Categorizing Humour

Humour can generally fall into two categories: someone else’s tragedy, and statements (or actions) that are implicitly true. A director’s job is to assist the audience in making connections that will tickle the mind. When the audience laughs, both the director and the writer will know that they have supplied everything needed.

Film Direction Notes Following EyesDon’t Aim for the Laugh

Actors should never try too hard for the laugh. If the action or dialogue is funny, the actor only needs to make it real so the humour can come through. The best way to make the performance real is to get the actors to think about what their character really wants in the midst of their circumstances. If it rings true, the audience will be drawn into it.

Directors can help actors by not mentioning the humour in the performance. Actors should not need to be told the emotional result wanted to take in consideration the art of their craft.


Simple actions may also draw in the audience with humour, such as playing peek-a-boo with people or objects. This can be particularly effective in windows and doorways.

Let the Audience be the Judge

You will know when the joke is there because the audience will recognize it. Directors should not be ashamed to use test audiences to see some of the funny little quirks that you may not have seen in the production.


In order to have an effective joke, the audience must have proper focus. If the line is funny and you don’t get a laugh, distraction could have trumped the effectiveness.

Reverse Positions
When a joke is funny, but the audience doesn’t respond, it may be helpful to reverse positions so the audience can see the reaction rather than the speaker.

A Bad Disposition

A bad attitude is an effective way to deliver jokes. Even if a joke falls flat, the attitude presented can be a thing to fall back on. Quirky or rude behaviour falls into this category of a bad disposition.

Following Eyes

Objects in motion will always grab the attention of the audience. The audience has the ability to look wherever they wish in a theatre setting, so moving an object will bring in their attention. If more than one object is in motion, typically the eyes will follow the object that moved most recently or was revealed by a particular motion. A shift in light will also be considered movement to the eye to grab attention.

Telling Objects

In the world created on the stage, nothing will be missing and nothing extra will be added. If you plan to create visual anticipation, make sure you will also exploit it.