Betty White on Her ‘Bag of Tricks’ and Learning the Comedic Rhythm

by Katie Maloney
betty-white-bag-tricks-learning-comedic-rhythm

If there is anyone people should be taking comedic advice from, it’s Betty White, so listen up. She’s revealing her comedy insider secrets.

Betty White made her television debut in 1949 on Hollywood on Television. For the next two decades, Betty appeared in both films and tv shows. However, it wasn’t until she landed the role of Sue Ann Nivens, a devious and flirtatious woman on The Mary Tyler Moore Show that she debuted her comedy chops. And once she was cast as Rose in The Golden Girls, Betty claimed her spot as an icon in the comedy world. So what’s the secret to making people laugh, according to Betty White? Rhythm. During an interview, Betty explained how rhythm is the main tool in her bag of comedy tricks.

“Humor is such a rhythm thing,” said Betty White. “The writers spend hours laboring over a sentence to get the beats. A line will come out, ‘Why did the chicken cross the road? To get to the other side.’ You can’t say, ‘Well there was this chicken that decided to cross over, I wonder why he did that. Well, maybe he saw something on the other side.’ You can’t do that. There’s no laugh there.”

Betty said that many talented actors guest-starred on the show. But some of them weren’t familiar with The Golden Girls rhythm.

“Guests would come on and they would start to paraphrase the writing that was there. And the director would say, ‘No, read it the way it’s written.’ And the actors would say, ‘Well, no, it sounds more like me when I read it this way.’ Well, they’d kill all the beats,” said Betty. “They’d put an extra couple of syllables in there and kill the laugh. It’s like feeling the beat in music. You feel it more than hear it. You just feel it.”

Hilarious clip from The Golden Girls.

What About The Golden Girls Surprised Both Betty White And The Show’s Executives Most?

When Betty White and the rest of the cast first read the script for The Golden Girls, they knew they had comedy gold. So, the success of the show wasn’t a surprise. However, the demographic that the show attracted most shocked both cast members and the show’s execs.

“I think the network was putting on this show about four older women to address an audience that had not been addressed before. You didn’t see many old people on shows before. Unless they came across with an outrageous line and then disappeared,” said Betty. “But as far as carrying a show where you had to invite them in every week, it hadn’t been done. And I think what shocked the network, what shocked all of us, was that the kids picked it up. I mean 75% of our mail was from kids under 25…It’s fascinating.”

Betty then talked about how colleges are still hosting The Golden Girls themed parties.

“We’re a college cult now. They have Golden Girls evenings. It’s fascinating. It was a wonderful surprise to everyone. I don’t think any of us expected it,” she said.

It’s seems like these younger kids just picked up on the rhythm Betty White and The Golden Girls created.

Outsider.com