I have been watching the new NBC show, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. This is not a review for that show, but briefly I will say that I am giving it a try because it is Aaron Sorkin's new project. After two episodes, it is not bad so far, though not magnificent. Yet.
At any rate, it takes place in a flagging late night live sketch show. Two big shots are brought in as head writer and producer to save the show. Alot of talk of acting and backstage stuff will be present in the show.
Near the end of the second episode, a character who is one of the performer's on this late night sketch show, approached one of the show's producers. She had received a laugh during early read throughs when she delivered a line during a certain sketch. It involved her asking someone to pass the butter in some fashion. (The sketch in question is not shown during the episode.)
Concerned that at the first full dress rehearsal with a practice audience she received no laughs at the previously successful line, she asked the producer what she has done differently for the small audience than she had at read-throughs.
The producer explained that at dress rehearsal, she had asked for the laugh, and that is why the line feel flat.
"What did I do when it was funny," she asked.
"You asked for the butter," replied the producer.
Great line that I think every actor should think about. Play the character, know the moment, and be in it. Do not, as a large number of people in comedy these days tend to do, scrap in desperate fashion to make people laugh. You will, without fail, seem like a phony. In fact, if you spend all your time digging for the laugh only, you are a phony.