Saturday, January 07, 2006

Steve Kaplan's Comedy Workshop

So that's why Nathan Lane is so funny!

A friend of mine told me about a comedy workshop that is run by a guy named Steve Kaplan (maybe my friend was trying to tell me something...) called, appropriately, "Steve Kaplan's Comedy Intensive".

There is a very cool list of names that this guy has coached or worked with in some fashion, including Nathan Lane, who is a master of the pregnant pause, and very funny. Some other notables include:

Jack Black (School of Rock)
Nia Vardalos (My Big Fat Greek Wedding)
Bob Odenkirk (Curb Your Enthusiasm, Mr. Show
Dave Crane (Friends)
Peter Tolan (Analyze This, Larry Sanders)
Kenneth Lonergan (Gangs of New York: Now that was a funny movie!)
Kathy Griffen
Josh Malina (West Wing)
Mark O'Donnell (Hairspray)
Andy Kindler (Everybody Loves Raymond)
Sam McMurrary (King of Queens)

Although I've taken writing courses, I've never taken taken one on how to be funny, or write comedy. Who knew? It's a two day workshop in early March in L.A. and early April in New York. From the Web site:

Kaplan's techniques are for anyone who's ever received (or given) such fruitless directions as, "Lighten it up" or "Have fun with it." Such directions are "unusable," Kaplan groans. "What do you do with that?" Given the inevitable truth that "when you try to make something funny, you will kill the comedy," he focuses instead on usable, practical tools and philosophies that can be applied immediately and in almost any situation.

"Comedy tells the truth about people," Kaplan declares, dismissing the notion that it must involve silliness or exaggeration. The latter may evoke a laugh or two, but can't sustain humor over the course of an evening, or even a half-hour sitcom. Rather, he avers, "Comedy is the art of being human."

To illustrate his point, he describes the Non-Hero, one of the basic concepts he teaches in his workshop: "A less than ordinary guy struggling against insurmountable odds, without many, or any, of the tools necessary to win, but without ever giving up hope." Modern-day examples he cites include the character of George Costanza from "Seinfeld" and the classic schnook embodied by Woody Allen in most of his films.

Another tool Kaplan teaches is called Metaphorical Relationship, which contends that "beneath every surface relationship there's a true relationship." The example he gives is the dynamic between Felix Unger and Oscar Madison in "The Odd Couple." While the surface relationship is that the two are roommates and friends, Kaplan points out the metaphorical relationship underneath Felix is the wife and Oscar the husband. The comedic possibilities immediately become much richer. Such are the gems to be mined from a weekend with Steve Kaplan."

He started out with a 40 week master class, but people in L.A. didn't have that much time to spare to get funny so he compressed it into two days. Now that's funny!

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