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