Saturday, December 5, 2009

Do you speak Farcey?

Was doing a little research on the history of farce today, as prep for a panel discussion I’m sitting on this Sunday (yes, the one referred to in the previous post). And just for laffs I decided to Google the string “how to write farce” to see what writers would say, since typically a tight structure underlies the apparent chaos of farcical plots.

Sure enough, immediately a video pops up that lays it all out for you. Amusingly, the video itself has farcical elements, in that the speaker’s delivery is so deadpan as to make you wonder if she’s having you on:

How to Write a Farce -- powered by

So you see, sometimes form does not match content, with perplexing results.

Also I came across this great quote by Neil Simon, whose play Rumors is about as zany as farce gets:

At the final curtain, the audience must be as spent as the actors, who by now are on oxygen support. If the audience is only wheezing with laughter, you need rewrites or actors with stronger lungs.

Perfect. Simon could just as easily been describing The Lying Kind.


Anonymous said...

What a completely mundane and low energy video on how to create a farce. Was she going for extreme irony there?

PDXComposer said...

Funny. I thought I knew what farce was. What she describes could have been camp. At least, what I am beginning to understand may be the elements of "camp." Perhaps it is too easy to assume that a farce is written utilizing comedic devices like "mistaken identity." But, that's how I define it - in the simplest terms. (Unless you want to get all French on me.)

This woman would have us believe that farce is nothing more than cliche characters pushed to extreme or surreal ends. Again, that's a decent description of "camp," isn't it? Or can anyone define camp if her description of farce is accurate?

On another note, any idea how many successful musicals are built on farce? Gelbart thought "A Funny thing Happened..." was the only one. I suspect "Boys from Syracuse" might be another. Every composer/musical play author I have ever read says that musical farces are unlikely successes. Why is that, then?

So here's a good question: can we define the elements and differences between: satire, parody, farce and camp? The first two make fun comment on it's chosen subject - making them not very dissimilar.