Laurel and Hardy's 1935 Advice Column: "You, Too, Can Be a Comedian!"
A few long-lost tips for aspiring big screen "funsters."
In September 1935, comedians Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy penned an advice column for aspiring comedians in an anniversary edition of The Hollywood Reporter. The duo, who starred in dozens of slapstick features together, also had a few sarcastic tips for how comedians should handle public relations and deal with producers. Their full column is below:
This is not a gag. Others have given advice to the lovelorn, secrets of worldly success to diploma holders; straight-from-the-shoulder-talks on every subject from raising the baby to running the country. It's high time that someone from the ranks of the screen's so-called funsters steps forward and "teaches the young idea how to shoot," or at least how to throw custard pies, so to speak, and that's what we propose to do here and now! Yes, you, too, can be a comedian — and without correspondence, at that. All it takes is what you've got, plus a little common sense, if you know what we mean.
If there is a dearth of film funsters today it's your fault. However, it is not too late for you to get into this easy-money class. There is no obligation nor nothing to buy. Not even a coupon to sign! This is to be our contribution to posterity or what is left of it. Now then, let's get down to business. So you want to be a comedian? Before embarking in this line of endeavor, one should first check their qualifications against the following questionnaire which has been standardized by the Association of Alleged Funny Fellows of Filmland, of which organization the writers of this article are associate members without portfolio.
1. Do your relatives and friends laugh at your jokes? (Answer Yes or No or Both.)
2. Are you a student of Madison's Budget or The World's Greatest Collection of Jokes or are you just naturally funny?
3. Do you own baggy trousers, a derby or straw hat, oversize shoes and unusual cravats?
4. Can you exist without food for days at a time? Why?
5. Name the of two funniest comedians in pictures today. (Remember who it is who is helping you get into the movies!)
6. Does your wife understand you now? If so, why do you want to get funny?
7. Are you good at cracking (1.) parlor jokes; (2.) practical jokes; (3.) bedtime stories. (4.) Your knuckles?
8. Are you the life of the party and will they laugh at you when you sit down to eat?
Having answered the above questions satisfactorily there remains but little for you to do before securing a job, and this should be comparatively easy if you study your approach. Some advocate the Friend or Relative Studio Executive entree to accomplish this end, while there are others who hold out for the Give-Until-It-Hurts system. Then again there are plenty of protagonists of the Rest-On-Your-Own-Merit plan who are willing to do or die along these lines.
Regardless of what system you employ in making your studio contact, it is necessary that you be able to talk fluently on the subjects of golf, bridge, night spots and Shakespeare in order to lead up to the business of securing employment as a funnyman. And speaking of bridge, not a few aspiring comics have made the grade by filling in as a fourth at this game. One highly important qualification for screen jester fame is one's ability to meet newspaper and magazine writers as man to man without flinching. Here, we give you a few tried and true remarks to toss off for the benefit of the third degree-ers of the fourth estate, during the course of such a grilling:
(1) I am looking forward to the day when I can do Hamlet.
(2) There is no secret of my success.
(3) No, custard pie isn't my favorite dessert.
(4) Chaplin and Fields are all right in their way.
(5) One has to have suffered to be a comedian.
Now then, we almost overlooked a very essential bit of advice that you will need if you hope to climb the ladder to success as a screen funster. Hire yourself a high-powered press agent at once to exploit your personality, your social activities and the fact that you ware good to your mother. This breaks the ice and assists in securing an entree for you in the offices of the moguls of moviedom. Be sure and carry your press clipping book with you at all times so that you can meet any emergency. Also, it may be necessary to refer to this volume from time to time so that you consistently live up to the things your press agent says about you. But always call him "my publicity counsel" when addressing a supervisor or a producer.
If you have carefully read and digested all of the above you are just about ready to crack down on the studios. But before doing so, hire an old Model T break-away Ford so that you can drive up in front of a producer's sanctum and do your stuff in front of his office window prior to making personal contact. This is sure-fire and some of the boys have been invited into his presence before they had a chance to send in their cards after executing a few comic didoes as outline. And this brings us to the subject of business cards. And this, too, is highly important, so important in fact, that we are giving you here a sample of the style of card that is being used this season by we boys of the profession. Of course the name is fictitious:
- I.M. NUTZ
- Professional Comic
- (Own My Own Wardrobe)
- Expert at Pratt Falling — 108's, High Gruesomes and Double Takems.
- Nifty Dresser On and Off
- Facial Contortionist
- and Can Double Brass.
- (Address and Telephone No. Here)
This is a ... proven ticket of admission to the most impregnable offices. It is yours for the taking and with it go our blessing and best wishes. Oh, yes, there is one other thing that we almost forgot. Be sure and arm yourself with a bunch of letters of recommendation from your Sunday school teacher, the village elocutionist, your favorite bartender and such other influential citizens as you can think of, before bearding a potential employer in his den. Most producers can read and have a lot of time on their hands and love to peruse such testimonials.