Commedia dell’arte comic traditions have trickled down into our modern day comedy, but it was only recently that I realized that Mr. Bean is a prime example. His use of noises vs. words, his small improvised moments, his specialized walk and facial expressions…all hints of Dottore, Pantelone, Zanni. Take a look at one of his classic scenes below to get a glimpse for yourself:
Watching the first season of the Muppet Show brought me to the conclusion that its characters are closer to its commedia ancestors than I previously imagined.
The old misers Waldorf and Statler
The somewhat-violent, strong and attractive Miss Piggy
The attention-hungry “artist” and daredevil Gonzo
Even Kermit, the Master of Ceremonies that acts as a liason between the audience and the performers is quite easily a trope on Comico. Kermit even performs of the the traditional lazzi (short improvisational scene) where he tells audience that the troupe will perform some impossible acrobatic feat (which they don’t do).
Funny how little hints of the past make their way into today’s comic vocabulary. Oh, and if you haven’t seen the Muppet Movie yet…get to it!
This video gives a wonderful example of the different physicalities that accompany some of the traditional stock characters. Watch how he adapts his swagger each time.