The Art of Laughter

  • Physical Theatre
  • By and With Jos Houben
  • London International Mime Festival 2016
  • The Shaw Theatre, London
  • 10 January 2016
  • Review by Katerina Yannouli
  • 11 January 2016
The Art of Laughter
4.0Reviewer's Rating

A “masterclass” on laughter and who better to teach it than Jos Houben. A graduate of L’École Jacques Lecoq he is a teacher, director, devisor and consultant with comedy troups, opera companies, circus schools, workshop festivals, dance schools, universities and magicians worldwide. Since 2000 he is a teacher at L’École Jacques Lecoq. The Art of Laughter has toured extensively; has won the Total Theatre Award at the Edinburgh Fringe and has played several seasons at the Théâtre du Rond-Point in Paris and the LIMF.

But first things first, what is physical comedy? Physical comedy is a form of comedy focused on manipulation of the body for a humorous affect. It can include slapstick, clowning, mime, physical stunts, or making funny faces. Physical comedy originated as part of the Commedia dell’arte. Manipulation of the body and making funny faces….Sounds easy doesn’t it and yet it is not. Hours and hours of practise and a precise execution will hopefully lead to that singular moment of hearty laughter. And as someone whose sense of humour leans towards the more cerebral, and has difficulties with slapstick especially, can attest, physical comedy is easy to get wrong.

Jos Houben has honed his technique to perfection and so his soliloquy on laughter is a detailed analysis of the human body and psyche. Do we have a choice to laugh? What motivates us to laugh? What is an audience and what THE audience? What’s it all to do with our own hard-earned “verticality” – our evolution to Homo Erectus? And how do you imitate different types of cheese? Every aspect of our movement, reactions, emotional state and surrounding environment has comedic potential. Throw in the mix a talented, eloquent and witty performer delivering a flowing and example-rich lecture; forget high tech props, just a chair, a table, a bottle of water and a wondering shoe; and you get an hour-long hilarious delight with sprinklings of anthropology and psychology – no phallic jokes or Freudian slips were at any point involved…

After all there is pulling faces and there is imitating hilariously a Camembert.


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