Some comedians like Buddy Hackett ("the face that launched a thousand quips") have such comic looks thatyou're laughing just watching them screw up their faces. Durante played off his Cyrano nose, and Rickles rushes to be the first to kid about his bald head. Ben Turpin's crossed eyes were such an important trademark that he had Lloyds of London insure them against accidentally getting straightened out. Buster Keaton, "the great stone face," learned at an early age that audiences enjoyed him more if he acted passively about every slapstick trick the heavy played on him.

But cosmetic pride has killed off a lot of humor. Phyllis Diller for years ridiculed her face; her hair purposely looked as if she'd stuck her finger in an electrical socket. She could have played the witch in The Wizard of Oz without makeup. One day she had a facelift and now has to concentrate on exaggerated gown colors. She was funnier when she looked funnier. Jack E. Leonard was so big he was known as "Fat Jack," then one year he went on a crash diet and lost one hundred and fifty pounds. This killed his act—his material had disappeared.

Billy Elmer, a Pittsburgh comic, weighs three hundred pounds and gets a lot of laughs at his own expense. He lets people introduce him as "a really big man in show business." Elmer wears a T-shirt with the motto "Just tell us the jokes, fat boy." It's merely stating the obvious. "I let the audience know I can make fun of myself; it cuts down their attack because my jokes are funnier." The first twelve minutes of his act are all fat jokes.

Yeah, I'm overweight____Once I laid down on a beach. I got harpooned twice and fourteen guys tried to drag me back into the water. I buy Hefty designer jeans, not at The Gap, at the Gorge. —Billy Elmer

If your client has big eyes, make them work for you as Marty Feldman and Carol Channing did in the seventies and Eddie Cantor did in the thirties. Woody Allen has made his eyeglasses a part of his act, particularly in films.

The performer must be honest as well as comfortable with the character. Makeup and lights can change looks. Props and costumes can emphasize ethnic characterizations. But many things are almost impossible to change: age, color, height, and whether you're male, female, or both. Therefore, over the long haul, personality must coexist with character.

Beginning performers are well advised to try several characters before they settle on one. And that's when the real work begins.

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