How to Act Human: Advice for Mitt Romney From Inside the Actors Studio By James Lipton [View all]
How to Act Human: Advice for Mitt Romney From Inside the Actors Studio
By James Lipton
In this media-saturated era, the line between politics and performance has virtually vanished, and the public is having a hard time believing Mr. Romney’s persona (as in dramatis personae) — a potentially fatal flaw for any actor, but especially for a presidential candidate. Why doesn’t Mr. Romney’s audience believe him?
Perhaps it starts with his laugh, a device he employs at odd moments and in a most peculiar way. (The public thinks that crying is the acid test of the actor, but in fact “laughing” is much harder — and Mr. Romney hasn’t mastered it.)
Listen to his laugh. It resembles the flat “Ha! Ha! Ha!” that appears in comic-strip dialogue balloons. But worse – far worse – it is mirthless. Mr. Romney expects us to be amused, although he himself is not amused. Freeze the frame, cover the bottom of his face with your hand, and study his eyes. There’s no pleasure there, no amusement. Genuine laughter is triggered only by, and is completely dependent on, shared perception. That’s why we say we “get” a joke.
But Mr. Romney is too busy working to share anything – like the vaudevillian tapping so desperately that he’s covered with what performers call “flop sweat.” In rehearsal, I once heard a director say to an overeager actor, “Relax, you’ve got the job.” Now that Mr. Romney seems to have wrapped up the nomination, that counsel may apply here.