Thursday, February 4, 2010

2010 Physical Comedy Quote of the Week Archive

[post 063]

The blog is nine months old today, so of course it is giving birth to a new feature.

Anyone who ever took a physical comedy class with me knows I was fond of putting a daily quotation on the blackboard — remember blackboards? — even if it meant getting there early just to copy the longer ones to the board. Chalk is one of your slower forms of media. But the students dutifully wrote them down, and even seemed to like having them, so here we go again...

I was originally going to include a quote in each of my "weekly blog bulletins," but with only three such weekly bulletins in the past nine months, that obviously hasn't worked out too well. Turns out I didn't need frequent bulletins, but we still need those quotes, right? So I'm going to cheat by stealing those earlier quotes for this archive and then add more so that we're up-to-date through 2010. New quotes will appear every Friday in a box on the blog's side frame, with a link to this archive, where the latest quote will be added. Here goes!

2010 Physical Comedy Quote of the Week Archive

Week 1
"In the end, everything is a gag." — Charlie Chaplin

Week 2
"What you have to do is create a character. Then the character just does his best, and there's your comedy. No begging." — Buster Keaton

"Two ancient families there are, known and sure and recognized -- only two. Clowns and acrobats. The rest are newcomers... Have kids -- have lots of kids! Be not ever without a baby on the fingers, a child on the mat, and a boy on the bar."
— John Steinbeck, Burning Bright (short story)

Week 4
"Where humor is concerned, there are no standards -- no one can say what's good or bad, although you can be sure everyone will."
— John Kenneth Galbraith

Week 5
"Buster Keaton is the father of comedy, Stan Laurel is the son, and Harpo Marx the holy ghost." — Marty Feldman

Week 6
"Dethrone the dictaphone / hit it in its funny bone / that's where they expect it least." — Bruce Springsteen

Week 7
"I once said to Henry [Miller], 'I don't like clowns, I like madmen.' Henry said, 'Madmen are too serious. I like clowns.'"
— Anais Nin

Week 8
"The biggest laughs are based on the biggest disappointments and the biggest fears."
— Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Week 9
"I don't like to see clowns in the ring. I like to see boxers. You don't win by being a clown."
— Welterweight boxing world champion Roberto Duran, referring to Sugar Ray Leonard, the day before losing his title to Leonard

Week 10
"The government should have a school for clowns. I'd teach how to break plates, how to slap someone. You think it's easy to slap somebody? It's complicated."
— Catalonian clown Charlie Rivel (in Fellini's I Clowns)

Week 11
"You must not think me necessarily foolish because I am facetious, nor will I consider you necessarily wise because you are grave."
— Sydney Smith (English writer and clergyman, 1771 –1845)

Week 12
"Why did people insist that if you were 'comic' you couldn't also be 'serious'? Garp felt most people confused being profound with being sober, being earnest with being deep. Apparently, if you sounded serious, you were. Presumably, other animals could not laugh at themselves, and Garp believed that laughter was related to sympathy, which we were always needing more of. He had been, after all, a humorless child -- and never religious -- so perhaps he now took comedy more seriously than others."
John Irving, The World According to Garp

Week 13
"The clown's traditions have to be treated just like a great chef like Escoffier would a piece of meat. You must not simply roast it or boil it in the usual way. You try to change the way you do it to produce something special. That is the way I work."
Charlie Cairoli

Week 14
"Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die."
—Mel Brooks

Week 15
"God always has a custard pie up his sleeve."
the character Georgy (played by Lynn Redgrave) in the movie Georgy Girl

Week 16
"Live performance in a defined public space is our last bulwark against two-dimensional images taking over reality. Theater may turn out to have been only a brief interlude between ritual and electronics; be glad you're here to see it."
— Erika Munk

Week 17
"I like long takes, in long shots. Close-ups hurt comedy. I like to work full figure. All comedians want their feet in."
—Buster Keaton

Week 18
"Damn it," I said, "I do understand. Only too well."
"What kind of man are you?" he asked.
"I am a clown," I said, "and I collect moments."
The Clown, a novel by Heinrich Boll

Week 19
"The most difficult character in comedy is that of the fool, and he must be no simpleton that plays that part."
— Miguel de Cervantes

Week 20
“Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world historical facts and personages occur, as it were, twice. He has forgotten to add: the first time as tragedy, the second as farce."
Karl Marx

Week 21
As soon as you have made a thought, laugh at it."

Week 22
"It would have been more logical if silent pictures had grown out of the talkies instead of the other way around. "
— Mary Pickford

Week 23
"Ever since I can speak, I can stand up in a normal fashion; but falling only hurts ever since I can speak; but the pain when I fall is half as bad ever since I know that I can speak about the pain; but falling is twice as bad ever since I know one can speak about my falling; but falling doesn't hurt at all any more ever since I know that I can forget the pain; but the pain doesn't stop at all any more ever since I know I can feel ashamed of falling."
— from "Kaspar," by Austrian playwright Peter Handke

Week 24
"The test of a real comedian is whether you laugh at him before he opens his mouth."

—George Jean Nathan

Week 25
"Oddly enough, I cannot remember Pop teaching me anything. I just watched what he did, then did the same thing. I could take crazy falls without hurting myself simply because I had learned the trick so early in life that body control became pure instinct with me. If I never broke a bone on the stage it is because I always avoided taking the impact of a fall on the back of my head, the base of my spine, on my elbows or my knees. That's how bones are broken. You also bruise only if you do not know as I do which muscles to tighten, which to relax."
— Buster Keaton

Week 26
"I went into the business for the money, and the art grew out of it.  If people are disillusioned by that remark, I can't help it.  It's the truth."
— Charlie Chaplin

Week 27
"You can get an onion to make you cry, but they've yet to find a vegetable to make you laugh."  
— Anonymous

Week 28
"Clowns do not think, they connect."
—Yury Belov

Week 29
"Ever since I can remember, all kinds of inanimate objects have had a way of looking at me reproachfully and whispering to me in unguarded moments: 'We've been waiting for you... at last you've come... take us now, and turn us into something different...we've been so bored, waiting.'"—Grock

Week 30
"My means of contriving comedy plot was simple.  It was the process of getting people into and out of trouble."—Charlie Chaplin
Week 31
"We bozos have an expression: when you put on a nose, it grows on you."  
— Firesign Theatre
Week 32
"I'm essentially an entrance and exit man.  Good exits and good entrances.  That's all theatre is.  And punctuation.  That's all it is."  
— Charlie Chaplin

Week 33  
"It's their seriousness that strikes me.  They play everything as if it might be Macbeth or Hamlet."
— Eddie Cantor on Laurel & Hardy
Week 34  
"They seemed to have this solid instinct that only top- flight comedians hae of the reality underlying a gag."—Leo McCarey on Laurel & Hardy

Week 35 
"Artistic genius is an expansion of monkey imitativeness."— W. Winwood Reade
Week 36 
"Humor is the most engaging cowardice." 
— Robert Frost
Week 37 
"Humor is emotional chaos remembered in tranquility."— James Thurber
Week 38
"You never turned around to see the frowns on the jugglers and the clowns when they all played tricks for you.  No you never understood, it ain't no good, you shouldn't let other people get their kicks for you."  
— Bob Dylan
Week 39
"The arrival of one clown has more beneficial influence upon a town than twenty asses laden with drugs."— Thomas Sydenham, British physician (1624-1689)
Week 40
" An unemployed jester is nobody's fool."  
— Eric Bass
Week 41
"There is enough stupidity in every wise man to betray him."  
— Russian proverb, and the basis for literal title of Alexander Ostrovsky's Diary of A Scoundrel (1868)

Week 42
 "Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in longshot." 
—Charlie Chaplin

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