Friday questions are back.
Reader DW asks:
In every blooper reel I've ever seen, there always seem to be multiple cases of an actor blowing the same line over and over and over again, always to indulgent laughter from the other castmembers.
I've always wondered: at what point, if ever, does the crew, director, or whoever start thinking "OK, this isn't funny any more, can we please just get the scene and move on"? And is that ever communicated to the actors?
Yes, the first two times are hilarious. By the third it starts getting old, and by the fourth you want to smack the actor.
It also depends on who the actor is. When an actor screws up a line we say he “went up on the line”. Some actors rarely if ever go up. They’re amazing. Tony Randall was one. But when he did he always had a great saver. He’d turn to the studio audience and go, “Well, at least I didn’t say ‘shit’!” It would always get a huge laugh. And he never needed a second saver because he never went up more than once.
So when an actor who's usually perfect goofs that breaks up everybody. But there are those actors who aren’t as prepared and go up ten/fifteen times a show and that’s not funny even for a minute.
It's usually the director who has to gently tell the actor to stop fucking up already!
If an actor starts having trouble remembering his lines it can really kill an audience. The crowd starts holding their collective breath every time he opens his mouth and they stop laughing. They also stop following the story. The suspense isn’t what’s going to happen to the characters, it’s will this idiot say his lines so we don’t have to sit through seven pick-ups of the same damn scene?
By the last year of CHEERS the cast was incredibly sloppy. They wouldn’t START to learn their lines until the morning of the shoot. Needless to say they went up every two minutes. By then they were so beloved that the audience didn’t care. You reach a point in a series where you no longer even have to earn laughs. The characters will open their mouths and the audience will start howling.
But that last year was very unnerving. Shows had to really be cobbled together by the editor. It got so bad that I wouldn’t even attend the shootings of the episodes we wrote.
Interestingly, if you remember the very final scene of the series (it’s after hours and everyone is sitting around smoking cigars and reflecting on their lives) we shot that in one take. Everyone knew their lines and were dead-on. And it was probably a six/seven minute scene. Clearly, they had prepared and were ready to go.
So you might ask, well then why were they so shoddy the rest of the season? I think because they had already done over 200 episodes and there was very little challenge left. Memorizing the script at the last minute was at least something to kick in adrenaline. I just wish they were better at it.
What’s your question?