Theater Humor

Theatrical Logic

In is down, down is front
Out is up, up is back
Off is out, on is in
And of course-
Left is right and right is left
A drop shouldn't and a
Block and fall does neither
A prop doesn't and
A cove has no water
Tripping is OK
A running crew rarely gets anywhere
A purchase line buys you nothing
A trap will not catch anything
A gridiron has nothing to do with football
Strike is work (In fact a lot of work)
And a green room, thank god, usually isn't
Now that you're fully versed in Theatrical terms,
Break a leg.
But not really.

Leaps Tall Buildings In A Single Bound
Is More Powerful Than A Locomotive
Is Faster Than A Speeding Bullet
Walks On Water
Gives Policy To God

Leaps Short Buildings With A Running Start
Is Almost As Powerful As A Switch Engine
Is Faster Than A Speeding BB
Swims Well
Is Occasionally Addressed By God

Runs Into Buildings
Recognizes Locomotives Two Out Of Three Times
Is Not Issued Ammunition
Can Stay Afloat With A Life Preserver
Talks To Walls

Leaps Short Buildings In A Single Bound
Is More Powerful Than A Switch Engine
Is Just As Fast As A Speeding Bullet
Walks On Water If The Sea Is Calm
Talks With God

Makes High Marks On The Wall When Trying To Leap Buildings
Is Run Over By Locomotives
Can Sometimes Handle A Gun Without Inflicting Self-Injury
Dog Paddles
Talks To Animals

Falls Over Doorsteps When Trying To Enter Buildings
Says, "Look At The Choo-Choo!"
Wets Self With A Water Pistol
Plays In Mud Puddles
Mumbles To Self

Stage Manager:
Lifts Buildings And Walks Under Them
Kicks Locomotives Off The Track
Catches Speeding Bullets In Teeth And Eats Them
Freezes Water With A Single Glance


1. Compromise your principles early and get it over with.
2. Memorize all of the songs from "Cats."
3. Wear as much spandex as possible to auditions.
4. Wear lots of "comedy and tragedy" accessories.
5. Take your art WAY too seriously.
6. Misquote Shakespeare.
7. If a director doesn't invite you to callbacks, assume it's a mistake and go anyway.
8. When you get to callbacks, ask the director "Will this take long?"
9. No matter how many conflicts you have, reply "none." Hey, it can all be worked out in the end.
10. Overemphasize the lines they laugh at.
11. Mistreat props. Lose them. Take them home with you.
12. Tip the director.
13. Repeatedly ask techies, "Will this be ready by the opening?"
14. Assume the stage manager is there to clean up after you..
15. Stay up late power drinking before early morning calls.
16. Pause for so long after your monologue that they can't tell if you are done or not.
17. Remember, although you can always be replaced, they can't replace you until you've done a LOT of damage.
18. When your character isn't talking, mug.
19. Why be onstage when you can upstage?
20. For a touch of realism, upstage yourself.
21. Give fellow actors advice on how to do their characters.
22. If you can't get a grasp of your character, just do Jack Nicholson.
23. Blocking is for amateurs.
24. Eye contact is for actors afraid to stand on their own.
25. It's not the quality of the role, it's what you get to wear.
26. Wear all black and hang out in coffee houses.
27. Change your blocking on opening night.
28. Remember: frontal nudity gets you noticed faster.
29. Use your tongue to make stage kisses look "real."
30. Break a leg. Literally.

An Actor's Guide to Performance:

Hold for all laughs---real, expected, or imagined! If you don't get one, face front and repeat the line louder. Failing this, laugh at it yourself.

Cultivate an attitude of hostility. Tension gets results---on stage and off.

A good performance, like concrete, should be molded quickly and then forever set.

Your first responsibility as an actor is to find your light.

Do not listen to your fellow actors on stage. It will only throw you.

Do not look at them either---you may not like what you see.

Always be specific---point to what you're talking about.

If a line isn't working for you, change it.

Stage Managers are NOT actors---ignore them. Keep them alert by never arriving on time or signing in.

Never be afraid to ad-lib to get attention, especially if you feel the leads aren't very entertaining.

Mistakes are never your fault.

Always find something to bitch about, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant. Your fellow actors will respect your professional attention to detail.

Never carry make-up---someone will have what you need.

Never help understudies. (They secretly hate you and want your job)

Do help your fellow actors by giving them notes whenever you feel necessary.

And give the notes immediately before they go on---it will be fresher that way.

Speak your lines as if the audience had difficulty understanding the language.

Keep other performers on their toes by ridiculing their performances, and never let them know what you're going to do next.

Play the reality---always be aware of the audience and whether you think they like the show, then gauge your performance accordingly. Why knock yourself out for ungrateful snobs?

The only difference between an amateur and a pro is that the pro does exactly the same thing for money.

Need a character? Get a costume.

Never change anything that is working, no matter how wrong or phony it may seem.

When in doubt about an ad-lib, go "whoo"!

Go up on a line? Clap twice, look at the audience, and giggle.

Even if a piece of "shtick" doesn't work, keep using it. The important thing is for you to have fun and feel good about yourself.

Signs you have been on the road too long:

1. You think sleeping in the console lid is comfortable

2. You never use the living room anymore cause the acoustics suck

3. Your welcome mat is gaffed down

4. You made a tape of the tour bus engine to play at night when you sleep

5. All your furniture has wheels

6. You have re-wired your whole house to use Hubbell Twist-lock plugs

7. You are home for a week before you stop dialing 9 for an outside line

8. Somebody gives you the thumbs up in the street, and you look for the monitor desk to turn up the mix

9. You lose interest in groupies

10. Your clothing no longer resides in a dresser, but rather a duffle bag

11. You have actually installed a 3 phase service in your house so that lighting and audio are on separate legs to eliminate hum and buzz

12. Your favorite incense smells like rosin core solder

13. When you are at home, you ask your parents what is the per-diem per day

14. Everything you own has your name on it and is stenciled "FOH" with krylon

15. Your home stairs are replaced with a ramp to facilitate EASY load in

16. Your kids entire wardrobe consists of your old road shirts.

Because he needed the money, Orson Welles signed to appear in a play where the rest of the cast was, to put it politely, inexperienced.  He was the only real pro involved so on the first day of rehearsal, he made a little speech to the other players...

He said, "We're going to be doing this play for several weeks and the law of averages dictates that at some point, some egregious mistake will be made.  Someone will miss a cue, someone will forget a line, something will happen.  When this occurs, do not panic.  I am on stage for almost the entire play and I have decades of acting experience.  Every disaster that can possibly happen has happened to me and I can handle anything...

"So when something goes wrong," he continued, "do not attempt to ad-lib.  Just leave it to me.  Whatever it is, I will find a way to cover the error and continue on."  The members of the novice cast were reassured by this and felt confident they were in good hands.

Things went well until opening night.  In the middle of Act Two, the prop man accidentally rang a telephone in the wrong scene.  There was no phone call in that scene and all the actors on stage froze, wondering what to do.  Fortunately, Mr. Welles announced, "I'll get it," and they all relaxed, confident Orson would handle it.  They knew he would answer the phone, ad-lib some sort of conversation and then work his way back to the text of the play.

Welles picked up the phone, said hello and pretended to listen for a second.  Then he turned to the actress next to him, held out the receiver and said, "It's for you."


The Actor's Vocabulary

ETERNITY:  The time that passes between a dropped cue and the next line.

PROP:  A hand-carried object small enough to be lost by an actor exactly 30 seconds before it is needed on stage.

DIRECTOR:  An individual who suffers from the delusion that he/she is responsible for every moment of brilliance cited by the critic in the local review.

BLOCKING:  The art of moving actors on the stage in such a manner so as to have them not collide with the walls, furniture, or each other, nor descend precipitously into the orchestra pit . Similar to playing chess, with the exception that, here, the pawns want to argue with you.

BLOCKING REHEARSAL:  A rehearsal taking place early in the production schedule where actors frantically write down movements which will be nowhere in evidence by opening night.

QUALITY THEATRE:  Any show with which one was directly involved.

TURKEY: Any show with which one was NOT directly involved.

DRESS REHEARSAL:   The final rehearsal during which actors forget everything learned in the two previous weeks as they attempt to navigate the 49 new objects and set pieces that the set designer/director has added to the set at just prior to the DRESS REHEARSAL.

TECH WEEK: The last week of rehearsal when everything that was supposed to be done weeks before finally comes together at the last minute. This week reaches its grand climax on DRESS REHEARSAL NIGHT when costumes rip, a dimmer pack catches fire and the director has a nervous breakdown. See also Hell Week

SET:  An obstacle course which, throughout the rehearsal period,defies the laws of physics by growing smaller week by week while continuing to occupy the same amount of space.

MONOLOGUE: That shining moment when all eyes are focused on a single actor who is desperately aware that if he forgets a line, no one can save him.

DARK NIGHT: The night before opening when no rehearsal is scheduled so the actors and crew can go home and get some well-deserved rest, and instead spend the night staring sleeplessly at the ceiling because they're sure they needed one more rehearsal.

BIT PART: An opportunity for the actor with the smallest role to count everybody else's lines and mention repeatedly that he or she has the smallest part in the show.

GREEN ROOM:  Room shared by nervous actors waiting to go on stage and the precocious children whose actor parents couldn't get a baby-sitter that night, a situation which can result in justifiable homicide.

DARK SPOT:  An area of the stage which the lighting designer has inexplicably forgotten to light, and which has a magnetic attraction for the  first-time actor. A dark spot is never evident before opening night.

HANDS: Appendages at the end of the arms used for manipulating one's environment, except on a stage, where they grow six times their  normal size and either dangle uselessly, fidget nervously, or try to hide in your pockets.

STAGE MANAGER:  Individual responsible for overseeing the crew, supervising the set changes, baby-sitting the actors and putting the director in a hammerlock to keep him from killing the actor who just decided to turn his walk-on part into a major role by doing magic tricks while he serves the tea.

LIGHTING DIRECTOR:  Individual who, from the only vantage point offering a full view of the stage, gives the stage manager a heart attack by announcing a play-by-play of everything that's going wrong.

LIGHTING DESIGNER:  Individual who whines, bitches, throws fits, and says "This is the last show I'm doing here!  I swear to God!" (rinse,  repeat)....

ACTOR [as defined by a set designer]:  That person who stands between the audience and the set designer's art, blocking the view. Also the origin of the word 'blocking.'.

STAGE RIGHT/STAGE LEFT:  Two simple directions actors pretend not to understand in order to drive directors crazy. (e.g. "...No, no, your OTHER stage right!!!!")

MAKE-UP KIT:  (1) [among experienced Theater actors]: a  battered tackle box loaded with at least 10 shades of greasepaint in various stages of desiccation, tubes of lipstick and blush, assorted  pencils, bobby pins, braids of crepe hair, liquid latex, old programs, jewelry, break-a-leg greeting cards from past shows, brushes and a handful of half-melted cough drops; (2) [for first-time  male actors]: a helpless look and anything they can borrow.

FOREBRAIN:  The part of an actors brain which contains lines, blocking and characterization; activated by hot lights.

HINDBRAIN:  The part of an actors brain that keeps up a running subtext in the background while the forebrain is trying to act; the hindbrain supplies a constant stream of unwanted information, such as  who is sitting in the second row tonight, a notation to seriously maim the crew member who thought it would be funny to put real Tabasco sauce in the fake Bloody Marys, or the fact that you need to do laundry on Sunday.

CREW:  Group of individuals who spend their evenings coping with 50-minute stretches of total boredom interspersed with 30-second  bursts of  mindless panic.

MESSAGE PLAY:  Any play which its director describes as "worthwhile," "a challenge to actors and audience alike," or "designed to make the audience think." Critics will be impressed both by the daring material and the roomy accommodations, since they're likely to have the house all to themselves.

BEDROOM FARCE:  Any play which requires various states of undress on stage and whose set sports a lot of doors. The lukewarm reviews, all of which feature the phrase "typical community Theater fare" in the opening paragraph, are followed paradoxically by a frantic attempt to schedule more performances to accommodate the overflow crowds.

ASSISTANT DIRECTOR:  Individual willing to undertake special projects that nobody else
would take on a bet, such as working one-on-one with the brain-dead actor whom the rest of the cast and crew (including the director) has threatened to take out a contract on.

SET PIECE:  Any large piece of furniture which actors will resolutely use as a safety shield between themselves and the audience, in an apparent attempt to both anchor themselves to the floor, thereby avoiding floating off into space, and to keep the audience from seeing that they actually have legs.

And finally, remember this: "It's only theater until it offends someone...then it's ART!"

Light bulb jokes:

Q. How many stagehands does it take to change a lightbulb?
A. None, that's an electrician's job.

Q. How many actors does it take to change a lightbulb?
A. Three, One to actually do it, and two more to discuss how the other would have done it better.

Q. Ok then, how many electricians does it take to change a light bulb?
A. None of your business.

Q. How many volunteer crew members does it take to change a lightbulb?
A. One to collect every clip light in existence backstage, one to cut a 3x3 sheet of gel into unusable pieces, one to search for a cabinet key, one to wander through the dressing rooms asking the actors if they need anything.

Q. How many teamsters does it take to change a lightbulb?
A. 15. You gotta problem with that?

Q. How many apprentices does it take to change a lightbulb?
A. 2. One to sweep up the glass and the other to pull out the base.

Q. How many lighting designers does it take to change a lightbulb?
A. None...its a carefully orchestrated blackout.

Q. How many stage managers does it take to change a lightbulb.

Q. How many Producers does it take to change a lightbulb? 
A. What's wrong with the old one?

Q. How many actors does it take to change a lightbulb?
A. What's its motivation?

Q. How many Lighting Designers does it take to change a lightbulb?
A. After a long conference, it was decided to use several fresnels, and ellipsodal, warm tones for a cozy atmosphere and a strobe to effect lightning striking in the background, for that stormy effect.  Also several gobos will be used for tree patterns on the cyc.  What was the question again?

Q. How many IA guys does it take to change a lightbulb?
A. One, once he puts down the doughnut and coffee.

Q. How many executive directors does it take to change a lightbulb?
A. What do they need light back there for?

Q. How many actors does it take to change a lightbulb?
A. One, the actor holds the lightbulb and the world revolves around him.

Q. How many electricians does it take to change a lightbulb?
A. None, it's a lamp.

Q. Ok then, how many electricians does it take to change a lamp?
A. None, it worked during rehearsal!

Q. What's black, crispy, and hangs from the ceiling?
A. A dancer changing a lightbulb!

Q. How many IA guys does it take to change a lightbulb?
A. Six.  One to change it, one to find it, one to add it to the bill, two to hold the ladder and one to go for doughnuts.

You Know You've Worked in Community Theatre if...

...your living room sofa spends more time on stage than you do. have your own secret family recipe for stage blood.'ve ever appeared on stage wearing your own clothes.'ve ever driven around the back of stores looking for discards that can be used for set pieces. can find a prop in the prop room that hasn't seen the light of day in ten years, but you don't know where your own vacuum cleaner is. have a Frequent Shopper Card at the Salvation Army.

....You fully understand that the name Stephen Sondheim is synonymous with 3 months of rehearsals. start buying your work clothes at the Goodwill so that you can
buy your costumes at the mall.'ve ever taken time off your job to work on the show.'ve worked your vacation time to coincide with tech week.'ve ever cleaned a tuxedo with a magic marker.

...your family is more than 50% of the staff.'ve ever appeared on stage in an outfit held together with hot glue.'ve ever appeared in a show where tech week is devoted to getting the running time under four and a half hours.'ve ever appeared on stage in an English drawing room murder mystery where half the cast spoke with southern accents.'ve ever appeared in a show where the cast out-numbered the audience by 2 to 1.'ve ever gotten a part because you were the only one who showed up for auditions.'ve ever gotten a part because you were the only male who showed up for auditions.

...the audience recognizes you the minute you walk on stage because they saw you taking out the trash before the show.'ve ever had to menace and/or threaten someone with a gun held together with hot glue and electrical tape.'ve ever had to haul a sofa off stage between scenes wearing an evening gown and heels.'ve ever had to haul a sofa off stage between scenes wearing an evening gown and heels -- and you're a guy.'ve ever played the father of someone your father's age.'ve ever appeared in a show where an actor leaned out through a window without opening it first.

...You actually KNOW the difference between good Shakespeare and BAD Shakespeare, and have spent time in a bar trying to explain the difference to people who will listen.'ve ever had to play a drunk scene opposite someone who was really drunk.'ve ever heard a director say "Try not to bump into the furniture," and mean it.

...the lead vocalist complains that the music keeps changing tempos, but the music is on a cd.'ve appeared in a show featuring a flushing toilet sound effect.

...the set designer has ever told you not to walk on the left half of the stage because the floor paint is still wet --five minutes before curtain.'ve ever been told that the reason your director has no eyebrows is because he/she handled the special effects for the last show.'ve ever said, "Don't worry -- we'll just use duct tape, and if that doesn't work, we can hot glue it."