Speaking Animation blog just put up their 2nd podcast, a roundtable with Ken Fountain, Ben Rush, David Weatherly, and Steven P. Gordon about animating funny scenes. Good stuff.
funny = spontaneous, real, unexpected, character is being in their moment
silly= when someone's trying to be funny (like a kid) can be funny when it's quirky and doesn't really make sense
Monty python they believe the role even when they're being silly
have to believe in it, prat falls/physical comedy, you can't be faking it, the character has to be not expecting it, sucks the comedy out if the character is winking at the audience
character 100% believing in what they're doing/what they're trying like acting, not believable unless it's 100%
that's why director's often ask for you to "play it straight" because if your character is serious and believing in it then it'll get the laugh
How do you maintain and plus a laugh that's in the boards and voice already?
It's always in the timing. The boards timing is already good if it's getting a laugh, so mark the timing when the change happens to get the laugh (the pose might change but the timing is where it's at.)
Look for what the meat of the joke is. A lot of the time it's in the contrast, two odd ideas meeting and when your brain is trying to make sense of it is when the laugh comes. Keep in mind how the characters would interpret how things are going on in their environment. Figure out the meat of the joke (what's funny about it) and embellish it.
Find out what's funny in the boards, often it's the contrast idea pose/expression, don't need to move it, just pull that idea out as long as possible, dangle the audience.
Sometimes it's easier to milk comedy if you're just holding the pose. Comedians often do that, hold still while the audience absorbs and enjoys the joke (often they take a drink of water at this point). So don't move around and distract the audience, hold still and let the them revel. The pause also makes it feel like the character is thinking, trying to figure out what happened (makes it easy to sympathize with them)
Sometimes coming in quicker then it would be expected makes things funnier.
Callback's= returning to a funny thing that happened before, revisiting the joke. Like a funny button that you made earlier, you tag it later to buzz the audience again.
How do you know if you're animating funny?
Like sitcoms, you don't actually laugh, but you recognize that it's funny.
Then it's confirmed in dailies.
How do you hold onto the funny you had in blocking once you push it all the way to polish?
It's hard because the funny wears off the more you see it. It's hard to hang onto. If you got the funny in blocking hold onto that timing, because the timing worked to the frame. Sometimes I sacrifice beautiful movement for a pose.
Everything around should support that one gag. Support the funny with the animation, don't distract from it.
If it's about the joke, it's about the joke, not about the 5 frames of perfect antic or whatever. (sometimes in Dailies you have to defend the funny, because everyone stops being able to see the funny after repeated viewings)
Do you worry about cliche when doing gags?
If you do cliche it has to be a new angle on it for it to work. An original version of that cliche.
Spit takes and prat fall and farts get jokes. But it's always funnier to do something unexpected, that's the essence of comedy. If you do something that even the director doesn't expect sometimes that totally works and saves the shot. It's always worth not doing the cliche, even if it's asked for (if you have a better idea.)
In comedy you get the laugh by appealing to the broadest possible audience, if it's an esoteric only funny to you laugh, then it's not going to be funny. So you have to do something that's on the line of cliche but is still original, it's a balancing act.
Inspiration from life to put into your work?
Any embarrasing moment from any point in my life.
Sympathetic stuff, if you can relate to the hardship, the fall, the embarassment that you just saw, put that into your shot.
How do you prepare for a funny shot?
I don't always go to the acting room, but for those kinds of shots I do.
Yes as few poses as possible, I've shown 3 or 5 poses only in blocking at dailies. Similar to the boards. Those essential poses and all about the timing.
I start with those 3 essential poses and then fill it in more, because it's a little dangerous to not show enough in dailies because they may send you down a different path then you plan to.
When I get a shot I try and come up with a descriptive word for it. Like in that shot "glass"; he was so fragile, not a lot of give, has to be very careful.
Getting the most out of a line read?
Standing up and doing it for me.
The tone of the voice directs it a lot.
Anything guaranteed funny?
Sometimes to do the exact opposite, if a character is very frenetic, to all of a sudden go very still. Usually your job is to channel the funny the actor's brought.
In Monster's Inc. when Randall is threatening Mike Wazowski, Mike's misleads are super funny, because they are such unexpected misleads. "Do you know what happens when it's 12:00?" "...lunch?" "the scareflow will be..." "...painted?"
yeah crappy quality but you never know what you'll get off youtube