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CHAPTER 3 THE NEUROTIC

TEASER: TOSSED SALAD AND SCRAMBLED EGGS


FADE IN: INT. LIVING ROOM - RITZY SEATTLE APT - NIGHT Scene opens on an older man looking tired, weathered, frustrated and yet, slightly amused. This is poor Martin Crane 0ohn Mahoney). And here the widowed father of two sits in yet another brilliantlywritten episode of Frasier trying to explain to his sons Frasier and Niles, played superbly by Kelsey Grammer and David Hyde Pierce respectively, how they are and always have been different. MARTIN: People think you're stuffy. You know, with your opera parties, and your wine parties and your seasoned crepe pans. FRASIER: In my defense, Niles is the onlyone who has ever seasoned his crepe pans. NILES: Which is precisely why I've had the same set since the ninth grade, thank you very much. We feel Martins pain because week after week we watch as his two sons talk and get excited about things outside the norm. We are right there with him, rolling our eyes. MARTIN: ... Even when you were in junior high, you used to love that TV program, "The Avengers." You used to run all over the neighborhood pretending you were that guy with the umbrella. Did you have to run through the neighborhood in bowler hats? You were just begging to get beat up. FRASIER: Come to think of it, it was rather

a rough summer that year, wasn't it? NILES: I remember getting a chin strap, so the bowler wouldn't fall off when I ran. MARTIN: And all that did was make you look like Elizabeth Taylor in "National Velvet.11 We watch as they flaunt their intelligence and their cultured demeanor. We watch as they analyze the world around them. We watch as they obsess over things that seem so ridiculous to us. And then we laugh as they lose their grasp of it all. Frasier and Niles are like several other classic sitcom characters. They are high-strung, intelligent and sometimes nerdy, but always entertaining to watch. They are both The

Neurotic. ACT ONE WHO IS THE NEUROTIC?


The Neurotic is one of the most cherished of The Eight Characters of Comedy going back to the days (not so long ago) when television comedy could really get over the top. They are often among the most theatrical of the characters because they act, shall we say, abnormal under normal circumstances. They talk about the most obscure things. They get frustrated when nobody understands them. They tell you what theyre thinking as theyre thinking it. They always expect things to turn out a certain way and they get upset when they dont. They have a rulebook that they just assume everyone will follow, a set of rules that helps them make sense of things. They talk and talk and talk some more. If this sounds like a familiar character, then obviously you already have an understanding of The Neurotic, whether you are one yourself or you know one (anybody who studies with me knows that they are being taught by one). The Neurotic is one of the funniest, deepest and most complex of The Eight Characters of Comedy. And we all have a guilty pleasure in watching them, whether its the buttoned-up Darrin Stephens (Dick York) coming apart at the seams because his wifes Bewitched, Felix Unger (Tony Randall) hyperventilating because his sloppy roommate Oscar Madison (Jack Klugman) is making the apartment messy in The Odd Couple, Alex P. Keaton (Michael J. Fox) trying to explain his extreme right-wing views to his left-wing parents in Family Ties or Monica (Courteney Cox) just

being Monica on Friends. We love watching when things dont go their way. And we really love it when the other characters confront them on it. As an example, heres an exchange between Monica and Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow) from an episode of Friends where Monica is setting the table for the perfect dinner. Watch as she begins to unravel. MONICA: Can you help me fold these napkins? PHOEBE: Sure. MONICA: I'm gonna go across the hall and check on the yams. (Notices Phoebe folding the napkins) No! ... No, honey ... Not like that, we're not at a barn dance. You want to fold them like swans like I showed you at Christmas, remember? PHOEBE: Yeah. It all came screaming back to me.

(Notice the Over-Extended Triplet.)


With the exception of The Odd Couple, past sitcoms werent really built around this character, mainly because they are too-neurotic! In most cases, The Neurotic was a second-banana type of character that could always be relied on to provide instant comedy just by walking into a room and showcasing their neurosis. But that has really changed over the past decade or so with the popularity of shows like Friends, Frasier and Monk. We all know characters from our own lives that are like this. Or maybe you're like this. Are you the one who lives in a dust-free apartment? Do you always have to make lists? Do you often think you have some rare disease? Do you think out loud? Do you think and think and think, obsessing over anything and everything? Is this you?

Frasier and Niles

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So, how does a show thats led by two Neurotics keep the comedic conflict? The answer is constant role reversal. For example, if Frasier is acting neurotic about a woman, Niles will step up and act more like a Logical Smart One or vice versa. The

two always complement each other in the show and the writing allows them to wear different hats.

Back to our show ...


CHARACTERISTICS OF THE NEUROTIC Anal retentive Analytical Anxious Awkward Controlling Cultured Dorky Endearing Fearful Follows their own life rulebook Fussy Highbrow High-strung Hypochondriac Inflexible Insecure ACT TWO A PROFILE OF THE NEUROTIC
The role of The Neurotic is more open to interpretation than many of the other characters because The Neurotic has many faces, which youll see as we go along. Thats because neurosis comes in all shapes and sizes. But at its heart is a deep insecurity that will follow The Neurotic from the time they are nerdy little kids to neurotic adults. This character has always been different from others and there is a part of them that will always be insecure for this reason. Right away, this insecurity is a great way to add depth to a character that you will soon discover has many layers. It is unavoidable. To play The Neurotic, you need to understand the insecurity they faced growing up and still deal with on a day to day basis (more on this later). But for now, lets go back to where The Neurotic begins because it is

Intellectual Internalizes every thought Introspective Meticulous Neat Nerdy Nervous Obsessive-compulsive Over-analytical Over-achieving Perfectionist Persnickety Refined Sarcastic Sense of bravado Worried

a fascinating character to dissect. It all starts when theyre chil dren because all Neurotics start out as ...

Nerds!
Thats right, Nerds. You know, those boys and girls with the thick glasses, the pocket protectors, the bow ties, the comic book collection, the obscure facts they spew out at you, the lack of social skills and the look in their eye that tells you theyre just a little offbeat. You know, nerds! In junior high or high school, they were the ones who spent most of their time in computer clubs, marching bands and study groups. They were the brainy, four-eyed geeks who the jocks picked on. Or they were the over-achieving, slightly plump girls the cheerleaders taunted. They were just about any of the main stars on the short-lived but highlyacclaimed series Freaks & Geeks, a show where these dorky characters contemplated the most important of lifes issues... BILL HAVERCHUCK (Martin Starr): If I was the Bionic Woman, what would I wear? How do I know that Neurotics start out as nerds? Well, besides my own personal experience, I think back to some of my favorite TV Neurotics, like siblings Ross and Monica. Remember when they were seen in high school flashbacks? Monica was fat and insecure while Ross was a nervous and awkward geek. Once again, refer back to the Frasier example. A bowler hat with a chinstrap? Hello? If you are this character, please embrace it, write it, play it! Nerdy Neurotics make some of the funniest characters on television. There are some great young nerds, including Chip Douglas (Stanley Livingston) on My Three Sons, with his Coke-bottle glasses, Paul Pfeiffer (Josh Saviano) on The Wonder Years with his awkward appearance, Carlton Banks (Alfonso Ribeiro) on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air with his patented Carlton dance and the king of all nerds, Steve Erkel (Jaleel White) on Family Matters, who only has to walk into a room to get laughs. Why? Because he was so dorky! Want an even more popular example? How about the amazing super nerd that is Screech? Dustin Diamonds character on Saved By the Bell loves the show ALF, enjoys peanut butter in his ginger ale and has tried a couple of times to rewrite the words to the school song. When told by a teacher how strange he is, his response ...

SCREECH: Well, thank you very much for noticing. Okay, you want further proof that all Neurotics start out as nerds? Remember the tall, skinny, bi-spectacled high schooler Patty Greene on the short-lived series Square Pegs? Well, she grew up, moved to The Big Apple and became the famous modern day Neurotic Carrie Bradshaw on Sex and the City. Thats right, I'm talking about the captivating Sarah Jessica Parker. As a young actress, Parker convincingly played a shy, nerdy girl. And as an adult, she transformed herself into a glamorous, successful woman. Interesting, huh? Even though her characters (Patty Greene and Carrie Bradshaw) are completely different, what they have in common is that they share many of the same traits of The Neurotic. This nerdy quality is one of the things that make Neurotics endearing. In order to capture this, you have to call upon what makes you insecure. Look back to your own awkward phase (we all had themokay, maybe not all) and tap into that part of yourself that made you feel insecure (and maybe still does).

Reality check

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A good reality television example of The Nerdy Neurotic would be just about any of the guys on Beauty & The Geek or Average Joe. Intelligent, bright, insecure and nerdy, they spent the entire show wondering why the beautiful woman (the prize) would pick them.

Back to our show ...


Oh, how you worry so
Neurotics are the worriers. They are the warriors of worrying. They are extremely anxious and nervous characters. Even though they are often some of the most intelligent people, they are worried that they wont find the perfect mate, a good job, a fulfilling life. They worry, worry, worry about everything. And it all goes back to their adolescence. Think about it; after being picked on for years and years in school, a person will grow up fearful. Because they are so different and they are so interested in things that are slightly out of the norm, they feel insecure about themselves (and what others think). And so, just as they talk and

talk and talk ... and think and think and think ... they also worry and worry and worry.

Higher learning
Now lets take this character from high school into college, where geek becomes chic. This is where they actually are embraced for being intellectual, where being nerdy is actually much more accepted. This is where The Neurotic character really starts growing into his or her own. For those of you who went to college, didnt you notice that it was suddenly the intellectual guys and girls that were getting laid? Smart becomes sexy. This is where they begin learning social skills and start defining what they want to do with their lives. BUT young adulthood also provides some challenges for these characters, especially since they are so slow in developing social skills. This is where their intellect (and leftover nerdiness) can sometimes get in the way. Think of Ross Geller, played with perfection by David Schwimmer. Even though he is a grown man, the following scene gives a pretty good glimpse of his idea of flirting; an approach that shows high intelligence, but a lack of street smarts. Remember the episode with the pizza delivery girl? In this scene, Ross is working his intellectual magic with the pizza gi rl, who actually seems to be into him, until he awkwardly tries to impress her with some obscure fact. ROSS: Hey, you know that smell that gas has? GIRL: (Taken aback) Yeah. ROSS: They put that in. GIRL: What? ROSS: (BEAT. Reluctantly explains) The gas is odorless. But they add the smell so you know when there's a leak. GIRL: Well, okay. ROSS: (Unable to stop himself) A lot of gas smells. Also remember, intellectual and intelligent are two different things, and The Neurotic often lacks street smarts. As smart as they are, they

typically struggle in coping with day to day things that come easily for the rest of the characters like talking to someone of the opposite sex without sounding like a dork.

Like a fine wine


As these characters turn into adults, they become more cultured. And this is another characteristic that most, if not all Neurotics share. Most of them appreciate the more cultural things in life, be it fine dining, museums, art galleries, classical music or the love of the opera. Once again, take a look at Frasier. Has there ever been a smarter and more cultured sitcom than this one? The reason its so highbrow is that it features two Neurotics. These characters and other Neurotics are refined, proper and very smart. And they always look good. As kids, they were always neat, but never fashionable. But now they have some style. They wear nice threads, are color-coordinated and well put together. Essentially, these characters who are cultured, refined and intellectual are simply nerds that have grown up, have gained an appreciation for the finer things in life and are now getting respect (and notice) from others. Theyre also more forthcoming and wittier than they were in high school. And they are not afraid to unleash their sarcastic wit. Like most of the other characters, The Neurotic can use sarcasm, although it isnt as obvious a comedic tool for this character as it is for others like The Logical Smart One. Neurotics still use it towards those who arent as intelligent or knowledgeable as they are. Youll really see it emerge when somebody is picking on them, questioning their rulebook or challenging them on their control issues.

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This is an unexplainable phenomenon, but for some reason, in the half hour world, The Neurotic almost always gets the girl or guy. On the surface, it would seem that The Neurotic would annoy the hell out of anyone they dated (and sometimes they do), but check out the credits at the end of this episode and notice how many girlfriends or boy fiends they have over the course of a series ... even the more nerdy ones. Ross was married multiple times, Frasier and Niles had (ex-) wives. Came had significant relationships, as did George Costanza, Grace Adler, Ally McBeal and even Erkel! But,

in the end, it typically doesn't work out because they're so neurotic!

Back to oar show ...

What are they thinking?!


The Neurotic generally knows that he or she is neurotic. Part of this whole growing up process also leads Neurotics to become analytical and in some cases over-analytical. It starts with them feeling insecure as kids. They are concerned with what the world thinks of them; which in turn makes them second guess everything. Regardless, over the years, The Neurotic becomes more analytical and introspective. Still, The Neurotic has a difficult time making decisions. They plan everything out in their heads, going over it again and again, weighing all the options and checking all sides before acting. They obsess about every possible scenario, often before a problem even occurs. That way they feel prepared for it if and when it does occur. They internalize every thought (and it shows). Just think of how you can almost always see Ross wheels turning in David Schwimmers head. Sometimes these thoughts actually become a voice-over narration, giving us a first hand look into the mind of The Neurotic. Such is the case with Carrie Bradshaw and another famous Neurotic, Ally McBeal (Calista Flockhart), whose neurosis was brought to life for us to see. Ally is always worried about something, including life itself. Many times you can find her actually talking to herself. ALLY: The truth is, I probably don't want to be too happy or content because, then what? I actually like the quest, the search. That's the fun. The more lost you are, the more you have to look forward to. Wait! What do you know? I'm having a great time and I don't even know it. Just like Ally, Carrie, Ross and Monica, if you watch the character closely, you can always see the wheels turning and the thoughts flowing. Unlike many of the other characters, The Neurotic is constantly dealing with conflicttheir own internal conflictthat goes something like this ... Well, maybe I should go. No, I cant. Do I want to go? Do they want me to go? Of course they do! Why wouldnt they?

Maybe I shouldnt. No, theyll be mad. I probably should. Okay, slow down. Make a list. Pros and cons. Remember, this is simply how The Neurotic processes information. And its incredibly important for bringing out the humor in a character. Obviously, the dialogue is created by the writers, but its the actors who need to demonstrate how this character obsesses about every single decision or situation. You have to practice the art of talking to yourself (in your mind and out loud). Its fanny and itll bring you one step closer to becoming The Neurotic. Thats what helps Sarah Jessica Parker play this character so brilliantly. Her defining characteristics are that she is intelligent, insecure and that she overanalyzes everything. Just watch the wonderfully written episode of Sex and the City where Carrie is in the Hamptons with prospective boyfriend Jack Berger (Ron Livingston). Here she is talking incessantly on and on about her last messy, complicated relationship (and talking him right out of dating her in the process). CARRIE: Yeah, well, we hadn't sufficiently hurt each other enough the first time around, but we definitely took care of business this time. Because this time, he moved in. So we had the merging of things, the dividing of things, then the things that are left behind that you don't want to give back because that seems mean and you don't want to throw them away because that's all you have left. And it just gets harder as we get older because we are not dating wildly inappropriate people anymore. You know, there are no "shoo, glad that's over." And after every breakup, I keep telling myself "I'm never doing this again, it's too hard." I mean, how many of these things can a person survive? You know, they should institute a Helmet Law for relationships.

These are my rules

This tendency to over-analyze also leads The Neurotic to come up with plans for every possible scenario and to follow their own life rulebook. Where The Lovable Losers motto is I hope, I hope, I hope, The Neurotics motto is I must, I must, I must! This is one of the easiest ways to pick out a Neurotic rather easily. The Neurotic has his or her own set of rules that they MUST follow (and that they expect everyone else to follow). This brings out the perfectionist characteristic. They often want things to be perfect, to go as planned, and when they dont,

watch outl Because of this, they can be inflexible and they most certainly can be controlling. Plain and simple, The Neurotic has control issues. You see, they have a set of rules that they have thought long and hard about and worked through over and over again and those rules give them a sense of structure, balance and security. They need to be in control, and once everything is in control, they believe that they will be happy. While The Neurotic appears to be controlling, it is really the fear of losing control that is at the core of this character. As an actor, focusing on playing controlling is one-dimensional and doesnt make us care about the character. In contrast, focusing your acting on playing the fear of losing control not only makes us root for and care about the character, but its funnier. And this gives The Neurotic conflict with other characters, like in this funny episode of Friends. Here Monica and Chandler have recently moved in together and Monica is explaining the importance of having their CD collection organized.
MONICA: (Breathing heavy) Okay, where is the Cat Stevens CD? CHANDLER: In the James Taylor case. MONICA: (Starting to panic) Where is the James Taylor CD? CHANDLER: Honey, I'm gonna save you some time, 200 CDs, not one of them in the right case. MONICA: Okay. No need to panic. Deep breaths everyone. Okay, umm ... uh, we're just gonna have to spend some time and put the CDs in

the right cases. CHANDLER: Well, if we're gonna do that, we should come up with some kind of order. You know, alphabetically or by genre? MONICA: (Not getting his sarcasm) Hmm, I don't know. We really have to talk this through.

(Notice the various Triplets in this dialogue.)


Its this kind of rigidity and inflexibility that makes The Neurotic such an interesting character to play. Because they are insecure, they feel they have to over-analyze everything. And the more time a character spends in their mind obsessing and worrying, the more neurotic they become.

It doesnt go there!
There are so many amazing Neurotic characters that all share the traits I just mentioned above. But like all of the other Eight Characters of Comedy, the truly great ones will add even more depth to their character. Here are some ways that many of the great Neurotics do it. Look no further than Felix Unger on The Odd Couple, one of the greatest Neurotics of all time. The whole show is essentially based on how anal retentive, meticulous and fussy Felix can be and how this drives his slob of a roommate, Oscar, nuts. FELIX: Everyone thinks I'm a fussy hypochondriac. It makes me sick. Felix is one of the ultimate Neurotics. Tony Randalls take as this popular Neil Simon character showcases everything that is lovably irritating about The Neurotic and his neurosis. We cant wait to see his reactions to Oscars messes or his boorish behavior. Whether hes hyperventilating, clearing his sinuses or simply whipping out the dust mop, Felix never requires a laugh track. We also like it when others ridicule The Neurotic for their behavior, even if theyre a little harsh about it. A perfect example is in an episode of the short-lived Sports Night, where executive producer Dana Whitaker (Felicity Huffman) is barking orders in the control booth and all of her co-workers have fun with her by calling her persnickety

over and over again, driving her nuts. Persnickety. Persnickety. Persnickety! You feel bad that theyre teasing her, but Huffmans panicked reaction is hysterical. And Huffman takes some of Danas traits into a Neurotic wife and mother role as Lynette Scavo on Desperate Housewives, as we can see here when she is told she cant get into her yoga class. LYNETTE: I'm a mother of four. Today I had to get up at five, make lunches, make breakfast, drop the twins off at school and get across town lugging a baby and a sick child. Telling me to "plan ahead" is like telling me to sprout wings. And it's things like being told to plan ahead that make me so crazy, that yoga is the only thing that relaxes me. Except I show up here and I can't get in and you tell me to plan ahead. It's a vicious cycle. See how that works?

Neurotic physicality

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There are a few tricks to The Neurotics physicality that can help you play this character. First of all, it is important to remember that The Neurotic always has something mulling about in their brain. Remember, they think incessantly and if you play that, the audience will be able to see it not only in your eyes, but more importantly in how you react to things. Also, The Neurotics have a tendency to blow up more quickly than other characters. Mainly, this happens because they are wound so tight, but the real root of it is that they dont understand how somebody could disagree with them or ignore their rulebook. Think of Frasier yelling at Niles. Think of Niles yelling at Frasier. Think of Felix hyperventilating. Think of Catrie freaking out. Or, just think of Monica! The Neurotics lose it at times, and that's fun to watch. Bring that anxiety to the beginning, middle and end of a scene, and play it under the surface, keeping it ready to explode at any second. The Neurotics are the masters of subtle nuances. For a perfect example, watch Niles whenever he meets Frasier at the coffee shop. The first thing he does every time is pull out a handkerchief and wipe off the seat. Other Neurotics walk a certain way, others dress a certain way and others talk a certain way. These little idiosyncrasies have added extra dimension to some of the best characters of all time and it's an area where

you as an actor or writer can have a little fun.

Back to our show ...


I think Im dying
While Felix Unger set the bar for The Neurotic being a hypochondriac, there are plenty that have come along and taken the torch. One of the best in recent history is Monk, played by Tony Shalhoub. A detective conflicted with obsessive-compulsive disorder and more phobias than anyone else in sitcom history, Monk has come to define a modern-day Neurotic. MONK: (I'm a) germophobic, afraid dark, heights, crowds and milk. of the

And MONK: (Panicking) I'm dehydrated. I'm trying to sweat! I can't sweat! Or ... MONK: That officer out there told me I was dead. I'm not dead, am I? In order to play this type of Neurotic, you dont have to suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder to relate. Arent there times in your life when you let your imagination get the best of you? Think of when you stubbed your toe and thought it was broken and needed to be in a cast for six months. Or when you gave yourself a paper cut and thought you needed stitches. Or when you came down with a cold and thought you were dying of Mad Cow Disease. These characters are plagued by these kinds of irrational fears almost every day.

The Neurotic Cocktail (The Anxious-tini)

The Neurotic hero

Not all Neurotics are shot of insecurity Twist of obsession cultured and sophisticated. Dash of anxiety One aspirin There are some great working-class Neurotics as well. One of my favorites is Roseannes sister Jackie (Laurie Metcalf) on Roseanne. In the first few seasons of the show, Jackie was more of a Lovable Losernever quite finding the right job or the right man. As the show continued (and the writers caught on to Metcalfs breakneck comedic timing), she merged into a full-fledged Neurotic, defined by her high-strung personality. In the episode where Roseanne and Jackies father dies, check out the scene where an exhausted Roseanne has been calling family members to give them the sad news and finally passes the phone to Jackie.
1 shot of conflicting thoughts Half

JACKIE: I can't call people, Roseanne! ROSEANNE: Jackie ... dial! JACKIE: I'm supposed to be in mourning. ROSEANNE: Well then, wear a veil over your face while you do it! JACKIE: (Dialing the phone) Hello, Auntie Barbara? It's Jackie ... JACK-KEY! Yes. I'm fine ... Fine! ... I'm FINE! ... I got some bad news ... Dad isn't with us anymore. I said Dad has passed away ... He's passed away! ... Dad is gone ... Dad's dead! ... He's dead! ... No ... DEAD! ... DEAD! DEAD! ... No, he's fine. He sends his love, (hangs up the phone) I am not doing that again, you can't make me. Funny, huh? A character experiencing anxiety, becoming highstrung (in the right amount) is funny to watch, and Metcalf is skilled at it. Last but not least, I have to mention another of the classic Neurotics who defined a sense of high strung bravado. Fm talking about The Andy Griffith Shows Barney Fife, played by Don Knotts. In the little town of Mayberry, the puny Deputy Fife walks the streets with his single bullet, his police swagger and his oversized hat ... keeping the peace. And when trouble comes to town, Barney, despite his fears, tries to be brave and handle the situation in his own nervous way. The result is often messy, but funny. Just like Barney, many other Neurotics really like to think of themselves as heroes from time to time. It comes from the fact that they really do feel that they have worked out the best solution to any and every problem. Its also the antithesis of what they were like grow ing up. Whether they really do have the best solution or not is often a mystery. Typically they screw things up well before they get to that point. To play The Neurotic you need to at least have an understanding of most, if not all of these characteristics, even if your character doesnt embody all of them. A sexy, confident neurotic can look at a shy high

school geek and understand where theyre coming from. They share a common bond, an unspoken truth: were different from the others.

Who in your life is The Neurotic?

ACT THREE THE NEUROTIC ... AND MORE


In general, The Neurotic is a character that works well in a scene with many other characters, especially with a Logical Smart One. You will often see this character paired up with The Logical Smart One in much the same way The Lovable Losers are paired with them. Think of the Crane brothers paired up with their father or how Barney works best played against Andy Taylors conventional wisdom. However, there is a great Neurotic that has yet to be mentioned because he is such a complicated character. And that would be George

Costanza. Played hysterically by Jason Alexander, George is what many would consider the classic middle-class New York Neurotic. He is deeply insecure, and he worries about everything. He over-thinks, is controlling and high strung. George is constantly fueled by anxiety, and like a true Neurotic, he is aware of it. Just check out this scene where George comes to grips with his baldness.
GEORGE: When she threw that toupee out the window, it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I feel like my old self again. Neurotic, paranoid, totally inadequate, completely insecure. It's a pleasure. That being said, George also shows many of the traits of The Lovable Loser. He is constantly trying out new plans, new schemes to get what he wantsbe it a new job, a girlfriend (or later to get RID of his girlfriend). He is so determined and so hopeful that he doesnt realize how far-fetched some of his ideas are and who he might affect along the way. He is a desperate, optimistic and sometimes Lovable Loser as he shows in this scene where he sarcastically talks about his ill-fated

attempts to get fired from the New York Yankees organization to take a job with the Mets. GEORGE: And to think that I'd fail at failing. JERRY: Aww, come on now. GEORGE: wrong. JERRY: I feel like I can't do anything

Nonsense.

You

do

everything

wrong.

GEORGE: You think so? JERRY: Absolutely. I have no confidence in you. GEORGE: (Proudly) Well, I guess I'll just have to pick myself up, dust myself off and throw myself right back down again. But, I believe the reason George Costanza is a Neurotic is because he knows hes a Lovable Loser and he cant do anything about it. He is what I guess you could call a Neurotic Lovable Loser. I went to acting school at Boston University with Jason Alexander and you could tell right away that he understood comedy (and his comedic niche.) As a young adult, he was funny and had a great sense of humor about himself and life. On the outside, he is really nothing like George Costanza. Jason was, and still is, a gracious, smart, confident and well-balanced human being. But his sense of humor, his way of being funny, fluctuates between charmingly witty, neurotically insecure and bitingly sarcastic. I believe that he used all of this to step into the shoes of George Costanza. Another Neurotic character that has Lovable Loser tendencies is Larry David, star of HBOs hit Curb Your Enthusiasm (and the man responsible for writing Georges character). An anxious character with his own rule book on life, Larry has a tendency to screw things up much like a Lovable Loser would. Same could be said for Grace Adler (Debra Messing) on Will & Grace. A Neurotic through and through, she thinks too much, talks too much and worries too much about practically everything (especially

when men are involved). That being said, the writers of that funny show constantly put her in Lovable Loser plotlines, sometimes showcasing her as a Neurotic Lucy Ricardo. So you can see that sometimes The Neurotic can easily take on some of the characteristics of The Lovable Loser and vice versa. In fact, often times The Lovable Loser can show hints of Neurotic behavior because he or she wants something so badly and they cant get it, so it drives them a little nuts. The Neurotic can also grab some of the traits of The Bitch / Bastard (coming up soon). When people arent following the rulebook of The Neurotic or theyre not being understood, they can become cranky and even mean-spirited. Think of George, Grace and Larry once again. They can be abrasive, curt and even manipulative at times (it usually backfires on them). But at their core (and the core of every Neurotic) is a nervous, high-strung person with control issues who worries about the world and their place in it.

Possible intentions for The Neurotic:


To Convince To Perfect To Nitpick To Enlighten To Control To Fuss To Organize To Clarify To Analyze To Rationalize Final Thoughts On Playing The Neurotic
Now that youve examined this character, do you recognize The Neurotic in yourself? This one might be a bit harder to identify than any of the other Eight Characters of Comedy because chances are, if there is something that you are neurotic about, it makes sense to you and doesnt seem neurotic at all. Its much easier to notice these qual ities in other people than in yourself. What are the situations in which you tend to overanalyze? Relationships? Purchases? Career choices? Do you make lists for everything? Do you compartmentalize things? Do you need to put

things in a certain order, a certain place? What are you fussy about? There is a psychology here. And a big part of playing The Neurotic (besides identifying with the characteristics) is taking a look at yourself objectively and seeing what irrational things you obsess about that you can bring to the character. If you identify with this character and all of this characters traits, then you are ready. You can come out and say Im a Neurotic! Once you admit it, you will proudly hold it up as a badge of honor (which will most certainly drive others crazy). That is exactly what Courteney Cox did and look where it got her. As an agent, I represented Courteney at the beginning of her acting career, booking her in the Bruce Springsteen video Dancing In The Dark. In the early eighties, music videos were a new phenomenon, so when Springsteen sang out Hey Babbbbyy! reached into the audience and pulled Courteney on stage to dance with him, neither Courteney, myself nor anyone else for that matter expected the incredible exposure this would bring. Everyone in the industry was suddenly asking Whos that girl? It was exciting to watch this young, sweet girl from Alabama with sparkling blue eyes and a Colgate smile begin a career that would continue to this day. But then again, if you knew Courteney back then, you just knew this girl was destined to become a star. So, was Courteney anything like Monica? Well, no she wasnt. And, yes she was. Courteney wasnt necessarily controlling or high- strung like Monica, but (as a young actress) she certainly could obsess about things: about an audition, her weight, if shed ever work again. But all her obsessing was done with a self-deprecating sense of humor that not only made her endearing, but very funny to be around. In the first season of Friends, the character of Monica seemed to be The Logical Smart One (with a twist of neurosis). All her other cast mates seemed to get more jokes and storylines. It wasnt until the writers played up Monicas neurotic traits that the character was allowed to step forward and Courteney was given the opportunity to shine. Here are a few other things to remember about playing The Neurotic. As an actor, your task is to get excited about whatever it is youre talking or obsessing about. Remember, you have gone over and over the subject to form an opinion and you wouldnt be obsessing unless it was important to you. That is the main reason why The Neurotic is constantly examining and re-examining everything.

But, there is that small part of them that still wonders if they might have missed something. If something goes wrong, they assume its probably their fault. Thats also why they seem at times to be look ing for approval from other characters. Despite their bravado, they are not all that confident. Finally, Im going to stress the importance of the obsessive characteristic because that will help you in playing The Neurotic in class, at an audition or on a show. In some of my classes, when I have students play The Neurotic, I will sometimes tell them to do the scene but occasionally notice a crumb thats on the floor simply to help them play the obsession. You would be amazed at how much this simple trick can add to the humor of the scene. This tendency to obsess about everything is what defines this character. Thats why Frasier is such a fascinating character. He thinks about everything, even those things that arent his business. While he can appear confident and suave at times, we see him for what he really is, high-strung, over-analytical and incredibly insecure when things get out of his controland HES a therapist! All of this make him incredibly funny and one of the most popular Neurotics in sitcom history. Whew! Thats a lot to process for this character. And now you know what its like to be like The Neurotic. It s exhausting! They never live in the moment, they are never completely satisfied, and they are always "in their heads." So, look over this episode again (remember, analyze and over-analyze) and start making a list of what you can identify with. That will help you get into the mind of The Neurotic. FADE OUT TAG: ANNOUNCER V.O.: In the next episode of "The Eight Characters of Comedy," The Neurotic wants to plan a party but none of her friends will help. So she turns to her neighbor. But when he starts messing things up, The Neurotic unravels. She should have known better than to ask for help from The Dumb One. ROLL CREDITS ...

Here are some of the great Nerdy Neurotics. Character Actor Carlton Banks Penny Chase Chip Douglas Steve Erkel Patty Greene Skippy Handleman Bill Haverchuck Arnold Horshack Alex P. Keaton Stevie Kenarban Brian Miller Paul Pfeiffer Screech Powers Carol Seaver

Show The Fresh Prince of BelAir Quintuplets My Three Sons Family Matters Square Pegs Family Ties Freaks & Geeks Welcome Back, Kotter Family Ties Malcolm in the Middle Still Standing The Wonder Years Saved by the Bell Growing Pains

Alfonso Ribeiro April Matson Stanley Livingston Jaleel White Sarah Jessica Parker Marc Price Martin Starr Ron Palillo Michael J. Fox Craig Lamar Traylor Taylor Ball Josh Saviano Dustin Diamond Tracy Gold

Here are some of the great Neurotics in sitcom history.

Character Grace Adler


Carrie Bradshaw George Costanza Frasier Crane Niles Crane Barney Fife Monica Geller Ross Geller Alan Harper Jackie Harris Ally McBeal Adrian Monk Les Nessman Radar OReilly Lynette Scavo Miles Silverberg Darrin Stephens Felix Unger Dana Whitaker

Actor Debra Messing Sarah Jessica Parker Jason Alexander Kelsey Grammer David Hyde Pierce Don Knotts Courteney Cox David Schwimmer Jon Cryer Laurie Metcalf Calista Flockhart Tony Shalhoub Richard Sanders Gary Burghoff Felicity Huffman Grant Shaud Dick York Tony Randall Felicity Huffman

Show Will & Grace


Sex and the City Seinfeld Cheers/Frasier Frasier The Andy Griffith Show Friends Friends Two and a Half Men Roseanne Ally McBeal Monk WKRP in Cincinnati MASH Desperate Housewives Murphy Brown Bewitched The Odd Couple Sports Night