Acting Classes: The Disney Channel Part 4

The Disney Channel and Nickelodeon audition thousands of kids every year for their new and existing projects. If your child wants to pursue this type of career path early in life, there are some foundational acting skills your budding actor can work on right now.

As the headteacher and Assistant Director of the Los Angeles acting school The Playground, I teach eleven classes a week and one of the hardest things I see my young actors try to learn is comedy.

In my past articles I talked about the young actor’s need for excellent articulation skills, comprehension of emotional words and the need to get physically active. Now I can talk about one of my favorite skills to learn; a staple for any child who wants to act on TV: Comedy.

This may seem an obvious need for working on TV Network comedies like ABC’s Modern Family and CBS’s How I Met Your Mother , and the kid networks like Disney, Nickelodeon, Disney XD and The Hub; however it sometimes is the thing that actors forget. You gotta be funny! So the next step is is going to be fun to learn!

Step Four – Figure Out What Makes You Funny

Figure Out What Makes You Funny: The way you say jokes, how you act physically, characters you can create, you gotta bring the funny! If you can improve your young actor’s ability to make a script funny in their own, personal way, then you are improving their comedic acting skills.

In all of my private coaching and teaching at The Playground, I emphasize learning and practicing comedy scripts. Our comedy film and television scripts are from as many variations of comedy genres as possible. Since comedies are created by many different people and the writing is often done by a multitude of writers with different styles, it’s important to be able to recognize the specific tone of the comedy you might be auditioning for.

Shows like Fox’s Glee and NBC’s Super Fun Night are very different in tone from Disney’s Shake it Up and Nickelodeon’s Sam and Cat. Before auditioning for projects like these, an actor must know if the comedy’s tone is more authentic, or over-the-top, or subtle, or sarcastic, or deadpan, or awkward.

Comedy acting is a specialty acting skill set. It’s actually really hard for many actors to be funny! Not just young actors; I have watched in pain while adult actors try and navigate the comedy genre. Comedy contains unique and specific beat structures as well as variations on timing and the pacing involved. That means that the actor must have these skills exceptionally mastered.

Regardless of your child’s age or what city you live in, if you want to be on a comedy show, you’ve got to know how to be funny! That means funny in every situation. Funny when you walk in the door of a talent agency. Funny when you meet a casting director. Funny when you are listening to the casting director read the other roles during your auditions and your audition is being put on tape. And most importantly, funny when you speak lines that are supposed to be funny!

It’s the writer’s job to write the jokes. It’s the actor’s job to make the jokes funny! It’s the director’s job to help guide you to your character and block you in the scene. It’s the actor’s job to be able to do all those things while being funny! It’s my job as an acting teacher to teach you how to analyze scripts to find the areas that need to be funny, and to allow you to discover and strengthen your abilities to be funny. It’s that actor’s job to go out there and BE funny.

Let’s be super clear. Your child making you laugh and easily being outrageous in your home does not necessarily mean that they can be that funny in front of a room full of production people and the network executives. And it does not mean that your hilarious, off-the-cuff child who is the school’s class clown can figure out how to make jokes written by professional script and joke writers equally as funny as they are when they are just ad libbing their own stuff. There is a craft to it.

So of course, if you truly want to compete at a professional level, it is super important that you actively take on-going on-camera acting classes that include basics of comedic acting including improvisational comedy, and the breaking down of comedy scripts. Until that time, here are a few ideas to suggest to your child:

  • Take an improv class.
  • Audition for an improv team.
  • Join a speech team.
  • Take a stand up comedy class.
  • Find, learn, and memorize jokes.
  • Write your own jokes.
  • Perform Jokes – anywhere! I know a couple of young comedians that go to senior centers and tell jokes. They say if you can make them laugh, you can make anyone laugh.
  • Create your own characters.
  • Create your own sketches.
  • Get a group of friends together and make your own improv class. Or write your own sketches together.
  • Write, direct and shoot your own comedy routines.
  • Play improv games.
  • Play charades.
  • Get involved in your community theater and audition.
  • Get involved in your school’s theater arts programs and audition for them.
  • Watch and perform scenes from your favorite comedy shows.
  • Watch old comedy films and teach your self the routines.

Truthfully, any type of experience that a budding actor can get that will help them increase their awareness of how to be funny helps your child learn to become truly funny.

Helping your child achieve their life goals of becoming a professional actor on television can start with finding the right opportunities for them to find their own sense of humor!

So if you need to join the community theater or play charades or hear a bunch of clunky jokes until your young comedian nails one, then that is what you are going to have to do! Dive right in with them. It might be fun! So your kid wants to act on TV. Great! Start by asking them to tell you a joke!

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