Thursday, 20 March 2014

Writers, not Actors

I took some clients to see John Cleese's one-man show, "Last Time to See Me Before I Die", a few months back.  You remember him - tall, lanky, straight-faced funny guy from Monty Python.  He told a story of how Monty Python stayed together as a comedy troupe in an industry where others had fallen apart.  He didn't deny there was the occasional argument, very vehement arguments between them about the material (which is funnier - a goat or a sheep?  His firm assertion and the final say in a 20 minute argument was that when used as a chandelier, with lights in it's hooves and mouth, clearly the goat was going to get more laughs.)

Cleese suggested that the reason the team was so tight and produced such good results was because they were a group of writers.  They got together to write a sketch, and never deviated from the script during performance.  Only after hammering out the script did they decide who would play which parts, and always for the sake of the material.  Sometimes that meant a small part, or no role at all.  Other times it might mean a very large, starring role.  Characters and roles were agreed upon according to what would serve the end goal - great comedy.  They were writers first.

If the Pythons argued about anything, it was the material.  Cleese says he has seen shows and troupes fail because instead of a group of writers coming together to write and perform, they have been a group of actors coming together, each with his own agenda, to perform that which they wrote.  Egos ruled in the actors' group.

Which team are you part of?  Are you actors thinking only of your own contribution and recognition, or writers working together in the direction of a common goal?

I know which team on which I'd rather be.

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