The Truth about Bloopers, Outtakes, and Practical Jokes

I love a good gag reel. It’s the first thing I look for in the special features. I love the classic Carol Burnett Show with Tim Conway continuously breaking Harvey Korman. The outtake from Putting It Together. The old closing credits of Home Improvement. The hidden footage of The Fonz chasing Mrs. Cunningham with a can of whipped cream. This is what I grew up with.

Naturally, a lot of young artists grow up with an interest in how show business works, trying to see as much behind the scenes as possible. Hoping to see when things go wrong, and how it’s handled when it does. What they see are flubbed lines, practical jokes, and prop malfunctions. Then they see the cast laughing, the camera shaking, and the director kindly and calmly calling for a re-set.

No wonder a life in theatre, or film, or television looks so appealing. Just look at how much fun everyone is having!

I hate to break it to the young artist…

Here’s the truth.

Spoiler Alert.

Those outtakes, flubs, and mess-ups…in the professional community, they are rare at best.

Ever notice how a two-hour film only has two or three minutes worth of outtakes? There’s just too much at stake. The cast, the crew, the studio time, it all costs money. Therefore, the professionals get it done right, more often than not, on the first take. That’s why when it is wrong, everyone responds the way that they do.

In television, those live studio audiences are often sitting in the studio for hours while the tedious taping process rolls on and on. The novelty of being at a live taping can quickly wear off and the audience’s energy and laughter begins to dwindle. The best way to keep them engaged is to throw them a curve ball of a flubbed line or a practical joke. But again, the cast is rehearsed and prepared. The mess-ups happen at every taping. It’s all part of the show.

Audiences love to watch performers having fun. Letting the audience get a quick glimpse into the reality of the actors on stage when something goes wrong or a character breaks, the audience loves it. But these are all tools of the trade for keeping an audience engaged. Of this, I am well aware. Rarely, though, is it the truth.

Being a professional means getting it right the first time, every time. Laughing off mistakes is for amateurs. And do-overs are for kids playing kickball. The professionals don’t do do-overs. That’s the truth.

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One Response to “The Truth about Bloopers, Outtakes, and Practical Jokes”

  1. Jackie Chan is my favorite and one of the reasons is his blooper reel at the end. Professionals strive to get it right the first time because in his case, getting it wrong can kill him. Thanks for the thought!

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