Ken Ludwig on The Essentials of Comedy
Hello TDF Stages readers,
Ken Ludwig is one of the masters of modern stage comedy, boasting hits like Lend Me a Tenor and Leading Ladies. And now he’s writing a regular column for [Breaking Character], the online magazine of Samuel French, Inc., that looks at the essential elements of great comic writing. Who better than Ludwig to understand the mechanics of a stage comedy?
In his latest column, Ludwig reflects on Moliere’s The Imaganiry Invalid and how it uses “essential building blocks” that are still part of comic writing today. I’m pleased to recommend it as part of TDF Stages’content-sharing relationship with [Breaking Character].
Below, you’ll find an excerpt from column. You can read the rest of it here.
The Essentials of Comedy
By KEN LUDWIG
Last month I was in Paris for a week, meeting a new French literary agent and a new translator, and I had the good luck to get a seat for the Saturday matinee performance at the Comédie-Francaise. The Comédie-Francaise was founded in 1680, and in its early days was called The House of Moliere. The theater now has a repertoire that includes the works of dozens of playwrights, but I was fortunate enough to see one of Moliere’s greatest plays that day, Le Malade Imaginaire (The Imaginary Invalid). As it turned out, the performance was not only outstanding in itself, but also the perfect reminder of how comedy is created out of certain essential building blocks that haven’t changed in hundreds of years.
Le Malade Imaginaire is about a man named Argan who is the quintessential hypochondriac. He spends night and day buying new medicines, and as the play begins, he has come up with his newest idea for saving himself: forcing his daughter Angélique to marry his doctor’s son, a disgusting, cadaverous young man who has nothing going for him but his father’s profession. Argan’s notion is that having a doctor in the family will not only save him money, but maintain the kind of medical presence that the household needs. What better resource for a hypochondriac than a doctor in the house?