Tyler Labine on Playing Both Comedy and Drama: “In order to know what’s funny, you need to know what’s not funny”

“I’m on an hour-long drama; we shoot each episode in eight days, which is a lot for 58 pages of shooting, so proficiency of your craft really gets honed in on T.V.” – Tyler Labine

Actor Tyler Labine recently appeared in the thriller Escape Room at the same time he has been appearing on the NBC medical drama New Amsterdam. It’s not surprising because Labine’s thirty-year acting career has been filled with variety in terms of media (television and film) and material (comedy and drama). In an conversation with Flickering Myth, Labine speaks extensively about the variety in his career and what he has learned from acting in so many different types of projects.

Labine has played a variety of roles since he began acting in his early teens, but he’s most likely best known for his starring role in the 2010 comedy Tucker and Dale vs Evil. In contrast, in films like Escape Room, Labine plays dramatic roles. On knowing how to perform in both comedy and drama, Labine says:

“I feel like, what I’ve always said is, in order to know what’s funny, you need to know what’s not funny. You can’t stand on a platform if you don’t know what’s sort of the opposite of what you’re trying to achieve. So I feel like, as a comedian, the way that we manipulate people is pretty formulaic- it’s because we can understand exactly what’s not funny, and then move you away from that. It’s almost like a magic trick, you know, it’s all about distraction and misdirection.

“So I totally think that’s the case with most comedians, which is why audiences have been constantly and consistently dazzled by these funny actors taking dramatic turns. People turn in these amazing dramatic performances and everyone’s like ‘how did they do it? They’re so funny normally.’ Yeah, but that’s why, because they’ve got a real darkness and an understanding of tragedy. Like the drama masks, you’ve got to have both happy and sad, you know?”

In addition to playing both comedy and drama, Labine is also a veteran of both television and film. While both media have their challenges in terms of schedule, Labine explains how one has prepared him for the other:

I’m on an hour-long drama; we shoot each episode in eight days, which is a lot for 58 pages of shooting, so proficiency of your craft really gets honed in on T.V. And when you get into a situation like with Escape Room, where we didn’t have all the time in the world and we were shooting a pretty high page count as well, it feels familiar: it feels like I can rely on the fact that I know you can get what you need out of me in one or two takes. I don’t need 20 takes to nail something. That’s never the issue. I’ve been acting for 30 years, so I feel like I’ve gotten pretty proficient at getting what directors need right out of the gates.

The real issue, for a lot of actors who have been doing it a long time, is keeping it going. If you want to do 15-20 takes of me doing the same thing, I have to come through every time cause you could use any one of those takes.

About Author

In college, overachiever Christopher McKittrick double-majored in Film and English because he loves to read, write, and watch movies. Since then Chris – who was born and raised on Long Island, New York and currently lives in Queens – has become a published author of fiction and non-fiction, a contributor to entertainment websites, and has spoken about literature, film, and comic books at various conferences across the country when he’s not getting into trouble in New York City (apparently it’s illegal to sleep on street corners...) For more information about Chris, visit his website here!

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