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Which is Harder: Drama or Comedy?

By • Apr 18th, 2012 • Category: An Actor's Advice

One of the more disheartening debates I find within theatre among actors and directors is whether drama or comedy is more difficult. It sounds like an innocent enough argument, until one considers that whichever side comes out as “more difficult” can then lay claim to the better actors.

There is no winner in this squabble though, even if it is just a friendly squabble. That’s because it’s a bit of a red herring. I wouldn’t say it is comparing apples and oranges, but it is a bit like comparing American Football and rugby. Many of the same skills and attitudes are utilized between the two, but it takes little observation to determine that they are vastly different games.

All of this is to say that neither drama nor comedy is more difficult (despite what Oscar Wilde may have quipped). Rather, to do either one well, an actor must be aware of the particular requirements of each. Some can switch-hit. Others can only do one or the other. In neither case do we find the better actor be default.

And even the finest actor can only do so much when they have little with which to work. The script must be a good one, or it doesn’t matter if it is comedy or drama-everyone looks bad. A bad comedy can fall flat and be met with silence, while a bad drama can elicit unwanted laughter at critical moments. It takes a skilled actor in either scenario to right the scene, and even then it may be too late. But the struggling comedic actor, and the struggling dramatic actor both sweat the same bullets.

I write this not to bring about a theatrical kumbayya. I bring this up because the actor is enhanced when he accepts this truth; there is no one superior form of theatre. That it is no more easy to declare a certain type of performance more difficult than it is to declare any given song more “musical.” At its core, acting is a multifaceted experience, and those actors who choose to take sides in some bogus battle are only dulling their perceptions and limiting their possibilities. One may never do drama, or may always avoid comedy, but respecting the other camp equally will only improve one’s theatrical experience.

Discuss excellent vs. mediocre, and strive for the former while leaving debates about comedy and drama behind.

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