss
To Organize
To ClarifY
To Analyze
To Rationalize
Final Thoughts On Playing The Neurotic
N ow that you've examined this character, do you recognize The N eurotic in yourself? This one might be a bit harder to identify
than any of the other Eight Characters of Comedy because chances are, if there is something that you are neurotic about, it makes
sense to you and doesn' t seem neurotic at all. It's much easier to notice these qualities in other people than in yourself.
What are the situations in which you tend to overanalyze? Relationships? Purchases? Career choices? Do you make lists for
everything? Do you compartmentalize things? Do you need to put things in a certain order, a certain place? What are you fussy
There is a psychology here. And a big part of playing The N eurotic (besides identif}~g \vith the characteristics) is taking a look

at yourself objectively and seeing what irrational things you obsess about that you can bring to the character. If you identify with
this character and all of this character's traits, then you are ready. You can come out and say 'Tm a N eurotic!" Once you admit
it, you will proudly hold it up as a badge of honor (which will most certainly drive others crazy) .
That is exactly what Courteney Cox did and look where it got her. As an agent, I represented Courteney at the beginning of
her acting career, booking her in the Bruce Springsteen video 'Dancing In The Dark." In the early eighties, music videos were a
new phenomenon, so when Springsteen sang out ''Hey Babbbbyy!" reached into the audience and pulled Courteney on stage to
dance ' vith him, neither Courteney, myself nor anyone else for that matter expected the incredible exposure this would bring.
Everyone in the industry was suddenly asking "Who's that girl?" It was exciting to watch this young, sweet girl from Alabama \vith
sparkling blue eyes and a Colgate smile begin a career that would continue to this day. But then again, if you knew Courteney
back then, you just knew this girl w as destined to become a star.
So, w as Courteney anything like M onica? Well, no she wasn't. And, yes she was. Courteney wasn' t necessarily controlling or
high-strung like M onica, but (as a young actress) she certainly could obsess about things: about an audition, her weight, if she'd
ever work again. But all her obsessing was done \vith a self-deprecating sense of humor that not only made her endearing, but
very funny to be around.
In the first season of"Friends," the character of M onica seemed to be The Logical Smart One (\vith a t\vist of neurosis). All her
other cast mates seemed to get more jokes and storylines. It w asn' t until the writers played up M onica's neurotic traits that the
character was allow ed to step forward and Courteney was given the opportunity to shine.
Here are a few other things to remember about playing The N eurotic. As an actor, your task is to get excited about whatever it
is you' re tallcing or obsessing about. Remember, you have gone over and over the subject to form an opinion and you wouldn' t
be obsessing unless it was important to you. That is the main reason why The N eurotic is constantly examining and re-examining
But, there is that small part of them that still wonders if they might have missed something. If something goes w rong, they
assume it's probably their fault. That's also why they seem at times to be looking for approval from other characters. Despite their
bravado, they are not all that confident.
Finally, I'm going to stress the importance of the "obsessive" characteristic because that will help you in playing The N eurotic in
class, at an audition or on a show. In some of my classes, when I have students play The N eurotic, I will sometimes tell them to
do the scene but occasionally notice a crumb that's on the floor simply to help them play the "obsession." You w ould be amazed
at how much this simple trick can add to the humor of the scene.
Tbis tendency to obsess about evervthing is what defines this character. That's why Frasier is such a fascinating character. He
thinks about everything, even those things that aren' t his business. While he can appear confident and suave at times, we see him
for what he really is, high-strung, over-analytical and incredibly insecure when things get out of his control-and HE'S a therapist!
All of this make him incredibly funny and one of the most popular N eurotics in sitcom history.
Whew! That's a lot to process for this character. And now you know what it's like to be like The N eurotic. It's exhausting!
They never live in the moment, they are never completely satisfied, and they are alw ays "in their heads." So, look over this
episode again (remember, analyze and over-analyze) and start making a list of what you can identify \vith. That will help you get
into the mind of The N eurotic.


ANNO UNCER V.O.: In the next episode of' The Eight Characters of C omedy," The N eurotic wants to plan a party but none
ofher friends will help. So she turns to her neighbor. But when he starts messing things up, The N eurotic unravels. She should
have known better than to ask for help from The Dwnb One.


Here are some of the great N erdy N eurotics.


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THE Dmm Ol\'E


We open on three familiar, hip, late 20s ''friends" in the middle of a deep conversation.
MONICA: Joey, what would you do if you were onmipotent?

JOEY: I'd probably kill myself.

MONICA: Excuse me?
JOEY: Hey, if"Little Joey's" dead, then I got no reason to Jive.
ROSS: Uhh, Joey ... (Slowly) Onmipotent.
JOEY: You are? Ross, I'm sorry.
Ohhhhh Joey, Joey, Joey. How many times while watching an episode of ''Friends" (or "Joey" for that matter) do you find
yourself smiling ear to ear and then laughing hysterically at the sweet, childlike naivete displayed by Matt LeBlanc? For many
addicted viewers, he is the reason they watch. No matter what the situation, Joey Tnbbiani approaches and looks at it in a
different way. That's because he hasn't got a clue. Still, what comes out of his mouth is often cute and sweet and ahnost always
ridiculously funny. He is sincere, positive and childlike. He has no idea just how, well, stupid he can sometimes be, like in this
scene from ''Friends" where he's giving dating advice to RacheL
JOEY: Rach, you gotta find out if he's in the same place you are. Otherwise, it's just a moo point

RACHEL: A moo point?

JOEY: Yeah. It's like a cow's opinion. It just doesn't matter. It's moo.
Good joke. But in the hands of Matt LeBlanc's skillful characterization, that line becomes a great joke. It's because he has no
clue how simple he is, and he is so genuine and sweet and innocent He really believes what he says, even if it seems absurd to us
(and for that, you can't help but love him). Plus, he can always be counted on to "amp up" the comedy in a scene just by opening
his mouth. Ahnost everything he says is funny because he is The Dumb One.



The Dwnb One is a character that has been arowtd forever, ahnost exclusively as a best friend or sidekick. One need look no
further than the 1950s and the wonderlhl, sweetly naive Gracie Allen of the husband and wife team "Bums & Allen."
GEORGE: Say goodnight Gracie.

GRACIE: (Waves) Goodnight, Gracie.

And this character continued to flourish in the 60s \\~th the not so bright "townsfolk" like Gomer Pyle (Jim N abors) and his
cousin Goober (George Lindsey) on The Andy Griffith Show" or goofball hicks like Jethro Bodine (Max Baer Jr.) on The
Beverly Hillbillies."
1n the 70s, television gave us the dumb blonde like Chrissy (Suzanne Somers) on Three' s Company" and the dumb hunk like
Vinnie Barbarino (John Travolta) on 'W elcome Back, Kotter." We also saw the likes of dumb older characters like Ted Baxter
(Ted Knight) on "The M ary Tyler M oore Show." This carried into the 80s \vith characters like Coach (Nicholas Colasanto) from
"Cheers" or Rose (Betty White) on "Golden Girls."
1n the 90s, there was Lowell (Thomas Haden Church) from "Wings" and the emergence of the dumb jocks like Joey (Joey
Lawrence) on "Blossom," Kelso (Ashton Kutcher) on "'That 70s Show" and of course, Matt LeBlanc' s Joey.
They are some of the most beloved characters of all time because actually, The Dwnb One is reallv the comedic relief in a
sitcom. Comedic relief? 1n a sitcom? Yes. You see, The Dumb One is often a character that can make people laugh \\~th a line or
a look or just b y being in the scene. They are an important character for many sitcoms because they bring instant humor just b y
being who they are ... dumb. And that's why they ahnost always get the last laugh (or at least the biggest). They are usually
supporting characters that don't have (or need) as much dialogue. But when they do open their mouths, it's guaranteed to be a big
joke. Want an example?
1n an early episode oC'Cheers," some of the regulars including Diane (Shelley Long) are talking about lifelong dreams. Then,
loyal but light-headed Coach decides to join the conversation.
COACH: I'm working on a novel. Going on six years now. I think I might finish it tonight.

DIANE: (Swprised) You're writing a novel?

COACH: N o. Reading it.

Characters like Coach and later Woody (Woody Harrelson) are vital to "keeping the funny" in a show. But why are they
mainly supporting characters? Perhaps because of the childish and simplistic nature of the character, there have not been many
shows that have put The Dumb One in the lead. Sometimes, like in the case of "Friends," The Dumb One will be part of an
ensemble, but very rarely are they given their own show (that is why so many industry insiders were curious to see how "Joey"
would do now that he didn't have his friends \vith him).
The Dumb One is a wonderfully funny character (if played right). As an actor, it is one of the most difficult characters to play
because there are a lot of easy traps to fall into (I'll discuss these in the follo,ving section). But, it is also an incredibly rewarding
character because if played well, it can translate to instant and constant laughs. So let's show you how to play The Dumb One ...

Commercial Break
And a Dumb One shall lead them. ..

As I mentioned in this episode, there are only a few shows in history that have featured The Dumb One in the lead.
And, interestingly enough, most of them took place in the 1960s. First there was ("Shazam!") Jim Nabors in "Gomer
Pyle USMC, "a spin-off of "The Andy Griffith Show " that featured that beloved, simple-minded hayseed in the
Marine Corps.
Then there was "Get Smart," starring Don Adams as Maxwell Smart. Not only was this show a big hit in its time,
but it spawned numerous catchphrases including "Missed me by that much!" For those ofyou who have never seen
"Get Smart, " J.{ax is a cross between James Bond and Austin Powers, but even dumber.
Andfinally, there's "The Munsters, "a broad-humored but funny show, featuring Fred Gwynne as the sweetly naive
Frankensteinesque Herman Munster. The series often revolves around the other members ofthefamily constantly
working to fiX something Herman did, be it signing up for ten years ofdancing lessons or taking a sleepingpill and
getting himself locked in a sarcophagus at a museum of natural history. The show features many of the other Eight
Characters ofComedy, including his wife Lily (Yvonne DeCarlo) as the ever-patient Logical Smart One. All the
characters on the show have their plotlines, but Herman can be counted on week after week to do something dumb
and to be adorable doing it.
Back to OUI' show ...



No ulterior motive




Before we begin breaking this character clown, let me reinforce the importance of one of the Four Cs of Comedy here:

Commitment. While commitment is important in playing any of these characters, it is vital here. Actors playing The Dwnb Ones
must believe they are The Dwnb Ones; which means they can't !mow they are dwnb. Confused yet? Read on and hopefully the
following profile will explain exactly where The Dwnb One is coming from. Just keep the word commitment in the back of your
mind as you read because only a truly committed actor can possibly pull this character off.

Perpetual childhood

Let's start with The Dumb One as a small child. As children, they are very imaginativ e. They can entertain themselves. They
are happy and content to sit, eat Lucky Charms and watch Bugs BWllly cartoons. They always play well with others, not really
understanding the concepts of greed, jealousy or being mean-spirited. They are affable and friendly kids who want nothing more
than to be happy and to make vou happy. Physically, they often have wide eyes, an open face and a huge smile. They are often
the youngest child in the family. This could mean they are cushioned and protected from the harsh realities of life. Therefore, they
never really develop common sense. But they always mean well. That's why they are so easy to like.
N ow fast forward to adult Dumb Ones and you'll see that they are exactly the same. That's right. That's because The Dumb
One's main characteristic is being childlike. Don't believe me? Read the above paragraph again. Doesn't it remind you of Joey?
For The Dumb One, childhood is where it all begins and never ends. This is what makes these characters so fascinating, so likable
and so funny.
In the rest of this section, I'll talk about a lot of specific characteristics. But you should notice that all of these characteristics
have something in common. They are all characteristics of a small child. And this is the M OST IMPORTANT trait for The Dumb
One to embrace. Often, when am I getting newer actors to try to play this role, I have to grab them b y the wrist and lead them
back to their childhood. Unlike dramatic acting, I take them back to a specific happy time for them-like Christmas morning,
riding a pony or getting a new bike. This is not easy for most adults to do, but it is vital if you want to play this role.
Tbink of how e xcited a child can get when he or she finds something that fascinates them. Tbink ofhow innocent they can be
when they discover something new. Tbink of how e nde aring they are when they try to tell a story or remember a joke. Much like
The Lovable Loser, The Dumb Ones are always enthusiastic about their idea, the words they're spealcing, something they've
found, the scene, life in general. They are always very positiv e people and a source of joy for everyone who knows them.
The adult Dumb Ones are the same way. watch Art Carney as Ed N orton on wThe Honeymooners," like in this scene where
he's trying to make Ralph feel better after he lost his job.
ED: Come on, boy, let's have a little smile. (Ralph forces a smile) There, that's my boy. Bigger, bigger, that's it! That's the
way you gotta stay even if it takes a whole year to get a job. Even if you never get another job!

RALPH: A fat lot I've got to smile about. Nine years on the job. Today I'm fired and b y tomorrow I'm forgotten. They won' t
even remember what I look like.
ED: That's great! (THEN) Go right back tomorrow morning and ask for a job!
Or check out Jean Stapleton as Edith Bunker on "All in the Family." In this scene, the Bunkers are all having a family chat on
capital pwlishment.
ARCHIE: Go ahead, ask your mother, she believes in capital pwlishment.

GLORIA: Do you, M a?

EDITH: Well, sure.

EDITH: Well, as long as it ain't too severe.
Art and Jean are amazing in showing exactly how to bring a childlike innocence to an adult character. That's what you need to
bring to the role instead of playing dwnb. You need to be childlike in your acting if you 're going to play The Dumb One well. You
need to get excited over small things. You need to pout, not get angry. Find the disappointment (not the resentment) when things
don't go your way. You need to always stay positive and show that sweet, warm side of you. It doesn' t matter what the scene is
about, you need to put aside your adult perception of it and approach it with the innocence ofa child. And most successful
actors, whether playing drama or comedy, are in touch with their inner child--as they should be.
M akes sense, right? Because in the craft of acting, you have to "pretend, play dress up and escape to a make-believe land."
And trust me, not only does this childlike nature keep you working as an actor, but if you play The Dumb One on a sitcom, it
seems to keep you looking younger.
Case in point, Tony Danza. He is a great example of an actor keeping in touch with his childlike spirit and still looking youthful.
Twenty-five years on TV proves it And it all goes back to his first character, Tony Banta on "Taxi."
Tony Banta is definitely not the brightest bulb in the socket, but more often that not, he is the one that many of the other
characters will talk to when something is bothering them, be it Bobby (Jeff Conaway) having trouble with his acting career or
Elaine (Marilu Henner) having boy troubles. The reason they confide in him is because of his sunny disposition. He is always
positive, always happy and always there to cheer them up; usually b y saying something stupid or flashing that goofy grin (that
sunshine smile). His intention is always to help them, to reassure them the only way he knows how, even if we see it as silly or
Danza later brought a similar character (with just a tad more common sense) to ''Who's the Boss?"
TONY: I'm Tony Micelli. I'm here about the job.

ANGELA (Judith Light): Oh, I'm sorry. There must be a mistake. This job is for a housekeeper.
TONY: That's me, Mr. Goodrnop! (Flashing grin). Ay-oh. Oh-ay.
Really, for you the actor to play The Dumb One, you need to harness that sunshine inside of you and let it out in the scene. The
Dumb Ones are often very likable, and it's because of these childlike qualities. If they were mean-spirited and dwnb, you
wouldn't be rooting for them. If you play the character with joy and enthusiasm, the audience will find you adorable and love you
for it

Com.mel'cial Bl'eak
The Dumb One as a Vzllain?

Although this is extremely rare, there have been cases where sitcom writers have wanted to use "villains" in their
show premise. The way they often do this is by molding the villains after The Dumb One. Why? Because viewers will
still be able to like them, at least a little. It makes these so-called villains less threatening, as is the case with "Hogan's
Heroes. "
Col. Wilhelm Klink (Werner Klemperez) and Sgt. Hans Schultz (John Banner) are the epitome ofThe Dumb One,
even though they try to act like they know what they're doing in running the P. 0. W. camp. Both are such bumbling
goofballs, that you find yourselfalmost liking them ... which is weird considering they're Nazis!
Back to OUI' show...
I know this probably goes \\~thout saying, but The Dumb One is DUMB (even if they don't realize it). They are oblivious to
life. Not consciously oblivious (like The Lovable Loser), but oblivious to what is happening around them. Think of one of the
all-time greats, Homer Simpson (voiced by Dan Castellaneta). Check out this exchange where Homer is shocked by daughter
Lisa's decision to go vegetarian.
HOMER: Are you sa}mg you're never going to eat any animal again? What about bacon?

HOMER: Pork chops?
LISA: Dad, those all come from the same animal!
HOMER: (Chuckling) Oh yeah, right Lisa ... a wondetful, magical animal.

(Notice the Extended Triplet in Homer's dialogue.)

Homer is a sweet, enthusiastic and immature teddy bear and oh-so-dumb. Dumb, dumb, dumb. How dumb is he? He is soooo
dumb that he prays to Superman, he invented a gun to shoot makeup on women and he has driven around Springfield collecting
grease as a way to make money. And those are simply everyday plans for Homer. Although the writers constantly put him in
Lovable Loser storylines, where he desperately and hopefully wants something week after week, at his core, Homer has all the
characteristics of The Dumb One. And even though his brain tries to keep him out of trouble (yes, he talks to his brain like it's a
separate entity), Homer just can't avoid being dumb, especially when he tries to pull something over on Marge.
MARGE: (Knows he 's been at Moe's bar) Homer, where have you been?

HOMER'S BRAIN: Don' t say the bar, don't say the bar, don' t say the bar.
HOMER: Pornography. I was buying pornography.
Oh Homer... 'D'Oh!"
I need to stress the difference between playing dumb and playing sweetly naive like Joey or innocent and gullible like Homer.
"Playing dumb" is a major pothole that a lot of actors fall into. M ore often than not, new actors will play this role b y adding "uhhs"
to the dialogue or blankly staring into space while twirling their hair. Do not play dumb! If you play dumb, you're showing you're
acting and nobody wants to see you "acting." As I tell my students, if you're caught acting, then the Acting Police are going to
take you away to SAG prison and you will be forced to watch beginning actresses of all ages perform Laura from 'The Glass
Menagerie." Believe me, it ain' t pretty!
Instead, to play The Dumb One, latch on to those things that you know nothing about (and use how you feel in those
situations) for playing this character.
For example, I know very little about rocket propulsion. If I were in the middle of a conversation I eagerly wanted to be a part
of (because The Dumb One is always enthusiastic), how would I contnbute to a conversation about rocket propulsion? What
would come out of my mouth? I'll tell you right now, it wouldn' t be anything intelligent (by the way, if you know a lot about rocket
propulsion and feel like you could participate in a conversation on this topic, you might want to jump back and read The N eurotic
episode again).
Just think of the show "Coach" with Bill Fagerhakke's take as Dauber, one of the assistant football coaches. Dauber is always
throwing his two cents in, and the fact is, he never really knows what he is tallcing about ... even when it comes to football! But it
doesn't stop him because he is just as enthusiastic as he is naive.
Here's another great one ...
ROSE: Can I ask a dumb question?

BLANCHE: Like no one else.

Enter Rose Nyhmd, played b y Betty White. There are times you can' t believe how naive she is. But she is so sweet and eager

to join the conversation, that you always want to hear from her ... well that, and she makes you laugh.
ROSE: You know what they say ... You can lead a herring to water, but you have to walk really fast or he'll die.

Commercwl Break
Reality check

A good reality television example of The Dumb One would be the genuine and childlike William Hung on "American
Idol. "He has no clue how bad his singing is, but his enthusiasm makes him endearing.
Or, Jessica Simpson on "Newlyweds. " Though sweet and likable, she says and does some things that are just

Back to our show ...

Never teU a lie
Once again, chalk these qualities up to more reasons why most viewers love watching The Dumb One. There is nothing false
about them. They are true to themselves and more often than not, they are proud of it. They always tell the truth, even if they say
something that is obviously incorrect. But to The Dumb One, what they say is the truth. Once again, it's about commitment.
Actually, that makes for great comedy when The Dumb One is paired up \vith The Logical Smart One. There are scenes where
the two will get into a tiff over something and it's apparent to all that The Logical Smart One is right. But that doesn't stop The
Dumb One from standing his or her ground.
It's important for an actor to bring sincerity and honesty to this character. The Dumb Ones are very genuine people. The
idea of lying or cheating never really occurs to them and if it does, it is well planned and done for a very important purpose (like
saving the world from evil-doers). Even then, they're not very good at it. They always get found out or admit to it before they get
found out.
The Dumb One often says whatever pops into their mind, even their sub text. They never edit themselves. This character can
be very direct even if they don't realize what they're saying is obvious or inappropriate. Tbink of that little niece or nephew who
innocently bhnts out that you have ..a weird head" or that 'your breath smells funny." The Dumb One \vill often say something
offensive \vithout realizing it's offensive, and if played right, it makes for a good laugh. This is another area where writers can have
some fun and actors can feel some fl=bility \vith the character.
You've got a friend in me

Okay, okay, b y now you're probably getting the point that The Dumb Ones are really easy to like. Everyone would like a
Dumb One as a friend. You might not want them to operate on you or represent you in court or even watch your house while
you're away. But you want them in your life. And why not? With their sunny disposition and their core desire to make everyone
happy, they are a joy to be around.
And even if they're doing something wrong, chances are they're doing it to help you. They are unselfish people who have no
ulterior motive. They will easily give of themselves to make the world a better place. They are full of goodness and want
everybody to be happy, just like them.
They don't really understand why people get into long, drawn out fights or how people can be mean to each other. It actually
stuns them. They might get mad at times, but it's easily forgotten. They are simply friendly, good-natured and affable, meaning
they really can get along with just about anybody (which makes it easy for writers to move them in and out of scenes and various
W ant proof? Try and think of a moment in Cheers" where you ever found yourself annoyed with Coach or \Voody. You
can't, can you? The same can be said about all Dumb Ones. Even the ones who aren't as sweet, like the pompous anchorman
Ted Baxter ('The M ary Tyler M oore Show") have something likable about them.
TED: It's actually tomorrow in Tokyo. Do you realize that there are people alive here in Minneapolis who are already dead in
How can you not like somebody that still has the zest for life and the innocence of a small child? Sure they might frustrate you
with their ignorance or naivete and you wouldn't really want to trust them with anything important, but their enthusiasm and sweet
demeanor make them a pleasure to know and fun to watch. That's why we love them and root for them.

Who in yourli.fe is The Dumb One?



The Dumb One is a character that seems to work well with most of the other characters because of the humor they bring b y
simply being themselves. They definitely work well with The Neurotic (think of how frustrated Monica gets with Joey at times).
They also work well with a Logical Smart One who is trying to explain something The Dumb One can't comprehend.
But there is one character that is a little harder to play opposite The Dumb One, and that is The Bitch I Bastard. Although it has

been played out successfully in 'The M ary Tyler Moore Show" and "Gomer Pyle USMC," The Dumb One and The Bitch I
Bastard are typically not paired up very often. VVe' ll get to that in the next episode.
Unlike other characters, The Dumb One ahnost exclusively sticks to his or her own characteristics, not borrowing as much
from other characters. You will rarely see The Dumb One act neurotic, as they are uncomplicated and content with their life. You
will hardly see them as mean-spirited and you will only really see them in the role of The Logical Smart One if a specific scene
calls for them to be the voice of reason. But !mow that they will return to their character on the blow of the scene.
A good sign that they are unlike other characters is that The Dumb One is never sarcastic (even if they try to be from time to
time). Sarcasm requires intelligence, something The Dumb One lacks. They are such honest and sincere people, they don't really
understand the concept of sarcasm, and as such, it comes off as false. The Dumb One isn't good at lying and sarcasm is telling a
lie. Also, sarcastic remarks are a way for some characters to lash out at the world. The Dumb Ones don't want to lash out, not
even for a second. As a Dumb One, you have plenty of places from which to draw humor, so sarcasm doesn't need to be one of
The only minor variation you might see in these characters is that they might be toned down if they're showing up in a
single-camera comedy, like Frank Burns (Larry Linville) on 'MASH" or Charlotte York (Kristin Davis) on "Sex and the City."
A multi-camera comedy is more heightened and open to a broader comedic interpretation (hyper-reality). But in these
single-camera comedies, you simply can't be as dumb as Joey or Rose because single-camera is more intimate. The feel of the
show is more realistic, like a feature film. There are more close-ups. Therefore, the actor' s interpretations-their intentions,
thoughts, facial expressions and physicahties-should be more specific and less heightened. In single-camera comedies, these
actors play up the naivete, the gulhbility and the innocence in a very funny, yet more realistic way. Kristen Davis, Larry Linville and
other single-camera comedy actors are really playing The Naive Ooe rather than The Dumb One.

Possible inkntionsfo1' The Dumb One:

To Please
To Make happy
To Excite
To Make proud
To Play
To Be honest
To Create harmony
To Encourage
To Support
To Comfort
Final Thoughts Oo Playing The Dumb Ooe
Some of you might see some similarities between this character and The Lovable Loser. While they do both end up making
dumb choices at times, there is a big difference in their approach. Remember, I called The Lovable Loser "consciously oblivious,"

meaning they are aware that something is wrong or that their idea might not be the best one, but they are blinded b y their own
w ant. The Dwnb One is actually the opposite. They aren't aware in the least that this w ould be a bad idea. Otherwise they
wouldn' t do it. Their messes are a result of their simply being oblivious, not consciously oblivious to a situation. That's a big
difference and an important one between these two characters.
So, there is a lot more involved in playing The Dwnb One than you thought, isn't there? Don't worry, if it's close to who you
are, you can play it. It's just a matter of finding what part of you is in The Dwnb One, meaning what part of you is sincere,
genuine, enthusiastic and childlike.
When I was an agent in N ew York back in the 80s, I worked with M att LeBlanc. I got to be a part of the beginning of his
career and I got to watch on TV as he developed this character that would make him so famous. When ''Friends" ended, Barbara
Walters interviewed M att and asked him ifhe saw any part of himself in Joey. "I mean, Joey's a dimwit and you're certainly not,"
Walters said. And she' s right. Matt is not a dimwit. He is a successful, talented, comedic actor. What I found most interesting was
that M att LeBlanc was looking for the right w ords to express what part of him is Joey. Instead, he just smiled that childlike grin
and said, "I don't know. I just understand Joey."
Matt is not Joey but he does possess many of these qualities. M att was alw ays a sweet, good-natured and sincere guy . When I
last saw him, it was 1993 in LA. (right before "Friends"). I was a co=ercial casting director, and I suggested him for a part. I
remember after the session, I walked him outside and he showed me his new motorcycle with enthusiastic pride, much in the way
Joey would.
The point is that M att, who is really an intelligent guy, was able to draw from his childlike qualities, just like every other classic
Dwnb One character has done since the start of sitcoms. He didn't decide he was going to "play dwnb." He tapped into his
childlike nature and it worked.
Check him out in this episode of "Joey" tallcing to his nephew lV!ichael (Paulo Costanzo):
MICHAEL: What is the best news I could give you?

JOEY: (Truly e=ited) They fixed the vending machine? Oooh, w e got a ping pong table? Oh wait, Kool and the Gang got
back together?
Joey is excited about everything. He only wants everybody to be happy, to have fun and to Jive where he is ... in perpetual
childhood. This is what you need to do. Whether you' re acting this character or writing it, you need to go back to when you were
six or seven years old and think of how the w orld looked and then apply that perspective to your character. This will help you
make your Dwnb One sweet, likable, naive, honest and very funny.
And if you're still struggling, watch the classic episode of"Friends" where Joey introduces his " Tribbiani Method of Acting."
JOEY: Okay, some tricks of the trade. N ow, I've never been able to cry as an actor, so if I'm in a scene where I have to cry, I
cut a hole in my pocket, take a pair of tweezers and just start pulling. Or ah, or, let's say I want to convey that I've just done
something eviL That would be the basic ' I have a fish hook in my eyebrow and I like it.' (Raises one eyebrow and shows off
pretend fish hook) Okay, let's just say I've gotten some bad news, well all I do there is try and divide 232 b y 13. (Looks all

confused) And that's how it's done.


ANNO UNCER V.O.: In the next episode ofThe Eight Characters of Comedy," The Dwnb One has a dream to work at
FAO Schwarz, but that dream doesn't sit well with his nagging, manipulative girlfriend or his bitter, mean-spirited father. W atch
the carnage as The Dwnb One defies The Bitch and The Bastard.


Here is a list of some of the great Dwnb Ones in sitcom history.



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Camera follows everybody's favorite bitter barmaid. She once again seems wlhappy with life and ready to take a shot at
anybody and everybody who gets in her way. She is Carla M aria Victoria Angellina Teresa Apollonia Lozupone Tortelli LeBec
(played by Rhea Perhnan), and she is our guiltiest pleasure in watching ''Cheers."
"Being supportive" to Diane (Shelley Long):
DIANE: He's trying to make a mowttain out of a molehill.

CARLA: He wants you to wear a padded bra?

"Consoling" Frasier (Kelsey Crammer):
FRASIER: Look, I just came off a seven-year marriage. Ifs hard to think of replacing Lilith.

CARLA: Just go to the morgue and open any drawer.

"Expressing her feelings" to Cliff(John Ratzenberger):
CLIFF: If s a little known fact that 4 2 percent of deaths in America were caused by accidents in the home.

CARLA: So were you.

"Cheers" might be the place where everybody !mows your name, but that doesn' t keep people safe from the biting, sometimes
scalding and always funny Carla. And boy oh boy, if a familiar customer, a stranger or even a fellow employee shows any kind of
wealmess or vulnerability, watch out! Carla will pounce all over them. And, wow, it's great to watch.
Her wit and nastiness make her my favorite character on that show. Carla has a no-holds-barred attitude. She has no tolerance
for whiners, fools or the pretentious. She is a constant crab, a pessimistic downer, an intolerant nag-and the only one strong
enough to regularly tell people just what she thinks of them. She is able to say anything and everything that we want to say to
people we don' t like. That's why Carla is The Bitch.
Camera follows a short, stocky spitfire of a man. He once again seems unhappy with life and ready to take a sharp-tongued
shot at anybody and everybody who gets in his way. He is the tyrannical Louie De Palma (Danny De Vito) and his vicious delivery
on ..TaJU~ is just as much fun as watching Carla.
Calmly and gently letting Jim (Christopher Lloyd) !mow he can' t keep his horse in the garage.
LOUIE: Get that ugly, flea-ridden, stinking animal out of my garage, and tell him to take his horse \vith him!
Tallcing to Elaine (Marilu Henner) about the tough decision he made to pay for his mother's operation.
ELAINE: What's wrong with her?

LOUIE: Female problems ... she's starting not to look like one.
Giving love and affection to his favorite employee, Bobby Wheeler (Jeff Conaway)
LOUIE: Hey, Bobby, I hope someone slams a door on your face, you sneeze, and your head explodes.
Perched in his little cage in the garage, Louie grunts, growls and snarls at anybody who crosses him-and even those who
don' t. He is a little man with a big attitude. He is an acerbic bull who is stubborn, cranky and irritable. He is a downer who is
angry at the world, and he takes great pleasure in making other people feel the same way. He lacks compassion and a sense of
decency, and we love him for it. That's because Louie is The Bastard.
Carla and Louie have no fear, they are tough and they both have something burning inside of them that makes them who they
are. They have no problem unleashing their fire on you, me or anybody that crosses their path. They are played b y two brilliant
comedic actors, who ironically are married in real life--wouldn't you like to be a fly on the wall when they get into a tiff?



The Bitch I Bastard is that character that brings the spWlk or edginess to a sitcom. Like The Logical Smart One, they are us,
the viewers, at our meanest and cleverest
There are plenty of times when we watch a character whine and complain about something trivial, brag about something in a
snobby way or get something that we want, and we mutter under our breath or roll our eyes. Enter The Bitch or The Bastard to
pounce on them, set them straight and put them in their place. We've all felt it and we've all hoped somebody would say
something. That's why The Bitch and Bastard can often be our little heroes, reflecting our pessimistic and cynical side. They don't
take crap, and they 'viii call others on their crap.
Even if we sympathize with the other characters, it's still fun to see how The Bitch or The Bastard \viii deal \\~th them, simply
because they can be so harsh. Their one-liners and \vise cracks are followed up b y gasps from viewers everywhere. They are the
Kings and Queens of exit lines, thro\ving insulting remarks at another character, then exiting the scene. Even if they say something
that we would never dream of saying, we laugh out of sheer shock value. It's okay to admit it, everybody loves this character.
And they have for years. That is why The Bitch I Bastard has developed into one of the most popular of supporting characters in
halfhour television.
Tbis character really became prominent in sitcoms in the 80s, 90s and the beginning of this decade. However, there have been
some great Bitches and Bastards since the black and white days of television. Once again, I go back to one of my favorite shows,
"I Love Lucy," to look at the work of William Frawley as Fred Mertz. In this scene, Lucy (Lucille Ball) and Fred wait in a hotel
for Fred's missing ,vife Ethel to come back.
FRED: Let's just hope for the best

LUCY: Don' t worry Fred, Ethel \viii come back.

FRED: I said let's hope for the BEST.
(Notice the Classic Triplet and Fred 's Turnaround.)
Fred might be among the first, but he certainly isn't the last of the husband characters to be featured as a Bastard. Some of the
greatest sitcom characters of yesterday and today have been Bastard husbands and fathers \vith sharp tongues that they love to

Wlieash on their wives and kids.

Think of Peter Boyle as Frank Barone on ''Everybody Loves Raymond," Redd F oxx as Fred Sanford on "Sanford and Son,"
Kurtwood Smith as Red Forman on 'That ' 70s Show" or one of the all-time greats, Carroll O 'Connor as Archie Bwlicer on "All
in the Family." Watch how he handles this "heart to heart" talk with his son-in-law Mike Sli\~c (Rob Reiner), who's advising him
to take stock ofhis life.
MIKE: You got me, Ma, Gloria and Joey.

ARCHIE: Aw geez, what a bunch that is: A meathead, a dingbat, a woman's hb and a bald headed kid.
There are so many sitcom husbands and fathers that follow this exact formula and it works time and again. While bitchy
mothers aren't as co=on, they do exist, mostly in the form of the mother-in-law. This goes back to the "mother" of all
mother-in-laws, the bitchy, \\~tchy Endora (Agnes Moorehead) on "Bewitched." Endora is always reminding her daughter
Samantha that she married beneath her b y constantly berating her son-in-law Darrin. She is always mispronouncing his name
("Durwood) , casting spells and playing tricks on him.
SAi\ 1ANTHA: That was a mean, low, sneaky, underhanded trick!

ENDORA: Yes it was. And I'm quite pleased with myself.

She'll tum him into a frog, a billy goat or an inanimate object-or at least threaten to do so ...
END ORA: Darwin, how would you like to be a carrot growing in a field of rabbits?
The Bitchy mother has carried right on through today. Enter the hilarious Doris Roberts as Marie Barone on ''Everybody Loves
Raymond." M arie has cornered the market on being the passive-aggressive mother. She is manipulative and bitchy in an
oh-so-subtle way, whether she's tallcing to her sons, her husband or especially her daughter-in-law, Debra ...
DEBRA: A clean house is not the most important thing in the world.

MARIE: You know who says that? A messy person.

The family isn't the only place you'll find this character. See if you can guess what these great Bitches and Bastards all have in
co=on: Florence Johnston (Marla Gtbbs) on 'The Jeffersons," Benson (Robert Guillaume) on "Soap," Florida (Esther Rolle) on
'M aude," Mr. Belvedere (Christopher Hewett) on "Mr. Belvedere," Niles (Daniel Davis) on 'The N anny," Geoffrey (Joseph
M arcell) on 'The Fresh Prince ofBel-Air," Rosario (Shelley M orrison) on "Will & Grace" and Berta (Conchata Ferrell) on "Two
and a Half Men."
That's right, they are all the "help." They are the housekeepers, maids, butlers and servants. There is something funny about

someone in the service business being sarcastic, cranky and mean-spirited.

N iles, the droll butler on 'The N anny," has no shame in tearing into anyone, especially C. C. Babcock (Lauren Lane).
C. C.: I couldn't get a foot out of bed this morning.

NILES: Did someone put a rock on your coffin again?

And ...
C. C.: I wouldn't be caught dead in that dress.

NILES: You'd have to be dead six months to fit in it

And ...
C. C.: I find it very unseemly of Maxwell to start dating again. Isn't the customary period of mourning 10 years?

NILES: Die. Let's find out.

Essentially, these characters are employed by people who economically and socially have more than they do and they're bitter
about it. The way they fight back is with biting sarcasm, a dry sense of humor, a mean glare and a sharp tongue.
The humor comes from social or economic oppression. These folks' humor derives from an angry place and that makes it
sometimes shocking and almost always funny. It's basically watching "the little guy" make fun of their superiors to their face or
behind their back, and it's done in a very specific way.
It also doesn't stop with just maids and butlers. They are also the support staff, secretaries and assistants, like Dennis Finch
(David Spade) on "Just Shoot Me," Vicki Groener (Kathy Griffin) on "Suddenly Susan," Roy Biggins (David Schramm) on
"Wings," Beth (Vicki Le\vis) on "News Radio" and Lydia Weston (Andrea Parker) on "Less Than Perfect"
So The Bitch and The Bastard can come in all forms. But there are some rules to playing this character, and it's not as easy as
it sounds. It goes beyond simply being mean, as you'll soon discover as you look over the following characteristics.

Commercwl Break
Reality check
A good example ofThe Bitch and The BastaJ'd would be the beautiful, manipulative and sometimes evil Omarosa
Manigault-Stallworth from "The Apprentice" and the blunt, "1'//-do-what-1-want-to-do "Richard Hatch from

"Survivor. "Some might say that the "tell-it-like-it-is" Simon Cowell, of "American Idol" fame, would fall into this
Back to our show...


Doesn't apologize
Dry sense of humor
High and mighty
Tough background
Tough exterior



The Bitch and The Bastard have a lot more to them than just tossing out a witty wisecrack here and there. I !mow these people
sowtd like angry characters, and they are. But let me remind you that in the sitcom world, you never play real, true, honest anger
in a scene or it will come off as dramatic and it will stop the comedic flow. Save that for your hour-long and 6hn dramas. Instead,
you need to find the funny in their nature. Having a back story and follO\ving these characteristics will help.
So first let's ask where they come from.
Little Bitches and Bastards
Lucky for us, there are some amazing kid Bitches and Bastards to watch on TV Think back to the two-faced Eddie Haskell
(Ken Osmond) on ''Leave it to Beaver" who's always condescending toward Beaver and complimentary toward Mrs. Cleaver.
Or watch the not-so-bright Reese (Justin Berlield) from ''Malcohn in the Middle," whose sole purpose is to instigate trouble. On
'<The Wonder Years," Wayne Arnold (Jason Hervey) lives only to harass his yowtger brother Ke,m. And on ''What's
Happening!" little Dee Thomas (Danielle Spencer) always has a smart aleck co=ent, especially when it comes to Fred "Rerwt"
Stubbs (Fred Berry).
FRED: I can't help being fat. It rwts in my family.

DEE: Nobody rwts in your family. They all waddle.

Even little baby Stewie (voiced b y Seth M acFarlane) on the cartoon 'The Family Guy" is a good example. His primary
missions are to torment his family and eventually take over the world. And wow, does he have a foul mouth, especially to his
mother Lois. Check out his response when Lois tells the family how the doctor said he was one of the happiest babies he' d ever
seen born.
STEWIE: But of course. That was my Victory Day! The fruition of my deeply laid plans to escape from that cursed ovarian
Bastille! ... M ark my words, when you least expect it, your uppance will come!
But no child Bitch or Bastard comes close to Sara Gilbert, who played Darlene Conner on "Roseanne." She was a talented
yowtg actress playing an incredibly complex bitchy character. As a pre-teen, Darlene was already cynical and pessimistic about
life. That led her to make a number of life mistakes and be bitter with anybody who got in her way. She's a little Bitch with a very
big chip on her shoulder, and we love her-especially when she decides to attack her older sister Beck)' (Alicia Goranson).
BECKY: All I have to do is cowtt to ten.

DARLENE: Don't wear mittens. It'll slow you down.

Or when she's co=enting on her weird little brother D.J. (Michael Fishman) ...
DARLENE: Trust me, he goes in that room because it's the only one with a lock on it, and he's in there for like an hour at a
time. Which means he's either really, really good at it or really, really bad at it!

ROSEANNE: Well, I don't want you to give him any grief about this, you know. Because you could traumatize him and turn
him into a serial killer.
DARLENE: Well, don't worry. How much damage could he do with only one free hand?
Funny, huh? Especially coming out of the mouth of an adolescent. But how can child actors play such cynical characters? Why
are they so bitter and so mean at such an early age? Well, let's take Darlene for example. She is what I like to call an old soul,
and there's a good chance the actress Sarah Gilbert is as well.
Old soul? Without getting all metaphysical and woo-woo," I believe that we are born with a certain disposition, level of
intelligence, emotional expression and, of course, talent. Whether it's passed down through generations or reincarnation (if you
believe in that), it all ends up in our genes. I lence the Funny Gene and the Acting Gene.
That being said, I believe many Bitch I Bastard characters (and perhaps the young performers who play them) come from an
ancestry of oppression. They start off with a certain maturity, wisdom and cynicism about the world, themselves and their place in
society, thus making their ''bitchiness" innate.
That's not to say that environment doesn' t play an equal or greater role in who we are and who we become, but child actors
who are able to take on such a complex character like The Bitch or The Bastard have it in them right from birth.
Being that many Bitch I Bastards come from a tough background, this can also give them a tough exterior, like Darlene or
Carla. This is very important for this character.
This mix of nature I nurture gives them a keen eye for the shortcomings and vulnerabilities of others, which they utilize to gain
control and power. They love to target and attack people with a lashing tongue, biting wit and bitter sarcasm. This in turn makes
them feel better about themselves and their lives and makes for one helluva funny character.
You make me mad!
But most Bitches and Bastards are usually older characters. They are the butlers and maids who spend their lives serving
people who have more than they do. They are the husbands who aren't happy because their lives haven't turned out the way they
wanted. Or they are the lowly managers who are sour and cynical because they're working in a menial profession. Therefore, they
develop a disdain for those who have more than they do.
All of these characters have had tough backgrounds and think that they still have it tough now. They are pessimistic about the
present and the future. Therefore, they build up walls to protect themselves from others as well as the harsh realities of their world.
Don' t get me wrong, there are Bitches and Bastards who come from a wealthy upbringing, but they share more of the
characteristics ofThe Materialistic Bitch (see The M aterialistic One episode) .

As an actor, you need to make sure you know everything about your character's background. You need to show a tough
exterior that has been built up by years of struggle, bitterness and things not going the way you imagined. And sometimes you have
to dig even further.
There are reasons why The Bitch or The Bastard does (and says) what they do. They have nothing, but they feel a sense of
entitlement, so they can't tolerate those people who do have something. They are convinced that they are smarter than others, so
they have no patience for those that act dwnb.
Yet, deep inside The Bitch and The Bastard, there often lies a secret insecurity that (just maybe) they're not so invincible, so
smart, so important. Often, the bitchy one-liners are really a cover, a way to protect themselves from getting hurt, from being
disappointed b y life (again and again). Being bitchy makes them feel powerful (if only for a moment) even when they're feeling
powerless. So, if you can sometimes see that the sharp-tongued zingers are really just a way to keep from feeling vulnerable, then
you have a character that we can care about.
There is an episode of ' Taxi" where Louie is talking about how kids would make fun of him when he w as younger. He tells a
story of how he was set up on a prom date with a hot chick only to find out later that it was all a practical joke. It was actually a
sad, touching moment that gave a glimpse into why Louie is the way he is.
It's ahnost as if he (or any other Bitches and Bastards) expects people not to like them or to make fun of them so they simply
beat them to the punch.
Then of course, there are those Bitches and Bastards who are simply fed up with life. This really fits with a lot of the characters
that play the "help" or support staff on TV You think that's how they expected their life to turn out?
This background is what will bring depth to your Bitch or Bastard role. You need to really play these characteristics and
choose a history to make it a well-rounded character.
Sarcasm as a shield and a sword
Sarcasm is as important for The Bitch or The Bastard as it is for The Logical Smart One. But here's the difference. The
Logical Smart One uses sarcasm as a tool to prove a point, whereas The Bitch I Bastard uses it as a weapon to be mean and
biting. Just like David Spade on "Just Shoot M e."
DENNIS FINCH: (Talking to an emp loy ee) Oh, I just remembered. You're boring. And my legs work (EXITS).
M any Bitch I Bastards, like Finch, have a dry sense of humor that isn' t easy to play. They are not outwardly expressive. As
an actor playing this character, you need to be dry and biting and let the humor come from your nasty words. As The Bitch or
Bastard you think you're being clever, witty and funny when you're insulting another character, and you love to see their reaction.

Commercial Break
N o Physical Static

You can identifY a Bitch or a Bastard by how they deliver a sarcastic line or a derogatory remark because they will
never throw away a good putdown. They will hold their ground by standing firm and being still. Some will put a hand
on their hip and some will cross their arms, but you'// rarely see them move on their line (unless exiting). They don't
slump and they don't slouch. They stand tall and strong like predators waiting for their prey. They don't hesitate,
whine, stammer or stutter. They don't flinch, ever! They will often look right at the other character and wait to see
their remark devastate them. And then they leave, satisfied. Unless instructed, they simply never move on their lines.
They "stick the landing" ifyou will andjudge their score on the reaction of their victims. Remember, The Bitch and
The Bastard both love "going for the kill" on weaker characters and it shows in their physical behavior.
Back to our show...
You' re so mean!
Tbis is really where the guilty pleasure comes in for us in watching and where you can really have the most fun as a writer or an
actor. The Bitch and The Bastard are intolerant, therefore they don' t have to hold back their \\~eked thoughts. They are a
contemptuous bunch. And they are also very condescending towards anyone and everyone who gets in their way (and to play
the intention to condescend" in your scene works wonders).
They do not tolerate fools well and have no patience with idiots. And many of them think that everyone else is either a fool or
an idiot. They feel high and mighty. A perfect modern example is Dr. Perry Cox (John C. McGinley) on ..Scrubs." In this scene,
a fellow doctor asks him if he got a memo stating that all residents should wear their lab coats at all times.
DR. COX: Yes I did. At first I just threw it away, but then I thought, that's not grand enough of a gesture. So I made a model
of you out of straw, put my lab coat on it, with your memo in the pocket, and invited the neighborhood kids to set fire to it and
beat it \vith sticks.
Damn! That's just downright mean-and hilarious! As an actor playing this role, you need to enjoy being this mean (at least
while you're in character). And I'm not talking about being catty. Being catty is passive-aggressive. The bigger choice is to be
mean-spirited (a defining trait for The Bitch I Bastard). And ''mean" is direct and funnier. You need to look for the kill and take it
when the opportunity presents itself. You need to be intolerant of those that you think are less than you (which is pretty much
everybody). You need to be ready to manipulate, use and abuse these people. You have the intentions and motivations of a
tiger, ready to pounce but toying \vith your prey, making them suffer.
Have fun \vith this. It's okay to explore your mean side. After all, you're only acting, aren't you?
It's all about 1\-IE!
The Bitch or The Bastard doesn' t really care about anyone but themselves. They are self-centered in that they are always

looking out for opportunities for themselves, and for themselves only. They don' t really want to hear about opportunities for
others. They are willing to do anything to get what they want, no matter who gets hurt because they feel they deserve it.
Remember, they are pessimistic people who have had difficult lives, and they think they are entitled to any break that might come
their way. Once again, enjoy acting this or writing this. The more you enjoy it, the more the audience will laugh. Find the funny in
this mean-spirited, clever character.
For actors that have been in the showbiz game a while, it may be easier to relate. Tbink ofhow many roles you feel you should
have gotten but didn' t. Come on. There have been times that we've all felt disappointed b y this highly competitive and frustrating
industry. Being a professional actor requires you to be at least a little self-involved. It's okay to feel that way. And it's wonderful if
you can bring that to this character and then go even finther. Put it this way, if The Bitch or Bastard got the role, not only would
they not feel bad beating out their friend, they'd probably rub it in their face.
Hard for me to say I'm sorry

This one probably goes without saying, but it's still important to point out. The Bitch and The Bastard couldn't care less what
comes out of their mouth. And unlike The Dumb One, what they usually say is meant to hurt. They say what's on their mind to put
people in their place, to ridicule or simply for the sheer joy of being mean. They will not apologize because apologizing is a sign
of weakness and they don' t want anyone to come close to penetrating that tough exterior.
We 'd all love to be this outspoken but we can' t. \Ve'd love to be bad at times, but we were brought up with certain social
restraints that teach us what to say, what is socially acceptable and what isn' t. The Bitch and The Bastard simply don't care,
especially if you're Rosario addressing Jack and Karen on ''Will & Grace."
ROSARIO: Oh look, it's ''Dumb and Drunker."
This makes them mean, saucy and hysterically funny. It was so much fim watching some of the Black sitcoms of the 70s and
80s, which featured some smart, sassy and bitchy African-American actresses. One of the best is Marla Gtbbs as Florence the
housekeeper on 'The Jeffersons." Here, this Queen of the Quips once again spars with her boss George Jefferson (Sherman
GEORGE: If! paid you to think, you could cash your check at the penny arcade.

FLORENCE: (with that great look of hers) Where do you think I cash it now?
As a kid, your mother or father alwavs told you never to talk back. If you're playing The Bitch or The Bastard, forget all that.
You need to be outspoken and you don't need to apologize for anything.

Commercial Break

A family ofBitches and Bastards

One of the most entertaining sitcoms ofall time is also one of the most complex. "The Jeffersons" has a unique
makeup in that just about every character on the show features characteristics ofThe Bitch or The Bastard. Despite
finally getting a "piece of the pie, " they are still not happy with their lives. These characters, led by the irritable
George Jefferson, are often cranky, cynical and sarcastic. And they often take it out on each other.
FLORENCE: My fiance Buzz has such high standards.

GEORGE: Then what's he doing with you? (Sees her looking at herself in the mirror) Get away from that mirror...
you don't need any more bad luck!
FLORENCE: I know. I already got you.
And even Mother Jefferson (Zara Cully) gets in on the action.
LOUISE: You thought I was kidnapped? Why would anybody want me?
MOTHER JEFFERSON: That's what I've been asking myselffor years.
GEORGE: Louise, you're worth your weight in gold.
MOTHER JEFFERSON: I don't think there's that much gold in Fort Knox.
(Louise shoots her a deadly look.)
It's a lot offun to watch because it's almost as if each episode they trade off this character, sometimes in the same
scene. Even the show's Logical Smart One character, Louise (Isabel Sanford), will switch into The Bitch from time to
time. And that's why the show works.
Back to our show ...
I'm smarter than you, stupid
Finally, The Bitch and The Bastard are very quick-witted characters. You don't have to finish high school and be
college-educated to be quick-witted. And a lot of The Bitch or The Bastard's wit comes from being street-smart. Having an

innate cynicism (and wtderstanding the harsh realities of life), they are able to figure out what kinds of things to say to ridicule the
other characters. You very rarely see any hint of The Dwnb One in The Bitch or The Bastard. It doesn' t really work well that
way. The Bitch and The Bastard have to be quick on their toes, street-smart and clever. They have to be wise to come up \\~th all
those funny, derogatory cracks. Hence the term, wisecracks.
Case in point: Archie Bunker. Even though this blue-collar bigot has barely a high school education and is the Father of
M alaprops (often mispronowtcing and misusing words), he has a Wlique street-smart wit about him.
MIKE STIVIC: So when Sammy Davis Jr. gets here, are you gonna call him a jungle bunny?

ARCHIE: Certainly not. I'll call him Mr. Davis.

MIKE: What's the difference between him and our neighbor Lionel?
ARCHIE: Ten million dollars and several Cadillacs.
The same could be said for the cranky Frank Barone (Peter Boyle) who says just about anything to anyone, including his sons
and his ''~e Marie.
MARIE: Well, I think it's sad when people start ha,mg surgery to make themselves bigger.

FRANK: M arie did it the natural way. Powtdcake!

(Notice Frank Turnaround.)

And it's a lot of fun when this Bitch I Bastard married couple go at it \\~th each other.
ROBERT: Hey, ma I told N emo you were hurt so he threw in these breadsticks for free.

MARIE: These look old.

FRANK: You are what you eat.
MARIE: Robbie, give your father his order of ..miserable bastard."
If you' re a quick-\vitted street-smart person \vith a biting tongue and a mean streak you enjoy, this could be your character.

Who in. your life is The Bitch I Bastard?



So what other character does The Bitch I Bastard most remind you of? If you guessed The Logical Smart One, you're right.
The Bitch I Bastard is almost a mean-spirited version of The Logical Smart One. Both are sarcastic, both have a biting wit and
both have the ability to slap the other characters back into reality ("Snap out of it!"). The main difference is that The Logical Smart
One does so in a loving, maternal way while The Bitch I Bastard enjoys '1aying the hurt" on people.
Because of that, The Bitch I Bastard works well with a lot of characters, especially The Lovable Loser who wears his or her
emotions on their sleeve. The Bitch I Bastard loves to find The Lovable Loser's vulnerabilities and push those buttons as much as
possible. Every once in a while, The Lovable Loser will try to go toe to toe with The Bitch or The Bastard, and the result is
usually messy (and funny). Remember, The Bitch I Bastard loves to destroy another's hopes, and that's why the ever-hopeful
Lovable Loser is such an easy target.
What's even funnier is that sometimes (and I stress only sometimes), The Bitch I Bastard will show a vulnerability similar to that
of The Lovable Loser. Remember what I said about that episode of ''Taxi" where Louie told the prom story? That was an
extremely vulnerable moment for a very mean guy and it added quite a bit of depth to the character.
Every once in a while, writers will give us a glimpse into the soul of characters like Louie, Archie or Frank. It's almost as if they
are Lovable Losers whose dreams got defeated one too many times, turning them bitter, sour and downright mean. In fact, in
many Bitch I Bastards you can see how they might have started out life as a Lovable Loser, but after years of struggle, stress and
defeated dreams, they simply said "screw it."
Along those same lines, every once in while writers will throw The Bitch or The Bastard into a Lovable Loser storyline and that
is a blast to see. Just as much as we love to watch The Bitch or The Bastard be mean, we also love to watch them get their
The only plotline that isn' t played out as much is the pairing ofThe Bitch I Bastard with The Dumb One, simply because, come
on, The Dumb One is almost TOO MUCH of an easy target. It's kind of difficult to take stinging shots at somebody who doesn't
understand what you're saying.
But, as with everything, there are exceptions. And the best pairing would be cantankerous crank Lou Grant (Ed Asner) and
dumb, pompous anchorman Ted Baxter (Ted Knight) on 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show."
LOU: What is it now, Ted?

TED: Aw, Lou. How come every time I come here to say something, you say '\Vhat is it now, Ted" ... like I'm going to say
something dwnb?
LOU: How come every time I see a duck, I expect it to quack?
TED: N o, no ... you answer my question first.

(Notice the Over-Extended Triplet.)

One last thing, I mentioned in the last chapter that you will hardly see The Dumb One be mean-spirited. You will also rarely see
The Bitch or The Bastard be clueless. These two are polar opposite characters and they rarely come together-WJ!ess you're a
dim-witted brat like Reese (Justin Berfield) or a clueless, self-centered jerk like Gob Bluth (Will Arnett) on Arrested
Gob is one of TV's most selfish characters, a man who truly cares about nobody other than himself. And he will go out of his
way to screw over just about anybody, even the family members that take care of him. But the writers have added quite a bit of
depth to Gob in that he's always chasing women (much like The Womanizer I Manizer, which I'll get to in the next episode). He's
also an IDIOT. A failed magician, he says and does ridiculous things and is oblivious to how the real world works. Here Michael
asks him how he made the family yacht disappear as part of a magic act.
GOB: (Arrogantly) A magician never reveals ... (Can't contain himself) ... I sunk it! At least I think I sunk it. I mean, I blew it
up and I don't see it anywhere.
Gob is an incre<hble character in that the writers and the actor have added a lot more personality to a character that isn' t easy
to play.
Some people might also think that Roseanne Conner is a Bitch. But if Roseanne (a Logical Smart One) were a Bitch, she
would be mean-spirited and uncaring; which she isn't. She is maternal and compassionate, but every so often she wants people to
think she's tough, especially when it comes to protecting her kids.
ROSEANNE: Cut the crap, okay. You're talking to Darlene' s mother, the mother of all mothers and she is majorly mad!

Possible inteotioos for The Bitch I Bastard:

To Ridicule
To Condescend

To Manipulate
To Crush
To Belittle
To Demean
To Patronize
To Destroy
To Mock
To Dismiss
Final Thoughts On Playing The Bitch I Bastard
This is a character that takes quite a bit of practice to get comfortable with and to play welL People, even actors, aren't used to
being this openly mean-spirited and sarcastic out loud, and that creates a sometimes tentative approach. If you want to play this
character well, you need to throw hesitancy out the window and put it all on the line.

Commercial Break
Physicality of The Bitch and The Bastard

Physicality can help you identify and play many of these Eight Characters ofComedy, but none more so than The
Bitch or The Bastard. Remember that they both have a bravery about them and a harshness that will automatically
come out in the way they talk and carry themselves.
Some simply have "the look. "A new actress will enter my class, and I can tell right away that she can play this
character. She will most likely be attractive with a hard-lined face, thin lips and a wrinkled brow. And as sweet as the
actress may be, she can still give that look that says "Don't cross me. " Ironically enough, many new actresses don't
know they have a Bitch inside them. At first, they usually take offense when I peg them for this character. But when
they finally embrace their inner Bitch, they proudly play it to the hilt.

Back to our show ...

For some actors, this character is under the surface. Playing The Bitch or The Bastard allows you to bring it out. That doesn't
mean you have to be an angry or mean person to play it, but to make it work, you really need to dig into that negative part of
yourself. You need to have an understanding of where your cynicism and intolerance come from. Or just tap into your mean
streak (we all have them, don't we?) That will make it believable and funny.
Also, a key ingredient to playing this character is to really enjoy it If vou enjoy it, the casting director will enjoy it, the
producers will enjoy it and you'll get the job.
Okay, so we see that The Bitch I Bastard can be mean and funny, but why do we like them? The answer lies in the depth and
the back-story you bring to the character. We can identify with people who are frustrated and bitter because we've all felt that

way at some point or another. We've also had our feelings hurt and we've built walls, sometimes with a sharp tongue. Tbis is the
fowtdation of The Bitch or The Bastard character and ifs important to bring that into the mix.
Audiences will tire of somebody who is just simply mean. They need to see their heart- at least every once in a while. That's
why the best sitcoms will allow for that to happen, like giving Carla a crush on Sam that pops up every now and then or giving
Archie a sentimental moment with Edith. If we can see their vulnerability every once in a while, it makes it much more enjoyable to
see them crush someone else.
Also, this is a character that the other characters can slip into quite often. The Logical Smart One gets bitchy when their
patience is being pushed. The N eurotic can get curt or prickly if people aren' t following their rules. The Materialistic One can be
condescending and judgmental (The M aterialistic Bitch) if she's not getting what she wants.
There are a few other things I want to mention about this character. You' ve probably noticed b y now that The Bitch is more
snippy and condescending while The Bastard is more gruff and cranky. Don't assume that only guys can play The Bastard role
and only women can play The Bitch. As half hour television progresses, w e are seeing more and more t\vists on characters.
Female bastards (like Rosario on "Will & Grace") and male bitches (like Niles on 'The N anny") are strong and funny characters.
Look at Finch on "Just Shoot Me."
FINCH: (With an arched eyebrow and a smirk on his face) You couldn' t score in a monkey whorehouse \vith a bag of
M any would argue that he is much more a Bitch than he is a Bastard. While the t\vo aren't that different (they share all of the
characteristics w e just discussed), you need to remember that they also aren't gender specific. If you think you're more of a Bitch
than a Bastard (or vice versa), go for it.
Another point I want to make is the emphasis on technique. I know I have talked about technique a lot in the previous
chapters, but The Bitch and The Bastard really require you to be a perfectionist on your technique, especially timing, The
Turnarowtd and Triplets. Writers often use The Bitch and The Bastard to pwtch home a joke, whether or not they're part of the
main action of a scene. A perfect example of this is Estelle Getty, who plays Sophia on "Golden Girls." She is the Mother of the
One-Liner, often walking through a scene, delivering a line and then exiting. That requires precise timing and she is a master at it.
When Sophia walks in the front door, Rose tells her she must be "tired" after a long cab ride ...
SOPHIA: Tired? I RODE in the cab. I didn'tpush it! (EXITS)
As The Bitch or The Bastard, you \vill get to deliver a lot of the best jokes. Once again, think of Carla She can be carrying a
tray across the room, toss out a \\~secrack, leave and have you in hysterics. The same could be said for the random insults Louie
throws from his office cage in the garage.
And finally, remember to keep the pain inside The Bitch or The Bastard (carry it with you at all times). You can use that for
biting comedy. Remember ifs this mean-spirited character' s depth that keeps the audiences liking them and identifying \vith them.
Combine that \vith technique, character traits, a history and that part of you that can be mean, and you' ll soon be playing a great
Bitch or Bastard. And we the viewers need you, because as Dr. John Becker (Ted Danson) says:

BECKER: The world is full of idiots, and someone needs to point it out to them or they will never know.

ANNOUNCER V.O.: In the next episode of'The Eight Characters of Comedy," The Bitch gets to watch her horny
ex-boyfriend flirt with a hot, sexy woman at a party. She fiunes as she witnesses the steamy interaction between The
Womanizer and The Manizer.


Here is a list of some of the great Bitches and Bastards.




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We see a handsome former ballplayer and now bartender in his 30s talking, well, more like flirting, with his sexy new boss
Rebecca (Kirstie Alley). This is Sam Malone, played by the very funny Ted Danson. The show is ..Cheers." And he's once again
about to make a not -so-subtle move.
REBECCA: I know you have trouble dealing with a woman in a position of authority.

SA\\1: Whoa, wait a minute. I resent that I've never had trouble "~th a woman in ANY position.
Sam doesn't flirt with just Rebecca and Diane (Shelly Long), but also every girl that walks into the joint He is proud, cocky,
sometimes conceited, but always ready for his next sexual conquest He thinks of himself as a God of Women, and well, he is.
DIANE: You've been with a lot of women.

SA.J\.1: No, I have not There haven't been that many women. I just exaggerate here in the bar. (Off her look) There have not
been that many.
DIANE: How many have there been?
SAM: Oh, I don't know. Maybe four hund ...

(Diane makes a startled gasp)

SAM: Honeys. Honeys. Four honeys. (Flashes his trademark grin).


We see a sexy, leggy late 30's woman sharing her views on sex with three other metropolitan women.

SA..l\1ANTHA: I'm a ' trisexuaL ' I'll try anything once.

That pretty much sums up the lifestyle of Samantha Jones, played b y the incre<hble Kim Cattrall, THE woman who puts the
"sex" in "Sex and the City." She is sassy, sophisticated, beautiful and she has more balls (and has seen more balls) than any other
character on TV
SAMANTHA: There isn' t enough wall space in N ew Y ark City to hang all of my exes. Let me tell you, a lot of them w ere
She is confident, she is smooth, she is vain, she is well-put-together and she just wants to "get laid" ALL THE TIME. Some of
the things she says make us blush, some make us cringe, some make us uneasy, but they all make us laugh.
SA..l\1ANTHA: (To her male intern) The bad news is you' refired. The good news is now I canfuck you.
Both Sam M alone and Samantha Jones have a Wlique quality about them: people of the opposite sex are immediately drawn to
them. And they have no problem handling their many admirers. They are irresistlble. W hen it comes to sex, they alw ays get what
they w ant. Their appetite is insatiable and they are alw ays ready for action. That's because they are respectively, The
Womanizer and The Manizer.



Okay, first of all, I realize that 'Manizer" isn' t a word. But I think it says it all. Instead of calling them female W omanizers, the
w ord M anizer gives the ladies their own identity (hey, I believe in equal opportWlity) .
The W omanizer I Manizer is the constant flirt. These characters are after only one thing- SEX! They have a one-track mind.
They want sex any time and all the time. And w e love watching them on their quest to find it. To them, that is the only way to Jive.
Life is sex and sex is life and they have no qualms about doing it, talking about it, Jiving it.
N ow, sex can mean different things. After all, this character has been around for several decades and standards weren't as
permissive as they are today (thank HBO for that). But no matter how they view it, sex is their eternal quest. And they have a lot
of fun getting it.
Sam and Samantha come from a long line of W omanizers and Manizers who are alw ays there to dish out funny one-liners and

make the other sex (or the same sex) into nothing more than sexual objects.
One of the earliest Manizers was also a generational sex symbol. In the 1960s, Tina Louise's portrayal as Ginger Grant (a
Marilyn Monroe-esque movie star) on ..Gilligan's Island" had young boys and grown men alike drooling and also showed half
hour writers how much fim they could have if they infused a little sex into their shows.
The Womanizer appeared in the 1970s with The Fonz (Henry Winkler) on ''Happy Days." He was the ..coolest" and he knew
it. He made girls' knees buckle and guys set their standards higher.
This character has developed over the decades and gotten a little racier (I can't picture Ginger talking \vith Marianne about
dildos \vith as much ease as Samantha does \vith Carrie), but the overall character is still the same, as you'll see when I get into
the characteristics section of this episode.
For now, try and think of some other great Womanizers and Manizers. Let's start \vith The Manizers. They're actually not an
as young and beautiful as Ginger. For some reason, older Manizers have worked increchbly well in sitcoms. Think of the
middle-aged Mona Robinson on "Who's The Boss," an outwardly sexy and flirtatious mother and grandmother played to the hilt
by Katherine Hehnond.
TONY (Tony Danza) :Mona, look ... come on. You don't hire a housekeeper just because he's got a great smile and muscles.
MONA: How do you think YOU got the job?
Then, of course, there is Rue McClanahan's hysterical take as Blanche Deveraux, the quintessential Southern Belle in her
golden years on ..Golden Girls."
BLANCHE: There is a fine line between flirting and being a wanton slut. I know. My toe has been on that line.
So you can see, Manizers can be any age. The same is true for The Womanizers. Just think of "Saved by the Bell," which
features young super-stud A. C. Slater (Mario Lopez). Bold and cock-y, Slater is always after the girls and always getting them.
These characters vary in age, appearance and approach, and they can be played a variety of ways. But regardless of their
appearance or their approach, these characters and their endless quest for sex is always fimny. They often have some of the best
jokes in a show and some amazing storylines. They are often the "idol" of others on the show and even us, the viewers. We \vish
we could be more like The Womanizer or The Manizer at times. They always seem to have a lot of fim \vith potential mates,
one-night stands or even weekend affairs. But pleeease, no longer than a weekend.
SAl\llANTHA: What is it about the weekend now? I swear to God that every guy I've fucked since Memorial Day wants to
know what I'm doing this weekend. They just don't get it. My weekends are for meeting new guys so I don't have to keep
fucking the old ones.

Com.mel'cial Bl'eak
Reality check
A good example of The Womanizer or Manizer would be just about any of the immoral, non-loyal, bikini or
Speedo-c/ad, sextia/jling-seekers on "Temptation Island" or any of those "Bachelors" and "Barhelorettes. "

Back to our show...

Sexual conquest
Well put together



Tbis character gives you, the actor or writer, the chance to be the Casanova or the Venus you always thought you could be.
Once again, it would appear that The Womanizer or Manizer wouldn't be that difficult to play, but flirting isn't that easy for most
people in real life. Seduction is an art and it requires a great deal of confidence, so portraying it on the small screen is even harder.
Also, while sex is their main goal, that's not all these people have in their lives. To come off as a good Womanizer or Manizer,
you need to explore why your character is always after sex as well as uncovering what lies beneath the confident, well-coiffed
exterior. Getting a grasp on where this character comes from and who they are today will help you book the job.
Let's talk about sex
Let me stress again just how horny these people are and how horny they have always been. Like The Lovable Loser, The
Womanizer and The Manizer have a great ..want" in life. But their primary want is just to get laid. They never turn down an
opportunity to flirt \\~th a stranger or jump into bed. They don't know how to stop themselves. Most people think there are many
ways to flirt. The womanizer and The Manizer know of only one, to be aggressive and assertive. And while each individual
actor has his or her own Wlique take on this, they all approach it very aggressively because they are extremely se>.-ual.
They are the swingers, the bachelors, the players, the playboys and the playmates. They know where the party is, where the
drinks are flowing, and they always know where the hot guys and girls are (that's why The Lovable Loser hangs out\\~ them).
They live a hedonistic lifestyle and they're not ashamed of it. As a matter offact, they're damn proud of it!
They are convinced that having sex is imperative to having a satisf}~g life. They're always on the prowl and they always have
their game face on. It could be as innocent as the F onz snapping his fingers to attract a flock of cheerleaders or as provocative as
Samantha instructing a guy on how to give her the perfect orgasm. The quest is just as important. They go for it even if their
approach isn't as smooth as they think. Case-in-point, Dan Fielding (John Larroquette) in ..Night Court."
DAN FIELDING: (Talking to a passing woman) Me Tarzan. You lucky.
And they've been this way since they first discovered people of the opposite sex (or the same sex), back when things were a
little more innocent.

You have cooties ... and I wan.t them !

The yowtg Womanizers and Manizers were the ones that first noticed the opposite sex. They were the boys who chased the
girls arowtd the schoolyard. They were the girls who chased the boys arowtd the schoolyard. He would flash a devilish grin, she
would hat her eyelashes. As they grew into high school, they got a little more daring. They became the randy boys and the loose
girls. Again, remember Slater. W atch this naughty boy interact "~th Jessie (Elizabeth Berkley).
JESSIE: You macho pig!

SLATER: (Sly smile) Oink, oink, baby!

It's probably safe to say that teenage Womanizers and M anizers never missed Sex Ed. They were alwavs the teacher's pet
(winlc, wink), they always did their "homework" and they always, always got an A+.
As they move into adulthood, they realize quickly how sex malces them feel and the instant gratificaticm they get from it. Sex
becomes almost a drug, a ''recreational" drug that quickly becomes their addiction. And they put a lot of thought into how to get
it. They malce themselves look good. They focus on building their confidence. They read sex books, listen to Barry White,
practice "pick-up" lines in the mirror and watch a lot ofSkinemax ... I mean, Cinemax. they become horndogs and cats in heat.
Though they start out cute and curious in grade school, b y the time they are adults, they are full blown Womanizers and M anizers.
Horny Toad!
I know the word horny is remedial, but it serves a purpose. In class, I would use intentions like "to seduce" or "to entice" in a
scene, descnbing this character's need for sexual conquest. The results varied. But the first time I yelled out "Be horny!" to a
student in class trying to get his game on in a scene, a very subtle but profowtd change came over him. He immediately took the
adjustment to heart, mind and body and the scene became more organic, the intentions became stronger, he became bolder, and
the work became a lot funnier. For actors who are in twte with this character, intentions like "to flirt" or "to seduce" work fine
because they instinctively wtderstand the confidence it talces to play seductiv e, to BE seductive. But for actors who aren't as in
touch with this particular characteristic, the word "horny" sets off a familiar spark.
For you to play this role, you either need to draw from personal experience or open your heart and mind and use your
imagination. Think ofhow you pursued somebody you really, really liked. Think ofhow persistent you were and how you couldn't
stop thinlcing about them and wanting them.
Or imagine how you'd like to pursue someone who you really, really like, someone you can' t stop thinlcing about and how you
would like to be persistent and bold. Allow yourself to fantasize.
M any of us don' t pursue our objects of affection for fear of rejection or humiliation. To be clear, The Womanizer and Manizer
never fear such things. They assume that they are the objects of affection of others; and therefore, they are always bold and
aggressive. That's how The Womanizer and Manizer approach every single available person they meet. And that's how you need

to play this role.

Why sex? \Vhy now?
So why are these guys and gals always looking and chasing? W ell, The W omanizer and Manizer actually have a great void to
fill and they fill it b y having sex. Having sex provides the validation that they need. And they've grown addicted to that need.
Behind their solicitous exterior lies a great deal of insecurity. This need for attention from the opposite (or same) sex 'vill
ultimately manifest into the need for sexual conquest. Sex makes them feel powerful and seems to fill that empty vessel inside of
them, one that goes back to an early part of their lives.
Ironically, thaf s the underlying sadness about these funny characters. This trait, although very important to the complexity and
makeup of the character, only shows itself at certain special times. We don' t see it very often because this is, after all, comedy
and not drama. Still, if s important that you the actor know that if s there, that there is something missing from their childhood.
And they try to compensate for it with affection and sex. That's what they carry \vith them on the inside. But on the outside, if s a
whole different story.
SA...l'vlANTHA: A guy could just as easily dwnp you if you fuck him on the first date as he can if you wait until the tenth.
You' re so vain, y ou probably think this episode is about you
Right up there 'vith The M aterialistic One (I'll get to that character in the next episode), The Womanizer and M anizer are pretty
vain characters. Their emphasis on the way they look is a major part of their strategy for ''hooking up" as well as for maintaining
their reputation as players. This makes them incredibly narcissistic, often appearing conceited to others.
This is another area where this character's humor originates. Think of how both The F onz and Sam Malone are obsessed \vith
their hair. Think of all the sexy outfits that Samantha and Ginger wear. This is b y design (and usually b y famous designers). The
characters care so much about their looks because they know first impressions start \vith appearance.
They must always appear to be weD put together, both on the outside (in terms of their appearance) and on the inside (in
terms of their sense of self). Even though, as I said earlier, under this confident exterior lies great insecurity. So if you're playing
The Womanizer or The M anizer, you need to do your best to look your best.
With confidence in the world of dating comes an ability to be smooth and suave, even if they're not always the best looking.
Think of Dan Fielding. Or watch Charley Dietz (David Leisure) on "Empty N est" as he once again tries picking up Officer
Barbara W eston (Kristy M cN ichol).
BARBARA: Charley, why do you have beef jerky in your pocket?

CHARLEY: Maybe I'm just pleased to see you.

N ot the smoothest of lines, but you would never be able to tell from how he delivers it. Part of being smooth and suave is

believing you are smooth and suave. And Charley sure does.
As for the ladies, once again there's Mona on who's the Boss?" A comical version of Mrs. Robinson from the fihn ...The
Graduate," Mona always knows how to handle her many suitors that come calling. Maybe because of her age, Mona has a "use it
or lose it" mentality and a subtle smoothness that makes her a daring and sexy older lady. And there's Blanche, who is also direct
(and daring) with her gentleman callers. But she uses a fluttery yet earthy Southern sensuality.
Tbis can be tough for many actors to lock down. Acting smooth isn't really something you can teach. People simply are or they
aren't. And if you're not naturally smooth, what you need to do is find the times in your life when you are completely confident
with yourself. Tbink of how smooth and self-assured you are at those times. Or think of someone in your life you know who has
these qualities.
Or, just watch the F onz and take plenty of notes.
THE FONZ: You're dreaming about a girl you never met?

RICHIE CUNNINGHA..M: (Ron Howard): Come on, Fonz. Haven't you ever dreamed?
THE FONZ: Hey, I'm not the dreamer. I'm the dreamee!

Comm.ercwl Break
The Womanizer or Manizer isn't always a "looker. " Check out Richard Kline, who played swinging playboy Lany
Dallas on "Three's Company. "Dressed in the hippest of 1970s clothes with the chains and the finley hairstyle, Lany
was the original "wild and crazy guy. "Even though he wasn't the best-loo/.:ing, he thought of himselfas a sexy ladies'
man. And it worked because of his attitude and his swagger. Actually, the fact that some of these characters aren't the
best-looking makes them that much funnier and that much more universal. You gotta be thinking, ifhe can do it, I can
do it!

Back to our show...

One of the most important characteristics for The Womanizer is that they are cocky devils. In fact, they ..put the cock in
cocky." The Womanizer is swollen with pride and he puts it out there for the whole world to see. He walks with his chest puffed
out, his shoulders back, his groin leading the way.

The most important trait for The Alanizer is confidence, brazen confidence. She is confident in herself and in getting her needs
met. And you can see it in how she carries herself. She stands up straight and walks with an Tm all that and more" strut, all the
while her breasts poised for attention.
These characters are a steamy bunch. Whether they are good-looking, old or young, they view themselves as sex symbols.
They couldn't possibly fathom that there is any guy or girl out there that wouldn't want them. They have built up a narcissistic
self-image over the years and it has virtually taken over. They have absolutely no self-esteem problems (at least on the outside)
and they are increchbly resourceful in getting what they want
Tbis resourcefulness gives writers plenty of opportunities to place these characters in situations \vith other characters of the
opposite sex (or same sex), be it at a bar, a coffee house, the Internet, wherever. And the actors get to rise to the
occasion-using their own resources, whether from personal experience or their imagination-to get the guy or girL And that's
what makes each actor's approach to these characters unique and funny.
BUT, they are all smooth and cocky in their approach to flirting, sex, anything having to do with their pursuit. That's why many
of their one-liners revolve around them talking about their sexual prowess.
BLANCHE: Sophia, by placing this pearl necklace between my bosoms, does it make me look like I'm a sex-starved slut who
is in need of a man to bed?

BLAN CHE: Good, then I'll wear it.
Their active hbido presents itself when they're talking about a potential conquest
BLANCHE: He is so sophisticated and charming and rich and handsome. He fairly screams Blanche. At least he will when r m
through with him.
There is no doubt in Blanche's voice. She will give this guy the best sex he's ever had, and if s that attitude that can make this
character so tricky.
The Womanizer and The M anizer take a great deal of confidence to play. Check out any scene with Edie Britt (Nicolette
Sheridan) on ' Desperate House\vives" like in the episode w here she goes over to Susan's (Teri Hatcher) home to "comfort" her
about her recent breakup with Mike.
EDIE: Look, I'm feeling badly about what you' re going through \vith Mike. And don't worry, I'm not going to date him.

SUSAN: Doesn't matter anymore.

EDIE: Well, don't get me wrong. I still have every intention of sleeping with him. Some mowttains are meant to be climbed.
In fact, it takes an over-confidence to play The Womanizer I Manizer that can tum to arrogance. And that's where this
character uses sarcasm most. Just like all of the other characters, The Womanizer and Manizer have a terrific knack for sarcasm.
In fact, this is where a lot of their classic one-liners come from. If someone is questioning them on their <>reputation" or their latest
sexual conquest, they'll use sarcasm to defend themselves. And they even use it to make jokes about themselves and their overt
sexuality. It's a skill that any Womanizer or Manizer simply must possess.
While we all are self-assured in something we do, dating or flirting is typically one of those areas where many people feel
wtcomfortable. If you're going to succeed at playing THIS character, you can't be anything but 100 percent committed to the
confident characteristic. You, as your character, have to know that you will get that girl or guy into bed if you want (as a matter
offact, you should know you could get them both into bed if you really wanted to). Make no mistake, confidence is sexy.
One of the great modern-day Womanizers is Charlie Sheen. On the hit show "Two and Half Men," he plays a guy named
Charlie who (ironically enough) is cool, channing and confident and, much to the chagrin of his brother Alan (Jon Cryer), he has
slept with every woman in town-twice.
ALAN: Listen to me. You're a grown man. You can't go through life drinking and partying and humping anything that doesn't
shake you off.

CHARLIE: (BEAT) Yes. I can.

Charlie is also the ultimate ladies' man. lie carries a devilish grin, a wandering eye and the biggest Little Black Book on
TV-and he's proud of it.
OLIVIA: But you said I was special.

CHARLIE: You are special.

OLIVIA: Then why are you dating three other girls at the same time?
CHARLIE: I said you were special, not unique.
(Notice the Over-Extended Triplet as well as the placement of words, including the use of "special" three times and
ending the bigger joke on a "K " suond.)
What's missing?
When you cut right to the heart of The Womanizer I Manizer, they are complex characters. There are several reasons why they
are the way they are and why sex is so important to them. But in general, they are fairly shallow and superficial when it comes to

anything other than their sex life. If we were working in a dramatic format, we could have fun exploring such complicated
characters even more. But the format is sitcom. Therefore, while you need to !mow where this character is coming from, the
comedy will stem from their sexual adventures.

Who in y our life is The Womanizer I Manizer?



If you are The Lovable Loser, The Womanizer or M anizer is your idoL He or she is everything you are not and everything you
aspire to be. That's why it's funny watching these two interact with each other. 1bink of the relationships that have been forged
between the likes of The Fonz and Richie Cunningham (Ron Howard). The Lovable Loser often idolizes The Womanizer I
Manizer. They view them as the guys and girls who never fail to get what they want
What's funny about that is, like The Bitch I Bastard, The W omanizer I Manizer will sometimes show kinks in their armor. They
can seem vulnerable and insecure at times, especially if there is an episode where they have to struggle to get a date. There is an
almost "neurotic" panic attack they face (think of Samantha in the Sex and the City" episode where she couldn't "get off) as
well as a vulnerability (think of Larry' s breakdown in "Three's Company" when girls kept saying "no") we don' t get to see too
Sometimes it can be something more serious. Once again I go back to Samantha. When she discovered she had breast cancer,
we saw a completely different side of her. Oh sure, she was still the same confident, sexy M anizer. But there was suddenly
something more to her. If you can play a Womanizer I M anizer to the letter, you \vill have a great character, but if you can add
some kind of depth and a back-story, it 'vill make the character that much more interesting.
At this point, I would like to address a couple Dumb One characters that could fall into this category. It's easy to assume that a
lot of Womanizers and Manizers are actually The Dumb One because of their one-track minds.
Because The Womanizer I Manizers are so preoccupied with sex, or their pursuit of sex, they can often seem clueless to what's
happening around them. Therefore, they can appear to be dwnb. But make no mistake, they are not dwnb. But, there are a
couple characters that cross The Womanizer \vith The Dumb One.
The first is Vinnie Barbarino (John Travolta) who definitely is dwnb but is also a chick magnet However, his primary storylines
always involve him hanging out \vith his Sweathogs, preventing him from pursuing his womanizing ways. Even though Travolta was
a teen idol, the writers of that show made a choice to make that character more than just a sex symboL Throw in some sweet

naivete from Travolta and you got a memorable character.

That said, I'm sure a lot of you are probably wondering why Joey (Matt LeBlanc) isn't under this category as well. While his
character is definitely The Dumb One, he obviously possesses a lot of the characteristics of The Womanizer ("How YOOO
doin'?"). It seems that Joey's Dumb One character developed because the writers and LeBlanc didn't want him to chase Monica,
Phoebe and Rachel throughout the series. They wanted Joey to be more than that And it was a good call. But, for the sake of
more comedy, he hangs on to some of his womanizing characteristics. That crossing of characters is a great way to help build a
legendary character like Joey.
There's also a great Manizer that takes on traits of another character, The Bitch. That would be the nymphomaniac, .,happy
homemaker" Sue Ann Nivens, played by Betty White on .,,The Mary Tyler Moore Show." She is definitely a Manizer who can
steal a scene 'vith a suggestive glance, a flirtatious smile or her sometimes shocking dialogue.
SUE ANN: ... that's why I'm not going to say one word about the cruddy wallpaper in the men's room.

MARY: Did you crash the men's room?

SUE ANN: Oh no! (THEl\? I went as somebody' s guest
But when she isn't toying with men, this pre-Martha Stewart can get down right mean.
SUE ANN: Mary, believe me, I'm proud that you haven't been disheartened by those who murmur that you've sacrificed your
femininity to your ambition.

MARY: Uh, gee, Sue Ann, I haven't heard anyone murmur that!
SUE ANN: Then I'm the first!!
(Notice that both examples are Classic Triplets.)
Betty White is one of the most talented sitcom actors of all time, mainly because of the depth she brings to characters like Sue
Ann-truly a Manizer and more ....
Possible intentions fo>' The Womanize>' I Manize>'.
To Seduce
To Flirt
To Entice
To Flatter
To Compliment
To Woo

To Make love
To Allure
To Captivate
To Tantalize
To Lure

Final Thoughts On Playing The Womanizer I Mauizer

As an actor playing this character, you face the difficult task of playing somebody who seems fixated on only one thing white
still creating depth and making the character likable. Same goes for you writers. This character has a number of qualities that
would be looked on unfavorably in real life. But in the sitcom world, they can be funny. You need to find those characteristics that
work best for you, and play them funny, while keeping a true and honest character.
Trust me, this isn't easy, mainly because of the confidence characteristic. But what you need to remember is that we've all felt
like this character at least once or twice in our lives. It basically happens when you're flirting at a party and the other person is
picking up on it and sending it right back. Or when you really like somebody and they tell you they like you too. Or any sexually
charged intimate moment.
During those moments, you feel sensual, excited, stimulated, but you also feel confident (and even cocky) because your feelings
are being reciprocated. Even if it doesn't last long, you feel at that moment like The Womanizer or Manizer feels all the time. As
an actor, you need to harness those feelings and bring that to the character.
Ifthat doesn't work, dive into the character's confidence. Every now and then in my class, I will work \\~than actor who isn't
as self-assured. I let them know that if they're playing this character, they can hide behind the character's high self-esteem, and it
works. The pressure is off of them because they're not focusing on their own fears or low self-image. This technique immediately
instills in them what they need to tackle a character like this.
Another trick is to focus on body language. Even focusing on standing up straight, with your shoulders back and chest out will
help bring more confidence to you and your voice, just like slouching can help you play The Lovable Loser. Don't be afraid to get
close to your sexual targets, almost to the point of dominating them with your body posture.
Think of how Samantha struts into a restaurant or how Sam leans over the bar when he's tallcing to a girl. Although they are
aggressive, they are harmless predators. And there is something likable about them. Maybe it's because we idolize them and their
self-assured attitude. Maybe it's because they have practiced the arts of charm and seduction. Maybe it's because we are
mesmerized by what they say and what they do. Regardless, this sexy character remains one of the most popular and naughtiest of
The Eight Characters of Comedy.

ANNOUNCER V.O.: In the next episode of'The Eight Characters of Comedy," The Womanizer makes a pass at a very
fashionable gal at the bar, who is only interested in what kind of car he drives. He quickly realizes that he's in the company of

The Materialistic One.


Here is a list of some of the great W omanizers and M anizers .




David Atltlio;on Jr.

E<lic Brill
Parker Ch:>sc
Larry Dalln<
Blanche Deveraux
Charley Dietz
Elliot Di,\ lauro
Dan Fielding
.\ rthur Fon1.1rd li
Ginger (;rant
Charl ie l l:!rpcr
Samanth:> Jones
Sam ,\Iaione
Sue Ann Nhcns

1/nm If illis
.Vitoltll,. ,<;}uridtm
Jal:t .llcDomum
Rirluml 1\/mr

.\loon lighting

J\ I on:~ Rohin.son

IVttlulinf I ldmond

Dan Rydell
,\like Sca,cr
A.C. Slater
Sally Solomon

Josh Cb11rlu

Rue ,\ ft('ft~ntllurn

Datrd Lrisurr
Enriro Colnmoni
//wry Winl:ltr
Tin11 Ll)uiu

Chadir Sbrrn
Kim Carrm/1
1(,/ Danson




.\lam l.opro
Knstm Johnston



l lou~cwhc~

Three\ Cmnp:lr1}'
Golden Girls
Empty i'\cst
just Shoot .\lc
i'\ight Court
I loppy IJ:>)'S

l<b ncl
'[\,o and a ll alf o'v1cn
Sex ,md the City
n,c ,\lary 'f)lcr 1\ loore Show
1\'hos the Boss?
Sports Night
Growing P:lino;
Saved by the Bell
3rd Ruck Frum The Sun


We open on a well-to-do family in the middle of a quiet, peaceful evening when our heroine, dressed in the finest of Beverly
Hills fashions, suddenly bursts through the door, gushing and eager to tell everyone her exciting news. Her name is Hilary Banks.
HILARY: Congratulate me! It took all day, but I finally found the perfect pair of alligator pumps to wear to the ..Save the
Everglades" dinner tonight
While that may seem like a bizarre irony for some, for anybody who's ever watched 'The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," it's what
has come to be expected from Hilary, hilariously played b y Karyn Parsons.
In one holiday episode, Hilary is encouraged b y her wealthy family to spend some quality time volunteering at a local homeless
shelter for Thanksgiving. Accustomed to the finer things in life, Hilary doesn't even understand what a homeless shelter is, so of
course she is a little reluctant While her fellow volunteers are working hard in the kitchen, Hilary can' t seem to find a way to
contnbute ... \\~thout working hard. Then, she notices there is a load of dishes to be done. Spotting an opportunity, Hilary proudly
turns to her fellow volunteers and announces:
HILARY: I can wash the dishes. (BEA T) M y butler can be here in fifteen minutes!
When the other volunteers stare at her blankly, Hilary looks confused. ..Don't they all have butlers that do THEIR dishes?"
Hilary can' t understand anything other than having people take care ofher. She can' t understand why everybody isn' t concerned
about what they're wearing to the homeless shelter. She can' t understand how people can Jive like this or work like this (or work
at all for that matter). She can't understand because Hilary is The Materialistic One.



The Materialistic One is who we sometimes dream to be. Okay, maybe that's going a bit too far, but they are extremely
pampered individuals who are ..waited on" and really don' t have a care in the world (okay, maybe that IS who we dream to be) .
Their only concerns are who the next big designer is and where they can get the money to buy their clothes, their cars, their
jewelry and a sweater for their Chihuahua. But then again, money usually isn' t a problem for The M aterialistic One. Unfortunately,
these individuals typically don't have a solid grasp of values, responsibility or other elements of typical human nature (that's where
we differ). Many simply don't know what it's like to live in the real world. They are generally pretty shallow, and in real life, that
can be sad. But in a sitcom, with the right actor providing depth and likeahility, that can be damn funny.
The Materialistic One can be traced back to early television, but usually in a supportive role. Of The Eight Characters of
Comedy, it is probably the one character that appeared most sporadically. She was usually seen as the teenage daughter, sister or
friend of the lead character, whose primary interest was shopping, primping and boys (not necessarily in that order).
There have been variations of The M aterialistic One in movies as well, like Private Benjamin," ''Valley Girl," 'The Breakfast
Club," "Heathers" and "M ean Girls" to name a few. With the exception of Goldie Hawn's very funny Private Benjamin (a
M aterialistic One who mistakenly joins the army), this character didn' t blossom into a well-developed. full-fledged lead until the
1990s \vith fihns like "Clueless" \vith Alicia Silverstone and the "Legally Blonde" movies \vith Reese Witherspoon. And more
recently on the reality show The Simple Life" \vith Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie, a show about socialites stuck on the farm.
The Materialistic One fascinates audiences, studios and networks. Check the breakdowns in any given week and you will find
a casting director asking for a "Paris Hilton type." Over the last couple decades, the popularity of this character has translated to
sitcoms as welL
But this character does have a history in sitcoms. Let's go back to the 1960s. Who can forget the endearing, wealthy WASPS,
the Howells on ''Gilligan's Island?" While Thurston (Jim Backus) and Lovey (Natalie Schafer) are not the leads in the story, they
provide comedy b y still trying to live out their former luxurious lifestyle while being stranded on a deserted island.
LOVEY HO\VELL: Anyone who says money can' t buy happiness doesn' t know where to shop.
And of course, there is the sweetly naive Lisa Douglas ("Darling, I love you but give me Park Avenue") on "Green Acres," a
popular 1960's fish-out-of-water sitcom in which Eva Gabor plays a socialite stuck on the farm (sound familiar?) The inability of
these characters to comprehend anything less than a life of luxury is what makes them funny.
But this character really came into her own in the 80s, 90s and today \vith characters like Rachel Green (Jennifer Aniston) on
"Friends," Suzanne Sugarbaker (Delta Burke) on "Designing Women," N ina Van Hom (Wendie M alick) on "Just Shoot M e" and
Jackie Burkhart (Mila Kunis) from 'That '70s Show," to name a few. Here's Jackie trying to explain to Donna (Laura Prepon)

exactly why women have sex.

JACKIE: Donna, sex is how we control men. If they know we like it as much as they do, we'll never get jewelry again.
Today, while it's still mostly seen as a supporting character, The Materialistic One is playing a much bigger role in the sitcom
world. There's Gabrielle Solis (Eva Longoria) on 'Desperate Housewives." Or there's Sara Paxton, who plays Darcy Fields, a
glamorous teenage city girl who is (you got it) stuck on a farm on 'Darcy's Wild Life."
As you may have noticed, most-actually all--of the examples listed above are women. Once again, like The Logical Smart
One and The Lovable Loser, this has somehow turned out to be a role geared more toward one gender.
There is a male Materialistic One that should be mentioned. He is the money-hungry, spoiled, pretty boy Jefferson (Ted
McGinley) on "Married . .. With Children," who's obsessed with his car almost as much as his hair and is never shy about
mooching off of his wife, M arcy.
JEFFERSON: (Showing a picture to a stranger) This is my wife.

STRANGER: You married the kid from "Home Improvement?"

JEFFERSON: (Studies picture) I guess I did. Oh well, she buys me things.
Still, this is mostly a lady's role. Why, I don't know. Apparently there is a preconception that this role must fit women a little
more naturally than guys, much in the same way The Lovable Loser does for men. Or maybe it's because society believes that
men shouldn't be interested in shopping, fashion, their appearance or anything having to do with style. But men, there is hope for
those of you who dream of playing this role and you can thank the writers of"Will & Grace" and the Fab Five from ''Queer Eye
for the Straight Guy."
It's a fact that over the past few years, gay comedy has become much more acceptable in the mainstream and that will soon
transfer over to sitcoms more--and not just for gay characters. Within the next year or so, I think we can expect to see sitcoms
\\~th male Materialistic Ones, or what's more co=only known as "metrosexuals," straight guys that possess some narcissistic
tendencies (i.e., manicures, pedicures, facials and a love of all things material--think Ryan Seacrest). Hey, just imagine the sitcom
possibilities for these characters.
But, The Materialistic One will probably always be a character dominated by women (remember, Hollywood always goes with
what's working). Or maybe it's because of actresses like Jennifer Aniston, who bring so much dimension, depth and humor to this
shallow Materialistic character.
Aniston' s Rachel Green is so interesting because she came from money and is used to being pampered. But she is actually
trying to break away from her wealthy upbringing by living in the real world-working, paying bills and experiencing everyday
struggles (unlike Hilary). Still, at her core (and we can see this in flashes of her personality), she is materialistic. Just check out this
scene where Joey (Matt LeBlanc) wants to learn how to sail.

RACHEL: You know, Joey, I could teach you to sail if you want.

JOEY: You could?

RACHEL: Yeah. I've been sailing my whole life. When I was fifteen, my Dad bought me my own boat.
PHOEBE: (Incredulous) Your own boat?
RACHEL: (Defending herself) 'What? What? He was trying to cheer me up. My pony was sick.

Commercial Break
Reality check

Besides the Materialistic gals on "The Simple Life, "another good reality television example of this character (and
a male at that) would be rich tycoon Donald Trump, whose show "The Apprentice" stresses the Materialistic code,
where success equals money, money equals power and power equals a hit show.

Back to OW' show ...

Above it all
A princess
Daddy's little girl or mommy's
little boy
Filling the vessel
FuU of themselves
In vogue
!\I oney conscious

Oblivious to the less fortunate

Self Serving
Sense of entitlement
Status oriented



This is a tough character for many actors to play, especially if they don't come from an affluent background. For most actors
starting out, money is a huge issue. You could say most struggling actors are ''financially handicapped," and this leads to a great
appreciation of the value of money. The Materialistic Ones usually don't have to worry about that. They have money (or at least
dress like they do). Their primary concern is their own materialistic wants. As you will see from these characteristics, this is a very
shallow character that has a .,what's in it for me" mentality. They will often make you laugh and shake your head in disbelief. But,
much like The W omanizer I Manizer, they also need to be likable and show a heart underneath their stylish, shallow and
superficial behavior. You need to embrace all of this in order to be successful at playing The Materialistic One.
Born wit h a silver spoon
There are several ways the character of The M aterialistic One can come about, but needless to say, many start out \vith an
upbringing that made money and material goods an important part of their lives. As a young child, there had to be some influence

that made them who they are today. You need to keep in mind that The Materialistic One has a strong need on their part to keep
filling the vessel. And it comes from insecurity.
This is where they share another trait with The Womanizer I Manizer. Whereas The Womanizer I Manizer wants to fill the void
with sex, The M aterialistic One wants to fill it with gifts. They need to have the trendiest clothes, the hippest accessories and the
hottest car-all superficial things to help make them feel loved in order to make up for their insecurity and lost affection.
Some M aterialistic Ones are daddy's little girl (mommy's little boy) who grew up still looking for the material goods that
sometimes replaced mo=y or daddy' s love and affection. If they are no longer getting this materialistic attention from mo=y
and daddy, then they look for it elsewhere, either through friends, loved ones, prospective mates, etc. They need the attention to
fill a very deep void.
Think of M arcia Brady (Maureen McCormick) from "'The Brady Bunch." N ow, I'm not saying that her parents neglect her in
any way (who wouldn' t want the Bradys as their parents?) But she has a deep need for attention, always. Even though M arcia
often shows compassion, it is imperative for her to always look pretty, have the best clothes and be 1\.1iss Popularity." Her sister
Jan has a good point It's all about Marcia, M arcia, Marcia!
Just think back to the popular episode where M arcia broke her nose. She was completely terrified about what a boy she had a
crush on would think of her with bandages on her nose. She whined about never being able to show her face again ... that's what
the whole episode was about!
The popular kids portrayed on TV and fihn often fall into the category of The M aterialistic One. They are the handsome jocks,
the pretty cheerleaders, the M allrats, the Valley Girls and the rich, trendy Country Club kids. They have a particular obsession
with defining themselves through material goods and superficial friendships. While that sounds kind of sad, with good writing and
spot-on acting from someone who understands this character, this can be really funny. Once again, think of the popularity of the
''Legally Blonde" movies. People can identify \vith (or at least laugh at) the superficial obsessions of Reese Witherspoon.
Or think of Alicia Silverstone in "Clueless," a popular fihn that led to a TV series b y the same name. "Clueless" featured the
same kind of character, this time \vith Rachel Blanchard playing the rich, spoiled and fabulous Cher Horo\\~tz, a Materialistic One
who was always willing to give fashion advice to her friends.
CHER: Oh-My-God! Those shoes are, like, screaming 1995!
The industry is providing more opportwlities for younger actors looking to play this role (at the time of this writing, there is a
''Legally Blonde" series in the works) . I can't count how many times I coach a young actress who's auditioning for a character
that is a variation of The Materialistic One. Whether it's for comedy or drama, this is a very popular character for teenage
actresses to play.

The Wish List of The Materialistic One:

L Money, money, money

2. Designer clothes (Nothing off the rack for me, thank you very much!)
3. Hottest new car (Convertibles are soooooo 2004)
4 . Mansion in ritzy neighborhood (No less than 10 bathrooms)
5. A date w ith a Rock Star
6. Popular friends (or someone to hold my bags w hile 1 shop!)
7. A Chihuahua in a hand bag
8. High school diploma or college degree ... whatever
9. Career, 1 guess, as long as I don 't have to work
10. Oh yeah, and MORE money
The In-Crowd
For this character, the need for material goods doesn't stop, even as they get older. Remember, as The M aterialistic One, you
have to want anything you can't have (even if you have everything) . You have gone from being Prom Queen or King (or dreamed
of it) to being in vogue as an adult. You want the best of everything that money can buy. You have to want it with ahnost as much
desperation as The Lovable Loser. The big difference is that what you want is often going to be shallow and superficial ... and
come with a designer labeL
Look no finther than ''Desperate Housewives" status-oriented and money -conscious Gabrielle Solis (Eva Longoria). As a
self-proclaimed .,trophy wife," Gabrielle wants it all: a life of luxury, an expensive (and extensive) wardrobe and boy toy John
Rowland (Jesse Metcalfe) on the side. She's always on a quest to keep her well-to-do status on Wisteria Lane, even when she's
JOHN: What other options do you have? Except return the shoes and get your money back.

GABRIELLE: Return the shoes?! I can't talk to you when you' re hysterical.
Like Gabrielle, Hilary and Suzanne, you will notice that all M aterialistic Ones look fabulous. They have essentially everything
that money can buy (at least when it comes to their wardrobe). This is where Jennifer Aniston could really shine without having to
even talk on .,Friends." You could tell instantly b y how she dressed that Rachel Green was a Materialistic One. She had the
perfect hairstyle, the perfect outfit, the perfect pumps and the perfect profession-a buyer at Saks.
But no one personified this vanity more than former beauty queen Suzanne Sugarbaker, played b y Delta Burke. Every time
she makes her grand entrance, she always has something new and important to say ... about herself.
SUZANNE: (HuffY) I got pulled over this morning for having all the mirrors in the M ercedes turned so I could see myself.
The pampered princess

There are other M aterialistic Ones that simply are and always have been spoiled brats who don' t know any other way to be.
Many M aterialistic Ones have had a fairly luxurious upbringing. They are, and always have been, spoiled and pampered and they
bring that into every situation they're in. Thaf s why Materialistic Ones are often childlike in that they get whiny and pouty until
they get their way. To a certain extent, they have led rich lives in a superficial sense.
However, there are some Materialistic Ones who don't come from a wealthy background, who were never debutantes and will
never be socialites. There are Materialistic Ones who come from middle or working-class upbringings, like Peg Bundy (Katey
Saga!) on Married ... With Children" or Franny Fine (Fran Drescher) on The N anny." All they can do is dream about having it
all. They fantasize about being taken care of, being a princess.
AL BUNDY (Ed O'N eill): W e don' t need the lottery. W e have each other.

PEG: I want the lottery!

For this characteristic, once again think of Hilary. She is daddy's little princess, and she knows it and works it. As such, she
often gets what she wants, even if she wants everything. M ost M aterialistic Ones are imperialistic at some point or another in the
course of a show, mainly because this characteristic combines many of the others listed. They have a great sense of entitlement.
They really believe they deserve the best of the best: the best designers, the best restaurants, etc. You'll never find them shopping
at the Gap or eating at McDonald's. Their motto is "Only the best and nothing less. "
A great example is heiress-turned-maid Stephanie Vanderkellen played b y Julia Duffy on Newhart." Stephanie is a spoiled,
upper-crust debutante and it shows.
STEPHAN IE: The only thing I ever dream is that I just won every beauty contest in the world and all the people I don't like
are forced to build me a castle in F ranee.
Instead, she is stuck cleaning rooms at a Vermont inn. Stephanie hates having to mingle with all ..those backwoods townsfolk."
And when she does mingle, comedy ensues. Here she is holding back tears, tallcing about her very unusual night out.

STEPHANIE: I discovered I like ... bowling! (Starts to cry)

Stephanie could never conceive of doing anything so 'iow-class." That's what makes her experience and her reaction funny.
Materialistic Ones believe that they are above it aU, including co=on follcs and co=on activities. They would simply be
mortified if anybody ever thought of them as co=on (or that they liked bowling)!
When you think of these famous M aterialistic characters, you get a sense of how they embody most of these qualities.
Essentially, what they're doing and what you need to do is approach your character as a status-oriented, vain, snobby princess
who's proud of it. Once again, think of Suzanne Sugarbaker who struts into a room \\~th her head held high, her chin up and her
nose in the air.
As an actor, you need to remember those times that you've been spoiled, either b y your family, b y a lover or whoever. Y ou
need to remember how it felt to have everything taken care offor you, even if it was just for a day, a night or a moment And then
you need to try and imagine a life of that Or you need to imagine how much better and more complete your life would be if you
had loads of money. It will give new perspective to your character' s words, intentions and actions. For The M aterialistic One,
money DOES buy happiness.
Eww, what brand is tha.t?!
Every Materialistic One has at least a little bit of a snob in them, even the ones with a little more depth, like Rachel and Gabi. It
w on't come out much, but every once in a while they can be incredibly judgmental about someone's appearance, career or
And then there are those characters that ahnost seem to celebrate the fact that they are s e lf-se rving snobs. Think the beautiful
Lindsay (Portia de Rossi) on "Arrested Development." Even as the family struggles with money and the possibility of losing their
all-too-important place in society, Lindsay can't help but think only of herself, refusing to change her ways. Here she is, being
grilled by her brother Michael (Jason Bateman) about a recent purchase.
MICHAEL: Where did you get that outfit?

LINDSAY: M om gave it to me. I guess she wanted me to have something new. Sweet old thing.
MICHAEL: Only two of those w ords descnbe mom, so I know you' re lying to me.
LINDSAY: Okay fine. I bought it before we w ent broke. I just haven't worn it until now.
MICHAEL: Uh huh. And the outfit yesterday?

LINDSAY: Old Thing gave it to me.

(Notice the multiple Triplets.)
The Materialistic One, like The Bitch or Bastard, will often use sarcasm in a condescending way to put down people that they
see as beneath them or those who don' t share their appreciation of material things. The Materialistic One will often use sarcasm in
a very childish way, poking fun at others less fortunate.
It is important to remember that all Materialistic Ones are at least a bit snobby and judgmental because they really do believe
that they are better than other characters in many ways, especially in their appearance. They are foU of themselves. Whether if s
written, played on the surface or down deep, you must be aware that your character has these feelings.
What do you mean, poor?
One other characteristic that is shared b y all Materialistic Ones but can be played in a variety of ways is that they are oblivious
to the less fortunate.
On one end of the spectrum there are the Howells on ..Gilligan's Island," who have no concept of poverty (or middle-class for
that matter) but are very sweet in how they deal with those that have less than them. While they are naive to the less fortunate,
they never appear to openly look down upon them. Instead, they almost appear as if they don't believe anyone could possibly be
anything other than wealthy.
The same is true for Lisa Douglas on ..Green Acres." She is sweetly oblivious to the less fortunate farm folk and their way of
life, but always accepting of them (she is a kinder, gentler predecessor of reality TV star Paris Hilton, who plays the role a little
more judgmental). Here the Hungarian-born N ew York socialite is trying her best to help out her husband Oliver (Eddie Albert)
by stringing com.
0 LIVER: Lisa, you're supposed to take the kernels off the com and string them.

LISA: Well, don't blame me. I never did it before. In the old country, we used to string caviar.
OLIVER: Caviar?
LISA: We'd have caviar on one string and crackers on the other. And then we'd play the Hungarian Christmas game called
..smear the crackers \vith caviar."
And then, on the opposite end of the spectrum, there is Suzanne Sugarbaker who is oblivious to the less fortunate and damn
proud of it. In this scene from a funny episode oC'Designing Women," Suzanne is explaining to her sister Julia (Dixie Carter) why
she came to Japan.
SUZANNE: Julia, I am just here to visit Mother and pick up a car. I do not want to have any cultural experiences. As for
seeing the "real" Japan, I've noticed that whenever people start talking about seeing the "real" anything, what they're talking

about, basically, is hanging arowtd with poor people. N ow, I say I don' t hang arowtd with poor people at home, why should I
do it on vacation?

(Notice the Over-Extended Triplet.)

These are two very different takes on being oblivious to the concept or the struggles of the less fortwtate. As an actor or writer,
you have fleXIbility in this sense. In the Howells' or Lisa's case, they both have a touch ofThe Dwnb Ones when approached with
the concept of poverty. Meanwhile, Suzanne shows flashes of The Bitch when she is forced to deal with poverty or anyone
beneath her status. Suzanne is so judgmental that she often becomes mean-spirited and condescending. She is a great example of
a very co=on joining of these two characters to form what I call The M aterialistic Bitch.
You've seen this popular variation of The M aterialistic One in television and fihn, whether it be comedy or drama She' s that
impeccably dressed, wealthy, cowttry club \vife and mother who is a lot more concerned \\~th the way she looks, her status in
society and how she's viewed than with anything else. The M aterialistic Bitch is very different from the more na:ive M aterialistic
One, but both approaches work.

Who in y our life is The illaterial.i.stic One?



This is a character that can definitely draw from traits of other characters. As I mentioned earlier, some M aterialistic Ones are
more naive or oblivious to the struggles of others, like The Dwnb One. Others are judgmental and therefore a lot meaner like The
Bitch. The character can also take on the traits of The Neurotic when they fear they are losing their status in society. Or they can
be obsessed or worried that they don' t have the best things or they aren't the most popular. And of course, there is a similarity
between this character and The W omanizer I M anizer, especially when it comes to the confidence characteristic and the emphasis
on appearance.
NINA VAN HORN: I'd like to think of my body ... as a temple
This is where Wendie M alick does such an amazing job as the multi-layered, M aterialistic Nina Van Hom on ''Just Shoot M e."
Nina wants so desperately to retain her stature as a top model, years after her time has passed. She thinks the way to go about it

is to get all the things she had when she WAS a yowtg top modeL She is always talking about the latest fashions, hanging out with
all the pretty people and doing whatever she can to keep this dying dream alive. She even wants things without knowing what they
are-just as long as they're the latest and greatest. Wendie plays those ..wants" almost to a point of a ..need" and she doesn' t pay
much attention to anything else.
She sometimes takes on characteristics of other characters, but she makes all of them fit into the role of The Materialistic One.
When the storyline focuses on her desperate attempts to reclaim her ..modeling years," she becomes a Lovable Loser. If she is
confused b y someone or something, she can slip into the pumps of The Dumb One. If she spots a handsome man who would look
perferct next to her, she becomes The M anizer. And when she isn't getting what she wants or if somebody can't wtderstand her
needs, she can be a Materialistic Bitch.
In order to give this character more color and depth, The M aterialistic One can sometimes show the insecurity of The Neurotic,
the vulnerability of The Lovable Loser or the pain of The Bitch or Bastard. But this is only in the subtext of the character. On the
surface, N ina, like all other characters, constantly reminds us that she, at heart, is Materialistic.
NINA: To=y Hilfiger ... he' s like, the President of the things I care about.
I also have to mention another show here. Some would say that ''Sex and the City" is a show that revolves arowtd four
M aterialistic Ones, but that's not really the case. Sure, Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), Samantha (Kim Cattrall), Charlotte (Kristin
Davis) and Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) all have their materialistic moments, but they are all very different characters (within The
Eight Characters of Comedy).
It could be said that the real M aterialistic character in the show was ..the city." N ew York City is home to the fashion industry,
high society, Wall Street and Donald Trump. Everyone is jockeying for power, fame and fortwte and is constantly dressed for
success. The Big Apple has some of the best shops, shows, restaurants and parties. And because New York is the backdrop of
the show, these gals all rise to the occasion, showcasing materialistic moments (remember when Carrie discovered that she owned
about $40,000 in shoes?) But at their heart, these four gals had very different personalities. Otherwise, the show wouldn't have
Because this character can draw so much from the others, it is important that you have a solid grasp on what The Materialistic
One wants and needs and what makes them who they are, whether you're a metrosexual or a pampered princess.

Possible intentions fo>' The Materialistic One:

To Get aJtention
To Buy
To Judge
To Selfsei'Ve
To Flaunt.
To Show off
To Indulge

To Consume
Final Thoughts On Playing The Materialistic Ooe
Why do we love The M aterialistic One? Well, mainly, we can sometimes see ourselves in this character. We all have our own
selfish, superficial needs. Don't be ashamed of it, everybody does. We'd feel sexier and more confident if we had that expensive
leather jacket W e'd feel more powerful if we were cruising arowtd in that Porsche. W e'd feel more important if we hwtg out with
movie stars. We'd feel better about ourselves if we just had more money. These are wants that many of us fantasize about, but
The Materialistic One needs them to have a satisfying life. M ost of us are growtded enough in the real world to accept that these
are dreams. We wtderstand that we're not going to get all of them and we're appreciative when we do get them (usually through
hard work). But The M aterialistic One expects them, never wants to work for them and absolutely can't live without them.
There are plenty of places within this character where actors can play up the comedy, but another place where The
M aterialistic One can shine is in their interaction with other characters. Other characters don' t always wtderstand where The
M aterialistic One is coming from.
Other characters don't always comprehend the obsession with the material goods or the naivete (or judgmental behavior) The
M aterialistic One displays to people less fortwtate. They don't wtderstand how the character can be so shallow at times. Playing
this lack of wtderstanding for each other causes conflict, thereby making for some strong comedic moments. This is especially true
when other characters are calling out The Materialistic One on their lack of decency or values, and The Materialistic One retorts.
This is an easy character to create tension \vith and a good actor can turn that into a series regular role on a sitcom.
There is truth to the fact that those actors who grew up well-to-do or pampered \vill have a better wtderstanding of The
M aterialistic One. But even if you didn't grow up with a silver spoon in your mouth, you know what it's like to imagine or dream
about some of the things The M aterialistic One needs.
Think of how you get ready for an audition, making sure you look the absolute best you can. Think of how you wear your best
outfit to go to an industry party. Think of something material you want, be it a new BMW to replace your beater, a wardrobe
from Prada or some jewelry from Tiffany's. And try and put yourself in the position of expecting to get those things all the time,
like Hilary Banks.
Take it even further, and remember that you need to wtderstand the insecurity \vithin the character, his or her need for
acceptance and approval. It \vill help you at least get an appreciation of where this complex character is coming from. The
well-trained actor \vill be able to combine the character' s need to be loved \vith the outward obsession over material things, all the
while keeping it funny and avoiding the dramatic. It's not easy, but playing this spoiled prince or princess of a character can be
ANNOUNCER V.O.: In the next episode of'The Eight Characters of Comedy," The M aterialistic One is trying to show off
her new Gucci bag to her Bohemian looking friend, who is more interested in why butterflies fly. But The M aterialistic One is

used to it because she !mows her friend is In Her Own Universe.


Here is a list of some of the great Materialistic Ones.




Hilary Banks
Lindsay Bluth Funke
)\ Ia rei a Brady
Peg Bundy
Jackie Burkl>art
Diane Chambers
Paige Chase
Jefferson D'Arcy
Lisa Douglas
Darcy Fields
Fran Fine
Rachel Green
Maddie Hayes
Cher Horowitz
Rebecca Howe
Lovey Howell
Thurston Howell Ill
Gahrielle Solis
Sm.anne Sugorbakcr
Stephanie Vanderkcllcn
Nina Van Horn

l11e Fresh Prince of lleiAir

Arrested Devclop1ncnt
Ptmia de Rossi
,1/nun:rn .\lcC&mrick The Brady Bunch
Married ... With Children
Kattj Saga/
'70s Show
Mila Ku11is
Shrllty Long
Sarah Wrigbt
Ttd MrGinlry
Married ... With Children
Eva Gabor
Green Acres
Darcy's Wild Life
Sara Pn,Yt&tt
Frntt Dn:schn
The Nanny
Jmnifrr Anis1011
Cybi/1 Shrphtrd
Kirstie rlllq
Gillih'3ns Island
.Vntrrlir Schafer
Gilligan's Island
Jim !Jnrkus
Desperate Housewives
Et'll Long&ria
Ddttr Burkr
Dcsibming Women
Julia DujJY
Wrmlie ,\In/irk
Just Shoot .VIc
Klllyn Parsons



EVERY 1\fil'oi"lJTE OF IT!"
We open with a wild-looking man with crazy hair, a cigar in his mouth and a Hawaiian shirt bursting through the door, doing a
twist and bringing forth a roar from the studio audience.
Looking back on the brilliantly written "Seinfeld," most devotees think of a particular episode or two with a chuckle and say,
''Remember the one .. ." and then spin off into their interpretation of the hmacy that series show cased every week. M ore often than
not, many of the classic moments involve Mr. Cosmo Kramer, played hysterically b y Michael Richards.
Remember the one where Kramer was convinced there was a "pig man" at the hospital that the government was experimenting
on, and he tried to rescue him?
Remember the one when Kramer bought a chicken to live in his apartment so he could have "cage-free, farm-fresh eggs?"
Remember the one where Kramer invented 'The Bro," his bra for men?
And maybe the best of all, remember the one when Kramer worked as an extra on a movie, got the acting bug and decided to
move to California?
GEORGE COSTANZA: You' re really moving to California?

K.RA..MER: (Points to his head) Up here, I'm already gone.

That about sums it up for this eccentric character that made us laugh w eek after week (and still does in syndication). Kramer,
more than any other character on that show, embodies the wackiness that is "Seinfeld." He is alw ays coming up with strange ideas
that seem to come out of left field, yet make perfect sense to him. He is constantly in awe and wonderment of the world that
surrounds him, even if it is a world only he sees. He constantly gives Jerry fuel for his sarcastic observations. He dresses odd, he
looks odd, he IS odd. And he makes us laugh. N o, he makes us guffaw, especially when he enters a room, because you never
know where he's coming from. But we know it's somewhere unusual. We know that because Kramer is Io His Own Universe.



The In Their Own Universe (ITOU) characters are some of the weirdest, edgiest and funniest characters of all time, mainly
because they are allowed to do and say ahnost anything and everything. They are the ones that amuse us simply b y talking
because it very rarely makes any sense at all to us rational viewers. They have an unedited stream of consciousness. They are
"free-wheeling" on what they believe, what they do and how they do it. That makes them unpredictable and a lot of fun. And let
me remind you, the "unpredictable" often breeds good comedy.
And there have been some great actors who have won critical praise, E=y awards and fat paychecks doing just that. I want
to start 'vith probably the best of the females that embody this ITOU character.
PHOEBE: Phoebe. That's, P, as in Phoebe, H, as in heobe, 0 as in oebe, E, as in ebe, B, as in bebe, and E as in ... 'Ello there
That interesting little spelling ofher name pretty much sums up where Phoebe Buffay (Lisa Kudrow) is coming from; which is ...
I have no idea! N obody does and that's what makes her and the show "Friends" so incredibly funny.
Like many of the other characters, the ITO U is primarily used as a supporting character to provide that instant comedic relief,
much in the same way as The Dumb One. They often start out as a minor character that just appears from time to time to say or
do something crazy, either to help introduce a new plot line or to give viewers a break from an existing plot line.
However, such as in the case of "Seinfeld" and "Friends," these characters tend to develop quite a following rather quickly.
They become "break-out" characters. Therefore, they find themselves becoming more important to bigger storylines. Whenever
the ITO U opens his or her mouth, walks into a room or gets involved in a scene, you never !mow what's going to happen next
(and neither do the other characters), and that keeps the ITOU character and the show fresh and exciting. Because comedy
comes from the unpredictable, this is a character that can always be funny.
There are a number of ways the ITOU characters are portrayed. First of all, there are some characters that literally come from
another universe, like ALF, M ork (Robin Williams) from "Mork & Mindy," Uncle Martin (Ray Walston) from ' M y Favorite
M artian" or from another time like Jeannie (Barbara Eden) from "I Dream of Jeannie" or another dimension like Aunt Clara
(Marion Lome) from "Bewitched." Or they come from a non-specific far off land, like Latka (Andy Kaufman) from 'Taxi,"
Ballci (Bronson Pinchot) from "Perfect Strangers" or Fez (Wihner Valderrama) from 'That '70s Show."
These characters are literally from a different place so they often clash \vith what we consider a normal society. They have

different cultural values, a different set of principles and a different frame of reference, even different sayings. But all of it makes
sense to them.
BALK!: You may call it intuition. You may call it co=on sense. You may call the wind Mariah.
Then there are some characters like Kramer and Phoebe that come from a place I call "Cloud Nine. "While they're from
Earth, they were born odd and have carried it into adulthood, like Jim (C hristopher Lloyd) from "Taxi," Lenny (Michael
McKean) and Squiggy (David Lander) from "Laverne & Shirley" or new cult heroes Jack M cFarland (Sean Hayes) and Karen
W alker (Megan Mullally) from ''Will & Grace."
And then there are entire casts that are In Their O wn Universe, like the \vitches and warlocks on "Be,vitched," the ghouls on
' The Addams Family" the monsters on 'The Munsters" and the hayseeds on 'The Beverly Hillbillies" and "Green Acres." And
then of course, there is one show that features a cast In Their Ow n Universe from their own universe, the aliens on "3rd Rock
From The Sun."
All these sitcoms feature a fish out of w ater concept that makes them very successful. M ost stars of these shows could all fit
into the ITOU category, but we know that wouldn' t work, right? There w ould be no conflict. So what the writers do is make sure
that while the show has an overall ITOU feel, the characters are specifically defined as one of the other Eight Characters of
C omedy.
Think of "3rd Rock From the Sun." The entire Solomon family is from another universe, and most of the humor on the show
revolves around them trying to adapt to life on Earth. Still, they each take on a specific character. Dick (John Lithgow) is The
Dumb One. Sally (Kristen Johnston) is The Manizer. To=y (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is The Logical Smart One and Harry
(French Stewart) is ... well, he's In His Own Universe. He' s a rare character that is In His O wn Universe in his own universe.
As an example, here' s Harry doing something "normal," like looking for a job in the newspaper.
HARRY: Here's a job that I can do! ' 'Police are seeking third gunman." Tomorrow, I'm gonna march over to the police station
and show them that I'm the man they're looking for.
Harry is simply an oddball that comes up with weird schemes, hair-brained ideas and his own w ay oflooking at the world, just
like any and all other ITO U characters. And this is what makes the ITO U character great to watch, exciting to write and fun to
play. W e can' t wait to see what they're going to say or do next. These are the most dangerously exciting, unpredictable and
interesting of characters, and they have become almost a staple for new shows, which means there are a lot of opportwlities for
actors looking to tackle this challenging role.

Commercial Break

No other show featured as many In Their Own Universe characters as "Taxi. " In fact, two of the show's main
characters represent two different kinds ofITOU characters. The late, great Andy Kaufman's Latka hails from
another land and often misunderstands daily life in New York City. And the Reverend Jim Ignatowski, played perfectly
by Christopher Lloyd is definitely a Cloud Niner.
But there were some supporting ITOU characters that would appear from time to time during the series' run, one of
the most memorable being Carol Kane's Sinka Dahblitz-Gravas, also from another land.

Back to our show ...

Focused on the task at hand
Has good intentions
In awe
l\1arches to the beat of their own drum
Often obsessed
Skewed train of thought



This character, like The Dwnb One, is incredibly difficult to play and make believable. Playing this character takes a lot more
than a far-off stare and a dreamy voice; it requires total devotion and commitment to these characteristics and the ability to simply
let yourself go and get weird (for some of you, that will be easier than for others).
What planet are you from?
Those that are In Their Own Universe (especially the Cloud N ine ITO Us) have been that way since the day they were born.
N obody can really tell why this happens or where they are coming from. They just are simply different (except they don't think
they're different). From Jim to Kramer to Phoebe, they just tend to look at things differently than most other people and they
always have, since the day they were born (or the day their spaceship dropped them off here). For a great kid example, check
out Dewey (Erik Per Sullivan) on Malcohn in the Middle."
DEWEJ~- (Explaining with conviction why he got home late) And then the monster started growling at me. So I threw
rocks at him and I killed him. And then he started flying around on a rocket boost and I got to ride inside his head. And now
the monster' s my friend. And we went to get Slurpees.

Unlike most of the other characters, there isn't much of a background for the ITO Us. They simply are the way they are
because that's how they were born. These are the kids who are often hyperactive or spend a lot of time gazing out the window,
lost in a dream world.
This reminds me of a story where a friend of mine had a talk with her 10-year-old son's teacher. When asked how he was
doing, the teacher said he was "very bright, but had trouble focusing." My friend asked if it looked like her child had Attention
Deficit Disorder, and the teacher quickly replied that no, she didn' t think so. Rather, her child just seemed to be in his own little
dream world--all of the time. Do you know this kid (or adult)? Do you know where they're coming from or where they've been?
We ALL know someone like this. That's the ITOU character.

Commercwl Break
Little ITO Us
Hollywood Moms, ify ou 're kid is j ust a little, w ell, "off, " there might be a role for him or her. There have been a

few shows over the past couple y ears that have introduced a child ITOU and they are often the f unniest character on
the show. Once again, think ofDewey on "Malcolm in the Middle, " Jordan (Jeremy Suarez) on "The Bernie Mac
Show, " D.J., (Michael Fishman) on "Roseanne, " Pearce (Johnny Lewis) on "Quintup lets" or even Bobby Hill on
"King of the Hill. "So moms, don't admonish y our kids for being w eird. Celebrate it ... and get them on a sitcom!

Back to our show ...

He's just a little ... odd
To say the least. Remember, of The Eight Characters of Comedy, these are the biggest ..characters" and the most exciting to
play and watch. You can tell that there is just something odd about them from the moment you see them. For most of these
characters, it starts with their physical appearance. Think of Jim's hair on ..Taxi" or Kramer's on ..Seinfeld." Think of Phoebe's
clothes on ''Friends." Or think of anything the girls were wearing on "Absolutely Fabulous."
The actors, writers and costume designers make it very ob,~ous that we're supposed to perceive at these people as odd and
N ow before you go doing something crazy to your hair or putting together ridiculous ensembles, remember that being eccentric
is more organic than that. Look into your life and think of those things that you do that your friends or family consider kind of ..out
there." Think of those times you've let go, stepped out of yourself and gotten crazy. That's how you must approach the ITOU

Au explanation that needs an explanation

The ITOU characters most definitely march to the beat of their own drum no matter what song is playing. However, they
are able to get away \\~th it because they use something I call illogical logic. This is the most important characteristic for actors to
understand about the ITOU. It's a tough concept to grasp and an even harder one to play realistically, but it is ~tal to this
ITOU' s believe what they are saying is the truth (logical) because wherever they come from (be it another Wliverse, another
time, a far off land or Cloud Nine) this IS their truth. And they seem stunned if other characters don't understand their truth, their
point of ~ew, their logic. It could be something that everyone else (including the viewers) can see as being completely ridiculous,
but the ITOU, using his or her own Wlique frame of reference, will believe that it makes perfect sense.
KRAMER: They're trying to screw \~th your head.

JERRY: N ow why would a jwlior high school want to screw \~th my head?
KRAMER: (Suspiciously) Why does Radio Shack ask for your phone number when you buy batteries? I don't know

(Notice the Classic Triplet.)

And they are unflappable about it. Remember how Kramer was convinced that The Bro (the bra for men) was something that
every guy needed and wanted and he was perplexed as to why others were ridiculing him for it. N evertheless, that didn' t stop him
from going forth with a prototype, and that's where the wlflappable trait appears. Even if everybody thinks their idea is insane or
illogical, it doesn't matter as long as the ITOU believes in it.
You need to remember that because of this, the ITO U sees and hears things differently than everyone else. Tbis is where a lot
of the character's humor comes from. Here is the wlflappable Fez (Wihner Valderrama) on 'That '70s Show" chatting with Eric
(Topher Grace) and showing exactly what I mean b y illogical logic.
ERIC: Fez, I know you've spoken English for only a few weeks now. But could you have learned the phrase, "Don' t tell my
dadT "Don't" being the contraction for "do not" and "tell my dad" meaning SHUT UP!

FEZ: See, right there you told me not to shut up. It's a wonder you're not failing English, too. Crack a book, you lazy son of a
In many instances, another character will talk to the ITO U about a problem and the ITO U will take the information and
process it from within their Wliverse. And then somewhere in there it gets jumbled up with their illogical logic. And then they will
speak and say something that makes little or no sense ... well, at least not to us. Need another example? Enter Karen Walker,
played b y M egan Mullally. Here she is trying to give Grace (Debra M essing) some holiday cheer in her own special way.
KAREN: Grace, it's Christmas for goodness sake. Think about the baby Jesus, up in that tower, letting his hair down so that
the three wise men can climb up and spin the dreidel and see if there are six more weeks of winter.

Commercial Break
Reality check

A good reality television example of this character is just about anybody on "The Surreal Life, " especially Charo.
That 's a great examp le ofwhat happens when y ou have a whole house f ull ofITOUs. Wow!
Back to our show ...
Space cadet

This is where the ITOU gets most confused with The Dumb One because they share some very childlike qualities. Like The
Dumb One, the ITOU is positive and optimistic. Still, the ITOU plays these traits in a different way, like Reverend Jim
(Christopher Lloyd) on 'Taxi."

JIM: Hey, you know the really great thing about tele,~sion? If something important happens, anywhere in the world, night or
day, you can always change the channel.
Sometimes the ITOU is seeing or hearing things for the first time, giving them a sense of awe and wonderment. It is true that
they are more fascinated '~th things than the other characters (once again, remember that they see things from a different
perspective than most others) . But, be careful, being in awe is different than playing it. The zoned out, dreamy look comes
across as phony for this character and is a dead giveaway that an actor doesn't understand where the ITOU is truly coming from.
Instead, use the character' s fascination '~th everything around them. Some ITO Us are the way they are because they are too
fascinated '~th everything around them.
Can' t stop that train
The ITOU has a skewed train of thought that runs very differently than any other characters' . They are either thinking
one-step ahead, one-step behind or one-step removed. For example, if the ITOU was playing a word-association game and
somebody said "Orange," the ITO U would immediately think "Apple" BUT quickly jump ahead to something like "Apple pie"
and that's what he or she would bhut out. "Apple pie! "
Let me show you how this works. If YOU start talking to the ITOU about a friend's new baby, they will take the information
they receive and do something in their head like the follo,~g:
YOU: So, did you hear that Sally's ha~g a baby? ITOU: Really? That's great.

YOU: W e have to throw her a baby shower. I think we should ...

(ITOU begins to enter their own universe and internalizes the following thoughts: "I like baby showers. I like showers. I
like babies. I think babies are cute. They remind me of monkeys. Monkeys like bananas and S\~ging from trees. I '~h I could
S\~g from a tree. Some trees have pretty leaves. What's that tree that has those crazy, long leaves?)
YOU: ... and I thought we could both pitch in for a stroller. What do you think?
ITOU: What's that tree that has those long, crazy leaves?
This all happens in a matter of seconds (or a BEAT). Yet when you talk to them about your friend's new baby, their response
can be something about a tree '~th long leaves. Also, remember that the ITOU has a different stream of consciousness when it

comes to a subject. They might respond to something from a conversation 15 minutes ago because they are still thinking about it.
These are just a few ways for you actors and writers to understand how the mind of the ITOU works.
Another is to create the world of the ITO U. Know where your character's world is, where your history is, and take a step
back and try to figure out how and why "normal" people would look at you differently. Dig through the script and try to find new
and interesting things in there that the character might be in awe of or at least excited about. Remember, a lot of playing this
character comes from stepping away from yourself and looking at a scene from a perspective completely different from your own.

Commercial Break
Let's go crazy
Writers, this character is yow best friend. If there is a weird or offbeat storyline that you have in mind that no other
character could get away with, bring in the ITOU. After all, nothing is really too strange for the free-spirited ITOU to
do or say. The possibility for storylines, characterizations andjokes is endless. I mean, who's to say that the ITOU
wouldn't do that?

Bock to our show...

Work "~tb me now

1f you watch a lot of sitcoms (and you should), you will notice these supporting characters are usually featured in the ''B
storyline," leaving the "A storyline" to the stars of the show. But sometimes writers will make the ITOU the main focus of an
episode, especially a break-out character. 1f that's the case, you will see that the ITO U will present a problem or something that
they are obsessing about right at the beginning of the episode and it will carry through to the end, regardless of what is happening
around them. The writers of"Seinfeld" frequently put Kramer in the "A storyline."
As an example, think of the episode where Kramer spends the whole time obsessing over the fact that Newman (Wayne
Knight) used his birthday wish against him.
KRAMER: I got to his birthday party, and just before he blew out his candles, he gives me this look.

JERRY: Crook eye?

GEORGE: Stink eye?
KRAMER: EVIL eye! (Shudders)

The ITOU is always focused on the task at hand, much like how a Neurotic obsesses. This is a characteristic that you can
really play up in an episode or a scene. Look for what the character wants and really focus on that, regardless of what the other
person is saying or whatever else is going on in the scene. That doesn't mean you should stop listening, but you (as your
character) should only really take in the information that will help you with your specific ..want." And then when you have that
information (or whatever is given to you in the scene), you simply skew it. I know, it's easier said than done.

Commercwl Break
Using physicality
This is another character where physicality comes into play. Think ofKramer's entrance every time he came into
Jerry's apartment. Often you could even see the other characters laughing. It's the way the ITOU often reacts to
something or carries themselves that gets a laugh. Ifyou're playing this character, you might want to play around with
some physicality, as long as it doesn't take away from the script or the other action in the scene.

Back to our show...

Be true to thyself
The ITO Us are very opinionated. They might not necessarily see themselves as being opinionated or direct, because to them,
they're just speaking the truth. They say things that nobody else dares to mention because, in their universe, it's okay to be
straightforward and opinionated. Unlike The Bitch or The Bastard, they don't do it in a mean-spirited way. Rather, they are
simply more positive and direct (like The Dumb One).
JOEY: Phoebes, you wanna help?

PHOEBE: Oh, I wish I could. But I really don't want to.

(Notice The Turnaround.)

Within their system of values, this is an appropriate response. But, as opinionated as they are, these are people that are very
accepting of everybody because nothing seems too weird to them and nobody really seems strange. With the exception of Jack
and Karen, the ITOU is also typically non-judgmental. It's because in their heart, they really do have good intentions. They
will be sarcastic just like any of the other characters at times, but they also have a "live and let Jive" mentality, and they expect
others to feel the same way.
They are shameless. They have no internal censor, so they just say whatever's on their mind. They are not ashamed to say or
do anything, and there is proof in their dialogue. As a great example, here's Jennifer Finnigan as Marni Fliss on the short-Jived
..Committed." When her boyfriend asks her what she wants to do in the morning, she enthusiastically replies ...

MARNI: Well, usually I poop first thing in the morning, but I can put that off.

In general, the ITO Us lead wtorthodox lives and they don't apologize for anything. Because, in their mind or Wliverse, their odd
behavior is acceptable. They chalk up everything they do to ''life experience" and as such, they have no regrets. Latka (Andy
Kaufinan) doesn't regret his time as a playboy. Kramer has no regrets about not having a real job. Jack has no regrets about
living off Will. Karen's certainly proud of her pill-popping, martini-tlO\ving, lush life. And Phoebe doesn' t regret her thievery when
she was yowtger or really anything else she has done or will do.
RACHEL: I've never asked a guy out before.

PHOEBE: You've never asked a guy out?

RACHEL: N o. Have you?
PHOEBE: (Being serious) Thousands of times.

(Notice the p unctuation and the Ex tended Triplet.)

They are exciting and unpredictable people. In fact, they often talk of their exploits (things that would be a major deal to you
and me) off-handedly . Meanwhile, all of the other characters are stunned. But it's "just life" to the ITOU. No shame, no regrets.
You never know where they' re coming from or where they're going next.

JIM: I wonder about things, like, if they call an orange an orange, then why don't we call a banana a "yellow" or an apple a
''red?" Blueberries I wtderstand. But will someone explain gooseberries to me?
Who in. your life is In Their Own Universe?



The In Their Own Universe characters work well with just about anybody. They actually serve the same purpose as The Dumb
One, in terms of providing constant comedic relief. In fact, it can sometimes be easy to mistake the ITO U for The Dumb One. But
be warned, these are two very distinct characters with personality traits all their own. Remember, The Dumb One is oblivious
where the ITOU character is actually smart. He or she just has a very different frame of reference.
M ORK: I know about jaiL It's when you get free food, free clothes and no rent

PRISONER: It sounds better the way you say it. I got caught shoplifting.
M ORK: Wow, you must be strong!
Even though he is naive and childlike, M ork is not dumb. It's just that things are different where he comes from (Ork). For
those ITO Us like Mork that are actually from another universe, place or time, they bring with them their own values, morals and
beliefs from their place. And this ''fish out of water" character and his or her beliefs often conflict with what other characters or the
audience considers "normal" life. Therefore, the ITO Us can appear dumb at times. They're not, they're simply from a different
BUT there are a couple Dumb Ones that often slip in and out of the ITOU character. Both W oody (Woody Harrelson) from
"Cheers" and Rose (Betty White) from "Golden Girls" will tell stories of their old hometowns. When they do, you can almost see
a flip in their character. They go someplace that nobody else knows about. They go into their past, into their own universe.
Rose always talks about her days at St. Olaf with a certain awe and wonderment that is different than how she talks about
other things.
ROSE: Like we say in St. Olaf, Christmas without fruitcake is like St. Sigmund's Day without the headless boy.
Woody also talks about his hometown, often revealing some bizarre facts, as in this example where he's trying to cheer up Dr.
Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammar).
WOODY: Boy, Dr. Sternin-Crane having an affair with another guy. This reminds me of a temble scandal we had back in
Hanover, rocked the whole town to its core. M ayor' s wife ran off with old Mr. Smithers.

FRASIER: (Confused) W ell, that's not so scandalous, Woody.

WOODY: Well, Mr. Smithers was a goat
This chapter (or book) would not be complete without discussing two of the most popular and most complex characters on
television today, Jack McFarland and Karen W alker on "Will & Grace," played hilariously b y Sean Hayes and Megan Mullally.

To get a sense of what these two are like when they're with each other, check out this hysterical scene in which Jack is trying
to avoid talking on the phone to his son Elliot.
JACK: N o, no, he's gonna N O he's gonna try to get me to another one of his basketball games. It's just not my thing. M ake
up an excuse.

KAREN: Ahight. (Into p hone) Um, Elliot, yeah. I've got some bad news. Jack and I were figure skating and he phmged
through the ice. Haven' t heard from him since. Could I take a message? Okay. You're trying out for the cheerleading squad?
JACK: (Grabs p hone) Brrr ... I'm back!
(Notice The Turnaround.)
These two are the most talked about characters when I do my One Day Comedy Intensive Class because they seem to fall into
all ofThe Eight Characters of Comedy. And they do, kind of.
When the show began, Jack was definitely the narcissistic M anizer ("there are no straight men, only men that haven't met
Jack"), while Karen was The M aterialistic Bitch ("Honey, the only thing I file is my nails").
To the credit of both of these actors and their skilled work, the writers decided to add even more depth to Jack and Karen.
While they still play up these characteristics, they also encompass other characters. They can be neurotic, bitchy, clueless,
money-hungry, sex-crazed and believe it or not, even logical and smart at times. But when you look at them, who they really are
and where they came from, they showcase all of the characteristics we just discussed in this chapter, especially illogical logic.
JACK: I don' t know how much longer I can live with Will. I mean, every time I get in the shower with him, he's like ..Jack, get
the hell out! "

KAREN: I know, honey. Grace is driving me nuts too. She can' t concentrate on work anymore. She just sits around all day,
doodling pictures of people's houses on these enormous sketch pads. And then she's on the phone all the time ordering
furniture. Honey, where' s she going to put all that, huh? In those "houses" she's drawing? (Both laugh mockingly)
N ot only are these two characters in their own universe, but to complicate matters, when they come together they enter a
whole new universe: the ''Jack and Karen universe! " In this universe, anything goes, including trading sexual innuendoes, charging
up Stan's credit cards, bumping bellies or sharing grandiose drama over the superficial.

Possible intentions for the In Their Own Universe character are... to do any of the other character intentions but
do it in their own special way!

Final Thoughts On Playing In Their Own Universe

The ITOU nands down" is the most difficult character to play, especially for those actors who fall naturally in The Logical
Smart One or Neurotic area This is a character that can' t be forced. It needs to be organic because there are a lot of traps in
playing this character, and it's easy to come off fake. Try to associate with the characteristics, and think of times when you've
been in awe, felt shameless or convinced yourself of something others thought was crazy.
Remember, these are the people that grew up in an ..odd" world that they were either born into or created in their own mind. It
means that they simply look at life in a different way and they go through life at their own pace and their own rhythm. If you're
going to play this character, it's important for you to understand this world of theirs, this way of thinking. The more convincing you
can be in creating-and then believing in-this character's Wliverse, the funnier it will be for us to watch you.
To make things even more difficult, the ITOU also tends to adapt characteristics of other characters. But the ITOU puts their
own spin on them. Confused yet? Essentially, the ITOU is able to tap into all the traits of the other eight characters and make
them fit into their own Wliverse (like Jack and Karen).
It's not uncommon at times for the ITOU to become The Logical Smart One, like Phoebe often does when she helps out one
of her 'Friends." She will, for a moment, have a clear, logical thought that will actually make sense and help out another character.
But, before the commercial break, Phoebe will have the blow (the joke) that will bring her back into her own Wliverse.
Remember, in general, the ITO Us are endearingly wacky, and they all live \\~thin their own frame of reference. They simply
don' t hear or comprehend things like most people do. In my class, after a 10 minute lecture on something, there is always at least
one student who raises his or her hand and asks a question that will have absolutely nothing to do with what I was just talking
about. All heads will tum and some people will laugh, and he or she will be clueless as to why. It's not that they are dumb or slow,
it's that they are processing my speech in a totally different way, usually from a totally different place.
That's where you need to be to play this character. You need to come up with your own Wliverse, and you need to play the
scene through it. It's tough, but if you can pull it off, the result can be strong comedy.
As a conclusion, let's have Kramer sum it up himself. Remember this famous episode where he discusses the Soup N azi with
Elaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), who' s trying to figure out what mulligatawny is?
KRA.MER: ... It's a delightful Hindu concoction simmered to perfection b y one of the great soup artisans in the modem era.

ELAINE: Who, the Soup N azi?

KRAl\ 1ER: He' s not a N azi, Elaine. He just happens to be a little eccentric. M ost geniuses are.


Here is a list of some of the great In Their Own Universe characters.

C haracter



Aunt Clara
llalki Bmokomou~
Buster Bluth
l'hocbe Ruffay
Pearce Chase
D.J. Conner

,\/ariou Lom<
Bromon f>incbor
Tml)' Htlir
/,iso Kudro<J.'
]olm11)' 1-n;i$
,\/ichad Fisbmtm
Erik l'n Sullna11
IVi/me, Vnldtrmma
Jnmiftr Fi1111igau
Aml) Kaufmall
Cbrimpbtr Llo)'tf
Suphm Root
Barbara Etfm
Jamie li1rr
,\lirbnrl ;\/rKrnu
,\/irbllt'l Ritbards
f.l'illinm Smulcmm.
Ton.Y Papttifr4(J,
Jolm I Mistad
Sr1m Hnrrs
]m11ijir S111mdrr1
Rcldn H'illtnms
Ff<'ll<h Su11wrt
/)apid l.mulrr

Perfect Strangers
Arrested l)c,clopmcnt
t\lalcohn in the 1\liddle
Tim '70s Show

,\!ami Fliss
Latka Gravas
Jim Ignatowski
jimmy james
,\ laxwell Klinger
Lenny Kosnowski


Dar!') I and
Jack ,\ kFarbnd
Ecldy Monsoon
;\fork from Ork
I larry Stllomon
Squiggy Squigf,~llann
Pat<) Stone
jordan Thornkins
Uncle ,\ lartin
Karen 1\'alkcr



Jnt"JII_)' St111nz

R11)' Walston
Megan .llulla/~y


News Radio
I Dream of Jeannie
Laverne & Shirley

1-\"111 & Crat'\:
Ab~olmcly Fabulous
.\fork & Mindy
3rd Rock From The Sun
Laverne & Shirley
Absolutely Fabulous
The Bernie Mac Sho"
,\ !y Fai'Oritc Martian
\\'ill & Grace

So there you go.
N ow you have everything you need to make it as a successful sitcom actor. By now, you should have a solid grasp of not only
where your individual ..funny" comes from but also how it can work in the world of half hour comedy. It's important for you to
have a good sense of, well, what's funny about you and how you can be funnv. That's where everyone needs to start. You need
to take everything you just read and use it to help you find the one thing that will help you succeed in this business: your comedic
What is your comedic note? Quite simply, it is the one thing about you that will separate you from other actors. It is where your
strengths as a comedic actor lie. It is where you are different, where you are funnier. It is where you will find the humor in yourself
that will help you conquer this industry ... or at least land a guest star spot. In my class, I often spend quite a bit of time helping my
students identify, strengthen and hone their comedic note as it is vital to marketing yourself in this competitive industry.
Think of some of the greats and how they got comfortable with who they are. Actors like Woody Harrelson, Betty White and
M att LeBlanc recognized that there was a certain character that would help them build a niche. They saw how well they could
play a childlike character like The Dumb One with enthusiasm, commitment and comedy.
Think of Tim Allen, Ray Romano, Matthew Perry and all those great Lovable Losers. They could see that they might not be
Hollywood leading man material, so they get comfortable with a more endearing yet bumbling character and look what happens ...
they become Hollywood leading man material.
Patricia Heaton saw how she could play the ..straight man." Kelsey Grammer could tap into his Neurotic tendencies, Kim
Cattrall saw how she could turn on the sexual charm, Rhea Perhnan saw how she could turn bitterness into deadly one-liners,
Michael Richards saw that he was a bit odd (or at least could play it). The point is that all of these actors were able to look at
who they were in the comedy world and figure out which characters they could make the most of, which characters they could
make work and which characters would get them work.
N ow that you've finished reading this book and you're familiar with these characters, this is your primary job. First of all, take
a look at yourself and try to determine exactly where your Funny Gene is, where it comes from and how you can use it in this
business. You need to find which character you naturally gravitate toward, and that will help you find your niche.
And remember, it goes well beyond just simply fitting into one of these Eight Characters of Comedy. I need to stress again that
these are simply character archetypes that have proven to work over the years. But each and every actor in each category plays
these characters completely different. That's because they pepper in their own personality. That's what distinguishes them from
everyone else. Think of how Ed O'N eill plays The Lovable Loser role of AI Bundy different from the way Lucille Ball does. You
can't compare the two. And yet, at their heart, they are the same character in that they both want something and both go about
getting it in a desperate and hopeful way, week after week, year after year.

These actors saw who their characters were, played those characteristics and added their own personalities to make for a
completely Wlique, honest and hilarious character. That's what you need to do. In order to find your comedic note, you need to
determine which of these characters you most identify with, and that will help you build your niche. Can you identify with the sexy,
confident guy who can get all the ladies or the biting bitch who enjoys ridiculing others? Do you have a (secret) love of all things
material? Or are you the patient and responsible one? I'm sure you were able to identify which of your family and friends were the
various characters. Which one are you? If you're not sure, ask your friends who they think you are.
Knowing who you are will help you immensely in the sitcom industry. Many times, I see actors tr)mg to take on characters that
are not organic to them. And while I support any actor making bold choices and taking risks, it's better to begin with what is more
familiar. If you are a N eurotic in real life (or at least have those tendencies), embrace that character, put in your personality and
have some fun.
N ow, that's not to say that you can' t play any of these other characters. On the contrary, sometimes you might have to. That's
why you read all eight episodes. If you get called in to play a character that resembles any of them, you now have a background,
a personality breakdown and even traits that you can highlight and play up in an audition. A casting director is not going to tell
you that the part you're reading for is a M aterialistic One with some Bitch I Bastard qualities (remember, these are my names for
them). Instead, they could say something like, "Tllis character is money-hungry and tends to be condescending toward others."
While the characters aren't labeled, the casting directors know in their heads what the character is like and how he or she
needs to be played. And after reading this book, you can easily recognize a character and their defining characteristics.
In my class, I have students look at a script and identify all the jokes first (The Turnarounds, the Triplets, etc.) and follow the
words and punctuation. Then I have them decide which character the scene calls for and which characteristics they will play up.
There are some Lovable Loser characters that call for the actor to be a little more pathetic, while others call for the actor to be a
little more optimistic. Some scenes require The Logical Smart One to be patient and understanding, while others ask the character
to play up the sarcasm. As an actor, it is your job to identify the character in the scene and what personality traits you think you
need to play to make him or her honest and ultimately funny.
And I promise you, drawing from these characters and their personalities will help you immensely in an audition. You always
hear casting directors say that they want actors to make "big choices" when auditioning. These characters help you do just that.
They allow for you to easily identify a character you can "hang your hat on," therefore making a strong, specific character choice
rather than simply reading dialogue. They provide you "~th a detailed list of personality traits and intentions to commit to in an
And they can help you with characters that might not be as fanliliar. For example, if you are called in for an audition for a
character that is clearly The Dumb One, but The Dumb One is not in your makeup, go \vith The Lovable Loser. Play consciously
oblivious, instead of oblivious. But make a choice. Even if ifs the wrong choice for the character, at least you've made a clear
choice, and any casting director will appreciate that. You may not get the part, but if the casting director is impressed, he or she
will remember you for future projects.
And you don' t always have to draw from one particular list of characteristics. Stay \vith me because this is where things can get
a little complicated. Sometimes characters can take characteristics from other characters, be it for a moment, an episode or even
an entire run of a show. Now, and this is very important to remember, at their heart, they are still one character in that they have

that character' s beliefs, backgrowtd and overall want. But they will simply draw some personality traits from other characters
when the situation calls for it.
Once again, think of George Costanza, ahnost a crossbreed of a Lovable Loser and a N eurotic. But he doesn't stop there. At
the appropriate times, when he is at the height of his neurosis and things aren't going his way, he can become testy and
mean-spirited. He can also be materialistic in his quest for money, for an easier life than the pathetic one he has now. He is a
N eurotic at heart, but Jason Alexander does an amazing job of helping George draw from an even larger personality pooL The
broadening of your basic character to include traits of other characters will not only expand your character, but extend your
staying power in the half hour industry.
But more often, a character will simply draw from another character's personality traits for an episode or a moment. Think
back to what you just read in the previous chapters about how The Logical Smart One can get like The Bitch or Bastard when
they are at the end of their patience, or how The Bitch I Bastard will every once in a while show the vulnerability of The Lovable
Loser, or how the In Their Own Universe can step up and say something completely Logical and Smart in a scene and then go
back in their own universe on the blow before the co=ercial break.
You can do this in your acting as well (if the scene calls for it). But let me give you a warning. These working sitcom actors are
masters at what they do and they know the inner depths of their characters. That's why they are able to experiment \vith other
characteristics. They have a finn grasp of who their character is at their core and what their ..normal" personality is like.
For you new students of comedy, this will prove to be a tough enough job in itself. And that's where you need to start in your
acting career. You need to recognize who you are, and which character you can naturally play the best. And w hen you discover
your character, let your representation know. It's better for you to identify your comedic note than have your agent or manager
typ e you into something you' re not. I say beat your agent or manager to the pwtch. Look at yourself objectively, define yourself
and figure out which character you are.
N ow in the future, \vith enough practice and training, you could play a completely different character. Think of how Ted
Danson went from The Womanizer (Sam Malone) to The Bastard (Dr. Becker) or how Betty White went from The Bitchy
M anizer (Sue Ann Nivens) to the sweet Dumb One (Rose Nylund). But your focus now should be on building your strongest
On top of that, watch sitcoms, focus on your technique and practice, practice, practice. That's a piece of advice that any and
all acting coaches will give you, and it's the best I can give you, especially when it comes to comedy . Now that you've read this
book, you should be excited about exploring your half hour talent and determining where you will build you comedic future. You
now have a stronger grasp on how this half hour business got started and why our society loves sitcoms. You are a little more
familiar with some of the greatest half hour actors of all time and you are on your way to becoming one of them yourself.



1. Choose a specific character with specific personality traits.
2. Always be committed to your character.
3. Good comedy comes from pain and conflict.
4. Don't add, drop or change a word, and follow the pwtctuation.
5. N o whispering in comedy. Be articulate and speak up (louder).
6. Keep the pace (faster).
7 . Find the jokes (funnier).
8. Hold for laughs.
9. Don' t physically move on a joke. N o physical static.
10. Have fun.



Dialogue is such an essential ingredient in ' bringing the funny" to sitcoms. And sometimes that dialogue, paired "~th the delivery
of a talented actor, gets ingrained in our social consciousness and pop culture making for the much-loved catch phrase. See if
you can match up these famous catch phrases with the appropriate character and show. Some are easier than others, but let's see
how much of a sitcom buff you are. Answers are on the next page (Don't Cheat!)


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1- H

2- J
3- M
5- W

11 - E
12- p

13 - V
14- y

7- A

15 - G
16- s
17 - u

8- Q
9- F

18- K
19 - 0

10- X

20- I


21- T

22- R
23 - N
24- L
25 - 0


Acting Gene - Fowtd in YOU, next to the Fwtny Gene. It represents your natural, innate ability to act, to pretend and to
perform. The Acting Gene is a necessity for being an actor.
Beat - In scripts, it gives you the direction to take a pause, a beat, before delivering the next line. But beyond that, a beat is also
the point where your characters thought, intention or attitude will change in a scene. See (THEN).
Blow - The big joke at the end of a scene. Most often fowtd at the end of an act right before the co=ercial break.
Bringing the Funny- Your goal, your mission, your quest in every sitcom audition, class and acting gig you get!
BrutaUy honest - A trait of The Logical Smart One. It's a comedic characteristic that allows a character to quite simply "call it

as he or she sees it," usually with a sarcastic remark. Think Jerry Seinfeld.
Button - Similar to a ' blow," the button appears at the end of a scene, but is often a smaller joke.
Callback - A joke, piece of dialogue or physical action that refers to an earlier joke, piece of dialogue or physical action.
Catch phrase - "To the moon, Alice! " "Don' t have a cow, man! " "Dyn-0-Mite! " These famous lines delivered b y our most
beloved sitcom characters get stuck in our heads and in pop culture history.
Childlike -THE defining characteristic ofThe Dumb One. Remember above all else, they are big kids! Think Joey.
Childlike nature - A trait usually fowtd in the Lovable Loser. This childlike approach to situations is what makes him or her
lovable. Think Lucy.
Classic Triplet- A Classic Triplet goes like this: Set up - Set up - JOKE. See Triplets.
Cloud Nine -Where many In Their O wn Universe characters come from. These are the ITO Us who are born a little strange and
carry it with them for the rest of their lives. Think Jack and Karen.
Comedic note - Otherwise know n as your comedic niche, it is the one thing about you that will separate you from other actors. It
is where your strengths as a comedic actor lie. It is where you are different, where you are funnier and how you will market
Comedic timing - The most important trait for becoming a sitcom actor. Part of it is innate (your Funny Gene) and part of it
comes from learning, practicing and honing your comedic technique. Comedic timing helps you identify and deliver the jokes and
work within the rhythmic structure and pace of situation comedies.
Comedic Toolbox- The tools and techniques to help you "Bring the Funny." It includes sarcasm, verbal jokes, spit takes, double
takes, slow bums, pratfalls and sight gags, to name a few.
Consciously obliv ious - An important trait of The Lovable Loser. It descnbes how the character desperately wants something
so bad, that they will consciously put blinders on, and therefore not realize that what they're doing is pretty dwnb. It's a positive
twist on being "in denial." Think Ralph Kramden.
Conviction I Contraviction - A technique used b y actors to deliver a type of joke called The Tumarowtd. It requires an actor
(character) to say a line with complete and total conviction and THEN "tum arowta the intention, thought or attitude and say

something completely opposite and wtexpected with just as much conviction. See Tumarowtd.
Deadpan - ShO\ving absolutely no emotion when delivering a line or a joke (also great for playing poker).
Desperation - All comedy comes from desperation, but it's most identified \vith and played b y one character in particular: The
Lovable Loser. When a character wants something so bad. they'll do anything to get it. This is the basis for many sitcom plotlines
and it is the most important trait for The Lovable Loser.
Eight Characters of Comedy - Eight specific archetypes of situation comedy characters dating back to the advent of television.
Exit lioe - The moment in a scene when a character (usually The Bitch I Bastard) \vill deliver a joke and walk out the door. Think
Carla, tray in hand. walking b y N orm, insulting him and exiting into the kitchen.
Extended Triplet - Set up - Set up - Set up (THEN) JOKE. See Triplets.
Family of Friends- Sitcoms are based on two different concepts oC'family." One example is a family of friends, where each
person takes on the roles of a family; including the patriarchal figure, the maternal caretaker, the troublesome kids and others.
Fowtd in w orkplace sitcoms like 'The M ary Tyler M oore Show" or ensemble cast sitcoms like "Friends." See Immediate Family.
Filling the vessel - The overall goal, or .,want" of The Womanizer I M anizer or The M aterialistic One. The Womanizer I
M anizers have a void inside them that they need to fill \vith sex and The M aterialistic Ones fill it \vith material goods.
Fish out of water - A storyline concept for either a character or an entire cast Using the "fish out of water" formula, the comedy
comes from a person from a different land. Wliverse, etc. trying to make his or her way in "normal" society. Think M ork or 'The
Beverly Hillbillies."
Four C 's of Comedy- The essential ingredients for actors and writers to make good situation comedy. 1) Conflict 2) Comedic
technique. 3) Commitment 4) Character.
Fuooy Gene- It's your innate and natural ability to have a sense of humor and a sense of what's funny. A must for all comedic
actors and writers.
Half hour comedy - Another term for situation comedies, it is mostly used by agents, managers, directors, networks and studios.
Handles - Unscripted words (or sighs) actors put before their sentences. M ost co=on handles are Look, Listen, Like, Well,
and I mean. Don't do it.

Holding for laughs - What you (the actor) must do in order for the laughing audience to hear your next piece of dialogue. During
the hold, you must stay in character while keeping your intensions and thoughts alive. When the laughter dies down, you can
continue the dialogue. Watch Bea Arthur.
Dlogicallogic - THE defining characteristic of the In Their Own Universe character. The ITO U uses logic that makes absolutely
no sense to anybody listening but makes perfect sense to them. Think Kramer and Phoebe.
Immediate Family- Sitcoms are based on two different concepts of''family." One example is an immediate family that features
a patriarchal figure, the maternal caretaker, the troublesome kids and others (with the roles often being reversed to create more
comedy). Think the Cleavers to the more dysfunctional Bundys. See Family of Friends.
Joke- A joke on a sitcom is anything that can be seen or heard. It can be a line of dialogue, a word, an expression, a sound or a
physical action. See Punchline.
Louder, Faster, Funnier- One of the Golden Rules for performing situation comedy .
Materialistic Bitch - A variation of The M aterialistic One. This mean-spirited character can be very snobby, judgmental and
intolerant of those who are less fortunate than them. Think Suzanne Sugarbaker.
Naive One - The Dumb One can tum into this at times, meaning that the actor plays more on the gullibility and naivete of a
character to keep the character a bit more realistic and less heightened. The N aive One is most often found in single-camera
comedies. Think Charlotte on "Sex in the City."
Nerds - Those boys and girls with the thick glasses, the awkward appearance, the lack of social skills and the look in their eye
that tells you they're just a little offbeat. Also known as N erdy N eurotics.
N<rholds-barred attitude- Think of this as The Bitch I Bastard's philosophy on life. They say what they want to say and do
what they want to do, no matter what!
Over-analytical - THE defining trait of The N eurotic. N o matter what the situation, they think and think and think and then think
some more. That's why they're NEUROTIC!!!!
Over-Extended Triplet- Set up - Set up - JOKE (THEN) BIGGER JOKE. See Triplets.
Pampered Princess - Found within The Materialistic One character. They are the "daddy's little girls" who want everything,

expect everything and usually get everything.

Physical static - U!Ulecessary and wtscripted movements that distract from the joke or the scene in general. This includes
adjusting your wardrobe, playing with your hair, scratching your nose, etc.
Physicality (of the Character) - Can be either physical appearances or physical actions that help define a character. Think of
the In The Own Universe character' s wild hair and clothes or how The Bitch likes to cross her arms when throwing out a
sarcastic remark.
Picking up the cues - Comedy is funnier when it's faster, so keep the pace, thus helping to keep the rhythm. To pick up your
cue, you need to take out pauses (or breaths) between the lines of dialogue except when holding for laughs.
Playing dumb -A co=on trap for new actors playing The Dumb One. This can include adding ..uhhhs" to dialogue, twirling you
hair or staring blankly into space. You can't play dwnb to play The Dumb One.
Punch - To pwtch the joke is to make a joke better and funnier. The actor needs to emphasize the word or piece of dialogue that
is the joke (or pwtchline) either by speaking more clearly, more emphatically or louder.
Punchline- The joke in a sitcom. N ot part of the set-up. See Joke.

Rhythm- The melody of comedy which you need to follow. Rhythm is made up of words, ac.tions, pace, timing and jokes.
Single-camera comedy - Most situation comedies are shot using multiple cameras. In single-camera comedies, the feel is more
intimate, a little more real and a little less heightened like feature film comedies.
Stakes - What matters to you in a scene. When approaching a scene, you need to consider what the stakes are for your
character, what you want, how important it is that you get it and what will happen if you don't. There are three levels of stakes Stakes (the immediate need for the scene), Higher stakes (how the scene and your need plays into a bigger picture) and Highest
stakes (how it all fits into your life plan).
Straight man - Essentially, this is the person that sets up the humor in a show. They are the voice of reason. The Lo gical Smart
One is almost always the straight man, even though they are played mostly b y women.
Teaser- The short scene at the begi!Uling of a sitcom that usually sets up the theme or storyline of that week' s show. Also known
as the cold open."

(THE!'!) - Works the same as a "beat." (THEN) is an indicator that the actor should take a physical pause when delivering a line
of dialogue ? Beyond that, it's a point where the actor needs to readjust his or her thoughts, intentions or attitude. See Beat.
Thoughts - They are your silent thoughts, your subtext, your inner dialogue. They are what your character is actually thinking
during a scene. Remember, it's not alw ays what's on the page.
Triplets -Good comedy comes in threes and Triplets are a writer's and actor's tool in holding to that rule. A Triplet includes
dialogue, actions or jokes that set up the BIG joke. See Classic Triplet, Extended Triplet and Over-Extended Triplet.
Turnaround - One of the most used comedic techniques, The Turnaround is a type of joke that requires the actor to say a line
with a strong intention and then "turn around" and say something completely opposite and unexpected with an equally strong
intention, thus getting a laugh. 1 don't like your haircut. (THEN) But it does make your gigantic head look smaller." See
Con-viction I Contraviction.
Want - Your objective and goal in a scene or script. Every character in every scene "wants" something. They usually want it
desperately and are determined against all odds to get it. How they go about getting it and the obstacles that get in their way are
the basis for a lot of situation comedy.

WOFAI!\-1 - An acronym that encompasses basic acting techniques. It is a tool that you can use to examine, breakdow n and
personalize any scene or audition material. When looking at a script, consider your Want, Obstacle, Feeling, As If, Intentions and
M oment Before. It only takes ten minutes. DO IT!


Absohste/y Fabulour
According to Jim
Acting Gene
Acting technique (section)
Adams, Don

Addams Family, The

Addison Jr., David
Adler, Grace

Adventures ofOzzie & Harriet, The

Albert, Eddie
Aida, Alan
Alexander, Jason
Allen, Gracie
Allen, Tim
Alley, Kirstie

All in the Family

Ally ,McBeal,
American Idol
Andy Griffith Show, The
Aniston, Jennifer
Applegate, Christina

Apprentice, The
Arden, Eve
Arnaz, Desi
Arnett, Will
Arnold, Kevin

Arnold, Wayne

Arrested Development
Arthur, Bea
Auditioning techniques and tips
Aunt Clara (Bewitched)

Average Joe

Babcock, C.C.

Bachelor, The
Bachelorette. The
Backus, Jim
Baer Jr., M ax
Ball, Lucille
Ball, Taylor
Banks, Carlton
Banks, Hilary
Banner, Jolm
Banta, Tony
Barbarino, Vinnie

Barney Miller
Barone, Debra
Barone, Frank
Barone, Marie
Barone, Ray
Barone, Robert
Bartokomous, Balki
Bateman, Jason
Baxter, Ted
Baxter-Birney, Merdith
BEAT (definition ot)

Beaumont, Hugh

Beauty and the Geek

Becker, Dr. John
Belushi, Jim
Benes, Elaine
Bedield, Justin
Bergen, Candice
Berkley, Elizabeth
Eerie, Milton
Bernecky, Eldin

Bernie Mac Show, The

Berry, Fred
Berta (Two and a Half Men)
Beth (News Radio)
Beverly Hillbillies, The
Biggins, Roy
Bilko, Sgt. Ernest
Billingsley, Barbara
Bing, Chandler
Bitch I Bastard, The
Blanchard, Rachel

Blow, The
Bluth, Buster
Bluth, Gob
Bluth, Michael
Bluthe Funke, Lindsay

Bodine, Jethro
Bowen, Andrea
Bower, Angela
Boyd, W oody
Boyle, Peter
Bradshaw, Carrie
Brady, Carol
Brady, Jan
Brady, M arcia
Brady, Michael

Brady Bunch, The

Braff, Zach

Breakfast Club, The

Brice, Fanny
Britt, Edie
Britton, Pamela
Brooks, Connie
Brown, Murphy
Browne, Susan
Buclunan, Jamie
Buffay, Phoebe
Bumstead, Blondie
Bundy, AI
Bundy, Kelly
Bundy, Peg
Bunker, Archie
Bunker, Edith
Bunker-Si:i\~c, Gloria
Burghoff, Gary
Burke, Delta
Burkhart, Jackie
Burns, Frank
Burns, George

Burns & Allen Show, The

Button, The

Cameron, Kirk
Carey, Drew
Carney, Art
Carter, Dixie
Castellaneta, Dan
Catch phrase
Cattrall, Kim
Chambers, Diane
Charles, Josh
Chase, Paige
Chase, Parker
Chase, Patton
Chase, Pearce
Chase, Penny

Cheryl (According to Jim)
Chico and the Man
Church, Thomas Haden
Clavin Jr., Cliff
Cleaver, Beaver
Cleaver, June
Cleaver, Wally
Cleaver, Ward

Colantoni, Enrico

Colasanto, Nicholas
Cold open (definition of)
Coles, Kim
Comedic note
Comedic Toolbox

Conaway, Jeff
Conner, Becky
Conner, Darlene
Conner, D.J.
Conner, Roseanne
Conviction I Contraviction
Cosby, Bill

Cosby Show, The

Costanza, George
Costanzo, Paulo

Cow-tship afEddie's Father, The

Cowell, Simon
Cox, Courteney
Cox, Dr. Perry
Crane, Frasier
Crane, Martin
Crane, Niles
Cranston, Bryan
Cryer, Jon
Cully, Zara
CWlllingham, Richie

Cw-b Yow- Enthusiasm

Dahblitz-Gravas, Sinka
Dallas, Larry

Danson, Ted
Danza, Tony
D' Arcy,)efferson
D' Arcy, M arcy

Darcy's Wild Life

David, Larry
Davis, Daniel
Da,~s, Kristin
Deadpan (definition ot)
DeCarlo, Yvonne
DeFazio, Laverne
Degeneres, Ellen
Demarest, William
Denver, Bob
DePahna, Louie

Designing Women
Desperate Housewives
Deveraux, Blanche
DeVito, Danny
Dewey (Malcolm in the Middle)
Diamond, Dustin
Diamond, Sehna

Dick Vam Dyk e Show, The

Dietz, Charley
DiMauro, Elliot

Donna Reed Show, The

Dorian, John
Double take
Douglas, Chip
Douglas, Lisa
Douglas, Oliver
Dow, Tony
Drescher, Fran

Drew Carey Show, The

DuBois, Benson

Duffy, Julia
Dwnb One, The
Dybinski, Dauber

Eden, Barbara

8 Simple Rules
Empty Nest
Endora (Bewitched)
Erkel, Steve
Evans, Florida
Evans, J.J.

Everybody Loves Raymond

Exit line (definition of)

F agerbakke, Bill
Family and comedy (definition of)

Family Guy
Family Matters
Family of friends (definition of)

Family Ties
Farr, Jamie

Father Knows Best

F eeney-Meaney, Shirley
Ferrell, Conchata
Fez (That '70s Show)
Fielding, Dan

Fields, Darcy
Fife, Barney
Finch, Dennis
Findley, M aude
Fine, Fran
Finnigan, Jeniffer
Fishman, Michael
Fish out of water shows (definition of)
Flintstone, Fred
Flintstone, Wihna

Flintstones, The
Fliss, M arni
Flockhart, Calista

Flying Nun, The

Flynn, N eil
Fonzarelli, Arthur The Fonz"
Forman, Eric
Forman, Red
Four's of Comedy, The
(Definitions of.)
Comedic teclmique
Fox, Michael J.
Foxx, Redd

Frawley, William
Freaks f: Geeks

Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, The

Funny Gene

Gabor, Eva
Gallo, Maya
Garrett, Brad
Geller, Monica
Geller, Ross
Geoffrey (The Fresh Prince ofBel-Air)

George Lopez Show, The

Gertz, Jami
Get Smart
Getty, Estelle

Ghost and Mrs.Muir, The

Gtbbs, Marla
Gilbert, Sara

Gilligan's Island
Gleason, Jackie
Gold, Tracy

Golden Girls
Gomer Pyle USMC
Good Times
Goranson, Alicia
Gordon-Levitt, Joseph
Grace, Topher
Grammer, Kelsey
Grant, Ginger
Grant, Lou
Gravas, Latka

Green, Rachel

Greene, Patty
Griffin, Kathy
Griffin, Stewie
Griffith, Andy
Groener, Vicki
Gross, Michael
Growing Pains
Guillamne, Robert
Gw ynne, Fred

Hacker, Sehna
Hal (Malcolm in the Middle)
Hale, Tony
Half hour technique
(Definitions of.)
Comedic timing

Handleman, Skippy
Handles (definition of)
Happy Days
Harper, Alan
Harper, Charlie
Harper, Valerie
Harrelson, Woody
Harris, Jackie
Haskell, Eddie
Hatch, Richard

Hatcher, Teri
Haverchuck, Bill
Hawn, Goldie
Hayes, M addie
Hayes, Sean

Heaton, Patricia
Heffernan, Carrie
Heffernan, Doug
Heightened reality
Hehnond, Katherine
Hemsley, Sherman
Henderson, Florence
Henner, M arilu
Hennessy, Cate
Hervey, Jason
Hewett, Christopher

Hill, Bobby
Hilton, Paris
Hobbs, Miranda
Hogan's Heroes
Hold for laughs (definition of)
Home Improvement
Honeymooners, The
Horo\\~tz, Cher
Horshack, Arnold
Houlihan, Margaret
Howard, Ron
Howe, Rebecca
Howell, Lovey
Howell, Thurston
Huffinan, Felicity
Hughley's, The

Hwtg, William
Hwtt, Helen
Huxtable, Clair
Huxtable, Cliff

I Dream ofJeannie
Ignatowski, Reverend Jim
!Love Lucy
Immediate family (definition of)
In Their Own Universe

James, Jimmy
James, Kevin
James, Khadijah
James-Jones, Synclaire
Jeannie (I Dream ofJeannie)
Jefferson, C1eorge
Jefferson, Louise
Jefferson, Mother
Jeffersons, The
Jim (According to Jim)
Jolmston, Florence
Jolmston, Kristen
Jones, Samantha
Just Shoot Me

Kane, Carol
Kaufinan, Andy
Kavner, Julie
Keaton, Alex
Keaton, Elyse
Keaton, Steven
Kelso, Michael
Kenerban, Stevie
King of Queens
King of the Hill
Klemperer, Werner
Kline, Richard
Klinger, Maxwell
Klink, CoL Wilhehn
Klugman, Jack
Knight, Ted
Knight, Wayne
Knotts, Don
Kosnowski, Lenny
Krarnden, Alice
Krarnden, Ralph
Kramer, Cosmo
Kudrow, Lisa
Ktmis, Mila

Kyle, Michael

Lachey, Nick
Lander, David

Lane, Lauren
Larroquette, Jolm
Larry, Darryl and Darryl
Laverne & Shirley
Lawrence, Joey
Lawrence, M artin
Lear, Norman
L<Zave it to Beaver
LeBec, Carla
LeBlanc, M att
Legally Blonde
Leisure, David
Less Than Perfect
Levi, Zachary
Le,vis, Johnny
Le,vis, Vicki
Life ofRiley
Light, Judith
Linden, Hal
Lindsey, George
Linville, Larry
Lithgow, Jolm
Living Single
Livingston, Ron
Li\>ingston, Stanley
Lloyd, Christopher
Logical Smart One, The
Long, Shelley
Longoria, Eva
Lopez, George
Lopez, M ario
Lome, M arion
Louden, Dick

'Louder, faster and funnier"

Louis-Dreyfus, Julia
Louise, Tina
Lovable Loser, The
Lumley, Joanna

M ac, Bernie
MacFarlane, Seth

Mad About You

M adison, Oscar
Mahoney, Jolm
Make Room for Daddy
M alcohn (Malcolm in the Middle)
Malcolm in the Middle
M alick, W endie
M alone, Sam
M anigault-Stallworth, Omarosa
M arcell, Joseph
M arie, Ann
Married ... With Children
M arshall, Penny
Mary Tyler Moore Show, The
M aterialistic Bitch, The
M aterialistic One, The
Mather, Lowell
M athers, Jerry
M atson, April
M ayer, Julie

Mayer, Susan
McBeal, Ally
M cClanahan, Rue
M cCormack, Eric
McCormick, Maureen
M cCullough, Bernie
M cDorman, Jake
M cFarland, Jack
M cGintey.John.
M cGinley, Ted

McHale's Navy
M cKean, Michael
M cNichol, Kristy
Meadows, Audrey

Mean Girls
M ertz, Ethel
Mertz, Fred
Messing, Debra
M etcalf, Laurie
M etcalfe, Jesse
Miller, Barney
Miller, Brian
Miller, Judy
Mitchell, M oesha

M onk, Adrian
M onsoon, Eddy
M ontgomery, Elizabeth

M oore, Mary Tyler
M oorehead, Agnes
Morgan, Ellen

Morgenstern, Rhoda
Mork !rMindy
M ork from Ork
M orrison, Shelley
Mr Belvedere
Mullally, M egan
Mwliz, Frankie
MwtSter, Herman
Mwtster, Lily
Munsters, The
Murphy Brown
My Favorite Husband
My Favorite Martian
Afy Three Sons
My Wife and Kids

N abors, Jim
N aive One, The
Nanny, The
N ardo, Elaine
N elson, Harriet
N erds
N essman, Les
N eurotic, The
N ewhart, Bob
N ewman (Seinfe/d)
News Radio
Night Court
Niles (The ]\lanny)

Nivens, Sue Ann

Nixon, Cynthia
Norton, Ed
Norton, Trixie
Norwood, Brandy
Nylund, Rose

O'Casey, Charley
O'Connor, Carroll
Odd Couple, The
O'Neill, Ed
0 'Reilly, Radar
Osmond, Ken
Our Miss Brooks

Pain and comedy (definition of)

Palillo, Ron
Pantusso, Ernie "Coach"
Papenfuss, Tony
Parker, Andrea
Parker, Sarah Jessica
Parkers, The
Parsons, Karyn
Pastorelli, Robert
Paxton, Sara
Payne, Martin
Perfect Strangers
Perhnan, Rhea
Perry, Matthew

Petrie, Laura
Petrie, Rob
Petrillo, Sophia
Pfeiffer, Paul

Phil Silvers Show, The

Physical static (definition of)
Picking up the cues (definition of)
Pierce, David Hyde
Pierce, Hawkeye
Pinchot, Bronson
Pinciotti, Bob
Pinciotti, Donna
Pinkston, Ryan
Positive I Negative energy (in comedy)
Powers, Screech
Prepon, Laura
Price, Marc

Private Berifamin
Private Eye Method for Script Analysis
Punch a joke (definition of)
Pyle, Goober
Pyle, Gomer

Queen Latifah

Queer Ey e for the Straight Guy


Randall, Tony

Rashad, Phylicia
Ratzenberger, John
Reed, Robert
Reese (Malcolm in the Middle)
Reiner, Rob

Remini, Leah
R.tbeiro, Alfonso
Ricardo, Lucy
Ricardo, Ricky
Richards, M ary
Richards, Michael
Richardson, Patricia
Richie, N icole
Ritter, John
Roberts, Doris
Robinson, M ona
Rodriguez, Chico
Rolle, Esther
Romano, Ray
Root, Stephen
Rossi, Portia de
Rowland, John
Russo, Joey
Rydell, Dan

Saga!, Katey
Salazar, Rosario
Sanders, Richard

Sanderson, William
Sanford and Son
Sanford, Fred
Sanford, Isabel
San Giacomo, Laura
Sarcasm (definitions of, uses)
Saunders, Jennifer
Savage, Fred

Saved by the Bell

Saviano, Josh
Scavo, Lynette
Schafer, Natalie
Schramm, David
Schultz, Sgt. Hans
Sch,vimmer, David
Seacrest, Ryan
Seaver, Carol
Seaver, Mike
Seinfeld, Jerry
Sex and the City
Shallioub, Tony
Shaud, Grant
Sheen, Charlie
Shepherd, Cybill
Sheridan, Nicolette
Shields, Brooke
Sight gags
Silverberg, Miles
Silvers, Phil
Silverstone, Alicia
Simple Life, The

Simpson, Bart
Simpson, Homer J.
Simpson, Jessica
Simpson, Lisa
Simpson, Maggie
Simpson, Marge

Simpsons, The
Single-camera comedy (definition of)
Sitcom format
Slater, A. C.
Slow bum
Smart, Maxwell
Smith, Kurtwood

Smith, Will
Snow, Chrissy

Solis, Gabrielle
Solomon, Dick
Solomon, Harry
Solomon, Sally
Solomon, Tommy
Somers, Suzanne
Spade, David
Spano, Jessie
Spencer, Danielle
Spit take

Sports Night
Square Pegs
Squiggmann, Andrew
Stakes (definition of)
Stapleton, Jean
Stark, Don
Starr, Martin

Steadman, Kipp
Stephens, Darrin
Stephens, Samantha
Stewart, French

Still Standing
Stone, Patsy
Straight man
Struthers, Sally
Stubbs, Fred
Suarez, Jeremy

Sudden(v Susan
Sugarbaker, Julia
Sugarbaker, Suzanne
Sullivan, Erik Per

SUYreal Life, The

Survivor: The Australian Outback
S wit, Loretta

Taylor, Andy
Taylor, Jill
Taylor, Tim
Teaser (definition of)

Temptation Island
Ten Rules of Comedy

That Girl
That '70s Show
THEN (definition of)

3rd Rock From the Sun

Thomas, Dee
Thomas, Marlo
Thomkins, Jordan
Thorne-Smith, Courtney
Thoughts (definition of)

Threes Company
Travolta, John
Traylor, Craig Lamar
Tnbbiani, Joey
Tnbbiani, Michael
Classic Triplet
Extended Triplet
Over-Extended Triplet
Tripper, Jack
Truman, Will
Trump, Donald
Turnaround, The

Two andaHalfMen

Uncle Martin (My Favorite Martian)

Unexpected in comedy, The (definition of)
Unger, Felix

Valderrama, Wihner

Valley Girl
V anderkellan, Stephanie
Van Dyke, Dick
Van Hom, Nina
Verbal jokes

Voldstad, John

Walker, Karen
Walston, Ray
\Vayans, Damon

Welcome Back, Kotter

Wesson, Tina
Weston, Barbara
Weston, Lydia

What's Happening!
Wheeler, Bobby
Whitaker, Dana
White, Betty
White, Jaleel

Who's the Boss?

Will& Grace
Williams, Cindy
Williams, Robin
Willis, Bruce

Winkler, Henry
Witherspoon, Reese

WKRP in Cincinnati
(Definitions of.)

As If
Moment Before

Womanizer I Manizer, The

Wonder Years, The
Workplace sitcoms (definition of)
Wright, Sarah

York, Charlotte
York, Dick

Zbomalc, Dorothy

About the Author

One of the most well respected acting coaches in Hollywood, Scott Sedita has helped lawtch the careers of many of today' s
most successful television and fihn actors.
A graduate of Boston University's fihn and television program, Scott has more than 20 years of experience working a variety of
roles in the entertainment industry. He began his career in New York as a talent agent, where he helped to develop the careers of
many oftoday's top actors, including Courteney Cox, Matt LeBlanc, Christopher Meloni, Dylan Walsh, Vincent D'Onofrio and
Teri Polo, just to name a few.
In 1990, Scott relocated to Los Angeles where he worked as a sitcom writer for HO\vie Mandel, Bobcat Goldthwait and
others. In the mid-90s, Scott worked as a casting director for Danny Goldman Casting wttillawtching his Scott Sedita Acting
Studios in 1998.
Today, Scott and his staff teach the craft of acting to hwtdreds of actors who walk through his doors on a weekly basis. Scott
has coached and taught many hot new stars such as Josh Duhamel, Jennifer Finnigan, Brandon Routh and many others who have
appeared in fihn, soaps, prime time dramas and situation comedies.
Scott has appeared on numerous TV Magazine and reality shows such as ''Extra," "Starting Over," "Faking It" and Fox Sports
Net's "Helmets Off." He is also the resident acting coach on the ''E!" series "Fight For Fame." Scott has become the "go-to"
sitcom coach, and his sitcom acting classes are some of the most popular in Hollywood.


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