We gave you a “Top 5” lessons post from our July seminar with casting director Justin Radley of ASG Casting, as we usually do with our speakers, but an important topic came up that we felt deserved its own breakout post: Comedy Experience.
Justin ran our attendees through a very helpful exercise, staging a mock commercial submission and audition process using an actual project they cast that is now airing. (Sidenote: if it weren’t already airing, he wouldn’t have used it. The rule about not giving out any details of a project is strictly adhered to by casting directors.) First, he read the most basic aspect of the role description: the gender and age range. Everyone who fit that description was told to stand.
Then, he read the more detailed description, in this case something along the lines of “all american girl next door type.” Everyone who didn’t fit that type was told to sit. (Another sidenote: no one did, but personally, I would have known that’s not my type and taken a seat. There’s no gain in wasting your and everyone else’s valuable time. Whereas if he’d said, “Socially awkward Wednesday Addams type,” I’d have run to the stage.) Then, he asked who had a comedy background. Some raised their hands, some didn’t. Then, and here’s where it got real, he instructed everyone who didn’t have their hands raised to sit down.
I think everyone’s eyes nearly popped out of their heads, as there were audible reactions in the room. It was a pretty jarring and fantastic way to drive the point home: casting directors don’t consider a comedy background “nice to have” when they list it in a role breakdown. They consider it mandatory. I’ll say that again:
COMMERCIAL CASTING DIRECTORS DON’T CONSIDER A COMEDY BACKGROUND “NICE TO HAVE,” THEY CONSIDER IT MANDATORY.
And it’s rare to open a commercial audition notice you’ve received through our site, or any other, without seeing “good comedic timing” or “improv experience needed” or “must have great comedy chops” or any number of variations on this theme in the role breakdown. So get yourself into an improv class. Get yourself into a sketch class. Whatever it takes to enable your agent to be able to honestly write a submission note about your having a comedy background. And if you don’t have an agent yet? Well, it doesn’t hurt if you have a background in comedy. I hear people love that.