WWSD? (Would Would Sondheim Do?)

I have had speaking engagements almost every night for the last week or so. Katy King and I were debriefing last night (enter joke here) and agreed that the headiest moment, always, is when you prepare a joke, punch it out, and get the laugh.

Nothing … nothing … compares to that.

You set it up. You take a beat. You do a bit (hand gesture, eye roll…) and then you punch it.

And the audience laughs.

I’ve had the lyrics to Stephen Sondheim’s “Comedy Tonight” (from my idol, Larry Gelbart’s, brilliant “A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum”) running in my head for the last 12 hours:

Something familiar, something peculiar
Something for everyone: a comedy tonight
Something appealing, something appalling
Something for everyone: a comedy tonight
Nothing with kings, nothing with crowns
Bring on the lovers, liars and clowns
Old situations, new complications
Nothing portentous or polite
Tragedy tomorrow, comedy tonight

Something convulsive, something repulsive
Something for everyone: a comedy tonight
Something aesthetic, something frenetic
Something for everyone: a comedy tonight

Nothing with gods, nothing with fate
Weighty affairs will just have to wait
Nothing that's formal, nothing that's normal
No recitations to recite
Open up the curtain, comedy Tonight

Something familiar, something peculiar
Something for everybody: comedy tonight
Something that's gaudy, something that's bawdy
Something for everybawdy: comedy tonight

Nothing that's grim, nothing that's Greek
She plays Medea later this week
Stunning surprises, cunning disguises
Hundreds of actors out of sight

Pantaloons and tunics, courtesans and eunuchs
Funerals and chases, baritones and basses
Panderers, philanderers, cupidity, timidity
Mistakes, fakes, rhymes, crimes
Tumblers, grumblers, bumblers, fumblers

No royal curse, no Trojan horse
And a happy ending, of course
Goodness and badness, manifest madness
This time it all turns out all right
Tragedy tomorrow, comedy tonight

About danahaynes

Dana Haynes is the author of ICE COLD KILL (2013), BREAKING POINT (2011) and CRASHERS (2010) from Minotaur and St. Martin's Press.

Posted on November 23, 2011, in Blog. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on WWSD? (Would Would Sondheim Do?).

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