Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

A vaudevillian at work

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Sitting at his cluttered mahogany desk, [Billy K. Wells] draped a string from one side to the other, and, in a clothesline effect, pinned the various jokes and “bits of business” on the line, rearranging them as he built the scene. He kept a detailed account of the number of jokes he wrote; he tabulated the laughs per minute of every sketch. Even the malapropisms that salted his comic dialogue were uncovered in the same methodical manner. Wells would take a word and write it on one side of a file card and on the other list similar sounding words, testing each for its comic possibility…His fey imagination was able to ferret out fresh humor from old forms.

John Lahr, Notes on a Cowardly Lion

Written by nevalalee

April 1, 2012 at 9:50 am

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