November 29, 2010

SEE?:

Remembering Leslie Nielsen, A Master Of The Art Of Not Being Funny (Marc Hirsh, 11/29/10, NPR)

Nielsen, on the other hand, was someone who said unfunny things in an unfunny way, and for some reason, people laughed. To demonstrate this, he delivered an innocuous line – something along the lines of "Mr. Jones, sit down, I'd like to talk to you about your son" – twice. The first time, he said it as though he were in a drama, and the response was muted.
Surely, Fresh Air Remembers Leslie Nielsen Nov. 29, 2010

Then he told us that he was going to say the exact same unfunny line as Lt. Frank Drebin, in an unfunny way, and he did exactly that, and the audience exploded. It wasn't just indulging him as prompted, either. Without actually tilting his delivery in that direction, Nielsen made it genuinely funny. To underscore his point, he then broke character with a look of happy exasperation and basically said, "See?"

It was one of my favorite SNL monologues ever, because it explicitly dissected the host's entire schtick in a way that invited appreciation, rather than making it instantly tired and formulaic. Instead of mocking his persona in one way or the other, in the manner of most monologues, it was a tiny little master class in how it's done.

And it's informed every single time I've come across Nielsen since, whether deliberately or by accident. When his later movies like Dracula: Dead And Loving It and Spy Hard didn't work, I theorized that it was because he had started mugging (or was told by his directors to mug), which actively subverted the very thing that worked for him.

MORE:
3 Things Every Leslie Nielsen Fan Should Know (J. Richard, 11/29/10, AOL News)
-Leslie Nielsen’s funniest lines (Michael Deacon, 29 Nov 2010, The Telegraph)
-Leslie Nielsen’s funniest scene (Michael Deacon, 29 Nov 2010, The Telegraph)

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Posted by Orrin Judd at November 29, 2010 5:43 PM
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