Every night, during every performance of “Spamalot” at The Media Theatre, I find myself thinking about and trying desperately to channel the spirit of the great, Danny Kaye.
This show is full of brilliantly written comedic moments as well as several opportunities to play with the audience, making it just a little bit different every time.
I think of Danny Kaye for several reasons, but the main one takes me all the way back to graduate school. As a vocal music major at Oklahoma City University in the mid 1990s, I spent a good deal of time in the library in the music school listening to records, cassettes and CDs (remember any of those ancient things?) and watching videos of great performances.
My first day there, I came across this VHS cassette (did he just say VHS?) of Danny Kaye conducting the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. It looked interesting, so I popped it in the player and put on the headphones. After about the first five minutes, I felt a tap on my shoulder. When I turned around I saw the librarian with a very stern look on her face. Apparently, I had been laughing so loudly I was disturbing the other students!
This performance, captured forever on video (thank God!!), changed my life! When I saw this man exude the type of joy that can only come from complete immersion in total bliss, and how he was able to bring everyone along with him on this truly beautiful journey, I knew that I wanted to be as much like him as I could be in my career.
I play a lot of “creepy” characters and villains in my line of work, and I love it, it’s fun and often very challenging. But, on the whole, I have to say, I prefer making people laugh and bringing them joy.
Some say you can’t teach comic timing. I disagree completely!
If I have any sense of timing (and my mother says I do, so there!), I owe the vast majority of what I’ve learned to watching Danny Kaye work his magic, particularly in this video.
I present to you, on this very rainy Friday morning here in Philadelphia, one of my rays of brilliant sunshine! It’s only a clip from the beginning of the evening, so, if you’ve got time later, treat yourself to the entire performance on YouTube. It’s out of print and can only be found there.