Monday, June 29, 2009

How to Think Like a Fool #39: Change Identity

PRETEND: Change Identity
"The mask which an actor wears is apt to become his face."—Plato

“Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you criticize them, you are a mile away from them and you have their shoes.”

—Jack Handey

Pretending, for the fool, is where imagination and play meet. Using tools common to actors and children, fools change their approach to a problem by make-believing they are someone else. By doing so, they tap into and practice characteristics they didn't think they had, bringing to life one of their many selves. When Harry Langdon, playing the roles of sheriff and photographer, needs to put out a fire in the short film "Smile Please", he puts on a firefighter's hat.

When I'm working on a routine, I often take some time to imagine how Buster Keaton or Harpo Marx or some other physical comic would act in that situation, and then I improvise as if I were one of them performing. I wouldn't win any look-alike contests, but I always come up with ideas I never would have conceived of without changing character. Then I adapt the ideas, if appropriate, to my own persona.

You put on a disguise, a mask, or a costume, and let them affect how you act and feel. Change how you move. Observe how others move and imitate them. Imagine a genius or a fool working on the problem and then act like that person. Think of a personality trait you think would come in handy, but which you don't think you possess, then play at having that trait, until you own it.

Of course, always choose wisely who you become:

Think: Who would I like to be? What part of my personality would I like to change? Who could best solve this problem? How will I change my identity?

Tomorrow: How to Think Like a Fool #40: Do the Wrong Thing

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